We've largely ignored all the college football playoff news this off-season, mostly because Northwestern seems miles away from ever being anywhere near the top 4 in the country. For those who haven't been paying attention, there's going to be a four team playoff starting after the 2014 season, but the details still need to be ironed out. Most conferences are in favor of the higher seed playing at home in the semifinals, but the Big Ten prefers playing the semifinal games at current BCS bowl sites; basically so the conference champion can still play in the Rose Bowl.
The Big Ten's decision has been criticized by just about everyone involved, most notably by Yahoo!'s Dan Wetzel, who mocked the Big Ten's unrequited love for the Rose Bowl. The arguments for home playoff games are simple and convincing: more money for the schools, less travel for fans, and the potential to see SEC teams playing in a snowstorm in December or January. Are Jim Delany and the rest of the Big Ten really dumb enough to give all that up just for the Rose Bowl?
Black Heart Gold Pants' Patrick Vint argues that Delany is thinking long term and has the eventual goal of strong-arming the ACC, Big East, and all the current non-AQ conferences out of the picture, so that the Big Ten winner will get an automatic bid into the four team playoff, along the winners of the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12. It's still unclear as to whether such a plan is feasible, but it would fit Delany's MO of making moves that are great for the Big Ten but crappy for college football in general.
Back to topics that might actually affect Northwestern in the near future: Teddy Greenstein sums up all the latest developments:
- The Big Ten has announced the conference schedules for 2015 and 2016. Seven of Northwestern's eight opponents were already known: the five other schools in their division, the protected rivalry game with Illinois, and a cross-division game against Purdue (whom the Wildcats were due to play after not playing Purdue for four years). The eighth opponent wouldn't be Ohio State or Wisconsin, whom NU will play in 2013 and 2014, so essentially it came down to a coin flip between Penn State and Indiana, and Indiana won the toss. So if you're into getting excited about three and a half years from now, NU will have a pretty easy schedule then.
UPDATE: Here are Northwestern's full schedules for 2015 and 2016. It's essentially Stanford and then three games against the Little Sisters of the Poor. You know that the college football postseason system is completely screwed up when a knowledgeable writer (ESPN's Brian Bennett) can legitimately opine that this year's non-conference schedule of Boston College, Vanderbilt, Syracuse and South Dakota is "probably a bit too ambitious".
- We may find out this week whether or not Mislav Brzoja will be admitted to Northwestern. How this is even a question is a mystery to me:
Brzoja has a borderline test score and his grades in Croatia were just OK, but he has excelled at Traders Point, earning a legitimate 4.0 grade-point average as a senior.
I'll save any rants about this for when a final decision is made, but if a talented basketball player with a 4.0 GPA can't get into the school, then it might be time to go the University of Chicago route with regard to athletics.
- The basketball team's non-conference schedule appears all but finalized, and there aren't a whole lot of big names on it. There's the officially announced home game with rebuilding Maryland, a return trip to Baylor that will hopefully go better than last year's #BEATEMDOWN in Evanston, and home games against Stanford (intriguing) and Illinois-Chicago (boring). NU will also be competing in something called the South Padre Island Invitational, a four team tournament in South Padre Island, which is in the southernmost tip of Texas near the Mexican border (very close to the Texas-Pan American campus NU played at a couple seasons ago). The three other teams are Illinois State, TCU and UAB, so not the toughest field, sort of a mini Charleston Classic. NU will also play two home games that are officially part of the South Padre Island Invitational but are really just random home games against crappy mid-majors, taking advantage of a NCAA loophole allowing schools to play extra games if they're part of a tournament.