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College Football Playoff: A National Semifinals Primer

What do we know?
College Football Playoff trophy.


College football is moving to a four-team playoff starting in 2014. There is still much to be decided, including who will make up the selection committee, what the selection criteria will be, and where the semifinal games will be played each year.

It was announced that the semifinal games will rotate between six different bowl games. Most assumed that the six bowls would consist of the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl and the newly-formed Champions Bowl.

But conference tie-ins have complicated the matter, with representatives from both the Rose Bowl and Champions Bowl recently casting doubt on their participation in the playoff system. There has even been speculation that the Champions Bowl won’t actually be a new bowl game and may instead rotate between the Cotton Bowl and Sugar Bowl.

So how do things look at the moment?

The Orange Bowl will be part of the semifinal rotation.

The Orange bowl also announced a partnership with the ACC that will guarantee the league a spot in the game in years the bowl is not part of the national semifinal.

What this also does is leave the possibility that a 5th (or lower) ranked team from the ACC is left out of both the playoff system and Orange Bowl some years. Ouch.

Notre Dame will have some type of tie-in to the Orange Bowl.

It may or may not be an automatic berth based on wins. If so, Notre Dame may be the only school in the country that looks to tone down its scheduling.

The Rose Bowl and Champions Bowl may not be part of the semifinal rotation. 

This matters, big time. Essentially, the SEC, Big 12, PAC-12 and Big Ten are betting that they can actually make more money by disassociating themselves with the national semifinal games altogether. In the event (guaranteed) that a team from one of these conferences is chosen to participate in the playoff, it will be replaced by a team from the same conference.

The Champions Bowl may be just a concept, not a new entity.

The Sugar Bowl has tie-ins to the SEC, and the Cotton Bowl has tie-ins to the Big 12/SEC. There is talk of the Champions Bowl actually rotating between these two sites. That leaves a spot open in the perceived rotation…

The Chick-fil-A Bowl wants in on the playoff action.

For old-timers, this used to be the Peach Bowl. The game, played in Atlanta, annually features teams from the SEC/ACC, but is apparently very interested in joining the rotation for the national semifinals.

The selection committee may also choose teams for all six major bowls. 

…according to Stewart Mandel of CNNSI. If the Rose Bowl and Champions Bowl do wind up participating, it’ll only be after conference affiliation is guaranteed. This is a far cry from the BCS computer rankings we’ve been dealing with since 1998.

The college football postseason continues to become more and more complicated.