CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 03: Isaiah Pead #23 of the Cincinnati Bearcats holds the Big East Championship Trophy as he celebrates with fans after the Bearcats defeated the Connecticut Huskies 35-27 to claim their share of the 2011 Big East Championship on December 3, 2011 at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
College football conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick have apparently come to a consensus on the best format for a new college football postseason. The new format will be a four team playoff where the participants are selected and seeded by a selection committee that will give weight to conference champions but will not be limited to them in picking teams. The games will most likely be played in the existing BCS bowl games in a predetermined rotation and the championship game will be bid out to cities like the Super Bowl currently is. This new format is as close to the current format as could be while expanding to four teams, which means it will have minimal impact on the Big East. Nevertheless, there are implications for the Big East going forward, here's a look at how this new postseason format will affect Big East football starting in 2014.
Most Years The Big East Won't Have A Team Selected, So Not Much Has Changed - The Big East in its post-ACC raid configuration came close, but never placed a team in the BCS Championship Game and in this new format, it won't in most years, either. There's nothing wrong with saying that. Every year at least one of the ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, and PAC 12 also won't place a team in the football playoff, either. Some years, two of those conferences won't have a team involved. It's even less likely that the Big East will get a team into the playoff than those conferences, but that's how it has always been, so nothing's changed.
An Undefeated Big East Champion Will Have A Good Chance Of Getting In - In 2009, undefeated Cincinnati finished #3 in the BCS standings and in any reasonable selection process would've been invited to the college football playoff. An undefeated TCU team finished #4 in the BCS that year. One loss Louisville finished #6 in the BCS standings in 2006 and most certainly would've been in the top 4 had it run the table that season (it probably would've played for the BCS championship had it gone 12-0). In the event that several other conference champions go undefeated and finished ranked ahead of the Big East's undefeated champion, the Big East champion likely would get passed over for the other conference champions, but I don't believe anyone could argue that depending on the conference's relative strength that year. Still, an undefeated Big East champ will often have a good chance at the #4 spot in the playoff and that might be the best we could ask for in the short term.
The Big East Should Think Twice About Playing Nine Conference Games - I know the new television contract will probably offer more money to have more conference games, but the Big East is going to need non-conference flexibility. Having eight conference games will allow Big East teams more of a chance to schedule non-conference games against power conference teams and to gain credibility all over again, all 13 (or 14) teams will need as many of those games as possible (and they'll need to win them as well). For a Big East team to make the top 4, it will need a win or two over good non-conference opponents and eight conference games will make that easier to do (not to mention cut down on travel).
The Big East Must Become The 'Anytime, Anywhere" Conference - If the conference opts to only play eight conference games, then use that freedom to schedule power conference teams however you can. If that means one shot road games, do it. Two for one home and home agreements? Do it. Neutral site games in bigger venues? If possible, do it. The worst thing the Big East as a whole could do is move to NBC for television and isolate itself by never getting shots at the teams that maintain their ESPN/ABC relationship (i.e. everyone else). Non-conference wins of note will be essential for any Big East team to have even the slightest shot at the playoff. Agreeing to whatever it takes to get them will be necessary, but valuable if you win.
Put The Full Court Press Back On BYU - Notre Dame was at the negotiations today. I haven't heard a word about BYU. The Big East could use one more shot in the arm for football and I suspect BYU knows that scheduling is going to becoming increasingly difficult in the future. It will certainly be hard for BYU to schedule well enough to play its way into the playoff. BYU gives the conference a football name, balances the divisions geographically, and would increase the chances of an undefeated champion finding its way into the top 4 (not to mention enriching a future television contract). Obviously, the Big East can't give away the farm to BYU like BYU requested last time, but, whatever concessions can reasonably be made should be made to make the deal happen.
Big East football is in a bad position compared to the other conferences. There's no sense in arguing otherwise or pretending that it's in a better position than it is. Still, there's reason to believes that the conference can break through occasionally and put a team in the playoff. After nearly being torn apart over the past year, that's not a bad place to be.