Last week we heard some more of the details about the College Football Playoff. The guys running the thing haven't finalized all of the rules, but enough of them are done that we can say with a fair amount of certainty that we know what the selection process will be.
I put together a long post on the selection process that uses the 2012 BCS standings as a guide, and while it's fun to look at all of the possibilities, it still might be a bit complex. I've also seen some confusion about the process out there on the Internet. So, I think I've boiled the process down to three simple rules. If you can remember these, you have the ability to piece together what the playoff would look like given any scenario thrown your way.
1. The five major conference champions have auto bids
I don't think we're supposed to call them auto bids anymore, but thanks to the way the contracts work, each of the five major conference champions will have a spot in one of the games somewhere. Even if one of them finishes unranked like Wisconsin did last year, it will still have a spot.
Four of the five are exactly the same as with the BCS, with the only change being the Big 12 tie-in sliding over to the Sugar Bowl from the Fiesta. If the bowl that a champ has a tie-in to is in the semifinals and that champion isn't also in the semifinals, then it will find a home in another bowl. Simple enough, right?
2. All six contract bowl spots have contracted spots
The three bowls that have major conference tie-ins—the Rose, Sugar, and Orange—are called "contract bowls" in the CFP parlance. Every spot in them has a contracted team during the eight years in which they aren't hosting a semifinal, meaning that they won't ever have a true at-large team.
Yes, that even goes for the Orange Bowl spot opposite from the ACC. The rules for that one are considerably more complicated than the conference champion tie-ins that govern the other five contract bowl slots, so I can't blame you if you don't want to remember all of the stipulations. You just need to know that the spot there has a contract so you can go look it up when the need arises.
The spot is supposed to go to the highest rated available team among the SEC, the Big Ten, and Notre Dame. There is a catch though that the SEC and Big Ten each are guaranteed at least three appearances each in that spot, while Notre Dame may claim that spot a maximum of two times. Those guaranteed appearance counts will come into play more and more as the years go on.
3. The top rated team from the five mid-major conferences gets an auto bid
This rule comes from some kind of attempt at putting a fig leaf over the naked cash grab for the major conferences that the playoff structure ended up being.
Regardless of its intent, the important thing to remember is that this goes to a team from a mid-major conference. That rule means that independents like Notre Dame and BYU cannot get this auto bid. They can still make the playoffs as an at-large team, and Notre Dame does have its tie-in with the Orange Bowl, but they cannot claim this reserved spot.
That's just about it. If you can remember these three things—the big guys get their auto bids, the little guys get to share one, and the Orange Bowl has a confusing rule you have to look up—then you can put together a mock College Football Playoff from any situation that may arise.