Two weeks removed from the Orange & White Game and nearly four months until the 2012 season opens, college football is very much on my mind.
Life — i.e. college football — as we know it continues to change before our very eyes.
It still hasn't entirely sunk in that this fall, the Missouri Tigers will take the field in Neyland Stadium and the outcome will affect Tennessee's perch in the SEC standings.
That's the tangible news here on the home front: Tigers-Vols on Nov. 10, and it matters. But so much else is going on around the country.
Let's not bury the lead. A playoff is apparently coming to big-time football. It's two years off, due in 2014, but it's finally coming.
Given the current state of affairs, this is more pressing news in Alabama than it is around here. Still, by 2014 or shortly thereafter Tennessee could once again be relevant. So pay attention.
Based on the recent meeting of the 11 FBS league commissioners, a four-team playoff is in the works. They will meet again in June to iron out where the games will be played and the criteria for how the four teams will be selected.
There is considerable detail work yet to accomplish. The Big Ten and Pac-12 are clinging to the Rose Bowl, Notre Dame wonders where it fits in and Mike Slive wants to make sure he could squeeze two (or three?) SEC teams in the mix if merited.
At this point, I'm going to get sidetracked but I can't help it.
One of the nuggets to come out of the commissioners' gathering was that the automatic-qualifier concept is dead. The AQ, let's call it.
In the BCS era that has determined a national champion since 1998, six leagues had AQ status for their regular-season champions to be included in the BCS bowl format. If Florida State or Wisconsin wasn't playing in the BCS title game, at least it might be raking in megabucks from one of the BCS bowls.
The AQ was the Holy Grail. And it goes a long way toward explaining the
confounding, ridiculous mess of league-hopping that has accelerated in the past year.
Largely because of the AQ, we now have the annual San Diego State-Rutgers rivalry to circle on our calendars. Not to mention Boise State-South Florida.
Missouri joining the SEC bothers me a little. Nothing against Mizzou (or Texas A&M), but do their additions really make things better?
It should be none of my business, but San Diego State and Boise State hauling off to the Big East Conference bothers me a lot. It offends my geographic equilibrium.
I wondered how the Aztecs and Broncos felt about their far-flung moves (effective 2013) now that the AQ lure is coming off the table.
Boise State's AD was in attendance this week at the Mountain West Conference meetings in Arizona. Interesting. TCU abandoned the Big East without ever playing a game. Might Boise?
But San Diego State claims to be still gung-ho at the prospect of pitching in with the likes of UConn and Cincinnati. Why? The Aztecs anticipate a $6.4 million TV share from the Big East, compared to $1.5 million from their existing deal in the Mountain West.
TV money. The other Holy Grail. It's the reason Missouri will be in Neyland Stadium in November. It's the reason West Virginia fans are going to discover exactly how far it is to Lubbock, Texas.
These two coveted treasures, the automatic qualifier and TV bucks, have set off a seismic shift that began in the BCS leagues and reverberated to the lower echelons of the sport.
On Friday, seven FBS football schools announced new conference affiliations. The poor WAC is down to two survivors, Idaho and New Mexico State. I read that by 2015, 31 schools will have changed leagues, a full 25 percent of the FBS membership.
Again, the college football landscape is rocking and rolling. There is no terra firma.
Is the change going to be for the better? Yes and no.
We're getting a playoff, at long last. That's the good news.
The bad news is we're getting a bunch of convoluted regular-season games to figure out who's in that playoff.