Mike Sorensen: Choosing the best four teams for a college football playoff is the way to go

Published: Sunday, June 3 2012 11:01 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Even though most college football fans have been rejoicing at the news of the demise of the current college football BCS setup and the news that a four-team playoff is likely to begin in 2014, there are still a few kinks to be worked out.

Such as, who should be included in the playoff and who should choose the teams.

The Pac-12, which includes the University of Utah, and most other major leagues, favor a playoff allowing conference champions only, which would most likely, but not necessarily, include teams from the Pac-12, SEC, Big Ten and Big 12.

That would make the regular season more meaningful and take a lot of the guesswork out of who should be included in the playoffs.

However, late last week at its annual meetings in Florida, the SEC voted unanimously to support the "best four teams" to play for the national title, not necessarily conference champions.

It makes sense to get the four best teams, regardless of conference affiliation. And of course the SEC favors that because it has had two teams from its league in recent national championship games, including last year's featuring Alabama and LSU. The fact that the winner — Alabama — was not a conference champion, supports the league's argument.

But as long as the SEC continues to keep its current scheduling philosophy, the league shouldn't be rewarded with more than one team in the "Final Four." It simply isn't fair for the SEC to get by with its current scheduling and expect to get multiple teams in a four-team playoff. Not until it agrees to play more league games, or at least fewer games, against FCS (formerly Division I-A) patsies and weak FBS teams to pad their records.

The Pac-12 and Big 12 both schedule nine conference games, which is a distinct disadvantage against the SEC's eight-game schedule.

While the SEC is able to pile up home wins against FCS schools, as well as teams from the Mid-American, Sun Belt and WAC conferences, the Pac-12 must absorb six extra losses because of the ninth league game. As long as the Pac-12 plays its nine-game league schedule, it will always go 6-6 in the ninth game, while the SEC will usually go 12-0 with its soft slate of opponents.

In fact, can you guess what the SEC's record was in non-league games last year? How about 42-6 with all but 10 of the games being played at home, including BYU's win over Ole Miss.

One reason the SEC sticks to its eight-game schedule is so each school can get an extra home game and more revenue. So most SEC schools get at least seven home games a year and some get eight.

Last year, every team in the SEC played at least one FCS team. And not many of them played an opponent from one of the six "major" conferences.

Check out some of the SEC teams' non-conference schedules last year.

Mississippi State played Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Alabama-Birmingham and FCS school Tennessee-Martin.

Florida, which hasn't left the state of Florida for a non-conference game since 1991, played FCS school Furman along with Florida Atlantic and Alabama-Birmingham.

Kentucky took on Jacksonville State (FCS), Western Kentucky and Central Michigan.

Only LSU, which played Oregon and West Virginia, and Georgia, which played Boise State and Georgia Tech, had at least two of their non-conference games against opponents from the six major conferences.

Besides playing nine league games, the Pac-12 has an agreement with the Big Ten to play games on an annual basis beginning in 2017, and some schools have already started scheduling such games before then. So those two leagues' schedules are only going to get tougher.

I don't believe the new "playoff" system should evolve into a four-team tournament between the winners of the SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten and Big 12. That would be just as bad as the old BCS system that rewarded the top six conferences and left the Utahs and Boise States of the world scrambling to fight their way into the BCS bowl games.

Teams outside of the four main conferences should be considered for the Final Four, which would give Big East, ACC, Conference USA, Mountain West teams or independents such as BYU and Notre Dame a chance to compete for the national title when they are worthy.

Then, the question comes down to how to pick those four teams. Probably a committee similar to the NCAA Basketball Selection Committee is the answer. While certainly not perfect, it would be better than leaving it up to computers and a poll of coaches, who have their own agendas to fulfill, as is done currently.

Whatever is decided, let's hope leagues that play a bunch of non-league games at home against a steady diet of Florida Atlantics and Tennessee-Martins don't get rewarded with an extra team in the new football playoffs.

email: sor@desnews.com

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