Playoff will shake up SEC’s bowl tie-ins

The coming College Football Playoff will not only change the way the sport determines its national champion, it also will shake up the bowl hierarchy, particularly for the Southeastern Conference.

Three of its current bowl partners — the Sugar, Cotton and Chick-fil-A — will become part of the six-bowl rotation for the College Football Playoff, along with the Rose, Orange and Fiesta.

While the Sugar will still match the highest-ranked team not in the College Football Playoff against the highest-ranked available team from the Big 12 — the so-called Champions Bowl, which is similar to the Rose Bowl’s Big Ten/Pac-12 matchup — the only way SEC teams will play in the Cotton or Chick-fil-A bowls will be to get in the four-team playoff or be one of the teams selected for the other eight slots in the bowls that will make up the playoff.

Officials with the Cotton and Chick-fil-A are more than ready to step into the brave new world.

“We’ve worked for 20 years to get back to having the biggest game,” Cotton Bowl President/CEO Rick Baker said.

Baker’s bowl will host the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship Game on Jan. 12, 2015, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Cotton beat out a bid by Tampa, Fla., home of the Outback Bowl, to host the first title game.

In some ways, the wait for the Cotton has been longer. The last time the game had an impact on the national championship was 30 years ago, when Georgia upset No. 2 Texas 10-9 in January 1984, opening the door for Miami to claim the national title by beating No. 1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

LSU will open the 2013 season Aug. 31 in the Cowboys Classic at Cowboys Stadium against TCU.

Part of the Cotton’s appeal for inclusion in the playoff was Cowboys Stadium, a $1 billion facility that already has hosted a Super Bowl and will host the 2014 Men’s Final Four.

Soon the Chick-fil-A will have a new $1 billion home as well. Plans are on track for the construction of a new retractable roof stadium to replace the Georgia Dome in time for the 2017 season, bowl President/CEO Gary Stokan said.

Stokan said the new stadium will be built on the south side of the existing Georgia Dome, which will be torn down and replaced by parking.

The Sugar will host playoff semifinals in January 2015, 2018, 2021 and 2024 along with the Rose. The Cotton will host semifinals Dec. 31, 2016, 2019, 2022 and 2025 in conjunction with the Orange. The Chick-fil-A will have semifinals Dec. 31, 2017, 2020, 2023 and 2026 in conjunction with the Fiesta.

Meanwhile, discussion has taken place here this week at the SEC Spring Meeting as to which bowls, if any, would replace the Cotton and Chick-fil-A on the SEC bowl list.

The Texas Bowl at Reliant Stadium in Houston and the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., are considered frontrunners. The Texas Bowl will be played this year Dec. 27 between teams from the Big 12 and Big Ten, with the Belk Bowl set for Dec. 28 matching teams from the ACC and the American Athletic (formerly Big East).

Representatives from the Texas and Belk bowls were not in attendance at the SEC Spring Meeting.

Starting in 2014, the Chick-fil-A Bowl will include its old moniker in its nameplate and will be called the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. The game has been called the Chick-fil-A Bowl since 2006, but conference commissioners wanted to do away with strictly corporate names for games involved in the playoff.

Stokan said his bowl will continue to host the annual Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. LSU beat North Carolina in that game in 2010.

Stokan said his game is in talks with teams for the 2015-18 seasons and would welcome having LSU again.