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Slive Wants Non-League Champs Cleared For Playoff

It should come as no shock to college football fans that SEC commissioner Mike Slive isn’t big on talk of a four-team, Plus-One playoff format that includes only conference champions.  Unfortunately, the anti-SEC sentiment that’s driving this year’s push for a Plus-One is aimed directly at making it tougher for Slive’s league to keep capturing national crowns… and that means rival leagues will want to cap a league’s chances of winning.

While not a fan of the conference-only talk currently circulating, Slive told The Birmingham News that he is at least willing to discuss it:

“I’m willing to have a conversation about it, but if you were going to ask me today, that would not be the way I want to go.  It really is early in the discussions, notwithstanding what some commissioners say publicly.  There’s still a lot of information that needs to be generated.”

That dig at “some commissioners” was aimed squarely at the camp of Jim Delany (Big Ten) and Larry Scott (Pac-12).  Their bloc has been very vocal.  Scott last week spoke of a champs-only plan.  And weeks ago, word leaked from the Big Ten that Delany and company liked the idea of on-campus semifinal games.

Last week we wrote that the fight over a new plan would likely break down along Big Ten/Pac-12 and SEC lines.  Whichever group grabs the most support from other conference commissioners will see the playoff set up more in line with its own goals.

Interestingly, Slive says he would also consider playing semifinal games at campus sites.  We still believe there is going to be a desire from his camp to somehow tie the new “playoff” games into one or two of the existing bowls, or at least their host cities.

“There are pluses and minuses to that concept.  One is that you’re playing a couple games to determine the national champion and to make it a home game for somebody has always been perceived as a competitive advantage.  The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is not played at homes of the higher sees.  So you have to look at that…

The other side is there would be the question of fan travel and the ability to travel to one or more games.  You guarantee good attendance (at a campus stadium) — for one team.  It needs to be looked at carefully.  It’s on the table and it should be on the table.”

Back to the issue of a champions-only system, there are two simple reasons why such a plan should not — and in our estimation — will not pass muster:

1.  This past year’s national champion was Alabama, a team that did not win it’s conference title.

2.  More importantly, a Plus-One with conference champs only would have had #1 SEC champ LSU hosting #10 Big Ten champion Wisconsin and #3 Big 12 champ Oklahoma State hosting #5 Pac-12 titlist Oregon in a Delany/Scott-styled plan.

Alabama (#2), Stanford (#4), Arkansas (#6), Boise State (#7), Kansas State (#8), and South Carolina (#9) didn’t win their league champoinships.



There are a lot of wildcard teams that win MLB and NFL championships recently.  This occurs even though they have parity among their leagues and divisions.   In college football, there is very little parity among the conferences, which means that wildcard teams need to be included.  The whole point in having a 4 or 8 team playoff is to bring clarity to the eventual champion.  Leaving out the top wildcard teams would only create more controversy.


I think it will end up being some hybrid model. I have felt for a while that they would do either 2-3 top conference champions and 1-2 at large team. Face it, would you prefer the B10 champ that was ranked #10 this year or Bama, or even Stanford/Oregon?

alan from baton rouge
alan from baton rouge

I think a good compromise between the Delaney/Scott/Kramer "champions only" camp and the Slive "4 top teams" camp is to take the 3 highest ranked conference champions and one "wild card" team, whether it be an independent like Notre Dame, or great non-conference champ like Bama in 2011, Texas in 2008, or Michigan in 2006.


As an LSU fan, it still bothers me that Bama was in the clubhouse all but assured of being in the BCS NCG, while LSU still had to win the SEC CG.  I would add that the wild card team would be prohibited from hosting a semi-final game, regardless of ranking, and that two teams from the same conference could not meet in the semi-final round. 


It should just be the 4 best teams.  Conferences are most certainly not created equal... and neither are conference championship games.  Imagine if we had this system (playoff between top 4 conference champs) in place last season... and imagine that Georgia had upset LSU in the SEC title game.  You would have had both the #1 and #2 teams in the nation left out... while Oregon, who got blown out by LSU, would have "earned" their playoff spot by beating a .500 UCLA team in the PAC championship. 


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