Apparently, ACC fans are all tearing their garments over the new Big XII-SEC game. This is a HUGE over-reaction. As will be explained below, if the ACC does not panic, it will come out in an acceptable position.
First, there is the Rose Bowl featuring the Big XII and Pac-12 champion. Now, the Big XII-SEC champions will meet in a bowl game. The common perception is that this means that those champions can simply meet to decide the national championship once and for all. If so, the ACC and Big East schools are left out of the mix–forcing the ACC teams to scramble looking for one of the four superconferences to join. Right?
Well, partially wrong. If the ACC schools start scrambling… like a bank announcing it is almost out of money… the scramble will lead to an implosion of the ACC. The fear is worse than the reality. If everyone stays calm, however, the end result will be acceptable.
Think logically here. Each of the four so-called superconferences is already on record as saying that they support using the bowl system to resolve the national championship issue. Even the SEC/Big XII bowl will involve the best teams that are not part of the playoff. If Alabama is #1, then Alabama will go into the proposed playoff bowl… not this new bowl. Instead, the SEC runner-up will go to the new bowl. Unless the runner-up is also part of the playoff. And so on.
The bottom line is that an ACC champion with 0 or 1 losses is ALWAYS going to be part of the playoff picture. Conversely, a 9-3 or 10-2 champion out of the Pac-12, B1G, SEC, or Big 12 might lead to those conferences being excluded from the playoff.
The response to that is this… well, what if those conferences to decide to just have their champions play for the title? First, it will not garner national interest because a large segment of the country is not represented–i.e. the Northeast. And, as it is situated now, the teams in ACC country are not represented either. Is there going to be a plan that ignores the northeast? That is unwise.
Second, the goal of the playoffs is to crown a national champion. Suppose you have this scenario after the conference championships are resolved. LSU: 13-0. Florida: 12-1 (lost to LSU in the SEC CCG). Texas: 12-1. Ohio State: 13-0. Oregon: 11-2. If only champions go to the playoffs–this means that 12-1 Florida is excluded at the expense of 11-2 Oregon. Automatically, this means that there is continued debate about the four included teams. The second best team from a conference may very well be the second best team in the country–neutering the playoff. This defeats the purpose of having a playoff altogether. And we have seen conferences have the two best teams a number of times (think back to Ohio State/Michigan). Not a rarity, at least.
Instead, the more logical solution is to take the 4 best teams for the playoff, using a seeded playoff structure. More often than not, the Rose Bowl and this new bowl will feature the #2 and/or #3 teams from the SEC and Big XII. Instead of those schools playing the last BCS qualifier in the Fiesta Bowl, they will just play each other. This is essentially deciding how the #3 or #4 BCS bowl will be filled each year.
In a seeded 4-team playoff with the the above scenario, Oregon gets excluded. Oregon ends up in the Rose Bowl against the #2 Big 10 team. This is a result we have seen quite a bit in the past too. LSU would play Texas and Ohio State would play Florida. The winners would meet. Or perhaps Florida State or Notre Dame is undefeated and bumps out Texas or Florida. The public will accept an undefeated team playing a reasonably tough schedule taking the place of a 1-loss team. As long as the ACC stays intact, its champion will have the cache to do so. This is especially so if Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, or Virginia Tech is the ACC champion and undefeated. As long as those schools have a tough OOC game on the schedule, all is well.
Now… is it possible that the four superconferences might divide up the ACC? Sure. Of course. But that is only if the ACC schools panic and let it happen. The only real negative to come out of this announcement is that the BCS system might be dead. Might be. Even in the worst case scenario, the Orange Bowl will still end up with a very good team to play an ACC champion with 2 losses. Could be a Notre Dame… the #3 B1G team (Penn State, Nebraska, Wisconsin?)… etc. The payout may not increase as much over time, but there will still be a nice payout.
The real challenge will be for the ACC to stay strong. If the ACC stays together, it can weather this storm. Because it is not really a storm in anyone’s eyes other than panicky ACC fans on the Internet.