The prayers of the college football faithful have been answered- the BCS system is dead and a four-team playoff will decide the sport’s champion.
Virginia Tech president Charles Steger had the honor of revealing these glad tidings on Tuesday, as he announced that the presidential oversight committee had accepted the conference commissioners’ proposal for a playoff.
The plan won’t take affect until 2014, and some issues like revenue sharing and the composition of the playoff’s selection committee remain unresolved, but this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.
However, for all of the plan’s good qualities, it’s hardly perfect. It’s certainly better than the vagaries of the BCS, but it seems that this plan will still leave room for plenty of controversy.
Specifically, this plan will continue to favor the four “power” conferences, and exclude lesser conferences like the Big East, the Mountain West, and even the ACC.
While no one is positive exactly how the selection committee will determine the four teams to compete in the playoff, the general consensus among the conference commissioners is that strength of schedule will be paramount to assessing a team’s worthiness.
This would certainly seem to be the fairest way to assess teams with similar records, but it also puts teams in these weaker conferences at the same disadvantage they currently have in the BCS. Undefeated teams from weaker conferences like the Boise States of the world will undoubtedly find themselves excluded from the playoff should a one-loss team from a power conference emerge as a contender.
This emphasis on strength of schedule has some positives and negatives for Virginia Tech.
Tech has a history of scheduling big matchups with out-of-conference powerhouses, so this trend could help provide a boost to any evaluations of its schedule.
Alabama is one example of the Hokies’ recent big-time opponents, and matchups against prominent teams like Ohio State and Wisconsin loom in the next few years. Obviously, the team’s surest way to grabbing a spot in the playoff would be knocking off these titans, but their mere presence on Tech’s schedule helps bolster their credibility.
However, things get tricky when one considers the team’s in-conference opponents. When Tech plays prominent Atlantic division foes like Clemson and Florida State in the same season, like it will this year, then the Hokies look pretty good to outsiders.
The problem arises in years when this doesn’t occur. Beyond the Tigers and the Seminoles, only the Yellow Jackets, Demon Deacons, Wolfpack or even the Hurricanes have presented even modest threats to the Hokies’ conference superiority. Compared to leagues like the SEC or the Big 10, the ACC is severely lacking for the kind of depth that can make a schedule shine.
Essentially, it will be crucial for the Hokies to win their matchups against big-time opponents in coming years if they’re to be successful with this new model.
If anything, this new plan may accelerate a move towards the much-rumored formation of four “super conferences,” as schools scramble for spots in the best leagues to improve their chances come playoff time. For example, a move to the SEC for Tech would dispel many of these aforementioned schedule concerns.
In the meantime, this system will vastly narrow the margin of error for teams like Virginia Tech. Smaller conference teams will have to be even more attentive to their big out-of-conference matchups, or face playoff exclusion.
Suffice it to say that the BCS may be gone, but there’s still plenty left to argue about in college football.