For Big Ten and SEC, Devil’s in the Details
By Paul Myerberg // Jun 4, 2012
The Big Ten is trying “not to put a stake in the ground” when it comes to the league’s stance on the developing postseason discussion, according to Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman. Nonetheless, based on comments from both the Big Ten and SEC, it’s clear that college football’s two biggest power brokers remain apart on several key components of a future playoff plan.
But the two parties are in agreement on one significant point: a four-team playoff, if enacted, should select the four best teams in the country — regardless of whether one or more of these teams do not win their own conference. But the Big Ten still has significant issues with the details of this point, with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany very skeptical about the viability of college football’s current ranking and selection system.
Delany, and by extension the Big Ten, does not have faith in computer ranking systems or polls doing the best job of selecting the top four teams in the country. Only now, with a playoff system on the horizon, is a power conference commissioner questioning B.C.S.-era ranking tools.
And despite agreeing with the SEC that the four best teams should be involved in a playoff system, the Big Ten remains adamant that such a plan sits low on its list of options. During this afternoon’s teleconference, Perlman indicated that a four-team plan ranks third on the Big Ten’s list of postseason preference.
First, believe it or not, is the “status quo.” Second is a plus-one game rolled into the current system; in this scenario, the current bowl system would play out as in the past, with a bonus game played at its conclusion.
How would that work? Using this past season as an example, a plus-one plan would have pitted Alabama and Oklahoma State for the national title. There would remain several factors to parse through if a plus-one plan is the choice — for example, would L.S.U. have met Alabama, or would the Tigers have played Stanford while Alabama played Oklahoma State with the winner meeting in the plus-one game?
You can eliminate the status quo from the conversation. There’s no way that the F.B.S. doesn’t universally decide to make some sort of change, especially when given the money that would be left on the table with a continuation of the current postseason plan.
There’s no support for the status quo outside of the Big Ten. As noted by Bryan Fischer of CBS Sports, Oregon State president Ed Ray said on Sunday that “no one is talking about the status quo; I just don’t hear anyone talking about business as usual.” For the Big Ten, talk of the status quo is bluster, a feint meant to illustrate to the SEC that the conference is examining any and all options at its disposal.
The Big Ten must know that a four-team playoff is on the horizon. Hence Delany’s comments today that touched on the four-team plan, even if his comments did touch on the proposal’s weaknesses — questioning how the four teams would be selected — rather than its many strengths. Delany is clearly indicating that when it comes selecting the four teams for a playoff, the process should begin and end with a committee, not with polls or a computer system.
If the talk of a status quo and a plus-one is just bluster, and if the Big Ten simply is illustrating its desire for a selection committee, then perhaps the gap separating the league from the SEC is not as wide as it seems. Simply put, all the SEC might need to do in order to pull the Big Ten into its camp is ensure that a playoff plan uses a committee to pick the four teams.
I doubt that the SEC would hold out on that point, should the two power conferences agree on the plan’s major points. From there — if and when we get there — the focus will turn to Larry Scott and the Pac-12; as Fischer noted on Sunday, the conference wants the four-team plan to include only conference champions.
“I know three that people keep coming back to,” said Ray. “Within that set, we’re looking for things that honor conference champions getting appropriate consideration as national champions and that honor our unique relationship with the Rose Bowl.”
First one battle, then another. In reality, the Pac-12 remains farther removed from the SEC’s four-team proposal than the Big Ten. But in the big picture, each conference seems amenable to the idea of a playoff system. The devil’s in the details: selection committee or polls; best four teams or conference champs.
Tags: Big Ten, College football playoff, Ed Ray, Harvey Perlman, Jim Delany, Larry Scott, Nebraska, Pac-12, SEC
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