Trahan: Change in college football runs through the South

Kevin Trahan

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Change has been hard to come by in college football in recent years, and on the surface that appeared to be the same story at Wednesday’s Bowl Championship Series meetings when the conference commissioners announced they had nothing specific to announce.

But change is coming to the college football landscape, we’re just not sure what form it will take. In all likelihood, college football will have a four-team playoff in the coming years, but the logistics still need to be worked out. Those details are what is holding everything up.

We don’t know the specifics of the plans being discussed, but we do know that it’s likely yet another battle of the Big Ten versus the Southeastern Conference, with the Big Ten proposing home-field advantage in the national semifinals – along with the preservation of the Rose Bowl – and the SEC proposing neutral sites throughout the “playoff.”

It’s the latest chapter in the bitter Big Ten-SEC rivalry, a rivalry between the two richest and most historic conferences in college football.

On the field, the SEC has certainly earned its spot as the nation’s top conference, winning the last six BCS Championships and dominating the Big Ten in bowl games. It’s the nation’s best conference – that’s not a debate.

But if there is any criticism of the SEC, it’s that all of its wins against the Big Ten have come in the South, or in Arizona. With its proposed plan, the SEC hopes to keep things that way.

You can’t blame the SEC for wanting to keep games at neutral sites – which would likely end up being New Orleans; Miami; Glendale, Ariz.; and Pasadena, Calif. – because in reality, SEC teams will never have to play an “away” game in a national semifinal.

In fact, the conference would enjoy virtual home games a number of times, just as it has in recent years – take, for example, Ohio State playing Louisiana State in a “neutral site” game at the New Orleans Superdome in 2008.

What’s the fairest thing possible? Giving home-field advantage to the highest-seeded team. It’s what the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL do, and it makes the most sense.

By backing away from the Big Ten’s proposal, the SEC is making it look like it’s scared to have to play in the North, in the elements, in December. Few SEC teams have ventured into Big Ten country recently, and Florida, for example, has only crossed the Mason-Dixon Line three times since 1965, losing to Syracuse in 1991, beating Rutgers in East Rutherford, N.J., in 1986 and beating Northwestern in 1965.

The SEC came up with flawed arguments against the Big Ten’s proposal. SEC commissioner Mike Slive said, “The NCAA tournament is not played on home floors – for a reason,” but contradicted himself by saying, “This is not a tournament.”

Ultimately, it seems that the other conferences have jumped from the Big Ten’s proposal, favoring “neutral site” games in their respective regions. We’ll likely have to stick to those ultra-fair, neutral-site, no home-field advantage games instead; you know, the ones where Ohio State plays Louisiana State in Louisiana.

Thank goodness for Mike Slive and his campaign to maintain fairness. Where would college football be without him?

The answer: possibly up north in December.

Kevin Trahan is a Medill freshman. He can be reached at kevintrahan2015@u.northwestern.edu

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