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Playoff Semifinal Rotation May Get Seventh Bowl

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If you thought the number of bowls in the BCS successor system was fixed, well, think again:

The BCS executive director says conference commissioners have discussed the possibility of adding another game to be part of the semifinal rotation for the new college football playoff. ...

[Bill] Hancock says commissioners talked about whether there would be enough access to those marquee games for conferences that do not have contractual ties to high-profile bowls, such as the Pac-12 and Big Ten's partnership with the Rose Bowl.

Here's the scoop on where we are today, this news aside. There are going to be six bowls in the semifinal rotation. Three of them are so-called "contract bowls", where the participants are set ahead of time by contract in the years they aren't playoff games. They are the Rose Bowl, Champions Bowl, and Orange Bowl. The issue of who plays in final slot in the Orange opposite the ACC is being wrapped up now. The other three bowls will be "access bowls" that will not have tie-ins at all. Their participants will be chosen by the selection committee from the top 12 of its rankings when those games are not semifinals.

Now, this discussed change has nothing to do with expanding the playoff. It will still only have four teams. This is about adding a fourth access bowl to the rotation. The six (or now, possibly seven) bowls in the rotation will be set apart as major bowls in the same way that the BCS bowls are more special than the rest.

We've talked about the access issue here before. As things stand now, access "for conferences that do not have contractual ties to high-profile bowls" is basically about the Big East and Boise State and Louisville in particular. Those two won't win the Big East every single year, but looking at recent history and who is in that league going forward, a Big East champ that is in the top 12 or 14 is almost certainly going to be one of those two.

Adding a seventh game in most years won't expand access for conferences outside the Big Five. In most years, it will just further enrich the Big Five. My guess is that something in the TV negotiations came back in favor of another big bowl or it was impossible to pick between two sites for the last access bowl spot. We also know that the Rose and Champions Bowls don't want to host playoffs all that often, so perhaps adding another access bowl will help them out with that goal. I have serious doubts that this is really about giving MAC or MW teams a shot.

This will be something to monitor as the negotiations go along, and it's also a reminder as to just how much is up in the air with the future of the postseason.