Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, addressed reporters Wednesday at SEC Media Days and tried to clear up some of the confusion about how the four-team field will be selected.
He said the criteria will include “common sense stuff,” such as strength of schedule, head‑to‑head matchups, comparison of common opponents, and whether a team is a conference champion.
One thing is certain, Hancock believes the committee will get it right.
“The committee will select the best four teams, period, no strings attached,” Hancock said. “It’s important to keep that in mind. We think the playoff gives us the best of both worlds. Our goal with the BCS going into this was to maintain the best regular season in sports. We’ve done that with the playoff.”
Hancock also sort of cleared up another big question surrounding the playoff — will it expand soon to something larger than four teams?
“Four teams in not too many. It does not go too far. It goes just far enough,” he said. “It also preserves the bowl system and the bowl experience for student-athletes top to bottom, which is very important to us.”
Remember how insane the Iron Bowl ending was? Well, Hancock said had the playoff been in place last seasons, the two in-state rivals would have played in the semifinals. Imagine the chaos if these two powerhouses would have collided again.
Hancock was asked if the committee could potentially drop one of the teams a seed line to avoid that type of situation.
“They would not. They won’t monkey with the pure seeds,” Hancock said. “If the pure seeds are 1, 2, 3, 4. Auburn is 2, Alabama is 3, they’ll leave them right there and there will be a rematch. There’s no dropping of lines in the College Football Playoff.”
Another interesting question raised was the possibility of a third meeting between conference teams if they were to meet in the regular season, conference championship game and the playoff.
“That’s really a good question. We role-played all of this,” Hancock said. “The concept of the third game has come up. It sounds a lot like (NCAA basketball) Duke-Carolina, doesn’t it? The fact is it’s absolutely based on the pure seeding, 1, 2, 3, 4. If that yields a rematch, or a third game even, then that’s the way it will be.”
Bret Bielema knew the question was coming. After Gus Malzahn expressed Monday the respect he had for Bielema and the "professional" relationship they now share — coming a year after the two disagreed on numerous topics, including hurry-up, no-huddle offenses — the Arkansas coach was asked what conversations the two had to begin bridging the gap.
Of course, that answer came after Bielema pointed out understood why he was being asked about it: It's "a natural story."
Regardless, he went on to express his admiration for Malzahn and the hurry-up, no-huddle offense Auburn's coach employs — even if Bielema doesn't always see eye-to-eye with his colleague.
“We do have conversations within the room, SEC coaches that are very respectful, very true. I think he doesn't hold anything back. I don't hold anything back,” Bielema said during his meeting with reporters Wednesday. “I have a tremendous respect for him and his staff, what they did (last year).”
Not forgetting Marshall
Bielema is expecting to see Nick Marshall play against the Razorbacks in the season opener.
Marshall, Auburn’s starting quarterback, was cited Friday for marijuana possession. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has said there will be consequences but hasn’t revealed if they’ll include a suspension for the season opener.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Nick and what he did as a quarterback, grew every game (last year). ... I think knowing what I know as a head coach, Nick will be there,” Bielema said. “We want to play against the best and I'm sure he'll be there."
At SEC Media Days on Wednesday, league coordinator of officials Steve Shaw covers off-year player-safety tweaks to the rules. They are as follows:
• In a wording change to the targeting foul, no player shall target and initiate to make “forcible” contact. Also, if video overturns a targeting foul — and targeting is the only foul on the play — there will be no 15-yard penalty. Other judgment calls on the play, like roughing the passer, will not be reviewed.
• When a player is in a passing posture, no unabated rusher can hit him at the knee or below. There’s no foul if a player is blocked into the quarterback.
• Intentional grounding from the end zone is now reviewable.
• Catch or recovery of a loose ball is reviewable.
• A player has to establish himself inbounds before jumping to make a catch, not just land inbounds.
Sports Writer Marq Burnett: On Twitter @Marq_Burnett.