In a move that mimics the century long Pac-12 and Big Ten Rose Bowl matchup, the SEC and Big 12 have moved to establish an annual New Year’s Day game pitting the conference champions of each conference against each other, or in the likely event that the Big 12 or SEC conference champion is involved in the 4-team “playoff”, the game will feature other “deserving” teams.
“Our goal is to provide the fans across the country with a New Year’s Day prime-time tradition,” said acting Big 12 Conference Commissioner Chuck Neinas. “This is a landmark agreement between two of the most successful football conferences during the BCS era to stage a postseason event. The creation of this game featuring the champions of the Big 12 and SEC will have tremendous resonance in college football.”
“A new January bowl tradition is born,” said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. “This new game will provide a great matchup between the two most successful conferences in the BCS era and will complement the exciting postseason atmosphere created by the new four-team model. Most importantly, it will provide our student-athletes, coaches and fans with an outstanding bowl experience.”
While the move has been downplayed because it is unlikely that the game will feature Big 12 or SEC conference champions with any level of frequency, it’s an important move with big implications for all of college football.
First, it does provide an element of stability to the Big 12 which has essentially been regarded as a crumbling conference. This annual matchup in a way, “locks in” the Big 12 with the “Big 4” conferences of the Pac-12, SEC, Big Ten and Big 12. If the Big 12 is able to lure Florida State, it would further cement its status in this elite grouping.
Looking at the conference landscape, this move also further demonstrates the growing chasm between the Big 4 conferences and conferences like the ACC and the Big East. The Big East is hardly considered a peer anymore with the other BCS conferences, and the ACC might be moving closer to this reality.
Florida State seems to holds the cards. If they head to the Big 12, we could truly move rapidly to a reality of four super-conferences. If Florida State leaves the ACC, you could see an exodus of teams like Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech not wanting to be left out of the picture.
Interestingly, an environment with 4 super-conferences and a 4 team playoff with the 4 conference champions is actually the cleanest way to do a playoff. Whether you have 2 teams via the current BCS, a 4 team playoff using a formula or a selection committee, there will always be teams complaining about getting screwed out of their opportunity. Get 4 super-conferences with 4 undisputed conference champions and you have a clean 4 team playoff every year.