GREENSBORO, N.C. — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher seemed exasperated with yet another question about the new College Football Playoff system, which will determine this season’s national champion.
“I’ve already answered that question about 311 times,’’ Fisher said, plaintively, at the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Football Kickoff on Monday.
Fisher was promised the 312th attempt would be different. He was asked how meaningful it would be for his program to be the last team to win a national title under the Bowl Championship Series format and then repeat as champions in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Fisher arched an eyebrow.
“You know, I think it would be great,’’ said Fisher, whose team was selected in the Atlantic Coast Media Association poll as the preseason favorite to win the ACC and whose Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Jameis Winston, was selected the preseason Player of the Year.
“To win the first College Football Playoff, because of what it means to this university and what it means to this conference to be recognized as champion, would be great,’’ he said. “To do it in that [playoff] format would be very unique. We were in the first BCS championship game and we were in the last and to be able to do that would be very ironic, but that’s our goal and that’s what we’re hoping for.’’
ACC commissioner John Swofford eagerly awaits the playoff.
“I’m very pleased to see us reach this point, to be at a point where the football playoff begins,’’ said Swofford, who noted that last year the league had a record 11 teams in bowl games and Florida State and Clemson won BCS games.
“I can remember for years [Southeastern Conference commissioner] Mike Slive and I being the lone voices in the BCS room pushing for some type of playoff,” Swofford said. “So it’s really good to see it come to fruition, and I think it’ll be a tremendous addition for fans and players alike and a great thing for college football.’’
Gary Stokan, president and CEO of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, said there was some skepticism among bowl representatives about the new playoff format when conference commissioners originally considered playing semifinal games on campus.
“It was the coaches and the [athletic directors] who wanted the bowl games still involved in the process because they wanted the student-athletes to get a bowl experience,’’ said Stokan, whose bowl will host a semifinal game in the 2016 season along with the Fiesta Bowl.
The Rose and Sugar will host the semis this season while the Cotton and Orange will do it next year. This season’s championship game will be Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“The contracts that we have, the semifinal games will be a bowl-week experience,’’ Stokan said. “They’ll come in six days prior to the bowl and we’ll run our typical bowl play, with all the events that goes along with it. I give credit to the coaches and the ADs for wanting the student-athletes to experience that bowl, because there’s a lot of memories that happen during that bowl week.
“I think it’ll work very well. We all know what we’re doing and, certainly, I think to have the types of games we’ll have I could see the semifinal games mirroring what happens in the NFL with the AFC and NFC championship games. That’s how big those games could become.’’
Swofford knows that issues with the new format are bound to surface.
“Do I think the controversies are going to go away? No,’’ Swofford said. “Whoever is fifth is probably going to be unhappy, just like whoever was third was unhappy, in some years. Some years it may be non-controversial and very obvious who the best four teams are, just like at times we had years in the BCS where nobody really argued about the two teams that were there.
“We had other years in the BCS where it seemed to be a little bit controversial, now and then.”
Like with the BCS, a selection committee will have to weigh not only a team’s record but also strength of schedule.
“I’m just guessing that no matter what you do, someone will find a reason why it’s no good, or why maybe the fifth team should have been in there,’’ said Boston College coach Steve Addazio, whose Eagles were predicted to finish sixth in the Atlantic Division.
“To me, I just go about our business and I hope that it’s better, I hope it works, and I hope it is more clear, I hope all that happens, I really do,’’ Addazio said. “I’m sure [the playoff format] will be better but right now I’m just about the business of getting our team better.’’
Said Fisher, “I think we’re all going to be in uncharted waters, and we have to have a plan — if we’re fortunate enough to be in that situation, and we all plan to be there — of getting that calculation of how hard you work guys going into that game.
“Before it was a one-game deal, but now you got 10 days after. How are you going to handle the travel back and forth and all these logistics? I think it’s very critical.
“But that’s the goal. If you want to be a champion, you’ve got to get in it, so I think the excitement will override all those things. We’re looking forward to it. I think it’ll be very exciting and a great challenge.’’