For the first time in the sport’s history, this year’s championship will be decided in a four- team playoff, with the National Championship Game on Jan. 15 at AT&T Stadium in North Texas.
One of the major points of debate is the conference championship game. Out of the four major conferences (Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, and Southeastern Conference) three of the four have conference championship games, with the Big 12 as the league without.
The SEC protests that the Big 12 has an advantage by not exposing its top teams to an intra-conference playoff that essentially eliminates one of them from the national playoffs. The SEC, widely believed to be the toughest conference in college football, cries that its runner-up may deserve to make the national playoffs but probably will get no chance if it has two losses.
As it stands today, each Big 12 school plays nine conference games with three non-conference matchups. Since there are only 10 teams in the Big 12 (compared to 14 in the SEC), they all play each other in a round-robin schedule, with no need for a conference championship game.
Instead of dealing with what the SEC has to deal with (typically two outstanding teams playing for a conference title), the Big 12 winner just has to win the games on its schedule and finish out in front in the polls.
But it’s a double-edged sword. It creates more regular-season pressure on the Big 12, putting more value on each game in order to get a bid to the last dance of the season.
Most Big 12 schools are now trying to piece together strong future opponents, knowing that down the road, strength of schedule could play a major role in determining bids for the college football playoff.
SEC schools don’t have the same kind of pressure. Here’s a hypothetical situation for you: Say this year’s Alabama squad goes undefeated in the SEC West and makes it to the conference championship game.
Also say that South Carolina goes undefeated in the East and makes it to the conference championship game. No matter who wins the final SEC game of the year, in all likelihood, both of those teams will be playing in the final three games of the season.
Now, to further solidify my point, let’s say that Alabama has one conference loss to LSU going into the SEC Championship against an undefeated South Carolina squad in the Georgia Dome. Alabama wins.
Suppose the field comes down to this:
Ohio State 12-1
Florida State 13-0
South Carolina 12-1
In this hypothetical scenario the Big 12 school, a one-loss Oklahoma, gets overlooked for the final four, due to lack of a conference championship game and perhaps some conference bias in favor of the SEC.
Make no mistake; this is the playoff that fans of college football have been begging for over the last decade. But it remains to be seen how the 13-person selection committee will weigh each W and L over the years to come.
Click here for Samuel Chi’s bleacher report article “Making the Case for Major College Football Conferences to Drop Divisions”