There is only one question the rest of the college football world should be asking itself as it ponders the best format for a playoff to (gasp!) determine an actual national champion.
Do they want two Southeastern Conference teams to face one another in one of the two national semifinal contests or do they want to split them up at that point? The first guarantees that the SEC gets a team in the title game. The second creates the possibility of an all-SEC final.
Instead, it seems that folks are spending a lot of time and energy trying to figure a way to limit the impact of the sport’s most dominant conference on the championship chase.
In other words, the vast majority of the schools and conferences that put forth the big bucks necessary to play big-time football are not really trying to fix the sport after all. They’re trying to fix it so that the SEC has the least possible chance to add to its recent haul of national championships.
Let’s face it, any format that does not take the top four teams as determined by whatever method — polls, computer calculations, a selection committee or some combination of them all — will be a bigger joke than the bowl system that everyone is so eager to preserve in some form or fashion.
Funny how things change, isn’t it?
For so many years, so many of the sport’s caretakers trumpeted the polls/bowls system as a positive. The week-to-week debate about which teams were best created endless drama and countless possibilities. The mixing and matching of non-conference foes in one-time only postseason contests through predetermined conference contracts alleviated some of the mystery but left open the possibility for disagreements about who was actually best to linger eternally.
The BCS came along with the idea that it would provide some season-ending resolution. Even that was quickly exposed as a fraud — thanks, of course, to the SEC. Anyone still want to make the case that Auburn did not deserve a spot in the title game following the 2004 season?
Now there is no debate. The SEC is the best. By far.
With the SEC boasting the most rabid fan bases, highest-paid coaches, biggest and best facilities (in many cases), most fertile recruiting bases and the most forward-thinking conference office, things are not going to change any time soon.
With nothing to talk about through the fall except how much better that one conference is than all the others, people suddenly feel the need to change the way a national champion is determined.
The leading notion is a four-team playoff — and there is a lot of chatter that the four teams ought to come from four different conferences.
If that happens, what is perceived as a dramatic change actually would be a desperate attempt to maintain the status quo. In limiting the SEC’s potential participation the rest of the country wants to restore the uncertainty, stir up the debate and re-create the confusion that was so prevalent for so long.
The overriding fear, of course, is that the SEC could end up with three of the top four teams in the country in a given season. Or possibly even four out of four. No one wants that … no one outside of the SEC, that is.
Whatever is resolved, it’s clear the SEC will still be the league to beat in 2014 when the new system is implemented. Everyone else must deal with the likes of Alabama, LSU, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, etc., on different terms, but they’re probably not going to like it any more than they have the past few years.
After all, there is absolutely no question about which conference is best.