Sunday, December 3, 2017

How the 2017 College Football Playoffs should be

The college football season has concluded and the playoffs begin. Okay, there's still the Army-Navy game (Go Black Knights) but they play it way too late. But that's another rant for another day.

Division III, Division II, and Division 1-AA playoffs are underway. But Division 1-A regular season and conference title games are now done -- except the aforementioned Army-Navy game -- and we know who the conference champs are and who's in the playoffs. What we don't know yet us who should be in the playoffs. But we're about to fix that.

Here's how the playoffs should work. We've covered this before, regularly since 2006 in fact. But, here's a recap of how the Division 1-A playoffs should be.

There should be a 16-team tournament. The field would be the 10 conference champions, and the six best teams that didn't win a conference. This allows the conference championship to actually mean something. In college football, winning the conference should mean something. Whether it's the Southeastern Conference or the Sun Belt Conference, whether the Big Ten or the Mountain West, winning your conference should be important. Win it, and you're in it. As for really good teams that didn't win their conference, or independents that aren't in a conference, the best of those fill out the field, much like the "Wild Card" teams do in other leagues and other sports.

The 10 conference champions get the top 10 seeds. May people who otherwise like my plan really don't like this. But, it's how the "Wild Card" system works in most leagues. In the NFL, in 2010, the 7-9 Seahawks won their division and, as a result, were a 4th seed and hosted the 5th seed wild card 11-5 Saints. In 2014, the 7-8-1 division champion Panthers were 4th seed and hosted 5th seed wild card 11-5 Cardinals. This goes back to the conference championship being important. You not only get an automatic spot, you get a higher seeding.

The higher seeds host the lower seeds in the first round, which would be played the week after the championship (December 9 this year). The losers of those matchups would be bowl-eligible. These should be eight good teams, and most bowls would love to get those consolation bowls.

The second round would be the weekend before Christmas (December 23 this year). The eight surviving teams would square off, again higher seeds hosting the lower seeds.

The third round has the four remaining teams, who would meet on New Year's Day, much as the current CFP currently does it.

The National Championship would be the following weekend, much as is done currently.

That's a workable plan. There is no perfect plan, but this is the best plan.

This Year's Field of 16

First, let's look at the ten conference champions (Conference, Team, Overall record, CPF or Coaches ranking):

Atlantic Coast Conference: Clemson (12-1) (1)

Big 12 Conference: Oklahoma (12-1) (2)

Southeastern Conference: Georgia (12-1) (3)

Big Ten Conference: Ohio State (11-2) (5)

Pac-12 Conference: Southern California (11-2) (8)

American Athletic Conference: Central Florida (12-0) (12)

Mountain West Conference: Boise State (10-3) (25)

Conference USA: Florida Atlantic (10-3) (28 C)

Mid-American Conference: Toledo (11-1) (29 C)

Sun Belt Conference: Troy (10-2) (30 C) / Arkansas State (7-4) (Unranked)
Note: Troy and Arkansas State are co-champions, and none of the tie-breakers prior to coin-flip apply.

Next, let's look at the six highest-ranked teams that did not win a conference title:

Southeastern Conference: Alabama (11-1) (4)

Big Ten Conference: Wisconsin (12-1) (6)

Southeastern Conference: Auburn (10-3) (7)

Big Ten Conference: Penn State (10-2) (9)

Atlantic Coast Conference: Miami (10-2) (10)

Pac-12 Conference: Washington (10-2) (11)

The First Round Games

Washington at Clemson
Miami at Oklahoma
Penn State at Georgia
Auburn at Ohio State
Wisconsin at Southern California
Alabama at Central Florida
Troy/Arkansas State at Boise State
Toledo at Florida Atlantic


All of these should be good games with the possible exception of the Alabama/Central Florida game. But, UCF is the only undefeated team left standing. And who better to get the chance to prove they deserve a spot other than against Alabama. I didn't plan that matchup, but that's how it worked out. And maybe UCF is really deserving. This would answer that question, wouldn't it?

The SEC and the Big Ten would each have three teams making an appearance. The ACC and Pac-12 would have two. All the other conferences have one.

As always, there will be some who don't like it. They're wrong. This playoff system handles all the concerns. If your team didn't make it, you should have won your conference. Or taken one of the six slots if they didn't. This has the best teams, and makes the conference championships mean something.

It would work.

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