How the latest playoff details will impact the SEC

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The details of the new college football postseason structure starting in 2014 that came out this week were mostly regarding the six access bowls as they’re called.

We will have a four-team playoff. The two semifinal games will rotate through six bowls. The national championship game will be bid out (similar to the NFL’s Super Bowl). The six access bowls are the four current BCS Bowls of Sugar, Fiesta, Rose and Orange along with two additions – most think the additions will be the Cotton and Chick-fil-A bowls.

Fairly straight forward.

As you get into the details from there, it gets complicated in a hurry.

The six access bowls are split between three contract bowls and three “host” bowls. Contract bowls refer to the bowls like the Sugar, Rose and Orange that have existing tie-ins with various conferences. “Host” bowls are the three bowls with no tie-ins – likely called “host” bowls simply because there’s nothing else to call them.

As I read through the reports coming out, I see the following ramifications for the Southeastern Conference:

  • No max number of teams likely means more revenue for SEC – Unlike the current system, there is no max number of teams in place from a given conference. While there are essentially 12 slots, most are already tied-up. The two semi-final games will be the top 4 teams in the country as dictated by a selection committee. Each of the five major conferences (Big 12, Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Pac-12) automatically send a team in – either to the four team playoff or one of the other access bowls. The highest ranked champion out of the five smaller conferences including the Big East also gets in. Notre Dame – if they finish high enough – will automatically get in as well. If Notre Dame is good, 7 of the 12 are already locked up. The remaining five will be determined by selection committee while also factoring in the bowl tie-ins. In a season like 2012 when the SEC has six teams in the BCS top ten, you could easily see 3 or more SEC teams getting into the picture. The big five conferences will each receive a “base” payout plus more revenue distributed based on how many teams they have in the system that year. The SEC should be on the high end of this range of conference payouts on an annual basis.
  • SEC has bowl tie-ins with both Big 12 and the ACC – You know about the SEC-Big 12 matchup in the Sugar Bowl, but you may not know about the Orange Bowl contract. The new Orange Bowl contract means they will put the highest ranked, available ACC team against the highest ranked team either from the Big Ten, the SEC or Notre Dame. The confusing part that we need clarification on is when the Sugar Bowl is used as a semi-final site and the SEC Champion does not make the 4-team playoff (likely a rare situation). ESPN has reported that in such a scenario, the SEC Champion would not go to the Orange Bowl, but would be placed in a “host” bowl of Fiesta, Chick-fil-A or Cotton in order to boost the value of those bowls. So, when would an SEC team be in the Orange Bowl? Likely a year when Notre Dame gets into the playoff and the SEC has plenty of teams in the top ten. In other words, a year like 2012. If the season finished as it is now, Alabama and Notre Dame would be in the playoff. Georgia would likely play in the Sugar Bowl, and a team like A&M would play in the Orange Bowl. If the Sugar Bowl was named a semifinal location, a team like Georgia or A&M would head to the Orange to play the highest ranked ACC team.

An assumption:

  • This hasn’t been discussed yet, but I’m going to guess that the two semifinal locations will always feature one “contract” bowl and one “host” bowl. When I see that the powers-that-be attempting to place the SEC Champion, in some situations, at a “lesser” bowl in order to boost the value of that bowl, I think they will want to avoid the semifinal games taking up two of the big bowls. For example, if the Rose and Sugar were used as semifinal location in a single year, the four non-playoff bowls would be Orange, Fiesta, Cotton and Chick-fil-A. I tend to think that will be avoided. If I’m right, then you’ll see the semifinal game pairings be more like Rose and Chick-fil-A, Sugar and Cotton, Fiesta and Orange. This is all speculation at this point, however.

The details that we are still waiting for:

  • The biggest item not yet announced is the make up of the selection committee. How big will it be? Who will be on it? Former coaches? Athletic directors? Members of the media?
  • What will it be called? The current system is known as the BCS or Bowl Championship Series. The new system will be named in the same manner.
  • Where will the first championship game be played? It will take place on Monday, January 12, 2015. Some have suggested that it will be limited to one of the six access bowl sites already included in the system, but there’s a possibility that the championship site could be an alternate location as well. I vote Orlando, Florida.

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