Sunday, December 4, 2016

College Football Playoffs as it should be (2016)

There are some fans upset with the College Football Playoffs, and rightfully so. There are more than four teams that have a legitimate claim to a spot in the playoffs, and there are only four playoff spots.

Penn State won the Big Ten, winning their last 8 game of the regular season including knocking off Ohio State, but was left out of the playoff picture.

The Big 12 champion, Oklahoma, won its last 9 games, including three wins over ranked teams, and went unbeaten in their conference.

Western Michigan did everything they could do, winning all 12 regular season games plus their conference championship, scoring 40 points or more in a game seven times. (For those that wish to discount the Broncos, remember the 1984 BYU team, who did less than this year's Western Michigan.)

The solution? The very solution I've been promoting for a decade.

A 16-Team Playoff

The champions from each conference take up the top ten slots of the 16-team playoff, and the field is filled out by the highest ranked teams that didn't win a conference. The seedings would be set by a playoff committee, much as the current College Football Playoff is done, and as Division 1-AA/FCS does.

For my purposes, I propose the NFL model, in which conference champions are the top 10 seeds, and the non-champions are the lower seeds. The point of that would be that conference championships matter. I'm sure Penn State and Oklahoma would agree, as would others.

Had this been in place all along, the recent spate of conference jumps to improve playoff positions wouldn't have happened. The increasingly inaccurately named Big 12 and Big Ten conferences might actually have meaningful names.

The Field of 16

  1. Alabama (Southeastern Conference champion)
  2. Clemson (Atlantic Coast Conference champion)
  3. Washington (Pac-12 Conference champion)
  4. Penn State (Big Ten Conference champion)
  5. Oklahoma (Big 12 Conference champion)
  6. Western Michigan (Mid-American Conference champion)
  7. Temple (American Athletic Conference champion)
  8. San Diego State (Mountain West Conference champion)
  9. Western Kentucky (Conference USA Conference champion)
  10. Appalachian State (Sun Belt Conference champion)
  11. Ohio State (Big Ten wild card qualifier)
  12. Michigan (Big Ten wild card qualifier)
  13. Wisconsin (Big Ten wild card qualifier)
  14. Southern California (Pac-12 wild card qualifier)
  15. Colorado (Pac-12 wild card qualifier)
  16. Florida State (Atlantic Coast Conference wild card qualifier)
The first two rounds would be played on campus of the higher seed of each matchup. Number 1 hosts number 16, number 2 hosts number 15, and so on. Some of these games will be great. Others, not so much. But that's how post-season matchups sometimes are.

The First Round Matchups

Florida State at Alabama
Colorado at Clemson
Southern California at Washington
Wisconsin at Penn State
Michigan at Oklahoma
Ohio State at Western Michigan
Appalachian State at Temple
Western Kentucky at San Diego State

Personally, I don't like the rematches, but in the larger scheme of things, it's more than made up by being a better overall system. At the end of such a field of 16, there should be no doubt about who the champion is.

The losing teams in the first round would still be bowl-eligible. The bowls could bid for the rights to have a playoff-quality team. The second round would follow the same format as the first, with the highest remaining seed hosting the lowest remaining seed, the next-highest remaining seed hosting the second-lowest remaining seed, and so on.

The third round would be the final four, played much as the four-team CFP is today. The championship would follow, as it does today.

Some have been critical of this plan over the years. Too complicated, some say. But it's really nothing more than the ten conference champs at the top, and the best of the rest filling it out.

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