LITTLE ROCK — Guaranteed, the selection committee for the College Football Playoff will nail the Final Four on Dec. 7.
Contrarians will quibble and the No. 4 seed will be questioned on shows where controversy is scripted, but objective college football fans will applaud and anticipate.
About two hours after the semifinals in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl are revealed, news about the other four bowls that are part of the playoff rotation is more likely to evoke legitimate criticism.
• Jeff Long’s committee must seed 25 teams and make pairings for six bowls, including the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, and the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Labeled access bowls, none of those are tied to conferences. Connected to power conferences, the Sugar, Orange, and Rose are contract bowls. As such, when New Orleans is not the site of a CFP semifinal, the Sugar Bowl will have teams from the SEC and the Big 12. The Rose has the same relationship with the Pac-12 and the Big Ten and the Orange is tied to the ACC and either the SEC, the Big Ten or Notre Dame.
• Bowls have no input on the pairings.
• Filling the access bowls begins by placing any champion from one of the five power conferences that fails to make the Final Four and is excluded from the contract bowl because that bowl is a semifinal host. Also qualifying for an access bowl is the selection committee’s highest rated team from the MAC, Sun Belt Conference, American Athletic Conference, Mountain West, and Conference USA.
• And, “If berths in the selected other bowl games remain available … the highest ranked other teams, as ranked by the committee, will fill those berths in rank order.”
• At that point, most teams under consideration will have at least two losses and separating them will involve a doozey of a discussion.
Using the final BCS rankings of 2013 and 2014 rules, let’s fill in the blanks.
Florida State vs. Michigan State and an Alabama-Auburn rematch tie up the Sugar and the Rose.
With the Sugar unable to accommodate the Big 12 champion and the Rose in the same fix with the Pac-12 winner, Baylor and Stanford must be placed in access bowls. Considering geography, the Fiesta Bowl is logical for Stanford and Waco’s proximity to Arlington lands Baylor in the Cotton. No. 12 Clemson fulfills the ACC contract with the Orange Bowl and the other spot in Miami goes to the highest ranked non-champion from the Big Ten, SEC, or Notre Dame. In this case, No. 7 Ohio State.
That leaves two spots in Atlanta and one each in Arlington and Phoenix. One goes to No. 15 University of Central Florida, the highest rated team from the five conferences outside the elite.
The catch is that teams ranked 8-13 had two losses each and there is no longer a limit on conference teams in the major bowls. If committee members believe the SEC is the end-all, Missouri and South Carolina would be the third and fourth SEC teams in the six games.
The guess is the committee will spread the wealth. Even then, there is no quick fix to separating Oklahoma-Oklahoma State and Missouri-South Carolina. The rules say head-to-head results will be considered, but “none of these considerations will be controlling …”
Wisely worded considering:
• OU beat OSU by nine, but lost to Baylor by 29 and Texas by 16. OSU beat Baylor by 32 and Texas by 25, but lost to lowly West Virginia.
• South Carolina won at Missouri, but lost to Georgia and Tennessee. Missouri won in Athens and crushed Tennessee.
Oregon was ahead of OU in the rankings and Arizona State was a notch behind OSU. One of the Ducks’ two losses was by 26 to Arizona, 4-5 in the Pac-12. A division champion, ASU’s 9-3 included two losses to Stanford.
Come December, other teams will present similarly contradictory resumes. Good luck to the committee.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. Email: email@example.com.