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College Football Semifinals: Big Time or Bust?

By on May 12th, 2014 in Football 6 Comments »

college football playoff logoIt’s December 2014 and the first college football playoff semifinal matchups have been announced. Top-seeded LSU has earned a spot in the Sugar Bowl to face fourth-seeded Oklahoma. Meanwhile, third-ranked Auburn is headed back to Pasadena to face second-ranked Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

What does an Auburn fan do?

Assuming you’re not super wealthy and can afford to attend both the semifinal and national championship game, you have a choice to make. Do you roll the dice and wait on the title game in Dallas, or do you take the family to Southern California for New Year’s?

For all the good a college football playoff will bring, this is the dark side of the new format. In this scenario, would the Rose Bowl play to a half empty stadium? Will locals pick up the slack in ticket sales?

Would Auburn and Ohio St. fans flock to Pasadena to watch a semifinal game, when chances are their team will play the following Monday in Texas?

Fans ability and willingness to travel in such a tight window and during the holidays is the big unknown the College Football Playoff faces in year one. Under the new format the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton and Peach will rotate the semifinal matchups on a yearly basis.

The newly appointed bowl committee will not only seed the top four teams, but will determine the matchups in the remaining four major bowls. The days of the Sugar Bowl taking Oklahoma over Oregon because they travel better are over.

The committee promises to reward the higher ranked team with a semifinal game closer to home. That could mean trouble for attendance in these matchups. How many Stanford fans would travel to Miami or Atlanta for a semifinal game?

How many Georgia fans would travel to Glendale for a final four game? They may have to if they are the lower seeded team.

Because the bowl organizations remain powerful, conferences caved when the logical thing would have been to play the semifinal games on campus at the higher seeded team’s home field.

It would guarantee sellout crowds and make the regular season even more meaningful. While the playoff might finally get the right teams playing for the title, it may come at the expense of the crowds and pageantry that make college football so much fun.

On the flip side, college football has now reclaimed the New Year’s holiday. All six major bowls will be played either on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. During the upcoming season, the Fiesta, Orange and Peach will be played on Dec. 31.

The Cotton, Rose and Sugar along with the Capital One and Outback Bowls will be played on Jan. 1.

Like so many things in college football these days, it makes more and more sense to just stay home and watch it on the big screen.

Let’s just hope Auburn has an appointment on that day.

6 Comments

  1. mvhcpa says:

    Great observation, Jay.

    The problem you outlined goes hand in hand with the problem I outlined earlier–college football just isn’t set up to have a “legitimate” championship, much less a playoff, for this reason (among others). The semi-final “bowls” will be lessened, and the non-playoff “bowls” might be ignored even worse than all other games besides the BCSNCG were the last few years.

    One wonders what would be the result if the NFL had gone to neutral-site Conference Championships as I remember them considering some time ago.

    Michael Val
    (who repeats,”Let’s put the ‘M’ back in ‘MNC'”)

  2. meh130 says:

    This has been my concern all along, especially with the semi-final and championship a week apart.

    With a bowl-like conference championship game, an actual bowl semi-final game, and a national championship game, few fans will make the trip to all three.

    I think the playoff will evolve. Eventually the semis will move back to before Christmas as dedicated games, and the losers of the semis will go on to regular bowl games. The semis will become more like conference championships and less like bowls. I also think they will have to have a scenario to support traveling fans. Imagine four regional sites bid, but two get selected after the final four are set. So Stanford plays Oklahoma in Glendale while LSU plays Florida State in Atlanta. Revenue sharing would ensure the two sites not selected did not lose money on their bid. This would especially work if they had different stadiums in the general geography each year. Imagine if a deep south semi rotated between Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte, and Orlando? It would be a great use of NFL stadiums to provide regional sites and neutrality.

    The other problem for the NC game is getting tickets. There will be roughly one week between the semi and the NC games (I think one year it is only six days). It usually took a couple of days to even start buying tickets for the BCS NC game after the teams were selected. Imagine if tickets could not be purchased until four days prior to the game. There would be no time to buy or sell tickets on the secondary market for the NC. Even the primary market will probably need to be will-call tickets only.

    What about air travel plans? Sure, you can drive a car to Dallas, but when you are an east coast team going to a NC game on the west coast with only a few days to buy airfare, it will be very difficult.

    It is these complaints which will likely cause the semis to move to mid-December.

    Then there is “The Committee”. Once they screw up subjectively choosing a team they will be relieved of that responsibility, and choosing the teams will go back to some kind of objective poll average. The committee will just put the teams into the games. Also, once they screw up a non-playoff bowl seeding, that will go back to the bowl committees.

    It will be a rough few years until it settles down.

    • SEC_Eric says:

      You make some very good points. – I think this new thing will be way more controversal than what the BCS had. The final 4 will be decided by the opinion of 13 people instead of the larger number that voted in the polls. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

  3. War Eagle Girl War Eagle Girl says:

    I am not looking forward to really not being able to control your fate anymore. Everyone understood the system and how it worked. Now no one has any idea what it will take. All bets are off. This committee is going to be a debacle. This is NOT a playoff.

  4. NCAA2014Playoff says:

    Great article. It is scary that they could destroy a century of college football tradition for barely more than a BCS 2.0 playoff. This is not the NFL with corporate big wigs that are their to be seen and spend others peoples money. It is college football with students, alums, family and local average fans.
    Maybe a Confence Championship and traditional Bowl match up with the arch rival Confence’s champion is good enough.
    The storm of Money coming with the CFP is all the decision makers care about.
    But I want both a great clear cut Conference Champion that played the same teams as every other member of its conference, a tradional Bowl match up with the arch rival on the New Years Holiday AND an Undisputed National Champion decided on the field of play in a 16 team Playoff, no committee, no ranking, no polls and no computers. Just wins baby!
    See the Perfect Playoff Plan for a new Major College Football Division with 120 teams from 2011 in 12 football only Conferences of Equal status, size and total strength of programs beind 10 teams each at:
    http://ncaa2014.us/theperfectplan.pdf

    • domaucan1 domaucan1 says:

      Good idea, BUT, hard to sell.

      It’s still GREAT TO BE AN AUBURN TIGER !!!

      WAR EAGLE !!!

      GO BIG BLUE !!!