College football fans will remember this as the year everything changed, from the way the game is viewed on television to the way it determines its champion.
The mythical national championship as we knew it has become a museum piece. In its place comes the College Football Playoff, a four-team, three-game system designed to produce a more genuine national champion on the field.
The first CFP semifinals will be on New Year’s Day in the Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl.
The winners will meet Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
CFP proponents — namely the big five conferences and Notre Dame — are pushing the notion that the playoff is the be all, end all in terms of determining the national champion.
But in reality, the controversy from the way the Bowl Championship Series determined its champion has merely been kicked down the road a bit. Instead of No. 3 complaining of being voted off the championship contender island, it will be No. 5. And about 8 seconds after the CFP semifinals are set, the clamor for an eight-team playoff format will begin.
In some quarters, it’s begun already.
And the teams that make the playoff will get there strictly based on the opinion of the 13 members of the CFP selection committee. Bigger than the BCS, yes, but perhaps just as arbitrary.
Still, the excitement and interest for the College Football Playoff promises to be off the charts, with the real possibility the semifinals (set for the Sugar Bowl every three years) will be as big as the old BCS Championship Game and the new CFP Championship Game approaching Super Bowl-like hysteria.
If this is the revolution in college football so many fans and critics have clamored for, literally for decades, the revolution will most certainly be televised.
The SEC Network flipped the switch Aug. 14, giving the nation’s most powerful football conference a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week money printing machine with entre into over 90 million homes.
Estimates say the SEC Network could eventually be worth about $14 million per year to each of the Southeastern Conference’s 14 members. The marketing value of the network to LSU and Florida and South Carolina and Arkansas is virtually priceless.
The SEC Network will televise 45 football games in its first season, starting with a Thursday doubleheader featuring Texas A&M at South Carolina and Temple at Vanderbilt. LSU’s debut on the network will be Sept. 6 against Sam Houston State.
Meanwhile the CFP, like its predecessor, will still be televised on ESPN, the sports superpower running and distributing the SEC Network.
Though the SEC’s run of seven straight BCS titles came to an end with Florida State nipping Auburn at the Rose Bowl in January, the SEC is still expected to provide at least one team for the CFP semifinals.
There is widespread anticipation that the CFP selection committee will try to spread the wealth of the first playoff with a preference for conference champions.
One of those champions is expected to be the Seminoles, the preseason No. 1 in The Associated Press and USA Today coaches’ polls. FSU returns Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, the sophomore who will try to become just the second man ever to win back-to-back trophies.
Even if the CFP takes four conference champions, at least one champion from a major conference will be left out. The chances that conference will be the Big Ten increased dramatically when quarterback Braxton Miller of preseason No. 5 Ohio State suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.
Of course, no one saw Auburn coming last year, going from three wins in 2012 to within seconds of a national championship.
For now, the usual suspects — FSU, Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma — look like the teams to beat out for the CFP semifinal berths.
But unpredictability is in college football’s DNA, and that won’t change because of the CFP.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.