Six-bowl premium package will turn New Year's into nirvana
How do you usually spend New Year's Eve? Living it up at a club? Attending a friend's house party? Enjoying a quiet dinner with your spouse?
Well, it's time to make new plans for Dec. 31, 2014.
College football's newly announced postseason is set to debut that day, and while most of the focus to this point has been on the four-team playoff, details are beginning to trickle out about the larger six-bowl premium package the commissioners envision. Long story short: It's going to be a two-day New Year's nirvana for college football fans on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.
"There will be three [games] each day, that's how we envision it," BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said Thursday. "It will be 1 [p.m.], 5 and 8 [eastern], basically, and the same windows on New Year's Day."
As was announced Tuesday, six bowls will rotate hosting the two semifinal games over a 12-year period, with a selection committee choosing the participants based on record, strength of schedule and other criteria. But the committee's work won't end there -- they'll be selecting the pool for the other four bowls as well.
"They will rank the teams much like the basketball committee seeds the teams. We don't know how many they will rank -- 12, 15, 20, somewhere in that range -- but that ranking will be used to identify who will be filling the [four] games that are not hosting the semifinals. That's the concept."
In other words, the best teams will play in the best bowls, and theoretically, as many as five of the six games could pit Top 10 teams against one another, and it's possible, though not automatic, that the six games will pit the Top 12 teams.
Good luck prying yourself from the television.
The bowl/committee concept stems from years of frustration that the four purportedly prestigious BCS bowls (outside of the national championship game) too often got saddled with dud matchups. Since the BCS added a fifth game in the 2006 season, nine teams from outside the Top 10 have garnered berths at the expense of higher-ranked teams, either because of a lowly ranked Automatic Qualifier, the two-teams-per conference limit or a bowl's preference for a less accomplished "brand" program. Last year alone saw No. 11 Michigan face No. 13 Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl and No. 15 Clemson vs. No. 23 West Virginia in the Orange. Unranked Connecticut, 8-4, played in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl.
The AQ/non-AQ distinction will be gone, at least formally, though, in practice, the five most powerful conferences' champions will still be protected. We may no longer use AQ/non-AQ, but get used to a new phrase: "Contract bowl."
On Thursday, the Rose Bowl announced a 12-year extension with the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ESPN. The Big 12 and SEC have already announced their intention to start a "Champions Bowl," presumably in one of the existing games (likely the Sugar or Cotton), and the ACC and Orange Bowl are expected to continue their partnership.
The other three bowls in BCS 2.0 -- "access bowls," in the new parlance -- will theoretically be free to make a deal for any conference's champion (the Big East, the Mountain West, etc.); however, those bowls hoping to become part of the semifinal mix will likely remain open, either to pit two of the committee's highest ranked "at-large" teams or to provide a landing spot for, say, the Big Ten and Pac-12's champions if the Rose Bowl happens to be hosting a semifinal one year and neither or both qualifies for the playoff.
"Because of the complexity of the Rose and Champions bowls and the Orange Bowl, it's impossible in any year to say it'll be 'X' spots available for teams 5-12," Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick told the South Bend Tribune.
In other words, there could still be outliers in one or more of the elite bowls if, say, the ACC's champion is 18th one year and all the other participants are ranked 1 through 11. In general, however, in the new system, the committee will place more emphasis on merit, while still considering what's logical for a particular bowl.
"They will look at geography," said Hancock. "The committee will have the ability to say, this is a West Coast team, let's put it in Phoenix. They'll try to avoid regular-season rematches ... And they'll also look at the frequency of how often people have appeared in those bowl games. If Oklahoma has been in the Fiesta Bowl seven of the last eight years, the committee can say let's give them a chance to get over somewhere else this year, somewhere in Texas or the Southeast maybe."
While there are no longer any guarantees for the former non-AQ schools -- mind you, those conferences pushed hardest to drop that distinction -- should a school like Boise State finish high enough in the committee's rankings, it will likely be placed in one of the premier bowls.
"The access for conferences throughout the FBS is going to be better in this system than the current system," ACC commissioner John Swofford told reporters. "But you have to play your way in. That's a plus."
Obviously, between both the opportunity to host playoff games and the fact all the best teams will be contained to this package -- No. 6 Arkansas won't slip out of the new BCS bowl tier, as it did last year -- bidding for one of the six spots in the rotation figures to be intense. The Rose Bowl is all but assured to be one of them, the Orange another, and whether the Sugar or Cotton lands the Big 12/SEC game, both will still likely be among the six. That leaves two spots, with the Fiesta, Chick-fil-A, Capital One, Gator, Holiday and Alamo bowls all recently announcing their hope to land the semifinals and/or championship game.
Bidding will likely take place early next year.
Let's assume, as a hypothetical, that the six wind up being: Rose, Sugar (Champions), Cotton, Orange, Fiesta and Chick-fil-A. And let's say, for this example, the Fiesta and Orange wind up hosting the first semifinals.
Here's what the lineup might have looked like using last season's field and the committee's anticipated criteria (strength of schedule, head-to-head, valuing conference champions, etc).
• Dec. 31, 1 p.m. Chick-fil-A: No. 11 Clemson (10-3) vs. No. 13 Baylor (9-3)
• Dec. 31, 4:30 p.m. Cotton: No. 9 South Carolina (10-2) vs. No. 10 Boise State (11-1)
• Dec. 31, 8 p.m. Fiesta: No. 2 Oklahoma State (11-1) vs. No. 3 Alabama (11-1)
• Jan. 1, 1 p.m. Sugar: No. 6 Arkansas (10-2) vs. No. 7 Kansas State (10-2)
• Jan. 1, 5 p.m. Rose: No. 5 Stanford (11-1) vs. No. 8 Wisconsin (11-2)
• Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. Orange: No. 1 LSU (13-0) vs. No. 4 Oregon (10-2)
Obviously, it's impossible to say exactly how the committee's rankings would have differed from the BCS standings, but I elevated Oklahoma State (from No. 3 to No. 2), Oregon (No. 5 to 4), Wisconsin (No. 10 to No. 8) and Clemson (No. 15 to No. 11) for their conference championships and/or head-to-head wins over similarly ranked foes and downgraded Boise State (from No. 7 to No. 10) for poor strength of schedule. We also don't know if there would be an at-large selection order or a teams-per conference limit (the SEC placed four in this lineup).
As it stands, however, over the course of two afternoons/evenings you would have watched Robert Griffin III against a major-conference champ; Boise State against an SEC foe; Final Four Game 1; Tyler Wilson vs. Collin Klein; Andrew Luck vs. Montee Ball; and Final Four Game 2.
And it goes without saying that every one of these games -- even the recently struggling Orange Bowl -- would have no trouble selling out.
"None of this has been discussed except in concept," Hancock warned. "We're kind of in the dream stage."
So, too, are future viewers.