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NCAA Football Playoffs Explained

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This 2014-15 football season the NCAA will introduce its first ever playoff.

It will consist of four teams who will be decided by the BCS Selection Committee. This committee will create team rankings seven times over the course of the season, starting October 28, 2014. The members of the selection committee are Jeff Long (chair), Barry Alvarez, Mike Gould, Pat Haden, Tom Jernstedt, Oliver Luck, Archie Manning, Tom Osborne, Dan Radakovich, Condoleezza Rice, Mike Tranghese, Steve Wieberg and Tyrone Willingham.

The committee will select the top four teams for the playoff, seed them, and assign them to semifinal sites. The four-team format will match up the number 1 ranked team against the number 4 ranked team, and the number 2 vs 3.The two winners of the semifinal games will meet in the Championship game.

The host of the Championship game will not be the same for every season. AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX will host the 2014-15 Championship game on January 12, 2015. University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ will host the 2015-16 Championship game on January 11, 2016. Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL will host the 2016-17 Championship game on January 9, 2017. Those are the only three announced sites and dates as of now.

The rotation of bowls and sites are set on a three-year cycle.
The Rose/Sugar, Orange/Cotton, and Fiesta/Peach will rotate year to year. The two semifinals plus the other four top-tier bowls are marketed as the “New Year’s Six,” with three bowls played per day, typically on consecutive days that include New Years Day, January 1st.

The playoff system is set to be in place through at least the 2025 season, and will then be addressed with any modifications to the system. ESPN reportedly paid $7.3 billion to own the rights to telecast all bowl games within the playoff structure.

Computers will not be used for the first time since the title system was designated in 1998, which ran through the 2013-14 season. Strength of schedule will be the most important factor weighing on the committee, although there will be other factors that the committee will utilize — conference championships, team records, and head-to-head results, plus other points such as injuries and weather factors.

This will certainly start requiring teams that are considered in stronger conferences to start playing more then a ‘cupcake schedule’ before conference play begins. Most teams have played three or four “weak” non-Conference opponents year after year before head-to-head Conference games begin, but wins against such low-level competition are unlikely to impress the committee. Oliver Luck was quoted in USA today as even saying as much, “I think one of the first things the committee will look at is strength of schedule,” confirming the importance of playing quality opponents.

It may still not be perfect, as picking out four teams amongst the league may once again come down to an argument as to why someone was left out, but it is better then it has been for years for fans and players, coaches and schools alike. This is what we all wanted, and it is now what we are all getting. Hopefully it will make everyone happy, but does anything ever make everyone happy?

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