Meet your College Football Playoff Overlords.....
Potlucks frequently are gatherings that are joyous, and full of fellowship.
Sometimes, though, a Potluck can be about neighbors joining together in a time of trouble, like bringing food to a funeral wake.
Here at Off-Tackle Empire, we're doing both: a joyous, raucous wake to celebrate the end of the BCS. Yes, it's good that the announcement that we'll have a four-team playoff means the BCS is buried six-feet under, but the BCS wasn't always bad (i.e. every BCS game involving the Big East and/or ACC) -- it had some amazing moments of glory (see the dessert course below).
So follow us below for four themed dishes (complete with links to recipes!) where we discuss a return to glory for January 1st, consider what happens when a great season does not result in a bowl, consider the Rose Bowl conundrum, and remember some great moments in the BCS....
Presumably they're trading tips on "roster management" and oversigning, and how to creatively cut a kid from your team to be replaced with a better prospect....
1. "For All the Tostitos" Fiesta Bowl of Chips and Fresh Salsa: So we have a four team playoff. Given the Alabama-LSU rematch last year (and fans' disappointment everywhere above the Mason-Dixon line over that matchup), it was just a matter of timing before we got one. Speaking of timing....when would you have the semifinals/finals of this new 4 team playoff played? Would you play the semifinals before January 1st? After? And when do you play the final?
JDMill: I miss the days when January 1 was an absolute feast of great college football bowl games. Jan 1 is still pretty amazing (for those of us that still find mystique in the Rose Bowl... for those who don't, may God have mercy on your soul), but just isn't the same as it used to be. I'd like to see the semifinal games played on Jan 1, with the Final played a week or more later on a Saturday night. This way college football once again takes its rightful place as the King of New Years Day and the King of Saturdays.
KennardHusker: Personally, I think you need to play a Semifinal before January 1st and the final the week after that. My fear for all of this is that we're really starting to drag things out to the point where no one can actually sit down and enjoy the games. One of the beautiful things about New Years Day games was that most companies (sorry retail, Holidays just kind of suck for you now) are closed on New Years Day which meant you could kill an entire day watching football and nursing whatever awful hangover you may or may not have. If logistics are the fear (as they generally are in these situations), maybe do a Semifinal in that week before Christmas and give yourself two weeks to find out if you're going to go to the championship game and how you'll get there.
Hilary Lee: (Side note: today is my birthday, so all my answers have been added in late.) Much as I love all that has been the "college bowl season" I can't endorse having the semi-finals occur prior to January 1st. There's just too much going on in those weeks with the whole major-holidays thing to make it feel important. That being said, I don't want it to occur too late into January either. I've always cherished the ritual of waking up seriously hungover on New Years Day, eating a greasy breakfast, and spending the entire day watching college football. So, I say, put one or two semi-final games on New Years along with the Rose Bowl. It'd be a way better remedy than hair of the dog. As far as the timing of the final, I think we need something in between the compressed time schedule of MLB's first round of playoffs and the absurdity of the NBA's playoff scheduling system. Maybe we do the semi-finals both on January 1st/2nd (or one on each day) and then the championship around a week later. Yeah, that seems good.
Chadnudj: Here's my plan -- push back the calendar just a week or so. Then play both semifinals on the same day as Army-Navy. (You would, of course, have to make some provision in the event that either Army or Navy was in the top 4, but I'm sure a compromise could be done).
Think about the glory of that day for all of college football -- a nation gathering for all-day watch parties starting with an All-American first course of Army-Navy, then a 1-4 matchup (a clearly great game) and then a 2-3 matchup (the primetime game simply because 2-3 are likely to be more closely matched than 1-4). Played on a Saturday, it might eventually come to rival Super Bowl Sunday in the nation's consciousness, and would be a great way to celebrate America and our sport.
2. Mandarin "Orange Bowl" Jello Salad: The semifinals are great -- more teams get a shot at winning a championship, and hopefully we avoid any situation going forward where an undefeated team doesn't get a chance to play for a championship. But semifinals mean 2 teams go home from the "playoffs" as losers. As Pat Fitzgerald says, "the best part of bowl games is about the opportunities -- not just the teams, but for your students, your fans, your alumni, your fans in the area." What happens to the 2 semifinal losers? Don't they deserve a "bowl" experience (and a rematch to find out who is #3)? Or is making the semifinal (particularly if its in an attractive destination "neutral" site) enough of a reward?
JDMill: Give the semifinal losers a destination game, and have that game played earlier in the day on the same day of the National Championship. What better way for the CFB season to end than to be able to definitively say who the top 4 teams in the country are, and to be able to definitively say in what order they finished?
Ted Glover: No, the semi final game will be as big as any bowl game, so that's good enough for me. If you play the semi-finals before the bowl, you could look at slipping the semi-final losers into a lesser New Year's Day Bowl, like the Gator or Cap One bowl, but my gut reaction is that the semi final is their bowl game.
Hilary Lee: What happens to the losers? They lose. College football bowls have always been a win or go home system. We don't have consolation prizes here, and there's no point in starting now. Yes, there's an argument to be made about the experience, but I think that the experience of being in the semi-finals is going to be pretty damn great for players / fans / alumni. I think having a consolation prize game would just be way too open to fatigue. Players would be tired. Fans wouldn't care. It'd be like the GoDaddy.com bowl, and, really, who wants that?
KennardHusker: I'd almost be down with making a de facto 3rd place bowl personally. I think it sucks that by playing in the playoff, you're not rewarded with an additional awesome destination (no offense, I cannot imagine people being ultra excited about seeing Nebraska as a 1 or 2 seed and realizing your postseason destination was Lincoln. I love Nebraska and I more than choose to live here, but around Christmastime, I'm ready to peace out to somewhere warm). Maybe make the Citrus Bowl or Peach Bowl or Cotton or whatever you may choose a guaranteed landing spot for the losers in the playoffs. They will both be good teams and arguably will be the better matchup (as these things generally are) and everybody gets a chance at a good time. Logistically, this is probably a nightmare (travel, etc.) but I still think it needs to be taken into account.
Chadnudj: I agree with the idea of a 3rd place bowl between the semi-final losers, and I think by pushing the semifinals back to the Army-Navy week, we could do it. Simply play the 3rd place bowl 2 or 3 or 4 days BEFORE the Finals, AT the finals location.
Think about it: fans of all 4 teams could book their tickets to the eventual national title championship site early. All 4 teams would eventually get a visit to the awesome host site, all 4 teams would get a fun bowl destination. We'd get a definitive 1-4 finish. And the host site would get the economic impact of hosting 4 teams' fan bases, not just 2. A win all-around.
3. Duck Breasts with Cherries and "Rose Bowl" Sparkling Wine Reduction with Nutty Wild Rice: Time for the two big elephants in the room, at least for B1G fans: how do you select the 4 teams, and what do you do with the Rose Bowl? Should you limit the 4 team playoff to just conference champions? Or do you put the 4 best teams in the playoff, regardless of whether that means multiple teams from the same conference? And how do you determine the 4 "best" teams, or even seeding among the 4 teams? As for the Rose Bowl, should the Rose Bowl be in a rotation to host semifinals? A rotation to host the finals? Or should it opt out altogether, and remain a permanent B1G-Pac12 game (even if it means in some years it doesn't have the B1G champ and/or the Pac12 champ)?
JDMill: I am of the belief that those awarded one of the four playoff spots should be conference champions, but I'm not sure that's realistic. That would open up a whole new can of worms each year and we're going to get to a similar place we are now... "the system is a sham." You could conceivably end up with a playoff of four teams who are ranked anywhere from 1st to... who knows? 6th? 8th in the country? Can you imagine the venom spewed from SEC fans last year when 'Bama would have been left out of the playoff? Even if you said you don't have to win your conference but you AT LEAST have to win your division, 'Bama (your eventual National Champion, by the way) would have been on the outside looking in. I was NOT a fan of 'Bama being put into the NCG in a rematch with LSU, but you couldn't have argued that they should be left out of a 4-team playoff.
As for the Rose Bowl, I'd like to see it continue the B1G/Pac12 tradition. Even if it means that in some years you won't have the champions of those conferences, it's still The Grandaddy of Them All.
Ted Glover: First off, the bowls should stand alone from the playoff, and the playoff needs to be conference champions only. Let the bowls go back to their traditional conference tie-ins, and if a conference champion goes to the semi-finals, the conference championship game loser slides into the tie in bowl. As for determining the four best teams, I don't know. It would have to be some sort of polling, but I'd like to see more non-conference games among big time BCS schools, like the Alabama-PSU home and home, and some way to reward schools for scheduling really tough opponents factor into that equation.
Hilary Lee: The best thing about the college football playoff announcement from a sports writer's perspective is that so many details are hazy. This means we can potentially fill content FOREVER. The worst thing about the college football playoff announcement from a fan's perspective is that so many details are hazy. So much to worry about. And like the B1G's recent division names, the end result may be a complete let down.
So let's tackle these one at a time. You keep the Rose Bowl. Keep it Pac-12 and B1G. It's still a historic game. In years where the Pac-12 and B1G champions are not in the playoffs, they play each other in the Rose Bowl. In years where one or more teams from each conference are in the playoffs, the next best teams will play in the Rose Bowl. Given the limited size of the playoffs, it would still be an epic game either way. I could also get behind the Rose Bowl being used to host part of the semis... but only in addition to it being a Pac-12 / B1G matchup. Otherwise you might as well just kill it entirely.
As for the four teams in the semis... I think in general it should be limited to conference champions. If we don't limit it that way we open ourselves up to more non-sense like this year's past MNC game. And ohmygod can you imagine the horror of a 4-team ESSSEEEESEEEE playoff? The very thought makes me ill. So why'd I say in general? Well, I think there should be the option of allowing a non-conference-champion into the playoffs in the extremely unusual circumstance where they are undefeated and have not had a chance to play the champion of their conference. Given the way most conferences today are aligned (with championship games) I can't even really envision this scenario happening all that often, but I like having that escape valve there.
As far as choosing the teams... good lord. There is no good way to do this. Maybe we could do it Hunger Games style? And by that I totally mean a fight to the death amongst the various schools' ADs, not a lottery system. I guess the only way is to do the top four conference champions* (with that escape valve provision I mentioned above).
I am not touching the seeding issue with ten foot poll. And because it's my birthday, I totally don't have to.
KennardHusker: This is a loaded question. As for the first part, choosing the teams is a big deal. I actually haven't decided what I think is the fairest way to do it yet. I do believe that we need to have transparent polls if we have ANY voting whatsoever. That means I am more than happy with getting rid of the Coaches Poll (where coaches admittedly do not have time to digest enough of the games to know who is better than another). If that means we figure out more parts advanced metrics and some form of extremely visible experts poll, great. I think the more I hear about some form of experts committee, the more I like that. We'll see what plans are submitted over the next few weeks to really decide how I (don't) want things to go.
As for the Rose Bowl? Obviously I have a different perspective on the game as a whole, but I am more than happy with making it a historic matchup with no ties to the playoffs. In fact, let's get the bowl CEOs out of the mix on the playoffs. Those guys only care about the destination and are not doing anything positive for the sport anymore (a bit hyperbolic of me? Sure, but they really do seem super seedy). Let's keep the history, and if one, two, three, or even four (!!!) teams are Pac/B1G teams, then the Rose Bowl just means a little bit less that year. I have a feeling more often than not, it will be a great game.
This was the BCS's high point for Ohio State fans, and low point for Michigan fans....
4. Apple Coffee Cake with Crumble Topping and Brown "Sugar Bowl" Glaze: The playoffs, of course, mean the death of the BCS. Give me your favorite BCS memory, and your least favorite BCS memory (which will almost surely involve a Big East/ACC team playing to half empty stadiums).
Ted Glover: Favorite was the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. OSU won a title, and it was a thrilling, exciting game. Least favorite had to be the 2006-07 game, where the Bucks got smoked by Florida. I was actually able to get a ticket at face value and had a once in a lifetime opportunity to go, so I witnessed it live. Until my dying day, I'll never understand how a team that was so good came out so flat and got their ass kicked so thoroughly. That was an all-time great team, until that game. Sigh...
Hilary Lee: Wait, how did I get sucked into giving a eulogy for a system I hated? Okay, okay fine, I guess I can find something to say. The poor bastard is dead after all. I'm going to be delightfully unspecific here. I have a few favorite memories from the BCS. Wisconsin's back-to-back victories in 1999 and 2000 come to mind were pretty damn awesome. Also awesome, almost every game that actually turned out to be competitive. So, 2000's Orange Bowl (Michigan/Alabama), 2003's MNC, 2005's Rose Bowl, 2006's Orange Bowl and MNC, 2007's Fiesta Bowl (oh man that was a good one), 2009's Fiesta Bowl, and 2012's Fiesta and Sugar Bowls.
Least favorite? That's easy. 2011's Rose Bowl 2-pt conversion try. I still have PTSD from watching that. The flashbacks are a bitch.
KennardHusker: Favorite and least favorite... Well, I'm going to split this up. My favorite homer pick is Nebraska-Tennessee in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl. Dan Alexander, Eric Crouch, Bobby Newcombe, and Willie Miller ran roughshod over Tennessee and Nebraska did enough to win the game. My non-favorite homer pick is the 2001 Rose Bowl... Let's move on.
As for overall? Favorite is still Vince Young and Matt Leinert/Reggie Busch duking it out at the Rose Bowl in 2006. Awesome game. (Close second is Boise's Statue of Liberty versus Oklahoma) Worst? Can we just all agree the Big East isn't a real conference?