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College Conference Realignment And The College Football Postseason

College football fans at long last will see a shake up in the college football postseason, and soon. This has been facilitated a bit by the SEC/Big 12 Bowl game which pits the conference winner of the SEC and Big 12 in a game together, provided neither school would be playing in the new BCS championship game.

This bowl game could end up forcing the BCS' hand to further tweak the playoff system. The always insightful Frank the Tank wrote an excellent article breaking down the potential scenarios of college football's postseason's new directions -- and what effect further college conference realignment could have on the postseason.

Frank the Tank provides three separate scenarios as a consequence of the SEC/Big 12 bowl game:

Low Impact Scenario: Semifinals Rotated Among Bowls - If the new college football semifinals are simply rotated through 5 or 6 bowls on a regular basis, then this new SEC/Big 12 bowl won't look too much different than the current Cotton Bowl matchup in most years despite all of the superlatives being thrown around in the media. (To be sure, the perception of where the conferences stand as a result of this new bowl is more important than the matchup itself, which I'll get to later on.) All this is doing is effectively moving a team that would have played in the Fiesta Bowl to play the SEC champ in the Sugar Bowl (or whichever bowl or site ends up with the new matchup). It creates a clear separation of the Rose Bowl and the SEC/Big 12 bowl from the others in terms of the quality of the matchup and prestige, but doesn't really impact the nature of the playoff itself in this scenario.

Moderate Impact Scenario: Semifinals Slotted According to Bowl Tie-ins - What's interesting is that out of all of the hub-bub about the SEC/Big 12 bowl on Friday, very little was mentioned by the media about a playoff format that received a ton of positive traction after last month's BCS meetings: the semifinal matchups could be slotted according to bowl tie-ins (e.g. a #1 Big Ten champ would play the #4 team in the Rose Bowl, a #2 SEC champ would play the #3 team in the Sugar Bowl, etc.). Under that format, this new SEC/Big 12 bowl is fairly important since, just by basic arithmetic, a bowl with two contractual tie-ins is going to have a higher chance of hosting a semifinal than a bowl with only one tie-in and in practicality, a bowl with two tie-ins with conferences that have performed as well on the field as the SEC and Big 12 lately has an even higher chance of being a semifinal site.

High Impact Scenario: Return of the Unseeded Plus-One or 4 Teams Plus - An unseeded plus-one system should be dead. The outcome of the BCS meetings indicated the support for a 4-team playoff and the Big Ten (who would have been most likely to fight for a plus-one) has come to a consensus that it supports it at a high level.

The Tank goes on and muses that he believes the moderate scenario is most likely -- and that does appear to be the most likely of the three scenarios. Of course, further conference realignment could alter the picture and scenarios further.

What is interesting is that Frank the Tank believes that despite the rumors that Florida State, and possibly Clemson, are leaving, he expects the ACC to survive -- and survive with seat at the "big boy table." He expects that, if FSU and Clemson do leave, the ACC will simple poach teams from the Big East, such as Connecticut (though, Boston College would likely attempt to prevent such a move) and Rutgers to fill out the conference, further solidifying it was a basketball powerhouse. This line of thought is in line with Andy Staples, who believes that the Big East is currently standing on shaky ground.

All we can do is wait and see what happens over the summer, but fans had better be prepared for a turbulent ride -- expect lots of rumors this summer, as the entire collegiate athletic landscape could be shifting in a major way sooner rather than later.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.