LITTLE ROCK — An intriguing concept, the Big 12 champion vs. the Southeastern Conference champion in a bowl game is unlikely, but the agreement will reverberate throughout college football.
Before pondering the maybes, don’t let anybody convince you they are certain how this will shake out.
Everything flows from the four-team playoff that is in the works for 2014. Until those details are revealed this summer, best-guess mode is as good as it gets.
Like most of college football, the Cotton Bowl was caught off guard by the announcement last week that the two best football conferences in the country had agreed to a Jan. 1 bowl game. The fact that there were no leaks indicates that the agreement was crafted recently. The Cotton Bowl’s response says it all, calling the announcement "exciting and intriguing news," and adding, " … we look forward to learning more about this championship matchup."
The roadblock to league champion vs. league champion has nothing to do with bureaucracy or the NCAA. Success is the culprit. Unless the fix is in with voters or the computers have been pre-programmed, I can’t imagine that both league champions would fail to qualify for a four-team playoff.
Last year, the SEC and the Big 12 had the top three teams in the BCS rankings prior to the bowl games. In the previous four years, an SEC team was No. 1 or No. 2 in the pre-bowl rankings. Big 12 members Texas and Oklahoma were in the top four for three straight years. The proviso likely to be in play is that should one or both champions qualify for the playoff, "another deserving team from the conference(s) would be selected for the game."
If that had been the case after the 2011 season, the game would have mirrored the Cotton Bowl matchup — Arkansas vs. Kansas State.
A friend of Arkansas through the years, the Cotton Bowl must decide whether to bid on the new game. Sounds simple enough. Landing the game would leap-frog the Cotton Bowl past the Capital One in the SEC pecking order and give the Cotton an opportunity to host a powerhouse from the Eastern Division. During the Cotton’s 15-year tie-in with the SEC, Tennessee is the only team from the East that has participated.
The what ifs include:
• The semifinal games of the soon-to-be playoff are up for bids.
• The title game goes to the highest bidder.
The Cotton Bowl could be interested in bidding on all of the above, maybe partnering with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. At their fingertips would be housing and transportation research done in preparation of the successful bids to land an NCAA basketball regional in 2013 and the Final Four in 2014.
A decision to get involved in any or all bidding hinges on another what if:
• The existing bowls are incorporated into the playoffs and there are no games to be bought.
New Orleans is supposed to be interested in the new game and Atlanta, too, although the Georgia site seems unlikely since the SEC representative might have been in Atlanta for the league title game in early December.
The alliance with the SEC provides the Big 12 with much-needed stability and also makes the league an attractive landing place for the likes of Florida State and Clemson from the Atlantic Coast Conference. Schools in the ACC and Big East have to look at the agreement, factor in the Rose Bowl pact between the Pac-12 and Big Ten, and wonder if they will be out in the cold.
Already, the Big 12-SEC game is being called the Southern Rose Bowl.
Hopefully, the playoff will not be limited to four conference champions. If that’s the case, the next step is creation of four mega conferences.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.