HOOVER, Ala. - There will be no strings attached. That's the point BCS executive director Bill Hancock wanted to stress Wednesday about the new College Football Playoffs selection process.
The nation's four best teams will be picked for the two semifinal games by a panel of 13 members starting this year. They'll compete for the right to play in the national championship game. It's revolutionary, a game-changer for college football.
"We think the playoff gives us the best of both worlds," Hancock said on the third day of SEC Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel. "Our goal with the BCS going into this was to maintain the best regular season in sports. We've done that with the playoff.
"Four teams is not too many. It does not go too far. It goes just far enough."
From there, Hancock tried to demonstrate how the selection process will work. He showed three mock rankings, each send two SEC teams to the Final Four. The No. 1 and No. 2 teams will play in bowls closest to home. Semifinals will be on a three-year rotation among six bowls: the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton and Peach.
Hancock did not rule out the possibility for teams to play three times in a season. Most likely, that could happen if SEC divisional winners played each other during the regular season, conference championship game and the playoffs.
In the NCAA basketball tournament, selection committees have slightly shifted seeds to avoid specific matchups, especially rivalries. Hancock said that won't happen with the college football playoffs, making it hypothetically possible for South Carolina to meet Clemson.
Last year, Hancock said, Auburn and Alabama would have played each other in a semifinal game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
"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 they will be a rematch. There's no dropping of lines in the College Football Playoff."
A few years after football rules were made to protect quarterbacks' heads, the same is being done for their knees.
Defensive players will be unable to hit quarterbacks unabated "at the knee or below" starting this season. With anything above the shoulders still off limits, SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw said there will be a "strike zone" where quarterbacks can be legally hit.
"Now you hit them above the knee and below the neck," Shaw said. "That's really the strike zone for defenders."
The rule will only be applied when quarterbacks are in their "passing posture," Shaw said. There will be no penalty for high or low hits when players are blocked into the quarterback.
Shaw said officials will use "good judgment," but player safety is the first priority.
"The quarterback is most vulnerable when he's in that passing posture," Shaw said. "This is a player safety thing."
With less than a month left before the Aug. 14 launch of the SEC Network, ESPN senior vice president of programming Justin Connolly gave his pitch Wednesday.
"Our pitch for distribution continues," Connolly said. "We're encouraged by our ongoing conversations and discussions and we will provide updates as the list of partners grows."
Currently, the list of partners is confined to seven. The SEC Network has deals with DISH, AT&T U-verse, the NRTC, NTTC, PTC Communications, Cox Communications and Google Fiber.
"This is an incredible start and a great feat to achieve four weeks prior to launch," Connolly said. "Four weeks is also a long time in the distribution world, especially when a network of this scope is launching."