Big 12-SEC deal is playoff foundation

Look at the language in the press release issued by the Big 12 and see if you can find the hints for what could be coming.

The big story isn’t that the Big 12 and SEC are entering into an agreement to send their respective conference champions to a New Year’s Day or early January bowl that will rival the Rose Bowl for supremacy among the non-national championship bowl games — even if one or both leagues send their No. 1 teams to a title game. The SEC is partially doing this to create more bowl tie-ins for a 14-team league that will have a few eligible teams left out in the cold this year.

No, the big news is the statement from SEC commissioner Mike Slive.

"This new game will provide a great matchup between the two most successful conferences in the BCS era and will complement the exciting postseason atmosphere created by the new four-team model."

Who said the four-team model was a done deal?

The conference commissioners were supposedly still hemming and hawing over how a playoff system could work, and there was still discussion that it had yet to be given the official green light. It still has to pass through the proper channels and the powers-that-be still have to come up with a few small details — like where the games will be played, how much everyone would be paid, how the teams would be selected and who would get the invite to the dance. Meanwhile, there are still some who have no interest in a playoff model of any sort, while others are still pushing for a bigger model that would include more teams.

But Slive threw in the idea of the "new four-team model" as if it’s a given. Even if the new bowl game is nothing more than a prestigious fall-back in case the Big 12 and/or SEC champs aren’t in the playoffs, that it’s being acknowledged that there will be a four-team model as soon as 2014 means that change could be not only on the way sooner than originally thought, but that it’s all but done.

Just like that the college football world could evolve from the bizarre BCS to a real, live playoff that could finally end all the whining and wondering that’s been such a big part of the sport since its inception.

So will this new bowl game be part of a playoff, or will it simply be another big bowl game while the playoffs and national championship go to the highest bidder?

This new bowl is the Big 12 and SEC’s answer to the Jim Delany-Big Ten announcements from earlier this week.

The Big Ten has backed off its desire to have the playoffs go to a campus site, but it declared that it still wanted the Rose Bowl and the Big Ten-Pac-12 alliance to stay strong as a part of the overall equation. Now, with today’s announcement, the infrastructure is set up perfectly to create a dream scenario of a playoff.

Here’s what might be coming; if the top four teams, according to whatever selection format ends up passing, are the conference champions from the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, then the Rose Bowl between the Big Ten and Pac-12 is one playoff game, the new Big 12-SEC bowl would be the other, and the TV ratings, ad revenue and fan interest would be through the roof.

Of course, the ACC, Big East, Notre Dame and the new Mountain West-Conference USA alliance might have something to say about that, but the harsh reality is that this move firmly establishes the Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC as the true big four BCS conferences.

What this also does is cement the Big 12 as 100 percent healthy after seemingly being on its deathbed not all that long ago. Now it’ll be interesting to see if this starts to topple a whole new set of dominos.

With this game and with a stronger overall national presence for the Big 12, does this mean that Florida State really will join that conference?

Does this move up the timetable for Big 12 expansion — hello, Louisville — to get up to 12 or 14 teams to reestablish a two-division league with a conference championship?

Will this force the ACC to try to make a big move to find a higher profile bowl alliance to try to set up its own ready-made playoff game?

Will this make the Big Ten look further into expansion and finally tie the knot with Notre Dame, Maryland, Rutgers, or any of the other programs that have been in the discussion over the last few years?

Whatever happens, consider this the day that college football has set the true foundation for a playoff. And if nothing else, college football got itself a whale of a new bowl game.