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Who benefits from a playoff?

Boise State running back Doug Martin (22) breaks

Boise State running back Doug Martin (22) breaks free from the Arizona State defense to run the opening kickoff back for a touchdown during the Maaco Bowl NCAA college football game. (Dec. 22, 2011) (Credit: AP)

It took over 100 years, but college football will finally have a playoff.

A committee of college and university presidents approved a plan earlier this week for a four-team playoff beginning in the 2014 season. The BCS, in its current form, will be no more. The top four teams will be selected by a committee.

But will this new system please everyone? Not likely.

There are reports that strength of schedule will play a major role in determining the final four. If that is the case, the Big East and the ACC, traditionally the weakest of the six major conferences, will need to schedule tougher non-conference opponents as well as possibly go undefeated to have a shot at a semifinal appearance.

The same applies for the mid-majors. Mid-major conference teams will certainly have to go undefeated to have a chance to be selected for the national semifinal.

And even a 12-0 regular season may not be enough. Just ask Boise State, TCU and Utah. All three have had undefeated seasons in the past, but were shutout of the national title game.

On the service this seems like great news for major-conference programs. No one should jump to any conclusions yet, because if the new system was in place last season, there's no guarantee we would've seen Alabama vs.LSU in the title game.

Speculation has run rampant that being a conference champion could be one of the criteria. If that's the case, Alabama would not have qualified for the semifinal.

No formal criteria has been finalized and it could be months before anything begins to fall into place.  

The uncertainty notwithstanding, several coaches have already reacted positively to the news of a playoff.

“I’m excited about it,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops told ESPN. “The best thing about college football, at least one of the best things, is the bowl system. It needs to stay intact.”

LSU coach Les Miles agreed.

“I think it’s what college football wanted,” Miles said to ESPN. “Picking the best four teams and letting them play it out is the best way to go.”

Another question that is sure to come up is how the new system will affect the independents. Notre Dame, BYU, Army and Navy are the only FBS schools that play as independents.

Under the current system, the Fighting Irish needed to win at least nine games and finish in the top eight of the final BCS standings to earn a bid to a BCS bowl. 

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly believes the new format will benefit his program.

“As it relates to Notre Dame, it’s giving us access to play for a national championship…Playing a schedule like we do, with five top 15 teams, that’s good news for us,” said Kelly.

Notre Dame typically has Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, Boston College and USC on its schedule. Its 2012 schedule also has Miami, BYU and Oklahoma. A schedule like that would warrant heavy consideration for Fighting Irish inclusion in the four-team playoff. 

Being an independent makes it difficult to schedule top-tier opponents. Notre Dame has no problems getting schools to play them because of their tradition. BYU, Army and Navy are an entirely different story.

BYU’s 2012 schedule (Washington State, Weber State, Utah, Boise State, Hawaii, Utah State, Oregon State, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Idaho, San Jose State, New Mexico State) wouldn’t likely guarantee it inclusion in the semifinal.

The service academies don’t typically play strong enough schedules to warrant a selection either, which will raise many questions as to the fairness of the new system.
 

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