Depending on your perspective, the Big Ten has either finally made peace with the future, or it's seized all the 2012 offseason glory. Either way, the last real road block in the way of coming up with a playoff plan has been removed, and all that's left is getting thousands of suits and haircuts to agree on what the thing should look like. Sounds so easy!
The Big Ten's plan calls for semifinalists to get home field advantage and for the championship game to tour the country instead of just rotating between four Sun Belt cities -- fine ideas all around. Just getting to play against the No. 4 team instead of the No. 3 team is no real reward for being ranked No. 1, and college towns instead of tourist towns should get playoff game revenue. And of course it's the Big Ten that's recommended this, since the usual postseason destinations (I see you, Ford Field!) give warm-weather teams an advantage.
The thinking is those SEC teams that have dominated the sport wouldn't be so great if they had to play semifinal games in Michigan instead of Florida and California. The Big Ten's record in BCS title games since 2002 is 0-2, with losses to SEC teams in Louisiana (indoors!) and Arizona. Ohio State's lone bowl win over a SEC team was later redacted.
SEC teams get to play bowl games in Southern cities, and they don't travel to play the Big Ten. They don't really travel to play anybody. To the Big Ten fan, this appears to be a great shame on the SEC, while the SEC fan regards this fact with the same level of interest as Hussite War tactics in 1426.
But what happens when SEC teams do venture north? Data is slim. Alabama won at Penn State in 2011. As far as I can tell, that's it for the past four years. Still, this is about freezing championship games in January, not cool regular season games in September.
Here's a look at how the semifinals in every year of the BCS era would've gone under the Big Ten's plan:
- 2011: Stanford at LSU, Oklahoma State at Alabama
- 2010: Stanford at Auburn, TCU at Oregon
- 2009: TCU at Alabama, Cincinnati at Texas
- 2008: Alabama at Oklahoma, Texas at Florida
- 2007: Oklahoma at Ohio State, Virginia Tech at LSU
- 2006: LSU at Ohio State, Michigan at Florida
- 2005: Ohio State at USC, Penn State at Texas
- 2004: Cal at USC, Auburn at Oklahoma
- 2003: Michigan at Oklahoma, LSU at USC
- 2002: USC at Miami, Georgia at Ohio State
- 2001: Oregon at Miami, Colorado at Nebraska
- 2000: Washington at Oklahoma, Miami at Florida State
- 1999: Alabama at Florida State, Nebraska at Virginia Tech
- 1998: Ohio State at Tennessee, Kansas State at Florida State
The Big Ten would have mustered eight semifinal appearances and would have three home games, all in Columbus. Assuming we're moving the championship games back to New Year's Day-ish, as has been discussed, the low temperatures for those games would've been a clear 36 degrees, a windy 32, and a gusty 34 degrees. A low of 32 means a kickoff temperature just above freezing -- believe it or not, it often gets that cold in the south in late November anyway.
However, recall that 2006 scenario, in which Florida jumped Michigan just before the title game because nobody wanted a rematch. If the stakes were lessened, and everything would be settled on the field anyway, the polls would've had no reason to fiddle with the rankings. Michigan probably would've hosted the Gators instead of the other way around, with temperatures in the high 30s adding to the home field advantage.
But those were all warmer years, apparently. The average January lows in Columbus and Ann Arbor are 19 and 18 degrees, respectively. A 33-degree kickoff temp is no big deal, especially for a championship game, but teens and singles with snow involved? That would be a problem. I'm from Georgia. That would be a problem.
If Big Ten fans really want to see how them SEC boys can handle the cold weather, they'll probably need to start rooting for a Golden Gophers revival. Via Weather.com, here are the Big Ten's Januarys, ranked by overall manliness -- the lower, the more scholarly and honorable, of course:
The idea that the Big Ten would turn the tides via a move like this probably isn't on point -- Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke are more likely to bring about that kind of change. But it would make the Big Ten feel better, as it should.
The fun part is it would actually make for a better postseason for everybody, not just Big Ten teams. The most important games of the season should happen in college football settings, not gently used AFC East or NFC West stadiums. While seeing Florida or Auburn have to play a game in driving snow would be a thrill and a story, this is the right move whether the weather ever matters or not.