When the Bowl Championship Series arrived in 1998 it was a jarring change to college football fans to have an almost-guaranteed matchup between No. 1 and. No. 2 each season. Some traditions were lost, however, as the Rose Bowl didn’t always get its preferred Pac-10 and Big Ten matchup and the Big 12 no longer was tied to the Orange Bowl as it had been in the Big Eight days.
This fall’s change to the College Football Playoff will be similarly disruptive, but probably more appealing to most fans.
In short, the landscape for the other bowls doesn’t change that much, but the details of CFP and the postseason can be complex.
Let’s start at the top:
Instead of four BCS games (the Fiesta, Orange, Rose, Sugar bowls) and a BCS National championship, the CFP now has six main bowls, with two serving as national semifinals on a rotating basis. In addition to the previous four BCS bowls, the Cotton and the Chick-fil-A bowls get called up to the big leagues after beating out other bowls for the promotion.
The Chick-fil-A Bowl will be renamed since the CFP wants all the bowls on the same level, in terms of naming rights. It is likely it will return to its Peach Bowl roots, but the Atlanta game will almost surely have a sponsor’s name in front of it as well, and that may still be Chick-fil-A.
Here’s the schedule for the first seasons as published by CFP:
Dec. 31: Orange, Atlanta and Fiesta; Jan. 1: Cotton, Sugar (semifinal) and Rose (semifinal); Jan. 12: Championship at Arlington, Texas
The championship game is a separate entity and not tied to any bowl. It is bid on a one-time basis, much like the Super Bowl and the Final Four. The only condition that restricts a bid is that the championship cannot be the same site as that year’s semifinal.
Non-traditional bowl spots such as Minneapolis, Minn. were in the running for the first three championship sites and would be expected to be hosts in the future.
So who gets in the CFP bowls? A selection committee, which has already been named, will make the picks much like the NCAA committee picks the basketball tournament. The committee has some big names on it including Tom Osborne, Archie Manning and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. There are no polls or computer ratings that will be explicitly factored in making selections. From here on out, when we refer to rankings, we’re only talking about the committee’s rankings.
The committee has to take the champions of the five biggest conferences: ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. The American Conference – the former Big East – loses its automatic bid. There is one automatic qualifier for the highest ranked team among the champions of the other five conferences: American, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt. The other six spots in the CFP bowls are chosen by the committee with no limit to the number from each conference.
The semifinals will match up No. 1 vs. No. 4 – in the committee’s opinion – and No. 2 vs. No. 3. Rematches are OK, but the top two seeds can’t be at a disadvantage geographically. So, for example, Louisiana State could play a semifinal at the Sugar Bowl, but it couldn’t be as a No. 3 or No. 4 seed.
The other CFP games
After the semis are selected the other matchups are determined by the committee to try to produce the best games by the top-ranked teams, with some significant restrictions.
Three bowls – the Orange, Rose and Sugar – have contracts in place with various conferences in the years that they are not semifinal matchups.
If their champions are not selected for the playoffs, these conferences go to these bowls: Orange (ACC), Rose (Big Ten and Pac-12) and Sugar (Big 12 and SEC). So, Big 12 fans should get used to New Orleans as that will be the normal destination, instead of the the Fiesta.
If the playoffs take one of the contract bowl teams, then the next highest-ranked team from that specific conference goes. So if first-place Oklahoma is in the playoff semifinal, second- or third-place Kansas State gets the Sugar Bowl bid.
The other three non-contract bowls – the Cotton, Atlanta and Fiesta bowls – get the remaining teams based on displaced champions and rankings. The goals, as stated by the CFP are to:
Feel free to read that last caveat as “sell tickets.” But unlike the BCS system and its predecessors, the bowls have ceded their selection rights to one organization – the CFP. So the Orange Bowl can’t decide to take a team such as Alabama just because it might sell more tickets than a highly-ranked Central Florida. The committee is expected to meet and release rankings throughout the season, so the “backroom deals” might be avoided, or at least more transparent.
Projections for the bowls if the playoffs had been in place for 2013-14 included as many as five SEC teams in the six games, so get used to that.
The dates for all the CFP bowls return to some tradition, as well. The six games will always be on two days as close to New Year’s as possible – except for when Jan. 1 is a Sunday and the system sits idle for NFL games. The Rose and Sugar will always be the Jan. 1 (or Jan. 2) afternoon and night games, with the other four moving between Dec. 31 to Jan. 2.
Well, that’s six bowls down, but what of the other 29 games?
Oh, they’re still going on – with at least two more on the way for the 2014-15 bowl season (Hello, Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala.!)
But many of the traditional conference tie-ins have changed, including many of the Big 12’s.
Here is the lineup from 2014 through 2019:
|Russell Athletic||Orlando, Fla.||ACC|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||Tempe, Ariz.||Pac-12|
|Heart of Dallas/Armed Forces||Dallas/Fort Worth||C-USA/American|
Lots of changes here, including no regular games against Big Ten opponents and the end of an affiliation with the Holiday Bowl and a great Christmas trip to San Diego.
Everything straight now?