The new Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) four-team playoff structure that goes into effect in 2014 will give rise to different theories among athletic directors, depending on conference strength of schedule, out-of-conference rivalries and predetermined contracts like the one that will start in 2017 between the Pac-12 and the Big Ten.
Apparently, Alabama's plan doesn't include Wisconsin.
According to a report in the Wisconsin State Journal, ESPN orchestrated discussions between Wisconsin and Alabama for standalone neutral-site game, which Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema countered with an offer to play a home-and-home series.. Nick Saban declined.
While no dates were specified in the report, Saban's decision to turn down the offers indicates that there could be a philosophy change taking place in Tuscaloosa.
Under Saban, Alabama has never been a team to shy away from tough out-of-conference foes. The Tide opened up against Clemson and Virginia Tech in the 2008 and 2009 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games, respectively, scheduled a home-and-home series with Penn State in 2010 and 2011 and will open the 2012 season at the Cowboys Classic against the Michigan Wolverines.
In 2013 and 2014, the Crimson Tide are scheduled to return to the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game to play Virginia Tech and West Virginia in consecutive seasons. They also have a home-and-home series with Michigan State scheduled for 2016 and 2017.
Those games were scheduled before the new postseason format was announced.
So does the fact that Nick Saban declined the offer, despite not even knowing the dates in which this game could be played, indicate that there could be a philosophy change happening at Alabama? It certainly appears possible.
If that is the case, that's fine. Last season, Alabama needed a lot of luck to get back into position to play for the BCS national championship after losing to LSU at home in early November. But now that there are two more spots available, padding your resume is of great importance.
The selection committee will probably not place a two-loss SEC team in the Top Four, but the strength that the SEC has shown lately certainly increases the possibility of a one-loss SEC team getting in. Considering that four of the last six national champions have had at least one loss—all of which were to fellow SEC teams—staying safe out of conference is the smart play for SEC programs.
That is, of course, until that perception changes. At that point, the SEC will undoubtedly look to beef up its out-of-conference slate.
Other big-time FBS teams will certainly approach Alabama in the future, and it will be interesting to see if the Crimson Tide are as receptive to tough out-of-conference games now that the four-team playoff structure has been announced.