Published Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 12:01 am / Updated at 11:50 pm
FAQ: The College Football Playoff

The College Football Playoff still has a few wrinkles to iron out, but most of the structure is set for years to come. How will it impact the sport? Here’s a few answers to questions. Quotes come from the College Football Playoff website.

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What’s the basic idea?

For the next 12 years, a 13-person selection committee — chaired for now by Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long — will start making a ranked “watch list” midway through each season that will be released to the public. This list will give a window into the committee’s thinking, but it’s not binding. Ultimately, the committee picks the four playoff teams right after the regular season. Those teams will play their semifinal games at traditional bowl sites on either Dec. 31 or Jan. 1 — it’ll be Jan. 1 this season — with the national title played on a Monday roughly 10 days later. The No. 1 seed will play the No. 4 seed and the No. 2 seed will play the No. 3 seed. Concerns over regular-season rematches will only be taken into account if two teams are even in seeding. Avoiding a rematch could be considered a tiebreaker.

The seeds will get as favorable of treatment as possible in the playoff geography. If a Pac-12 team is the No. 1 seed, for example, it’ll head to the Rose Bowl for a 2014 semifinal. If an undefeated Big Ten team is the No. 2 seed and has to play a third-seeded, one-loss SEC team in the Sugar Bowl, so be it.

ESPN has the TV contract. All of the games will be shown on that network.

What criteria will the selection committee use to select teams?

The committee “will have flexibility to examine whatever data they believe is relevant to inform their decisions,” but primary focus areas include record, conference titles, strength of schedule, head-to-head competition and injuries. Statistical data will be available to the committee — as much or as little as it wants — but there won’t be an official computer ranking or formula.

What bowls are involved?

There are six bowls in the playoff rotation: Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Fiesta and Chick-fil-A (in Atlanta). The Rose and Sugar Bowls will remain anchored to their traditional Jan. 1 start times whether they host playoff games or not. Other bowl games can move around on the calendar.

2014: The Rose and Sugar Bowls host semifinal games Jan. 1, 2015. Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, hosts the national title game Jan. 12, 2015.

2015: The Orange and Cotton Bowls host semifinal games Dec. 31, 2015. University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., will host the national title game Jan. 11, 2016.

2016: The Fiesta and Chick-fil-A Bowls host semifinal games Dec. 31, 2016. Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., will host the national title game Jan. 9, 2017.

Who is on the committee?

There are five power conference athletic directors on the committee, plus eight more from various parts of the sport.

Jeff Long, Arkansas athletic director; Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin athletic director; Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, former superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy; Pat Haden, USC athletic director; Tom Jernstedt, former NCAA executive vice president; Oliver Luck, West Virginia athletic director; Archie Manning, former Ole Miss quarterback; Tom Osborne, former Nebraska coach/athletic director; Dan Radakovich, Clemson athletic director; Condoleezza Rice, Stanford professor/former secretary of state; Mike Tranghese, former commissioner of the Big East Conference; Steve Wieberg, former USA Today college football reporter; Tyrone Willingham, former Stanford/Notre Dame/Washington coach.

The term for committee members will “generally” be three years, “but some will be shorter and others will be longer initially, to achieve a rotation.”

Does the committee pick more than just the four playoff teams?

Yes. And it’s the hardest question to answer. With some limitations, it picks the other participants for the bowls not involved in that year’s playoff, unless those bowls are the Rose, Orange or Sugar. Those bowls have contractual relationships with conferences that preclude the committee’s choices. The Rose Bowl, for example, will maintain a relationship with the Big Ten and Pac-12. In years when the Rose doesn’t host a semifinal, it’ll likely pick teams from those conferences, perhaps regardless of how many Big Ten or Pac-12 teams make the playoff. The Sugar Bowl will pick teams from the SEC and Big 12. The Orange Bowl has the ACC on one side and a team from the Big 12, Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame on the other side.

But the Fiesta, Cotton and Chick-fil-A are “access bowls” that will include committee pairings. At least one of these spots will annually be reserved for the best team from the Group of Five — the MAC, Sun Belt, Mountain West, American Athletic and Conference USA.

There’s not much clarity to this piece of the selection process. What if three SEC teams make the playoff and the Sugar Bowl isn’t hosting a semifinal — is the Sugar going to pick a four-loss SEC team to play a one-loss Big 12 team? Will it seek the committee’s assistance in placement? While there’s no limit to the number of conference teams that can be plugged into the College Football Playoff system, the setup appears to favor the SEC and Big Ten, which have the most/strongest contractual relationships.

Contact the writer: Sam McKewon    |   402-219-3790    |  

Sam McKewon covers Nebraska football for The World-Herald. Got a tip, question or rant? Good. Email him. Follow him on Twitter. Call him.



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