When the SEC and Big XII announced their plans to commit their highest ranked teams to meet in a new bowl game, it opened up lots of possibilities for the next iteration of the college football postseason. Last week, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott threw the Plus-One format back into consideration. Think about it: college football is centering itself around four conferences now. The SEC is at 14 teams, while the Pac-12 and Big Ten have 12 members each. The Big XII is still at 10 members, but many ACC schools are currently flirting really hard to make the move.
If you've got the four major conferences already committed to two bowl games, you've essentially got your semi-final matchups set. At least, that's the thought with the Plus-One model. Or that weird three-game model the Big Ten threw out there. Throw the independents and minor conferences a bone; the top two teams that aren't one of the four power conference champions go to a third bowl, and the national championship game gets the top two teams after the bowl games.I get why the Big Ten and Pac-12 want this idea; it restores the luster of the Rose Bowl and makes it difficult for it to be co-opted by the new playoff format. But SEC commissioner Mike Slive wants to stick with a four team playoff.
"I think what's in the best interest of college football is a four-team playoff. I think it's better for everyone involved in the game. The plus-one narrows the postseason in a way that's not necessarily in the best interest of all the conferences."
That shouldn't be surprising. Slive knows that the SEC is currently on top of the college football world, and while the Plus-1 format assures that the SEC will have a seat in the playoff formula, the SEC has been in position to earn two or possibly even three seats many years. He also knows that he can negotiate the deal for the new "Champions Bowl" with the lure of the SEC champion in a down year, yet most years being able to send their third-place team to the game. Cha-ching-ching.
And if the SEC regularly gets two or three teams in the playoff, they know that they'll have the inside track to cement their status at the top of the college football world. Of course, that position may run the risk of becoming inbred over time. Last year's BCS title game rematch didn't play well with some college football fans who didn't want to see a rematch of an ugly regular season game. Everybody was using subjective opinions to determine whether LSU and Alabama were the two best teams in the country. Sure, LSU beat Oregon, but did Alabama's win over a Penn State squad with quarterback issues really mean they were better than Oklahoma State?
The four team playoff sounds good in theory, but in my mind, without solid non-conference matchups, I think it's very difficult to compare teams from different conferences. So even though I like the four-team playoff idea in theory, I find myself warming up to any formula that gives conference champions a preference in the playoff matchups.
And let's not forget Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor Harvey Perlman, who's been a staunch advocate of the "Plus One"format. He claims to be speaking for many Big Ten and Pac-12 university presidents, so it's likely that he's not speaking out of line.
Keep in mind that this is a big complex negotiating process underway. In an ideal world, we'd have a playoff played on campus, but the SEC is too cold-blooded to accept that plan. But maybe the rebirth of the "Plus One" is the negotiating point that ensures that the college football playoff doesn't simply become the SEC coronation ceremony. Spots have to be available to the other teams in other conferences, and maybe this is the way we get to find some sort of balance in the college football playoff push.