Hypothetical College Football Playoffs 2003-2011; And What It All Means for the ACC

The College Football Playoff Format is Beginning to Take Shape; We Take a Look at What it Means for the ACC

The BCS conference commissioners and Presidential Oversight Committee have been hammering out the details of a college football playoff system in Denver today, and additional information has continued to emerge. Here’s what we know so far:

  • Six bowls (Orange, Sugar, Rose already locked in)
    • Orange (ACC vs. SEC/B1G/Notre Dame)
    • Sugar (SEC vs. Big 12)
    • Rose (B1G vs. Pac-12)
  • Top bowls being considered for other three slots include Fiesta, Chick-fil-a and Cotton
  • These games will rotate as the sites for the two semifinal games each year, 12 seasons, starting with the 2014 postseason
  • Top-ranking team from “Group of Five” conferences (Big East, MWC, MAC, C-USA, Sun Belt) granted automatic berth into one of the big-money bowl games
  • Revenue split has been decided though not released, but likely to see Big Five conferences take in around 80 percent of playoff earnings (split equally), versus 20 percent for Group of Five.

While obviously it’s great to see the ACC’s seat at the table assuredly for the foreseeable future, there are some issues that may arise — some of which can be ironed out as negotiations continue. One of particular concern to me, however, is the landing spot for an ACC team when the Orange Bowl is one of the semifinal spots. The conference has only placed one team (Virginia Tech in 2007) in the final four from 2003 through 2012. Given the unavoidable fact that the ACC champion is very often outside of the top eight (likely guaranteed) spots, where does that team go if there’s no Orange Bowl? And, out of the 12 spots, seven have already been decided upon, with the ACC, Pac-12 and Big 12 only possessing one apiece at the moment. It’s likely the additional access bowls will not have rigid guidelines for its invites, but the ACC must ensure it receives at least a loose tie-in in order to stay competitive. With the Fiesta Bowl and Cotton Bowl likely to latch on to either the Big 12, Pac-12 or both, the likely addition is a Chick-fil-a tie-in that may match us up with the Big East champ more often than not. But again, this is not guaranteed — yet is essential for the league to avoid also-ran status among the Big Five. To illustrate further, here’s a look at what the 2003-2011 seasons could have looked like under the playoff format. Bowl rotations were made up here for simplicity’s sake, and do not reflect what we know to this point:

2011 (Rose/Chick-fil-a)

  1. LSU (SEC)
  2. Alabama (SEC)
  3. Oklahoma State (B12)
  4. Oregon (P12)

Sugar: Arkansas (SEC) vs. Kansas State (B12)

Fiesta: Stanford (P12) vs. Boise State (Go5)

Orange: Clemson (ACC) vs. Michigan (B1G)

Cotton: Wisconsin (B1G) vs. Baylor (B12)

2010 (Sugar/Fiesta)

  1. Auburn (SEC)
  2. Oregon (P12)
  3. TCU (Go5)
  4. Wisconsin (B1G)

Orange: Virginia Tech (ACC) vs. Michigan State (B1G)

Cotton: Oklahoma (B12) vs. LSU (SEC)

Rose: Stanford (P12) vs. Ohio State (B1G)

Chick-fil-a: Arkansas (SEC) vs. Boise State (Go5)

2009 (Orange/Cotton)

  1. Alabama (SEC)
  2. Texas (B12)
  3. Cincinnati (Go5)
  4. TCU (Go5)

Rose: Oregon (P12) vs. Ohio State (B1G)

Chick-fil-a: Georgia Tech (ACC) vs. LSU (SEC)

Sugar: Florida (SEC) vs. Oklahoma State (B12)

Fiesta: Iowa (B1G) vs. Boise State (Go5)

2008 (Rose/Chick-fil-a)

  1. Oklahoma (B12)
  2. Florida (SEC)
  3. Texas (B12)
  4. USC (P12)

Sugar: Alabama (SEC) vs. Texas Tech (B12)

Fiesta:  Penn State (B1G) vs. Boise State (Go5)

Orange: Virginia Tech (ACC) vs. Ohio State (B1G)

Cotton: Oklahoma State (B12) vs. Utah (Go5)

2007 (Sugar/Fiesta)

  1. Ohio State (B1G)
  2. LSU (SEC)
  3. Virginia Tech (ACC)
  4. Oklahoma (B12)

Orange: Boston College (ACC) vs. Georgia (SEC)

Cotton:  Arizona State (P12) vs. Missouri (B12)

Rose: USC (P12) vs. Illinois (B1G)

Chick-fil-a: Kansas (B12) vs. West Virginia (Go5)

2006 (Orange/Cotton)

  1. Ohio State (B1G)
  2. Florida (SEC)
  3. Michigan (B1G)
  4. LSU (SEC)

Rose: Wisconsin (B1G) vs. USC (P12)

Chick-fil-a: Wake Forest (ACC) vs. Boise State (Go5)

Sugar: Oklahoma (B12) vs. Auburn (SEC)

Fiesta: Louisville (Go5) vs. Notre Dame (at-large)

2005 (Rose/Chick-fil-a)

  1. USC (P12)
  2. Texas (B12)
  3. Penn State (B1G)
  4. Oregon (P12)

Sugar: Auburn (SEC) vs. Texas Tech (B12)

Fiesta: Ohio State (B1G) vs. Miami (ACC)

Orange: Florida State (ACC) vs. Notre Dame (at-large)

Cotton: Georgia (SEC) vs. West Virginia (Go5)

2004 (Sugar/Fiesta)

  1. USC (P12)
  2. Oklahoma (B12)
  3. Auburn (SEC)
  4. California (P12)

Orange: Virginia Tech (ACC) vs. Georgia (SEC)

Cotton:  Utah (Go5) vs. Texas (B12)

Rose: Michigan (B1G) vs. Arizona State (P12)

Chick-fil-a: Louisville (Go5) vs. LSU (SEC)


  1. Oklahoma (B12)
  2. USC (P12)
  3. LSU (SEC)
  4. Michigan (B1G)

Rose: Ohio State (B1G) vs. Washington State (P12)

Chick-fil-a: Florida State (ACC) vs. Tennessee (SEC)

Sugar: Georgia (SEC) vs. Texas (B12)

Fiesta: Miami (Go5) vs. Purdue (B1G)

What’s kind of interesting about the new format is that there’s not a necessarily ironclad way to distribute out teams — though some of that has to do with some access bowls’ current lack of affiliation (not likely to stay that way). Also worth noting: Only once from 2003 to 2011 were four different conferences represented in the top four (2003). You’ll probably notice above that I tried sorting the ACC teams into the Chick-fil-a Bowl when there was no Orange Bowl at our disposal. It seems like that little caveat will be worked out in time, though I’d rather see it in writing sooner rather than later.

Have any more playoff thoughts? Feel free to share. Since everything’s not completely finalized yet, still plenty more hypotheticals left for college football fans to throw out there.

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