As we’ve detailed before, a college football playoff is happening. There’s no turning back, and the most likely outcome is a four-team “event” matching the top four teams at neutral locations. The twist now, is whether they’ll implement the “Mandel Plan” — a design that gives a slight nod to its possible architect, Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel. Under the “Mandel Plan,” the two semifinal matchups are played at the traditional conference bowl tie-in sites of the one- and two-seeds, respectively. The theory goes that this preserves the bowls (the Rose Bowl would still host at least one of the Pac-12/Big Ten champs, unless they were the third and fourth seeds) and ensures higher seeds aren’t forced to “host” games in hostile environments.
For the five power leagues, this all would make perfectly equitable sense… if everything were perfectly equitable, that is. A look at how the four-team playoff would have been set up over these past 14 years, using the BCS standings as our ranking tool (a revised version of the same rankings will probably be deciding the actual playoff participants, albeit under a different moniker):
*Adjustment made here to prevent two separate Sugar Bowls
#1 Ohio State vs. #4 LSU (Rose) | #2 Florida vs. #3 Michigan (Sugar)
#1 USC vs. #4 Texas (Rose) | #2 Oklahoma vs. #3 Auburn (Fiesta)
#1 Oklahoma vs. #4 Michigan (Fiesta) | #2 LSU vs. #3 USC (Sugar)
#1 Florida State vs. #4 Alabama (Orange) | #2 Nebraska vs. #3 Virginia Tech (Fiesta)
*Adjustment made here to prevent two separate Orange Bowls
Per conference, here’s the breakdown of total berths, with the number of hosted bowl semifinals in parenthesis:
A couple notes on the above — The ACC last “hosted” game would’ve been in 2000, and the only current Big East team to qualify for the four-team playoff was Cincinnati in 2010. However, since expanding to 12 teams, only one ACC team has qualified as well (VPI in 2007). Obviously, based on the numbers, most of these games would be played as the Fiesta or Sugar Bowls ( a whopping 17 for those two combined, versus 11 for the Orange and Rose).
So what does this tell us? While past results usually don’t indicate future results, the way college football works, it’s fair to say the SEC will grab one of these hosted games every year from now ’till eternity. We can also assume the league will be taking more than one bid on average, especially given their average of 1.4 bids per year over the past five seasons. The other 2.6 spots would be filled by, in order of likelihood in the past five years:
- Big 12 (1 bid/year)
- Pac-12 (.6 bids/year)
- MWC (.4 bids/year)
- ACC (.2 bids/year)
- Big East (.2 bids/year)
- Big Ten (.2 bids/year)
We can champion a playoff format all we want. But as it stands right now, the ACC still has the same amount of access as we did before: not a whole lot.
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