From David Teel, Dailypress.com
Barring presidential veto — they wouldn’t dare, would they? — college football has its decades-overdue playoff. Four teams, selected by committee. Semifinals at bowls, championship game to highest bidder. Will Virginia Tech, Virginia and their ACC colleagues be credible contenders for the playoff? Or will the current bigfoot conferences — Southeastern, Big 12, Pacific 12 and Big Ten — bogart the bids? Nebraska chancellor/dinosaur-in-residence Harvey Perlman’s playoff objections notwithstanding, answers to those questions and myriad others are all but certain to emerge as the sport adopts a new postseason structure for the 2014 season and beyond.
Formal approval could come as early as Tuesday, when a presidential oversight committee chaired by Virginia Tech’s Charles Steger and including Perlman huddles at Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle Hotel — luxury suite, with balcony, available for a mere $769, plus tax.
Ideal, it’s not. Not close. Double or quadruple the field and cut out the bowls: Then we’re talking.
But just as aspiring singers don’t debut at The Met or Grand Ole Opry, college football was bound to start with a baby step. So props to the commissioners — the ACC’s John Swofford, SEC’s Mike Slive, Big Ten’s Jim Delany, Pacific 12’s Larry Scott and outgoing Big 12 interim Chuck Neinas were the primary players — for hashing out differences among themselves and their member schools.
Selection committee composition, and the criteria those gentlemen (and ladies?) use, will spark considerable debate in the ensuing months and years. Of greater import to fans in our parts is how ACC teams might crash this invitation-only soiree.
The answer is more elementary than running the tailback off tackle: Produce some dominant teams.
In the eight seasons since Virginia Tech and Miami joined the conference, only one ACC squad, the 2007 Hokies, ranked among the top five in the Bowl Championship Series standings entering postseason. But with two losses, and despite its No. 3 BCS status in ‘07, Tech would have been no lock for a committee searching for the four most deserving teams.
Tech’s 11-2 record entering the 2007 bowl season highlights some trends that I find astounding.
Start with this: The last ACC team to enter postseason undefeated, or with one loss, was 10-1 Maryland in 2001. Due to a tame schedule, the BCS standings buried the Terps at No. 10, behind five two-loss teams, and sure enough, Florida whacked Maryland in the Orange Bowl 56-23.
The Big Ten has had 11, with the Pac-12 and Big 12 a tick behind with 10 each. The Big East has had four.
Twice the ACC championship game has derailed a Virginia Tech team that, with a victory, would have merited consideration for a playoff. Last season and in 2005, the Hokies entered the title contest fifth in the BCS standings and once-beaten, only to stumble against Clemson and Florida State, respectively.
Other promising teams crashed well before championship weekend.
Unbeaten Boston College and Matt Ryan were among the BCS’ top three for three weeks in 2007 before losing consecutive games to unranked Florida State and Maryland. Clemson was 8-0 and fifth in the BCS last season before dropping three of its next four. Miami was third in 2005 BCS in mid-November, only to lose at home to unranked Georgia Tech.
Whether the ACC will produce playoff-worthy teams requires soothsaying and handicapping far better than mine, but presently, Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech have the potential. Some believe Miami, under second-year coach Al Golden, is poised to re-emerge nationally, but impending NCAA sanctions for the Nevin Shapiro toxic waste dump could delay the Hurricanes for many a year.
With non-conference games against Auburn, Texas Christian, Penn State and Cincinnati, plus standards West Virginia, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, ACC teams will have ample opportunity in 2012 to start repairing the conference’s football image. Alas, the playoff, as modest as it is welcome, is two years away.
Can’t get here fast enough.