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Did The SEC-Big 12 Bowl Announcement Backfire?

Last week, it looked as though the Big Ten and Pac-12 were driving hard for a playoff system that would be heavily weighted toward conference champions.  At the same time, the chancellor of the University of Nebraska had recently said that his fellow Big Ten and Pac-12 presidents and chancellors still favored a simpler Plue-One game tacked on after the bowl games… in order to preserve the majesty and tradition of the Rose Bowl.

Seemingly in response to the Big Ten/Pac-12, the SEC and the Big 12 — the two leagues that have by far owned the BCS era in terms of championship game appearances — worked out a deal of their own.  Last Friday they announced that they would start their own bowl game.  The apparent messages sent:

 

* Big Ten and Pac-12, don’t think you can jam a playoff format we don’t like down our throats.

* Our game will be better than your Rose Bowl.

* A playoff is most definitely on the way.

 

But Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has told The Wall Street Journal that the true Plus-One model mentioned above is now back on the table and gaining steam.  This is all about spin and negotiations, of course, but Scott’s comments suggest that the SEC’s and Big 12′s plan might have backfired:

 

“I’d say before Friday that idea of a plus-one didn’t have much traction, but I think the announcement on Friday’s a game-changer.  We’re pretty far down the path on four-team playoff options, but given the very positive reaction to what the SEC and Big 12 have done, it’s possible that (a plus-one) could get some traction.”

 

At least that’s the Pac-12′s view of things.  And Scott might be right.

If a true Plus-One is put in place, the champions of the two best leagues in America would do battle in a de facto semifinal.  For leagues like the Pac-12 and Big Ten that have earned just three BCS title game appearances each — thanks largely to those slots being filled by SEC and Big 12 teams — a Plus-One makes the path to the national crown easier.  Ditto for all the small leagues out there.

How many leagues would love to see the SEC and Big 12 beat each other up and cancel out a title game slot in the process?  Most?  All?

We can’t stress enough, however, that Scott’s comments are a negotiating point.  The SEC, Big 12 and others will counter it.  This just gives Scott’s bloc a better starting point.  Suddenly the “four from six” plan tossed out by the Big Ten’s Jim Delany might be a more likely compromise than the “three champs and a wild card” plan we at MrSEC.com expected to be the final compromise.

Either way, we don’t think a Plus-One will be the final destination.

In addition to recent SEC dominance, one of the reasons playoff discussions have come so far in recent months is the fact that fans now have more power than ever.  They have the power to complain via talk radio and social media.  More importantly, they have the power to turn off their televisions come December and January (which they’ve been doing with more regularity).  Even more importantly, they have the power to stop buying tickets to games.

So it’s unlikely that the same men who’ve spent so much time working on a playoff in order to keep fans from tuning out will stop, shift, and suddenly throw things into reverse.  And let’s be honest, a true Plus-One is about as far into reverse as things can be thrown.  Such a system would accomplish nothing.  It would be worse than the existing BCS.

If three teams from three different bowls were all undefeated post January 1st… some team would still be left on the outside looking in.  That’s the same thing fans hate about the BCS.

If the only undefeated team in America wins its bowl game… should it really have to turn around and beat some other once-beaten club to win the national title?  In fact, wasn’t this issue in the form of January’s LSU-Alabama rematch part of the reason we started down the playoff road in the first place?

Look, a Plus-One is unlikely.  But Scott’s response to the SEC/Big 12 move from Friday shows just how formidable a commissioner he is.  The SEC and Big 12 countered the Pac-12 and Big Ten.  Now Scott is letting everyone know that Friday’s move wasn’t quite the checkmate that many had assumed it was.

Game on.

 

UPDATE — A lot of folks are taking Scott’s statement to mean that the Plus-One after the bowls would consist of the Rose Bowl’s winner playing the “Champions” Bowl winner.  But that’s not what Scott said.  He simply said a Plus-One.  And if he’s referring to the traditional Plus-One plan that Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman floated recently, then he’s suggesting the best two teams after all the bowls would be picked.  Is it logical to think that that would probably mean the Rose and “Champions” winners?  Yes.  But that’s not technically what he said.

In addition whether there’s a true Plus-One or those two games become official semifinals — good luck legally closing the door completely on all the schools outside the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC, by the way — the SEC and Big 12 would be meeting in one game while the Big Ten and Pac-12 would play in the other.  Things tend to move in cycles, but since the BCS era dawned, the two former leagues have been better than the latter two when it comes to producing championship game contenders.  For that reason the SEC-Big 12 game would be like playing the championship game first and then forcing that winner to face off against a team from the Pac-12 or Big Ten in a second championship game.

Which is why Scott’s now using this as a negotiating tool.

 


17 comments
MJW
MJW

I took the initial announcement as more of an alignment of the top 4, vice a shot across the bow from the SEC/Big-12 toward the B1G/PAC.  A bit ironic how things have come full circle.  The Plus-One was Mike Slive's original baby from several years ago.  Early on in the discussions it seemed he and the SEC still favored that model, and the Big Ten and PAC-12 were strongly against it.  And for obvious reasons, if the Big-12 and SEC played in separate bowl games, then often those two games would have been the feeders to the NCG, with the Rose Bowl looking on from the outside.  By combining the Big-12 and SEC champs, it makes it much more likely that the Rose Bowl game is meaningful in the NC picture.  Under a plus-one, the Champions Bowl increases the value of the Rose Bowl, and puts the PAC-12 and B1G themselves on more solid ground as the two bowls separate themselves from all the rest.  The "very positive reaction" Scott is referring to are the PAC-12 school Presidents (many of whom are still on the fence with a playoff) calling him up and saying the plus-one now works for them.

 

Even if the 4 team playoff goes thru, the B1G/PAC wants to take back the Rose Bowl and remove it from the rotation of at large bids and BCS control.  The Rose/B1G/PAC would much rather have had a 2010 game of Stanford vs. Ohio State (the likely result of taking the top teams from each conference after the playoff teams are selected) and let Oregon and Wisconsin (the actual conference champs) off to the playoffs in some neutral site game (or home sited) than for the Rose Bowl to host the Oregon vs TCU semi-final.  The B1G and PAC get more money by keeping the Rose Bowl outside of the playoffs, as they'll get their share of the playoff pot with Oregon and Wisconsin in the playoffs, while Ohio State vs Andrew Luck's Cardinal would have still been a huge ratings winner.

 

It is important to realize the Champions bowl gives the Rose Bowl an ally as the two must-see bowl games outside of the playoffs.  There is very little downside to the Champions bowl as far as the PAC/B1G are concerned.  The question is, what was Slive's original intent?  If he thought this was a shot across the bow, than I am convinced that Slive has truly become the puppet to Larry Scott's puppet master.

10Vol85
10Vol85

BCS era scorecard of current BCS and various 4 team models:

 

Top 2 (current BCS):

SEC - 9

B12 - 7

ACC/B10/BE/PAC - 3

MW - 0

 

Top 4 of BCS:

B12/SEC -14

PAC - 9

B10 - 8

BE - 5

ACC - 4

MW - 2

 

Top 4 conference champs:

SEC - 12

PAC - 11

B10/B12 - 9

BE - 6

ACC - 5

MW - 4

 

Top 3 conference champs + wild card

B12 - 14

SEC - 12

PAC - 11

B10 - 8

BE - 6

ACC/MWC - 4

 

Top 4 conference champs within top 6 plus remainder as best available wild cards

SEC - 12

B12/PAC - 11

B10 - 8

BE - 6

ACC/MWC - 4

 

Graduated/Georgia system (Wildcard trumps conference champ if ranked + 4 or better.  This would be to remedy perceived deficiencies in 4 of 6 and 3+1 systems when 1st or 1st and 2nd ranked teams are non-champs.  Georgia (#7) would have been the sole beneficiary of this system vs. the 4 of 6 system, replacing Ohio State (#4) in 2005).

 

SEC - 13

B12/PAC - 11

B10 - 7

BE - 6

ACC/MWC - 4

 

Granted, results going forward could look different from BCS era results, especially considering conference realignment.

10Vol85
10Vol85

The 4 in 6  model could use a little tweaking.  A particular vulnerability to the 4 in 6 model is the opportunity to have the #1 and #2 teams to not be conference champs and be left out in favor of 3,4,5, and 6.  I don't have a huge problem with this but I suspect it would get a lot of negative reaction should it actually happen.  You could use a graduated system (good graduation rates are important, right?).  A #1 at large would trump a #5 conference champ but not a #4.  A #2 at large would trump a #6 champ.  A #3 at large would trump a #7 champ.  The results would be very similar to the 4 in 6 except in the particular case of a #1 or #2 at large possibility

Crayton
Crayton

This does "seem" to open the door for a true plus-one or a triple semifinal scenario.

 

BUT, that is not what Slive wants, is it? This is a power play. If the BCS does not form the final four in the SEC's image, then the playoff will be off and the SEC will still be left standing with a vault full of money from this Bowl Game.

 

Delaney and Scott don't really have another move. Hostile takeover of the Big 12, Longhorn network and all? Too late for that. They already laid their cards on the table: the Rose Bowl is priority numero uno.

 

Just like in '97, the Rose/B1G/P12 will have to go with the flow. They couldn't compete with the Alliance championship game and they probably can't compete with the Big 12 vs. SEC bowl game. I would, though, like for them to get some compromise against a strict Top 4 should the SEC get its way.

 

Then again, I wouldn't mind too much if the BCS was dropped and the Rose vs. Alliance picked back up.

Mike Pemberton
Mike Pemberton

Somebody somewhere may have already mentioned this, but...I always thought that Commissioner Slive was in the catbird's seat for negogiation purposes and could possibly force ALL of the other conferences into accepting his "top 4" arrangement simply by saying, "boys, ya'll can do what you want, but unless it is the top 4, the SEC is not particpating."  Such an approach would greatly water down both the prestige and the money derived from anything the rest of the conferences would do essentially because the 800 pound gorilla would not be participating.  Now, that could certainly have some negative impact on the SEC if the others went ahead and an undefeated SEC (or 1 loss) champion was left playing some team outside of the coalition of the other conferences.  Therefore, I always thought that Swafford and the ACC would stand with Slive and the SEC.  But, when Swofford said what he said about conference champions, I thought my "guess" as to what Slive was thinking went down the tubes.  Butm it is not wise to ever understimate Commissioner Slive .  Then, the Big12-SEC alliance came to pass.  I wonder what Delaney and Scott would have to market if Slive and Neihaus said "top 4 or else."  Frankly, not much and if they do not agree to the "top 4", then the Big 12-SEC game might just have alot more to say about the national champion than the Rose Bowl could.  Only thing that has to happen is that the SEC and the BIG 12 stay on the same page and present a unified front.  If the others don't capitualte, then the SEC-Big 12 game will probably be the biggest of the post-season games, at least the majority of the time based upon recent, and some might argue long-term history.  Mike Pemberton, Rockwood, Tennessee.

MoKelly
MoKelly

Note that the PAC Commissioner made this comment --- not the Big 10 Commissioner. We already know the Big 10 can't compete in the Rose Bowl as it is too hot out in California!

PhilipKelly
PhilipKelly

They have already said that, if they have teams eligible for a championship, the SEC and Big 12 will send other representatives to this game.  You are talking about two different things.

RussH
RussH

I think the real thing that happened here is more to meet the eyes.  This is a shot at the MAC/WAC/Sunbelt/Big East and other middle tear conferences.  It basically says "If you do not like our proposals and just want conference champion model for playoffs, then we will support a +1 which will leave you out in the cold."  90% of the time the winner of the SEC/Big12 game would end up in the national championship game.  This also would allow them to bid this out for MUCH more money than any other game, including the Rose bowl, and based on the fact that the SEC/Big12 owe the bowl game they get all of  the money. 

 

In short, Smaller conferences, do you want a small piece of the pie or do you want the big conferences to team up legally and box you out of the big money. 

 

 

MJW
MJW

Let me take the idea of the top 4 conferences aligning together for a plus one a step farther and suggest a 3rd bowl game pitting the top 2 remaining teams (after the Rose and Champions bowl teams) against each other.  This game would have open access to everyone from the 2 team WAC (RIP) champ to the SEC runner-ups, making sure the CG is open to all teams and conferences.  

 

First thing to note is that the top 4 teams in the BCS rankings would have always been represented in one of these 3 games going back all 14 years of the BCS era.  Also in the last 9 years, the top 4 conferences would have almost owned this 3rd bowl game, with the SEC, PAC, B1G, and Big-12 placing 4 teams each, while the Big East and ACC would have only grabbed one spot each. It is far from ideal and not as clean as a true 4 team playoff, but not as messy as I might have thought a plus one to be.  This is what some of the years would have looked like (assuming current conference affiliations):

 

2011

Champions:  #1 LSU vs. #3 OkSt

Rose:  #5 Oregon vs. #10 Wisc

3rd bowl:  #2 Bama vs. #4 Stanford

Clear semi-finals, while Rose doesn't change and probably gets same rating they did in reality

 

2010

Champions:  #1 Aub vs #3 TCU (assuming TCU in Big-12 and champ)

Rose:  #2 Oregon vs #5 Wisc

3rd bowl:  #4 Stanford vs. #6 Ohio St

Gets interesting if Wisconsin and Stanford both win, otherwise clear cut.

 

2009

Champions:  #1 Bama vs. #2 Texas

Rose:  #7 Oregon vs. #8 Ohio St

3rd bowl:  #3 Cincy vs. #4 TCU

Perhaps a rule is needed that would allow two teams from the same conference to swap places if it makes more sense, thus allowing Texas and TCU (again assuming current affiliation) to swap games.  Otherwise, this is like the years when the Super Bowl was actually the AFC or NFC championship game.  But at least the two semi-final games are clear cut again.

 

2008

Champions: #1 Oklahoma vs #2 Florida

Rose:  #5 USC vs. #8 Penn St

3rd Bowl:  #3 Texas vs #4 Bama

See rule above to swap Florida and Bama.  Otherwise, USC vs winner of Texas/Bama could be a beauty contest.

 

2007

Champions:  #2 LSU vs #4 Oklahoma

Rose:  #1 Ohio St vs. #7 USC

3rd Bowl:  #3 Va Tech vs #5 Georgia

OSU and LSU control their destiny, but the other 4 teams are in a beauty pageant for a CG spot if one of the top 2 are beat.

 

2006

Champions:  #2 Florida vs #10 Oklahoma

Rose:  #1 Ohio St vs. #5 USC

3rd Bowl:  #3 Mich vs #4 LSU

OSU is the only team that really controls its destiny as Florida/Michigan separation was extremely tight coming into bowls.  Oklahoma only playing as spoiler.

 

2005

Champions:  #2 Texas vs #7 Georgia

Rose:  #1 USC vs #3 Penn St

3rd bowl:  #4 Ohio State vs #5 Oregon

UT, USC, and PSU all control their destiny.  If GA wins, expect pageant with OSU/Oregon winner.

 

2004

Champions:  #2 Oklahoma vs #3 Auburn

Rose:  #1 USC vs #13 Michigan

3rd Bowl:  #4 Texas vs #5 California

This is clear.  USC, UO, and Auburn control their destiny.  Texas vs Aaron Rodgers' Bears winner need Michigan to win.

 

2003

Champions:  #1 Oklahoma vs. #2 LSU (note, under current BCS formula this would have been #3 vs #1)

Rose:  #3 USC vs #4 Michigan (current BCS formula this is #2 vs #4)

3rd Bowl:  #5 Ohio St vs. #6 Texas

Semi final games again clear cut with winner of Champions and Rose in NCG.

 

That's probably far enough.  I'm not suggesting this as the way things should be, but I think if you are in the top 4 conferences, you could see the appeal.

MJW
MJW

 @10Vol85 The issue is how accurate of a measurement do you have to determine the top 4.  There are so few meaningful cross conference games during the season to be able to accurately compare the conferences.  Consider the difference between the top 4 pre- bowl games (what you have above) and the number of teams that finished in the top 4 after the bowls (current conference affiliations):

 

Top 4 Post Bowl Games:

SEC - 16

PAC - 16

Big-12 - 10

Big Ten - 9

ACC - 7

MWC - 1

 

Top 2 Post Bowl Games:

SEC - 11

PAC - 7

ACC - 5

Big Ten - 4

Big-12 - 4

 

The conference with the biggest positive change with the additional data of bowl games was the PAC-10/12 gaining six top 4 slots and four top 2 spots followed by the SEC which gained 2 of each.  Meanwhile the Big-12 showed biggest negative trend post bowls.  The regular season does a good job of being able to rank teams within conference, but it sucks at allowing us to compare one conference to another.  For this reason, I've slowly moved away from the camp of "only the top 4" to showing some preference to conference champs.  Mainly because there is so much more uncertainty when trying to compare one conference to another.

 

MoKelly
MoKelly

 @10Vol85 Good stats. This shows why the Big 10/PAC want Conference Champs vs. top ranked teams. I hadn't realized how poorly those conferences had performed under the current BCS system. Wow.

10Vol85
10Vol85

 @Mike Pemberton

 I think the other conferences would take that approach as a bluff and call it.  If the SEC continues as the strongest conference, a playoff would give the SEC the opportunity to keep proving it.  If they go back to pre-BCS ways, then the Big 10, Pac 10 et al could play their isolationist schedules, finish with an undefeated team or two and claim superiority.  Their minions will eventually buy it because, sooner or later the SEC will lose a key game and the cycle will be said to have moved back towards the other conferences.  If the SEC doesn't have the playoff to prove them wrong, that argument will succeed in other regions of the country.

10Vol85
10Vol85

 @RussH

 You could be right but it is very hard to know true motives, particularly when it comes to the presidents and ADs of so many schools.  One reality, if you look at how the different plans would have fared over the previous 14 years (BCS era) is that the SEC and Big 12 are the two leagues that would have benefited from the top 4 approach.  Other leagues would have benefitted more from one of the conference champ approaches.  The SEC also seem to benefit the most from there being a playoff if you believe the teams can indeed keep proving it on the field.  The SEC and Big 12 are outnumbered and I question if they're really willing to go as fare as blowing up the playoff completely if they don't get their way.  We can only guess.  I do know that individuals (commissioners) are willing to make bolder/riskier plays than large groups of people (presidents).  That is what is playing out now but it may be a different dynamic when the presidents get involved.

Crayton
Crayton

 @MJW I went through all the years but added a discrete method to determine the championship participants rather than relying on polls and further subjectiveness.

 

1. The two bowl winners with the highest pre-bowl ranks go to the National Championship

2. Two teams of neighboring rank are considered tied and the one defeating the higher ranked team in their bowl will advance. (If #4 beats #1 and #3 beats #10 then #4 advances to the National Championship)

3. If Rule 2 dolly-chains (#3 beats #4, #2 beats #5, #1 beats #10) then revert back to rewarding the highest ranked bowl winner.

 

Interestingly, in 2000 and 2001 we'd probably need 4 games because you are not guaranteed 2 Top 6 bowl winners from the three "semifinals."

 

2000

S: 1 Oklahoma vs. 7 Florida (UF needs UM and UW upsets)

O: 2 Florida St vs. 5 Va Tech (VT needs UM or OU upset)

*F: 3 Miami vs. 6 Oregon State (UM needs OU or FSU upset)

R: 4 Washington vs. 17 Purdue (UW needs OU and UM upsets)

*Oregon State or any team ranked 6-16 will play in this game

 

2001

*O: 1 Miami vs. 6 Tennessee (UT needs 2 of UC, OU, NU upsets)

*F: 2 Nebraska vs. 5 Florida (UF needs a UC upsets but not a UM upset unless OU is also upset)

S: 3 Colorado vs. 13 LSU (UC needs a NU upset or both OU and UM upsets)

R: 4 Oregon vs. 8 Illinois (OU needs a UM upset)

*Tennessee beat Florida in season finale, gets easier chances at National Championship Game

10Vol85
10Vol85

 @MJW

 I agree.  There is very little meaningful regular season data already to compare conferences.  Often, the games are not evenly matched (a bottom feeder or middle tier team against a contender, for example).  I am more in favor of using predominantly conference champs with allowance for an at large to cover unusual circumstances.  Look for a post on todays headlines entry along the same lines I'm going to post regarding pre-bowl rankings vs. results.

Mike Pemberton
Mike Pemberton

 @10Vol85 Your points are well taken.  No doubt there would be some risk to taking that approach.  First in my mind is the risk that there would be no "system" on the field for determining the NC and would therefore be more subject to criticism than the BCS.  And I certainly agree that conference strength is cyclical, although the SEC can make a very strong historical argument that it is the strongest.  I guess my point is more related to the fact that I think Commissioner Slive firmly believes that any playoff should be with the best 4 teams, and while winning a conference championship is important, that by no stretch means you are one of the best 4 teams.  And, the goal should be to put what are considered to be the best 4 teams in the playoff (admittedly somewhat subjective). 

 

But, with the money/prestige/ratings/etc. that the new SEC-Big 12 game would command (especially with the two conference champions in it) together with the money the revised TV contracts and/or SEC network will command and the BCS era superiority of the SEC, Commissioner Slive will be in a position of power.  IF this is what he is thinking (and I am certainly not privy to his thoughts) and IF the Big 12 stands firm with him, I think he is in an extremely strong negotiating position.  So, while you may be entirely correct, I am of the opinion that IF (real big IF) Commissioner Slive is thinking what I think he is, it is not a bluff.  I think he is dead serious that the top 4 model is the only acceptable model and because he "owns the bank," will be willing to role the dice...of course provided he has another conference to stand with him...and what better conference (performance wise) to stand with him that the Big 12.  But, heck, I could be absolutely and totally wrong.  Mike Pemberton.  Rockwood, Tennessee.

Crayton
Crayton

 @MJW With those rules you could also replace 2004 #5 California with #6 Utah if you wanted to reward Conference Champions while still restricting the "semifinals" to 3 (or the occasional 4) bowls.

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