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The Day The Sky Didn't Fall On BYU Football (Thoughts On CFB Playoffs)

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The announcement about the Big12 and SEC planning a meaningless post-season exhibition game (read: bowl game) between their best teams that aren't playing in a game that means something (read: playoff game) sent college football Chicken Littles all aflutter today. I can see why ACC football fans would be appalled by the announcement. It further highlights that the former Big Six BCS leagues in college football are now the Big Four and the ACC didn't make the cut. What makes less sense to me is BYU fans acting like this announcement is a big deal to BYU.

It's not.

CFB playoffs are coming -- How they will probably work

The news that was a huge deal to BYU came weeks ago when word leaked that a playoff was coming to big time college football. The early ideas being floated call for just four teams to make the playoffs. While details have not been worked out here is my guess on how things will come down based on what I have read so far:

  • Some variation of the current BCS ranking system will stay in place. Those rankings will be the first criteria used in choosing the top four teams.
  • Preference will be given to the conference champs. So if the top four BCS teams at the end of the season are four different conference champs they all get in. In that situation #5 is out of luck even if they are a conf champ too.
  • However if 2 or 3 of the BCS top four come from one conference (read: SEC) then conf champs in the top six would get those four playoff spots. If conf champs are outside the top six the SEC or whoever could get a 2nd team in.
  • In that scenario I suspect that ND will be treated like a conf champ if they make the top six. Someone like BYU would probably have to be in the top 4 to get in is my guess.

Implications for the outsiders

All of this is pretty good news to the non Big Four teams I think. If conf champs are given a leg up that means the SEC won't be completely dominating the playoff spots. That is bad for the SEC and good for everyone else.

Another consequence of that kind of setup would be that there would be very little incentive for the Big12 to expand when it comes to the playoffs. If the Big12 league champ has a great shot at being in the top six already why add more competition to the regular season schedule? -- Especially if the new teams only mean basically breaking even on the TV money.

Why the SEC might join in the push for an 8-team playoff

Of course since such a playoff setup is not all that favorable to the 14 team SEC expect them to try to change things to benefit them more. My guess is the SEC will have a lot of incentive to turn a 4 team playoff into an 8 team playoff that has more at-large spots. The SEC knows that they are likely to have 3-4 teams in the BCS top 8 most every year so if they can get three teams into the playoffs they will have plenty of incentive to expand to the playoffs to 8.

How BYU gets in

For all the teams out of the Big Four the challenge is to win enough games against good enough competition to crack the BCS top 4 or 6 initially and maybe top 8 if/when the playoffs expand. The most likely way to crack the top 6 of the BCS for teams not in the Big Four conference is to go undefeated. So on the ground level that hasn't changed for BYU. The Cougars probably needed to go undefeated to get a BCS bowl bid and they will likewise probably need to go undefeated to get a playoff bid.

My thought is that not only is the sky not falling on the independent BYU football program, the future is looking brighter and the path to the next national championship is looking much more clear lately. Unlike the last 15 years, if BYU wins all of its games in the years to come the end of that road very well could be another national championship. That's real progress.