It was only a matter of time, really. For more than a century, college football has ended each season not with a traditional playoff system, but with bowl games. You’ve probably seen them. They’re kind of a big deal. (Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, represent!)
Since 1998, the BCS, or Bowl Championship Series, has decided the top 10 Division 1 teams and determined the matchup in the biggest and best bowl games of the year, including the National Championship Game. But like Bob Dylan said, “For the times they are a-changin’.” College football has finally boarded the playoff train.
To avoid any confusion about its intent, the system put in place to determine college football national champions is named—wait for it—the College Football Playoff. Clever, no?
Though many playoff systems begin with eight, 16 or even 32 teams, the CFP will have four. These four teams will meet in two bowl games, the winners of which will rumble in the national championship game.
“But what happened to all of those big important bowls?” you ask in distress. Well, they’re still around and are being integrated into this system.
This first year, the two playoff bowl semifinal games will be played at the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. For the 2015–2016 season, the two semifinal bowl games will take place in the Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl and in 2016–2017, the Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl. These six bowls will cycle through annually in an equal rotation and start over every three years. The four bowls not being used to host semifinal playoff games will still be in play, along with the other 32 bowls, just with worse teams. (If ya ain’t first, you’re last, as they say.)
The national championship game location will be determined through a bidding process, much like the Super Bowl or the Olympics. The first national championship game in the CFP system kicks off at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex., courtesy of one Jerry Jones. Future sites include Glendale, Ariz., in 2015–2016 and Tampa, Fla., in 2016–2017.
So who’s calling the shots on these rankings? Surely, we couldn’t just let the top four ranked teams in the nation take the four playoff spots. What is this, basketball?
No, a 13-member selection committee has been put in place to make those tough choices. Teams are selected based on conference championships, strength of schedule, win-loss record and head-to-head results. Headed by Arkansas athletic director and former Pitt athletic director Jeff Long, this committee includes the likes of former NFL and Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning and former U.S. Secretary of State and Stanford provost Condoleezza Rice. The committee members will hold their seats for an average term of three years to ensure there’s always fresh blood.
So where does the Big 12 factor into the equation? Well, according to the Predictalator at PredictionMachine.com, the outlook is bleak. There are five major conferences: the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, and there are only four playoff spots, and more than one team from a conference can make the playoffs. The Big 12 is predicted to have zero representation in the CFP, as it is anticipated that Baylor and Oklahoma will both have two losses.
Of course, predictions are wrong all the time. Oklahoma could certainly go the distance. However, the Predictalator runs each college football team’s schedule through its computer 50,000 times to generate its results. It’s not just some guy taking a guess, and it’s certainly more efficient than Paul the Octopus.
It’s possible more and more teams will make the official playoffs over time. They’re just easing us into things, so to speak. Love it or hate it, the CFP is contracted to be in place through at least the 2025 season. So there’s that.