Yep. Playoffs. For the first time in major-college football history, the national champion will be crowned this year after a four-team playoff.
The College Football Playoff, as it is officially — and unoriginally — named, brings with it much intrigue and a few questions fans may have about the selection process. We’ll do our best to answer them.
Who decides what teams make it?
The College Football Playoff selection committee will meet and issue a top-25 ranking every Tuesday beginning Oct. 28. So there will be plenty of time to dissect and complain about how the committee orders the teams between then and Dec. 7, football’s version of Selection Sunday.
After the regular season and conference championship games, the committee will place teams in six bowl games — Rose, Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, Peach and Cotton — with two of them serving as national semifinals on a rotating basis. This season, it’s the Rose and Sugar.
The remaining games will hew as closely as possible to traditional conference affiliations. In the semifinals, the No. 1 seed will play the No. 4 seed; No. 2 will play No. 3.
When will the games be played?
The six bowl games will be played as tripleheaders on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, with both semifinals occurring on the same day. This season, the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl are scheduled for Jan. 1. The national championship game always will fall on a Monday.
Who is on the selection committee?
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long will chair the 13-person committee, nearly half of which consists of current or former athletic directors, including Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez and Nebraska legend Tom Osborne. Archie Manning is on it too. So is Tyrone Willingham. And former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
If a committee member, or one of his or her relatives, receives a paycheck from a school under consideration for a playoff spot, he or she cannot vote or participate in discussion for the school at any point during the process. That rule affects nine of the committee members.
What criteria will the committee use?
The committee will use four main points of data to distinguish among teams of similar stature: head-to-head results, strength of schedule, conference championships and common-opponent victories. So look for coaches to run up the score in conference play whenever they can.
One criterion likely to cause controversy is that the committee can factor key injuries into their evaluations. So a team that powered through its season without a star player who heals in time to play late in the season could get extra credit at the end. Conversely, a team that loses a key player late in the season could be penalized in the final rankings.
Conference championships? So does that mean Notre Dame and other independents are at a disadvantage?
It’s tough to say, but it’s possible. It would be interesting to see how the committee would value, say, an 11-1 Notre Dame against an 11-2 champion from a power conference.
Are there any ways to qualify automatically for the playoff?
No, everyone is at the discretion of the selection committee, even the SEC.
Will the playoffs expand anytime soon?
No. The four-team playoff is in place for at least 12 years.
Will this stop all the bickering over who gets a shot at the national title?
No, it most certainly will not.