Playoffs? We talking playoffs?
You may now quit your bitching. The BCS is officially on death watch and the era of "playoffs" in NCAA Football is now underway. As is always the case, one turn leads to another and it is interesting to begin to ponder what chips may fall now that this consensus is reached. Below are my musings on what comes next in the wake of this sea change in the NCAA.
What's in a Name?
First change: the shelving of FBS as a designation for "upper tier" college football. Though bowls still make up the fabric of the post-season philosophy, the term FBS focuses on the bowls instead of the bright, shiny new accomplishment: playoffs. Clearly, we can't continue with the name FBS which, incidentally, sounds too much like BCS (both are full of BS). What is the NCAA to do? Go back to Div I and Div II? No chance - the NCAA is far to PC for this. My prediction is that the NCAA will pull a page out of the B1G book and go with something subtle not unlike "Leaders" and "Legends". Options on the table include "Haves" and "Nots", "Rich" and "Richer", "Happy" and "Sad".
Sisters of Perpetually Poor
Out of conference scheduling is now going to become an issue for teams that had previously subscribed to the philosophy of playing a bunch of patsies to earn bowl eligibility. While there will always be teams that don't really have National Championship aspirations for whom the strategy of 3 or 4 "C" teams in the OOC scheudule works, teams like Kansas St, Texas, anyone in the SEC and any team ever coached by Todd Graham will now have to seriously consider upping their competition more routinely. This means not only more prospective upsets (which could lead to more chaos in the final four selections) but a lot more leverage for the "high B" types of programs to gain leverage in scheduling home and homes with marketable opponents.
Eight or Nine?
My friends, say goodbye to the nine-game conference schedule in the PAC and the B1G. If the SECs and BIG 12's of the world start compensating by upping their OOC strength of schedules, it is inevitable that the nine game conference schedule will fall in the name of keeping the playing field level. Of course, the implications of this are significant. Traditional rivalries including the California schools will likely get broken up and we could see serious imbalances year in and year out in cross-division schedules ... kinda like the SEC. This is going to happen.
Why have one playoff when you can have two?
Another thing certain to happen is the creation of an alternative playoff system for those not invited into the final four. This prediction I'm a little less convinced of, but certainly still falls in the realm of possibility. While the so-called "non-AQs" will still highly value the bowl system, it seems to me that there will be a market for a second playoff system - NIT like - among the major players. Consider a scenario where the final four are USC, Texas, LSU and Ohio St. What if the next runners up are Michigan, Oregon, Alabama and Oklahoma. Are you telling me that someone isn't going to see that and say "yeah - a playoff with those four would never make as much money as them playing in their normal bowl games." I know the ADs want to preserve the integrity of the bowls, but if they weren't money-driven, we wouldn't even be here. If there is more money to be made, this may materialize.
The New Middle Class
I know you've already done it in your head, but let's put it out there for the entire 'net to read. Name the first five teams that come to mind who will never sniff this playoff system. I just thought of about 30. TCU, Boise St, Minnesota, Mississippi St, SMU, Hawaii, Vanderbilt, Purdue, Oregon St, West Virginia, Rutgers, Texas A&M ... the list goes on and on. These are all good teams - some great - who are often in good markets - some great - who will never be part of the equation when it comes to the Final Four. Either because their schedules are too weak (or too hard), or because of the limitations inherent to their program (geography, recruiting pipelines, etc). Some of these teams may preach that things are still better for them because getting into the top four is theoretically easier than the top two, but this is a canard. The polls, driven by emotional media and opaque computer formulas, were actually an equalizer for many of these programs. This new system is worse for them and it relegates them to the new middle class.
Those are my thoughts. I'd be interested to hear about what implications you perceive come from the implementation of our new playoff scheme. Leave your comments below.