College football is getting a playoff system. It'll have four teams. A selection committee will seed the quartet. No. 1 will play No. 4, No. 2 will play No. 3 and the winners will face off in a national title game somewhere -- possibly in Arlington, Texas, because Jerry Jones will make it so. You've heard about this, no doubt. SportsCenter televised the announcement on its 6 EST telecast. In the 24-hour news cycle, so has everyone else.
"A four-team playoff doesn't go too far," said Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, chair of the Presidential Oversight Committee, following the announcement from a Washington D.C. hotel. "It goes just the right amount."
And since this is a Pac-12 blog, let's be clear about one thing: this four-team playoff is good for the conference, particularly USC. Actually, it's really good for ol' SC.
Over the next week, we're going to examine the immediate impact, the long-term effects, and you know, basically everything else Pac-12-related. But for now, let's focus on the Trojans, because perhaps more than anyone else, they're going to reap the benefits of the restructured postseason format. Essentially it comes down to this:
- From 2002-2011, USC finished in the top-10 of the Associated Press poll eight times -- the most of any program. I raised this point in April.
- Also, from 2002-2011, USC finished in the top-four of the AP poll seven times, and seven straight years from 2002 to 2008 under Pete Carroll.
The myth of the four-team playoff remains that it'll reward the smaller schools. And sure, to some degree, it will. A 13-0 Boise State's odds are much greater, under the new system, of having a shot at playing in the title game. But if we're going to be honest and see whose situations improve the most dramatically, it's the sport's traditional powers. For the west coast, that, yes, is USC.
Remember, in spite of those high finishes over the last decade, the Trojans landed in the BCS title game just twice, 2005 and 2006. Instead, if the top four teams were playoff bound, there's a pretty decent chance USC would've been included in a college football playoff for seven straight seasons. Seven. Considering the odds -- there are 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision -- even back-to-back is impressive. Seven, sure, is a lot. (To be clear, I don't mean to assume 'SC would've landed in the playoffs exactly seven years in a row. It is, however, fair to suggest they perhaps would've finished anywhere from four to six times, which is still a significant jump).
Over the next week, we're going to categorize quite a few winners and losers when it comes to a playoff. It's innate and it's a worthwhile effort. For now, though, when it comes to the future out west, along with the top-tier programs (USC, Oregon, Stanford), we're going to see many of them rewarded under the current system. Previously, one-loss, or two-loss, teams had to hope and lobby to get a shot at a national title. Now, for many, a playoff berth becomes a near-assurance.
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