College football looks headed straight for a four-team playoff beginning in the 2014 season, but the when, where and how will be hotly debated in the months, and perhaps year, to come.
The Big East, Pac-12 and ACC are campaigning hard for conference championship trophies as required hardware for admittance into the playoff.
The Big 12 and the SEC want the four best teams. Period.
The Big Ten, well, it's not quite sure what it wants.
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiOklahoma State would have made the cut last season in a best four teams playoff scenario.
Once or twice in a long while, the league may do a good SEC impression and send two teams to the playoff in a top-four scenario, but most likely it would only be one.
A Big 12 champion not making the list of the nation's top four teams that also won a conference title? If the Big 12 doesn't reinstitute a conference championship game and allow room for an upset (whoops, Texas '01, Oklahoma '03 and Missouri '07, if you can call the last one a true upset), a Big 12 team that proved itself as the "one true champion" over a nine-game conference schedule will be shut out of a four-team playoff a few occasions short of never.
The Big 12 has made it clear that it wants the best four teams in a playoff and, ideally, would like them selected by a committee, not a human poll or computer ranking.
Is that what would most help the Big 12? It's most what the fans want to see, even if it means seeing another all-SEC national title game. At least then the teams would have proven their worth against teams outside the league to get there.
The Big 12 will be there every year, though. Is eliminating the possibility of two teams worth paring down the field of four teams to those less qualified?
In short, that would give the Big 12 a better chance to win a title in a playoff it would be participating in almost every year, anyway.
It's a difficult balance for sure, but not one with a lot of difference. At least in the proposal the Big 12 favors, it would have a chance to prove its worth as an elite conference. The SEC could land two teams in a playoff fairly often if the top four teams are drafted. The Pac-12 might do it once in a while if USC and Oregon continue to prove their worth as powers.
The Big 12, though, would have the best chance to do it outside the SEC. Texas and Oklahoma would likely compete for annual spots, and Oklahoma State, West Virginia, TCU, Texas Tech or even Kansas State could crash the party in some years. Oklahoma State would have done it last year. TCU would have done it in 2010. Missouri would have done it in 2007.
The one place the Big 12 has a lot to gain, even if it has little to lose? No BCS games are played in the Big 12 footprint as it stands. If the national title game is bid out like the Big 12 wants, we could see big-time football in the Big 12 footprint.
Jerry Jones holds the keys to Cowboys Stadium, and he'll dangle them (along with a truckload of cash), if the opportunity to host college football's Super Bowl arises.
Say goodbye to trying to beat USC at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena or trying to knock off Florida at the Orange Bowl just outside Miami.
Let's see somebody else try to beat Texas or Oklahoma in Arlington, just three hours from their respective campuses.
Team selection isn't where the Big 12 has the most to lose or the most to gain. If the national title game stays in one of its current stadiums, life goes on as usual for the Big 12. If it moves to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, that's a big leg up for the Big 12 and one well worth fighting for.
A conference champions-only scenario would cost the SEC. The Pac-12, ACC and Big East would be in trouble with no conference champions requirement.
Either way, though, the Big 12 will be just fine.
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