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College football playoffs since 1998: What the new plan could've looked like

College football's initial playoff plan is juuuuuuuuust about finalized. With Monday's new details now set, let's try once again to see what the field would've looked like throughout the history of the BCS.

Brian Losness-US PRESSWIRE

With college football's impending playoff now just a few choices away from complete, it's time once again to play the WHAT THIS WOULD'VE LOOKED LIKE IN PAST YEARS game. Below, I've plotted out every year since 1998 based on the latest developments (along with explanation below):

The playoffs, 1998 to 2012:

Here's what the whole thing could've looked like, including current standings for 2012.

  • Gold boxes for semifinal games.
  • Bold boxes for the access bowl game with first pick.
  • * "Group of Five" automatic qualifier.
  • + Contract bowl team replacing a conference champ.
  • ++ Contract bowl team forced out of its spot by semifinal game.

Most of the time, it turns out pretty well. I'll drop in some comments explaining some of those years, but any time we're talking about a playoff system that's given a shot to Tulane, the MAC's Miami (believe me, I spent five minutes trying to get both Miamis into one game), and Marshall, you've got about as fair a system as could be realistically hoped for right now, despite my initial worries.

What we know:

  • It starts in 2014! The basics.
  • Semifinal games will rotate among six locations, which will also host the six-game thing that essentially replaces the BCS. (The championship game will be bid out, like the Super Bowl and Final Four.)
  • Those six locations are the contract bowls (which will give guaranteed spots to specific conference champions and whatnot) -- the Orange, Rose and Sugar -- and the access bowls (which don't reserve spots), which have yet to be determined but could be the Chick-fil-A, Cotton and Fiesta.
  • The current tie-ins: the Sugar gets the SEC and Big 12 champions (or highest-ranked teams from those conferences if their champs are in the playoff), the Rose gets likewise for the Big Ten and Pac-12 and the Orange gets the ACC champ and the next-best pick from among the SEC or the Big Ten or Notre Dame.
  • When a semifinal game is hosted by, say, the Rose, the Big Ten and Pac-12 champs will still be guaranteed spots elsewhere in the new BCS.
  • One access bowl spot goes to the highest-ranking team from the Big East, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West or the Sun Belt, known officially (believe it or not) as the "Group of Five." This sort of sounds insulting, but it's a step forward, and the little guys are happy.
  • That makes for seven automatic qualifiers. Like basketball, the rest of the 12 teams will be chosen by a panel, which hasn't been hammered out yet. Also like basketball, the seven AQs aren't necessarily the top seven seeds.
  • This is all worth a shedload of money.

What we don't know:

  • Exactly how the semifinal rotation works. I'm assuming one contract bowl and one access bowl will handle semifinals per year. Also, I've picked a rotation sort of based on keeping the two games geographically separated, then rotated the access-bowl picking order along with that.
  • Where the No. 1 seed goes. I've just given the top seed its nearer of the two semifinal bowls, for a semblance of homefield advantage. grumble grumble still mad about no campus games grumble
  • How access bowl selection works. I'm assuming it works as a very short snake-style draft, where one of the two non-semifinal access bowls gets the first and fourth pick, the other second and third.
  • The access bowls -- the Chick-fil-A, Cotton and Fiesta have been mentioned from back in the summer through Brett McMurphy's reporting this week, so let's ride with that.
  • Probably a lot of other things.

So! What do we think?

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