The postseason battle lines have officially been drawn.
In one corner of the future playoff ring is the Big Ten and Pac-12, which, along with the ACC and Big East, publicly favors a postseason model in which conference champions-only make the field, although the two heavyweight conferences appear willing to compromise by ensuring that the league winners are ranked in the top six or are replaced by a wildcard or wildcards if not.
In the other corner is the Big 12, which officially confirmed yesterday that it favors the highest-ranked teams, regardless of their conference standing, qualifying for what’s expected to be a four-team field. Friday, and as expected, the SEC locked arms with its new postseason partner.
Commissioner Mike Slive confirmed at the close of his conference’s annual meetings that the SEC’s presidents/chancellors, athletic directors and head coaches unanimously support a playoff system that includes the four highest-ranked teams in the field. That will be the conference’s official stance heading into a series of meetings this month, culminating with a meeting June 26 in Washington D.C. that’s expected to include an announcement for the postseason beginning in 2014.
How the SEC/Big 12 and Big Ten/Pac-12 will bridge their differences of opinion remains to be seen, although the reality is there isn’t that much of a gap between the the two favored models over the past decade.
As you can see by clicking HERE, in five of the 10 past 10 years — 2009, 2007, 2005, 2003, 2002 — the same four teams would’ve been involved in a playoff regardless of which of the two formats — and, yes, we’re assuming that the final playoff model will be one of the two — would’ve been utilized. In another of those years (2011), the same conferences would’ve been represented, with the Pac-12 flipping between Stanford and Oregon depending on the model.
In the model favored by the SEC and Big 12, each conference would’ve placed 12 and eight teams, respectively, in the playoffs the past 10 years. In the champs-only scenario, the SEC would’ve dropped by two teams to 10 — losing Alabama in 2008 and LSU in 2006 — while the Big 12 would’ve remained steady at eight playoff qualifiers. Just once in the past decade — 2005 — would the SEC had no teams qualify under either format.
When it comes to the Big Ten and Pac-12, the two models ostensibly cancel out each other’s gains/losses. In the model with the top four teams qualifying regardless, the Big Ten would’ve placed eight teams in the field and the Pac-12 seven. In the model favored by the two conferences, the Big Ten gains one team and the Pac-12 loses one, with Wisconsin as conference champ replacing Stanford as a wildcard in 2010.
The Big East and ACC are essentially non-factors, with the former qualifying three teams — one of those, Miami, is now in the ACC — in their favored champs-only model and the latter just one team regardless of the model — Virginia Tech in 2007.
Four times in the past decade, a team from a non-Big Six conference would’ve qualified at least one of the formats, and neither answers to the name “Boise State”: TCU as winners of the Mountain West in 2009 and 2010, and Utah as winners of the same conference in 2004 and 2008. Ironically enough, TCU is leaving the MWC for the Big 12 this year, while Utah left for the Pac-12 last year.
Obviously, and as we stated previously, there’s not a significant difference between the two models favored by the four most powerful conferences in college football, at least in the past decade. At least publicly, however, the “c-word” is not yet part of the discussion.
“We won’t compromise on (1-2-3-4),” Florida president Bernie Machen said Thursday. “I think the public wants the top four. I think almost everybody wants the top four.”
“You understand the Korean War is still on,” interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas bluntly stated today when asked if there could be a compromise in the postseason talks.
Despite the saber-rattling, we’re of the opinion, as are a lot of folks a helluva lot smarter than we are, that when it’s all said and done, the so-called 3-1 format — take the four highest-ranked conference champs provided they’re ranked in the top six, replace as many as necessary with wildcard selections — will be officially implemented at some point before the calendar turns to July. Unless the college versions of Seoul and Pyongyang can’t come to their collective senses, of course.