A closer look at playoff access issue

There is plenty that remains unclear about how the future postseason is going to impact the Big East.

You understand why Big East senior associate commissioner Nick Carparelli is hammering home that point, preaching patience before jumping to conclusions about access. He also is on the record as saying he doesn't think any league is going to get squeezed out despite what appears to be automatic qualifying status given to the "Big 5 conferences" by virtue of tie-ins to the elite bowl games (Orange, Rose, Champions).

But I still think access could potentially be a big issue. The past two years, the Big East champion finished: unranked (UConn, 2010) and No. 23 (West Virginia, 2011) in the final BCS standings. Under current rules, both teams earned automatic spots into BCS games. Under the future system, neither one of those teams would have been invited to the elite bowl games. Why? Because the Big East does not have an automatic tie-in into one of those games for its champion.

But you could say the past two seasons have been more of the exception than the rule. Going back to the 2005 season, the Big East has had five of its seven representatives finish in the Top 12 of the final BCS standings. Now factor in Boise State, with Top-10 finishes in five of those seasons, including each of the past four.

If the selection committee ends up seeding teams 1-12 to make determinations on at-large bids, the Big East could still very well find a place in a high-level bowl game without a tie-in. There will, after all, be a bump up from five elite bowl games to six, and only three of those games right now have automatic tie-ins.

Since there is no way the top 12 teams are all getting into those six elite games, what should upset Big East fans the most is that the ACC has a guaranteed home in the Orange Bowl.

The ACC actually has had its teams fare much worse in the most recent final BCS standings. Going back to 2006, five of its seven champions have finished outside the Top 12. That includes No. 22 Florida State in 2006, and No. 19 Virginia Tech in 2009. Yet those teams ranked outside the Top 12 will gain automatic entry under the new system.

What's worse -- the ACC is guaranteed a spot in the Orange Bowl even if it has a representative in the playoffs. Do you know how many times the ACC has had more than one team finish in the Top 12 going back to 2006? None. The good news for Big East fans is they don't have to immediately worry about this provision. The bad news? If Florida State, for example, makes the playoffs in 2014, a second and perhaps undeserving ACC team gets in.

You can all but guarantee the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 are going to have at least one team in the Top 12 every year. But you cannot say the same about the ACC, and that is what has to hurt.