CFB Playoff Questions

June 26, 2012

Written by Jon Miller

A form of a playoff has arrived to the Football Bowl Subdivision as NCAA Presidents and AD’s approved a Top Four, Final Four model.

Here are just some of the questions that come to mind right away

1. FBS, We Hardly Knew Ye: Football Bowl Subdivision. Will we still be encouraged to refer to it as FBS? This is a small thing of course.

2. Strength of Schedule: While you might not have been able to schedule a weak, weak out of conference schedule and make it into the Top Two of the final BCS standings, you could certainly make it to the Top Four. How much weight will Strength of Schedule receive in how the field is picked? It’s very difficult to schedule your SOS out four or five years in a row. A game that looks salty today might lose a lot of luster in that amount of time. When Iowa scheduled a home and home with Syracuse back in the early portion of the last decade, that program was more than just respectable. When Iowa played them, they were scuffling, to put it nicely.

What does this do to the prospects of those programs who are not in one of the five power leagues (Sorry, Big East)? See that as Boise State. Sorry, but I am not going to include a one-loss Boise State team over a pair of one-loss teams from power leagues given the week in, week out schedule those teams play compared to Boise State. They will need to run the table and hope.

3. The Committee: Just who will be on this committee? How many people will be on it? How can they best set it up to avoid bias seeping in? I don’t think there is any possible way to avoid bias in something as subjective as this. We all grow up somewhere, in some region and we carry those memories around with us. I’d like to think I could be objective, but I know I wouldn’t be as pure as others.

I don’t want to see a bunch of former coaches on the committee. I don’t know that former AD’s would be a good idea, either. Perhaps a mix with them as well as some media members who have proven over a number of years to have strong journalistic principles would be good, and publish each voter’s ballot whenever they share them a few times a year. 100 percent transparency in the process as well as the votes is the only way to get near any sort of objective result.

I do worry a bit about corruption. We are talking about millions of dollars in real currency to teams who are in the Top Four in the result of real revenue for being a part of the playoff, plus apparel sales for the schools who in it and the overall value to the programs who make the Final Four. Huge dollars.

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How long will it be before we hear allegations of a rogue booster attempting to ply a committee member with gifts and graft? Even if we don’t hear about it there will be some who wonder when some outlier winds up on a ballot.

4. Notre Dame: The Irish have been in the Top 6 of the final BCS standings just one time since the inception of the BCS, and that was 6th. They wouldn’t have made the Final Four that year, either. I wonder if the Irish will have a tougher time scheduling in this new Final Four era, especially as it pertains to Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and USC. If I am USC, playing a nine game conference schedule, I think about cutting the series with Notre Dame. Their SOS will be plenty fine due to the nine game league slate. If I am Michigan and believe I am going to be a contender for the Big Ten title game every few years, do I want that game against Notre Dame or do I look to schedule middle of the pack teams from other leagues?

Then again, Notre Dame hasn’t been much better than a middle of the pack team from a power league the last decade, so I take it all back; maybe Notre Dame’s phone will start ringing off the wall with dance partners.

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5. The Rose Bowl: The Grandaddy of them All will feature a Big Ten vs Pac 12 matchup in the years where it does not host one of the national semifinals or Championship game. The Rose has matched up Big Ten vs Pac 12 just six times in the last 11 years and even when it has, it hasn’t always matched up the champions from those leagues (see Illinois vs USC, and I believe USC just scored again).

In the years when the Rose Bowl IS one of the semi-final locations and say the Big Ten champ and Pac 12 champ are in the Final Four, the Rose would host that game. However, the odds of that happening are not all that great. In the years when the Rose is NOT a semi-final location AND when the champs of the Big Ten and Pac 12 are NOT a part of the Final Four, it will be a ‘traditional’ Rose Bowl. In the years when the Rose is NOT a semi-final location and one of the champions from either the Big Ten or the Pac 12 IS a part of the final four, that league will send another team to the Rose to play the champion from the league whose champion is not a part of the Final Four. In the years when the Rose is NOT a semi-final location and it loses both champions to the Final Four, I have no idea what the heck they are going to do.

6. Will New Year’s Day Matter Again? The number of bowl games played after New Years Day, in recent years, as simply sucked. It’s not been a good thing. It sounds like the major bowl games, or the games that will be a part of the semi-finals and the traditional BCS bowls, will be played on either New Years Eve or New Years Day. The Rose is going to retain it’s late afternoon, New Year’s Day slot. This may turn out to be a good thing.

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7. Will They Stop at Four? My quick answer is no, they will not. Just how long it takes them to expand to beyond four and how far they go remains the only question. It sounds like it will be four teams for 12 years, the same length of time we’ve been living under the BCS era. That’s a decent amount of time, but given the money this thing is going to generate I believe a move to eight will happen in year 13, if not earlier.

8. Will FBS Numbers Drop? I added this an hour after the original post was made as I pondered more on the topic. The 60 or so ‘BCS’ programs are the big winners here. Will they need the other 65 or so non-BCS programs? No, they won’t. They can just schedule one another in the out of conference and continue to play one another in eight or nine game league slates. There is no need for them to play MAC teams, especially if the strength of schedule becomes a big deal in the new formula for selection. My guess is within five or six years, we’ll see a significant exodus from the FBS level by schools like New Mexico, Colorado State, some directional Michigan schools, etc. Right now, they are schedule fodder raking in big road game paydays for BCS programs as it is. They have had the power as of late in those negotiations…if SOS becomes a big deal, the money they can demand for road game sacrifices will drop and potentially dry up…if that happens, they gone.

9. Will the Big Ten be a Factor? The chart below shows what Big Ten teams were ranked in the Top Six of the final BCS poll in each of the past 12 years as well as the final regular season AP poll dating back to 1981. I chose 1981 because that is the dawn of the competitive era of Big Ten football, when Iowa broke through and stopped the run of Michigan and Ohio State championships. Those polls were also published in advance of the bowl games, so they match up with the current model in that regard. Minnesota, Indiana, Northwestern, Purdue and Michigan State have never been ranked inside the Top Six during those years, while Iowa has been there just twice and Illinois and Wisconsin just once. Nebraska has been there just one time in the BCS era and Penn State has been there just twice since joining the Big Ten and once since the dawn of the BCS era. I chose the Top Six because those would be the teams considered for a Final Four.

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