The Big Ten and Pac-12 have their Rose Bowl. And now, the SEC and Big 12 are trying to create something just like it.
In a wildly interesting development, those two leagues announced today that their champions would meet annually in a Jan. 1 bowl game, unless one or both of those champions is in the new four-team playoff. The conferences didn't say where the bowl would be or if it will be folded into an existing bowl; expect current bowls like the Sugar and Cotton to fall all over themselves trying to land this whale of an event.
Wherever it goes, it's clear now that there will only be two important bowl games outside of the four-team playoff: the Rose and the Yellow Rose of Texas or whatever the Big 12/SEC game ends up called. The ACC, Big East and Fiesta and Orange bowls all clearly lose out in this arrangement, which sets up the Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC and Big 12 as the only leagues that matter in the post-BCS era.
The Big 12/SEC game will also try to challenge the Rose for New Year's Day supremacy; the two leagues said in their announcement that they would play the game in primetime on Jan. 1, likely right as the Rose Bowl is wrapping up. It's hard to argue against the fact that the SEC and Big 12 have been more successful than the Big Ten in recent years, especially in terms of national championships, and any game between those two conferences is sure to draw a lot of eyeballs. In more years than not, the Big 12 and SEC champions figure to be involved in the four-team playoff, so this new game could wind up matching a pair of second-place teams. Still, if those second-place teams are, say, Texas and LSU, that would still attract a huge audience -- potentially bigger than the Rose Bowl, especially a Rose with Big Ten/Pac-12 runners-up.
But this move in some ways protects the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl, which won't be tempted to take an SEC or Big 12 team if the game is not involved as a semifinal site. So now the Big Ten/Pac 12 and SEC/Big 12 each have their little fiefdoms. Welcome to the new postseason reality. As Roger Sterling said on "Mad Men" last week, it's every man for himself.
Overall, I like the idea. It's good for college football fans, who'll get to watch the four-team playoff, plus a traditional Rose Bowl matchup and this new SEC/Big 12 showdown. No more Oklahoma-UConn or other unappealing bowl snoozefests. The rest of the leagues will be left scrambling, and this could lead to more imbalance in the sport and perhaps even more realignment shuffling (what must Florida State be thinking right now?).
But at least we'll get to watch some of the best teams in the country go head-to-head every January, in the only two bowl games that will demand your attention.