College Football’s New Four-Team Playoff


UPDATED 4/23/2013

It’s official. The BCS will end in 2014. In its place, a four-team playoff with two semifinals rotated among six major bowls and a final played at a neutral site every year. But plenty remains to be figure out. Let’s dive in.

The Latest: The playoff system will simply be dubbed the “College Football Playoff,” according to ESPN. The first national championship game will be held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Jan. 12, 2015.

Previously: The commissioners have settled on a six-bowl system. The Champions (SEC vs. Big 12), Rose (Big Ten vs. Pac-12) and Orange (ACC vs. SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame) bowls make up the “contract” bowls. Three other bowls, to be named, are dubbed “host” bowls.

The highest-ranked champion of five conferences — Conference USA, the Mountain West, Sun Belt, Big East and Mid-American — will be automatically included in the 12-spot system. Ranking will be determined by the to-be-named selection committee. That leaves five “at-large” spots up for grabs.

The Orange Bowl is in the final stages of negotiating a deal in which the ACC champion would face off against either Notre Dame, an SEC or Big Ten school one of the six new championship series of bowls, ESPN reports.

As expected, the Orange Bowl and the ACC have come to terms on a 12-year extension that keeps the two tied together. In the years that the ACC does not send its conference champion to the semifinals, it will head to the Orange Bowl. In the years an ACC champion is among the four teams and the Orange Bowl is not one of the semifinals, the Orange Bowl will fulfill its contract by selecting another ACC team to fill the spot. In years that the Orange Bowl serves as a semifinal, the ACC’s contract can be filled if the Orange Bowl features an ACC team.

Seven games and six major bowls will comprise the jurisdiction of the new selection committee in 2014. That includes the two semifinal games. The seventh game will be the national championship game. All of the bowl games (including the semifinals) will be played Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, three on each day,’s Stewart Mandel reports.

What We Know: Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbick has revealed that the playoff selection committee will release a weekly top-20 team ranking, starting with Week 8, the South Bend Tribune reports.

The 12 BCS commissioners and the 12 university presidents of the presidential oversight committee approved and endorsed a four-team playoff to begin with the 2014 regular season.

Six bowls will rotate as hosts for the two semifinals on either Dec. 31 or Jan. 1 of each year. The final will take place on the first Monday in January that is at least six days after New Year’s Day.

A committee will select the four teams and the group will be instructed to weigh strength of schedule, win-loss record, head-to-head victories with other teams in contention and whether the team won its own conference.

The skeleton is there, but the meat of the new system is still somewhat mysterious. Here’s some of what’s left:

The Debates:

Which games should serve as semifinals? 

While the three “contract” bowls will be among the six bowl that rotate as semifinal hosts, the “host” bowls have yet to be selected. Joining the Champions, Rose and Orange Bowls could be the Fiesta, Cotton and Chick-fil-A bowls.

Who should serve on the selection committee?

Again, conventional logic suggests that former coaches might be best suited here. University presidents, conference commissioners or other sports officials might work here, as well. It is likely that a decision will not be made until immediately before the 2014 season.

Will there be a new metric to measure teams?

The BCS served as a ranking system by using numbers to somewhat level the objectivity innate in a regular season in which teams only play 11 or 12 games. Will the commissioners, presidents or media come together to create a new metric to measure the relative value of teams once again? Perhaps it could work in the way that the RPI helps guide the men’s basketball selection committee.

Or has that ship sailed with the BCS and its computers?

Other questions:

In what way will the existing polls be used, if at all?

What is the selection procedure for semifinal participants? Will there be considerations for conference champions beyond the wording of the first press release from the commissioners and presidents?

Important Dates:

January 6, 2014: The 2014 BCS National Championship Game, the final BCS bowl
August 28, 2014: The start of the first college football season with a playoff to determine a national champion
January 12, 2015: The first championship game as a result of the new four-team playoff

Important Links: — Official home of the BCS
Every Game Counts — Facebook page of the BCS and quickest route to any official BCS releases — Long-time and well received supporters of a playoff in college football
State of the BCS Survey — Fan opinions on the ideal playoff system


3 thoughts on “Playoffs

  1. I think this is definitely a step in the right direction and even though there are quite a few details that need to be ironed out, a play off system would be the right thing for everyone. I’m pretty sure that College Football is about the only sport that doesn’t rely on a play off system to determine their champion and that seems a little ridiculous to me.

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