College Football Playoff: At Least One Conference Will Be Left Out

By Tim Letcher
John David Mercer, USA TODAY SPORTS
John David Mercer, USA TODAY SPORTS

For many, many years, Division I FBS college football fans have largely wanted a playoff system to determine the sport’s national champion. And for many, many years, the presidents and athletic directors at BCS schools avoided or delayed the subject.

Now, finally, for the 2014 season, there is a college football playoff in place. And while everyone seems to be in favor of the plan at this point, at least one conference will not be happy when the playoff field is announced.

The reason is simple math. There are five major conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC), but there are only four spots in the playoff bracket. That means at least one conference will be left out of the initial playoff system.

It’s tough for the “powers that be” with any of those major conferences to imagine that a 12-1 team from their conference would be left out. But what if all five of those leagues have a 12-1 league champion? It’s not hard to imagine that the Florida State Seminoles, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oregon Ducks and Alabama Crimson Tide could all have the same record at season’s end. That would certainly lead to a lively discussion among the selection committee and it would end with one conference being hurt and offended that their team was left out.

Of course, the committee hopes that one league champion has a worse record than the others, thus making the decision easier for those choosing the teams. But, the committee could also run into a situation where there are a couple of clear choices, but not four. Imagine if three of the league winners each had two losses, while two others had only one loss. That would mean that two of the two-loss teams would get in, while one wouldn’t.

The conference with the biggest disadvantage is the Big 12, and there are two reasons why. First, the Big 12 does not have a championship game. Despite the fact that they have moved their regular season back into other conferences’ “championship weekend”, not having a title game puts the conference at a disadvantage.

Secondly, each Big 12 team will play all of the other Big 12 teams in conference play. This means there is one less “sure thing” on the schedule of each Big 12 team. So rather than playing a directional school from a lower conference, Big 12 teams will face each other. That also means that there is a better chance of Big 12 teams taking two losses and falling out of the playoff.

On the flip side, if a Big 12 team runs the table, that feat would be more impressive than a team that did the same, but against inferior competition.

It’s a long season, and lots of things can happen between now and December. But looking at the landscape at this point, it appears that the Big 12 could play a role, one way or another, in how the playoff matchups are determined.

Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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