Tony Barnhart broke news of a Big 12 and SEC partnership that will m..."/> Tony Barnhart broke news of a Big 12 and SEC partnership that will m..."/> Tony Barnhart broke news of a Big 12 and SEC partnership that will m..."/>

SEC, Big 12 Bowl Partnership Shakes Up BCS, Rattles ACC & Big East?

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CBSsports.com reporter Tony Barnhart broke news of a Big 12 and SEC partnership that will match-up the conference’s championship if neither reaches the proposed playoff semifinal. Precedent suggests such an occurrence will feature an undercard of Sasquatch vs. Loch Ness Monster; in other words, it’s not happening.

Note to self: Get started on Sasquatch vs. Loch Ness Monster screenplay.

The alternative and realistic concept is for the next highest finisher outside of the top four from each league to play in said bowl game. This does not need to be a new game, as both conferences are tied into prestigious games already. They already play annually in the Cotton Bowl, so logic would dictate simply using it as the new contest. In fact, if instituted in 2011, a playoff pitting LSU vs. Oregon and Oklahoma State vs. Alabama would have restuled in this new game featuring Arkansas vs. Kansas State. Which happened. In Cowboys Stadium. At the Cotton Bowl.

Hardly a dramatic change in the landscape there, though this does alter the BCS status quo somewhat.

The Cotton Bowl was left beyond the fray when the Bowl Coalition gave way to the BCS before 1998. There has been lingering sentiment that it deserved top billing alongside the Orange, Sugar, Fiesta and Rose. Should it be tabbed for as host for this match-up, the Cotton will essentially counter the Rose as a locked-in, guaranteed affiliate.

The Rose Bowl has regularly been the chief paradox of the BCS. Its commitment to honoring the tradition of Big Ten vs. Pac-10/12 resulted in Illinois receiving an invite in 2008 (2007 season), and in other seasons the remainder of the BCS was built around it.  But since the BCS as we currently know it is going by the wayside, the SEC and Big 12 teaming up won’t have that huge an impact on the postseason landscape.

Where its impact will be felt is in the ongoing conference arms race. A clear line is now drawn between the top tier, the Big Ten/Pac-12 and SEC/Big 12 partnerships signify a clique. Under BCS guidelines, the ACC and Big East champion were on the same theoretical plane as the other power conferences. West Virginia as Big East champion, for example, could face Big 12 champion Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. ACC champion Virginia Tech could see SEC champion Auburn  in the Sugar Bowl.

Those leagues are now left to wait on second choices, or become exclusive partners. While the Orange Bowl has hosted several ACC-Big East match-ups, the Big East’s instability makes it a less desirable dance partner for the ACC.

Having a worthwhile partner could prove integral to championship hopes, too. Playoff formatting is still being ironed out, but a possibility not off the table is using bowl games for national semifinals. Though the principles are different, the Pecan, Grantland Rice and Camellia Bowls once existed as traditional bowl games for smaller athletic programs. The NCAA’s split into divisions brought about a playoff, and these “bowls” were integrated into the system.

While these bowls existed mostly in name through 2009, the last season before playoff expansion, imagine a scenario in which the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC use their partnerships to establish their bowl games as semifinals. One semifinal is a guaranteed Pac-12 vs. Big Ten, the other SEC vs. Big 12. Big East, ACC, and former non-AQs are then left to their own devices with even less opportunity at the championship.

And what of Notre Dame? The Irish positioned itself in the title fray when the BCS was formulated, but with zero championship appearances in the 13 years since and no cohorts backing it, UND’s bargaining chip could be worth less (not worthless, though. This is still Notre Dame we’re talking about, one of the most well supported and lucrative football programs in the sport). That said, there’s strength in numbers. If I’m John Swofford, I’m playing the Screech Powers to ND AD Jack Swarbrick’s Lisa Turtle and pursuing relentlessly.

Granted it’s the worst case scenario, but not entirely unrealistic. More realistic than that Sasquatch vs. Loch Ness Monster showdown, anyway.