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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

HOOVER, Ala. — Repeat after me: CFP. CFP. CFP.

The BCS is dead. Long live the CFP.

On a Monday evening, Jan. 12, 2015, in Arlington, Texas, some college football team will hoist the CFP trophy for the first time.

If, as Florida defensive lineman Dante Fowler confessed Monday, you hadn't heard, the College Football Playoff era begins in 2014.

It replaces the Bowl Championship Series era, inaugurated by Tennessee's 1998 national title and put to bed after Florida State ended the SEC's seven-year reign last January.

The CFP trophy was unveiled this week. Bill Hancock, CFP executive director, revealed Wednesday at SEC Football Media Days that a comprehensive hoist embargo is in effect until the winning team gets to do so on the field.

The trophy is no crystal football. It's rather simple, a 26-inch gold and bronze column that has been compared to both an ice-cream cone and a beer tap.

The process of getting two teams to Texas on Jan. 12 is anything but - despite what Hancock says.

"The format is very simple," he said during a session dubbed CFP 101. "It's symmetrical. It's really beautiful.

"The committee will select the best four teams, period, no strings attached."

Wait a minute. Did he say committee?

Forget simple.

Let me pass along the Cliffs Notes on CFP 101.

A 13-member committee will meet weekly the final seven weeks of the season to select the four semifinalists, who will be announced Dec. 7.

Six bowls - Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange, Peach, Cotton - are in a rotation to host the semifinals. The survivors then meet for the CFP national championship.

The Sugar and Rose get the 2014 semis to set up the title game in Arlington. The other four bowls will be assigned teams by the committee. Two future sites are set. The 2015 title will be decided in Phoenix, 2016 in Tampa Bay.

"It's a quality attempt," said LSU coach Les Miles, sizing up the new format.

Bottom line, the championship participants will be in the hands of a committee, not the polls or computers.

The meat of the committee includes five athletic directors, one from each of the power conferences. There's a retired Air Force general and a former sportswriter (Steve Wieberg, USA Today). Archie Manning and Tom Osborne are nice touches.

Then there's Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state.

Rice's inclusion bothers me, and not because she isn't capable. She's too capable. Shouldn't she be tackling world peace instead of Wisconsin's strength of schedule?

An eight-team playoff had fans. The four-team version - locked in for 12 years - prevailed to best preserve both the relevance of the regular season and the bowl agenda.

The promise of no strings attached is key for a league of the SEC's gravity. If Alabama, Auburn and Georgia are in the top four on Dec. 7, they're all in the semifinals.

"If a rematch happens," said Hancock. "So be it."

If, say, Florida and LSU have already played regular season and again in the SEC title game, so be that, too. Play again.

"You could have the two best teams in the nation playing each other for the conference championship," said Missouri center Evan Boehm. "Now they can both have a shot at going to the national championship. That's pretty cool."

Not so cool will be finishing fifth in the CFP rankings. If the system was in place last year, that's exactly where Missouri would have been.

So on Dec. 7, some team will be fifth, left out of the party. Let the moaning and debating begin.

But, of course, it won't be beginning on Dec. 7. It has been ever present, no matter the initials or the format.

"We like how popular this game is," Hancock said. "The debate comes with the popularity and we wouldn't have it any other way."

July 17, 2014
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