CHICAGO — For 16 years, college football used a computerized formula to decide which two teams would compete for its national championship.
Not this season.
This is life after the Bowl Championship Series.
And around the Big Ten, people are talking about what a great idea this new four-team playoff seems to be.
“Genius,” Illinois defensive lineman Austin Teitsma said. “It will definitely bring a lot more publicity to the sport.”
More publicity was a goal, and the two semifinals on New Year’s Day and the national title game on Jan. 12 should bring a revenue windfall.
But that’s not the whole point, because adding two extra teams to the championship field changes just about everything.
“I think it is more fair,” Michigan defensive end Frank Clark said. “In recent years, you had plenty of teams such as Boise (State), when they were on top of their game, and people wondered, ‘How come Boise’s not getting a shot?’ It gives teams a better shot.”
College Football Playoff chief operating officer Michael Kelly alluded to the ambitiousness of the setup in an address last week at the Big Ten media days.
“We know it’s not going to be perfect, but we can sure get awfully close,” Kelly said.
Still uncertain are the ripple effects of a 13-member selection committee choosing the four playoff teams.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said schedule strength is to be weighed heavily, which could lead to more schools taking a chance on harder, non-conference games.
“There’s a big emphasis on competition and who you play,” Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said. “That’s going to be more important than anything. You see people in the top of that playoff system, it’s going to be people who lined up and played some very tough opponents.”
Michigan coach Brady Hoke said the conference is in good shape from that angle.
“If you look at the Big Ten schedule through 2023, and our schedule in particular, we’re playing teams from the SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, ACC – we’re going to play a good schedule,” Hoke said.
A few coaches contemplated a subplot to the playoff, saying it’s easy to envision some major complaining from schools that barely miss the cut.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how it all unfolds,” said Purdue coach Darrell Hazell, a supporter of the new system. “The powers that be have some big decisions to make. I’m sure it’ll be a little tougher with so many good football teams in that cluster after 12 or 13 weeks.”
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said he’d like to see the field expanded from four to eight, arguing that the academic calendar is accommodating.
“A 16-team would be hard,” Wilson said. “We miss less academics than any sport in college. I think last year, our guys missed three days of class with travel.”
While Teitsma is fearful of expansion creating too long a season, Clark said he could play 16 games if necessary.
Whatever becomes of the playoff, Big Ten players aren’t shedding tears for the old BCS model.
“For the most part, it was tough to get into the national championship,” Golden Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner said. “This is going to be easier for some teams to all have a chance rather than how it’s been in previous years. I’m really looking forward to it. It should be exciting.”