Bowl selection winners and losers: CFP selections reflect coming reality where Big Ten and SEC dominate the sport

Florida State was furious, but the CFP system isn’t designed for five worthy teams

The final year of the four-team College Football Playoff features two explosive matchups, one major controversy, and a glimpse into the future of college football.

The era of SEC and Big Ten hegemony has already begun, with the conferences adding a slew of powerhouse programs next season.

Who won when the playoff and bowl pairings were revealed on Sunday?

Because Michigan is the No. 1 seed, the Big Ten.

The SEC, because one-loss Alabama edged out undefeated Florida State.

Who are the other two semifinalists? Washington is leaving the Pac-12 to join the Big Ten, while Texas is leaving the Big 12 to join the SEC.

At this time next year, all four participants will be attending the two richest conferences.

The other leagues are left with nothing but disappointment and devastation.

The Pac-12 (as we know it) is on its way out.

The Big 12 is losing its star players.

And the ACC would be concerned about the landscape if it wasn’t outraged that Florida State, its undefeated champion, was left out of the playoffs.

“It’s unfathomable,” said commissioner Jim Phillips in a statement.

Not when you consider what the sport has become: The Power Two and everyone else.

“What happened today goes against everything that is true and right in college football,” Florida State coach Mike Norvell said publicly.

Those elements were long ago abandoned.

Sure, the ACC, Big 12, and Group of Five will be represented in the 12-team playoff that begins next season.

However, each year, two heavyweight conferences will account for seven or eight bids. Everyone else will be marginalized, and the process began on Sunday morning.

There are more winners and losers…

The winner is the SEC media machine. For 48 hours, we were fed the narrative that, but for the delay in approving the new format, 2023 would have seen the start of the 12-team playoff, avoiding the Florida State controversy. According to the story, what caused the delay in the summer of 2021? The collaboration of the Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12. Meanwhile, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has been cast as the sport’s white knight, arguing that expansion was in everyone’s best interests.

SEC media machine is a loser. Unfortunately, the story fails to mention that the alliance was formed in response to Sankey’s covert negotiations to add Texas and Oklahoma while he was on the playoff expansion committee. The thunderbolt of realignment directly resulted in the formation of the alliance and the subsequent delay in approving the 12-team event. Of course, the other conferences were put on hold! And guess what? If the Big Ten had secretly added USC and UCLA while then-commissioner Kevin Warren was working on the CFP expansion plan, the SEC would have done exactly the same thing. In the absence of a true governing body, all entities act in their own self-interest. Nobody or everything should be blamed for the lack of a 12-team playoff this year.

Alabama wins. The Crimson Tide needed a miracle to beat Auburn and stay in the playoff hunt, but the upset of No. 1 Georgia sealed the deal. There was no way (none, zero, zip) that the SEC champion would be left out. Having said that, the Tide’s progress this season has been remarkable. 2023 will go down as one of Nick Saban’s best coaching jobs.

Florida State is the loser. The Seminoles became the first Power Five conference champion to go undefeated and miss the playoffs. They finished fifth, one spot behind Alabama, after the committee concluded that FSU isn’t good enough to merit a spot due to the injury to quarterback Jordan Travis.

Mike Norvell is the winner. After the announcement, Florida State’s coach reacted angrily. “I am disgusted and enraged by the committee’s decision today to take away what was earned on the field because a small group of people decided they knew better than the outcomes of the games.” “What’s the point of playing video games?” He’s not wrong, but the four-team system isn’t designed to accommodate five deserving conference champions. For the most part, the CFP has been fortunate to avoid situations like this.

ACC is the loser. We can’t help but wonder if Florida State’s exclusion from the playoffs will hasten their exit from the ACC. The Seminoles, after all, have made no secret of their desire to join the SEC or Big Ten. While breaking the contract would cost more than $100 million, the school must consider the cost of staying put.

Steve Sarkisian is the winner. The former USC and Washington coach battled demons (alcoholism), but he got his life in order and led the Longhorns to the playoffs in only his third season. That’s fantastic.

Rose Bowl is the loser. Yes, Michigan-Alabama is a fantastic matchup. If Georgia had won the SEC championship and held the No. 1 ranking, the Granddaddy would have hosted No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 Washington — the Big Ten versus the Pac-12 for one final showdown.

Orange Bowl is the winner. The matchup between Florida State and Georgia could not be more compelling for event organizers. Both teams are coming off major setbacks: FSU’s exclusion from the playoffs and Georgia’s loss in the SEC championship game. But if the Seminoles beat Georgia and Alabama wins the playoff, FSU has a chance to win the national championship. The bowl, as well as the ACC, would be wise to repeat that narrative for the next month.

Fiesta Bowl is the loser. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to think of a more difficult opponent for Oregon than Liberty. People, good luck selling tickets for that. The committee ruined the Fiesta.

Rece Davis was the winner. ESPN’s host expertly navigated the lengthy selection show through the Florida State saga and the heated studio debate. He provided context when necessary, asked pertinent questions of interview subjects, and never allowed the conversation to deviate too far from its intended path.

Oregon is the loser. Three days ago, the Ducks were ranked fifth, heavily favored to beat Washington, and competing for a spot in the College Football Playoff. They must now find a reason to prepare for Liberty in the Fiesta. In a sport without a leader, fortunes can shift quickly.

Pac-12 is the champion. In its final year, the conference secured bids to both the CFP and the New Year’s Six — as well as sending six other teams to bowl games. A fantastic way to cap off a fantastic season.

Pac-12 is a loser. Of course, this is the final year of Pac-12 football as we know it. If the conference’s leadership had been stronger, both at the commissioner’s chair and on the board, it could have bet on itself in 2023. In other words, it could have waited until this winter to sign a media rights agreement, after a season of high TV ratings and playoff contenders. Leverage would have been high, suitors would have been plentiful, and a future would have been guaranteed.

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