If you've been following the college football playoff debate, you'll know Larry Scott is adamant about a conference championship requirement. I'm with Scott on this one. If college football is going to have a playoff, it's important they enforce a conference championship requirement. This not only helps with the integrity of the playoff (you know, since there is no bias in winning), it will also keep conferences from stacking the playoffs solely because of potential perception.
Both those points really tie together and it's one of the major problems I have with the SEC proposal. While I don't doubt the SEC's success, specifically in the BCS Championship game, this January's title game opened the door to a great deal of BCS criticism because it pitted two teams from the same conference against one another - and one of those teams, Alabama, failed to even win their own division, let alone their own conference.
Yes, I get that the Tide ultimately defeated LSU, a team they lost to 6-9 earlier in the season, but it still didn't clear up many of the concerns established prior to the game. Was Alabama really the best team in college football or just the best team on that night? It's a legitimate question, even if you speculate they were the best team in college football.
Maybe they were. That's not the point. The concern here, and it goes back to this past national championship game, is that a deserving team will be passed over for an SEC squad that couldn't manage to win either its division or its conference. When you're dealing with only four slots, the potential for a playoff spot becomes pretty exclusive. If the SEC is getting more than one program in the playoff solely because the perception there is that the conference is stronger from top to bottom, then you're denying a team that actually won its conference a chance at playing for the national championship.
Now, to be fair, I understand that an 8-5 champion should not get priority over an 11-1 SEC team. That seems reasonable, which is why I fully endorse the idea of picking the champions from the top-6 of the BCS, which would have included Utah in both 2004 and 2008. Under the SEC plan, however, which is essentially to just pick the top-four teams regardless of conference championships, both years the Utes would have been excluded in favor of USC, Oklahoma, Auburn, and Texas in '04 and Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, and Alabama in '08. It's also important to point out that USC that year would have been excluded, even though they won the Pac-10 and the playoff would've been dominated by just two leagues: The SEC & Big 12.
Is that a justifiable pairing for a playoff? I don't think so and I think Larry Scott understands the importance of that conference championship requirement. If you win your conference, and you're in the top-6, you deserve a spot in the playoff, regardless if a one-loss Alabama team that failed to win the SEC is technically rated higher than you are in the overall final ratings.
Think about the SEC plan for a second. In 2008, the team Utah beat in the Sugar Bowl would have had a spot in the playoffs without winning its conference and the Utes, who finished 12-0, would be forced to play in a postseason bowl game instead of a chance at the title. Is that fair? Is that really any better than what we have now? Maybe slightly, but it seems what the SEC is proposing is barely a step in the right direction and once again puts the power of college football's postseason in the hands of either a selection committee or a ranking system that no one has quite yet figured out, instead, of course, where it matters the most - on the playing field.
So, hopefully the Pac-12, and the Big 10, join together, stay united and fight this SEC proposal because the adoption of what they're proposing or keeping the status quo is tantamount to a Venezuelan election. We can do better.