Last night we closed the BCS era with a National Championship Game for the ages. Much attention was given to the end of the 16-year era, but viewers were given barely any explanation surrounding next year's playoff system. My goal here on the first day of the Offseason is to clear some confusion about the mysterious "College Football Playoff." What is it exactly, how is it different from the BCS, who determines the finalists, when/where are the games played? ... the list of questions is lengthy.
Starting next postseason, a four-team playoff bracket (seeded #1 vs. #4, #2 vs. #3) will determine our National Champion:
Many are confused about the future of bowl games - they aren't going anywhere! The only difference will be that 6 top bowl games are now integrated into the Playoff. The 4 BCS-level bowl games are included in the top 6 along with the Cotton Bowl (Arlington, Texas) and Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl (Atlanta, Georgia), giving us the following rotation:
The two national semifinal games will rotate within those 6 bowl games, giving each a chance to host every 3 years. The National Championship (from the winners of the two semifinals) will be played at a new host city each year awarded to the highest bidder. The initial Championship will be played in Arlington, Texas (Cowboys Stadium); then in 2015-16 Glendale, Arizona (University of Phoenix Stadium), and Tampa, Florida (Raymond James Stadium) in 2016-17.
The Rose (BigTen-Pac12), Orange (ACC), and Sugar (SEC-Big12) will stay true to their conference affiliations in years when they don't host a Semifinal. The Selection Committee will determine the matchups in the Fiesta, Cotton, and Chick-Fil-A Bowls. Also, the highest ranked non-AQ team from the AAC, Conference-USA, Mountain West, MAC, and Sunbelt will receive an automatic bid to one of the top bowls. The American Conference (AAC) is no longer an automatic qualifying conference.
The other 30 or so bowl games will go on in the same manner as usual, starting in mid-December and leading up to the first week of January. Finally, the National Championship Game will take place 2 Mondays from the Semifinal round.
Unlike the old system where the national championship participants were chosen by a combination of computers and human polls, the four playoff teams will be picked by a Selection Committee. This panel of 13 individuals has it all: athletic directors, former players and coaches, former members of Congress, journalists, and even a 3-star General. Chosen based on their integrity, college football experience and expertise, and familiarity with pressure-filled decisions, here is the initial Selection Committee:
Jeff Long (Chairman): Athletic Director at Arkansas, former coach/player
Barry Alvarez: Athletic Director at Wisconsin, former Hall of Fame Coach at Wisconsin, 2-time Coach of the Year
Lieutenant General Mike C. Gould: former Superintendent of the US Air Force, 3-star general, former coach/player
Pat Haden: Athletic Director at Southern Cal, 2-time National Champion QB at USC
Tom Jernstedt: Director of NCAA, 30+ years of experience
Oliver Luck: Athletic Director of West Virginia, former QB at WVU and in NFL. Former President of MLS team
Archie Manning: Star QB at Ole Miss, College Football Hall of Fame. 14-year NFL career
Tom Osborne: 3-Time National Champion Coach and AD at Nebraska, former member of the US House of Representatives
Dan Radakovich: Athletic Director at Clemson, has served admin roles at several Division 1 schools
Condoleezza Rice: Former US Secretary of State, Provost at Stanford, and Board of Directors at Notre Dame
Mike Tranghese: Former Big East Commissioner, helped launch Big East football in 1991, led BCS in 2003-2004
Steve Wieberg: Top college football writer for USA Today for over 30 years, has covered 18 National Championship Games
Tyrone Willingham: Former Head Coach at Stanford, Notre Dame and UW, 2002 Coach of Year, WR at Michigan State
CHOOSING FOUR TEAMS
The Committee will focus on several factors in making their decision of the which four teams to include in the playoff. Both qualitative and quantitiative, they will look at strength of schedule, team performance, win/loss record, conference championships, among many others. When asked if they will pick the 4 "best" teams or the 4 "most deserving" teams, they made it clear that the 4 BEST teams will be selected regardless of conference affiliation. America wanted a new selection process, and we are given just that. Gone are the days of computer algorithms ranking the top 25, regionally-biased media members campaigning for their local teams, and under-informed Head Coaches forced to quickly compile a top 25 list hours after the completion of their own games. Whether this new approach will end up successful remains to be seen, its quite a random collection of individuals. But one thing is certain - there will always be debate. #5 is the new #3.