The College Football Playoff system was supposed to come in and save college football from controversy. Four teams, one champion. That is all well and good, but almost immediately after the system was announced, approved and implemented people started seeing the flaws.
The cry for the four-team playoff to turn into an eight-team playoff started rising early in the 2014 season. People saw the strong SEC and the potential 3 teams from that conference making a bid. TCU and Baylor not having a conference championship but only one loss between them, the Pac 12 and Big 10 having strong years, all of this made people think there could be 8 teams good enough to vie for the title.
The way to eight, for most college football analysts and fans, seems to rely on the five power conferences (SEC, Pac 12, Big 10, Big 12 and ACC) all getting their conference champion in. Then three wild cards from all of college football would round out the field. My guess would be that the three teams who won their conference and had the best record would play the three wild card teams, the other two conference winners would play each other. Then they would battle it down until one champion was crowned.
Two questions for me there. How are the three wild card teams determined? A panel, like we currently have, where 12 people try to decide who the best four teams in the country are, but instead they are deciding who the three best non-conference winners are? In this situation you can’t just look at the record. It would have to be a ranking system. Second question: How do you just not put in three teams that just lost their conference championship? Imagine a 10-2 Mississippi State makes it as a wild card, but 10-3 Wisconsin doesn’t despite just losing to Ohio State. People would be outraged at the injustice and the “SEC Bias” in college football.
The eight-team system would cause as much issue as the current four-team system. Because the two team system didn’t work, a four-team system obviously isn’t going to work and an eight team system would still cause more issues on who gets those three wild card spots. There is only one answer. Create an entirely new system; a playoff system that doesn’t rely on polls, but instead relies on how you played your competition. A system that completely re-works college football without losing everything this country loves about it.
Take the 127 Division I teams (yes let’s call it what it is Division I not FBS because the Bowl System is being blown up too, kind of) add one Div II team (to replace UAB) and reorganized them, rescheduled them, and create a playoff system that really does find the best eight teams in the country to play for a true National Champion. Because in the end, isn’t it about having a ‘True National Champion?’ An ability to say here is the best team in the country, give them the trophy. (This has nothing to do with the other sports. The conferences for basketball can do whatever they want. They can align them to this or not. It doesn’t matter. This is just for football.)
The first move that had to happen is to reorganize the conferences into eight 16 team conferences. This is something that college football had been flying towards 4 years ago, but recently it’s slowed down with everyone stopping at 14 teams (SEC, ACC, Big Ten) as the max. Some have 12 (Pac 12) some of 10 (Big 12), but the names didn’t change for some reason. (Just because you spell out your numeral doesn’t mean you can just keep as many teams as you want in the conference without changing the name! I don’t even know what to say to the Big 12.)
There are now eight 16 team conferences. The eight conferences are split into four tiers. Each tier has two conferences, a Top Tier conference, and a 2nd Tier conference. The Top Tier and the 2nd tier are tied to each other. They will play each other every year and they will be locked together for the first three rounds of the playoffs.
In each of the 16 team conferences, there are four divisions of four teams. That shouldn’t look all too unfamiliar, it exactly like the NFL. Each division is regionally placed as best as possible (There are 128 teams in college football and a large number of them are east of the Mississippi, so some liberties had to be made.) Here is a look at each tier, their conferences, and divisions (records next to teams are 2014 records through 12/1/14):
Florida schools all end up in the SEC along with Clemson, and Georgia Tech. The South (Really wanted to call it the “Swamp”) (2nd Tier) contains a lot of the smaller Southern schools in the country but will see great regional rivalries every single year along with solid football programs in each division. Tulane filled where UAB was, but UAB no longer plays football. So they are out.
Formally the Big Ten, I am sure they can make the ‘6’ look like a ‘G’ and get creative with it for their logo and hold onto their “Big Ten” image, but no longer will they be called the Big Ten! New to the conference: Notre Dame (finally), Iowa State, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh. 2nd Tier “North” has some strong teams in it as well with the directional Michigan schools, Army, Navy and the Ohio schools.
The Big 12 becomes the Big South and sees some original Big 12 teams come back (Nebraska & Texas A&M) as well as adding an entire division from North Carolina and Kansas, Virginia and Virginia Tech. This conference probably has the biggest shake-up. The American (Tier 2) conference has some really strong teams, including 11-1 Marshall and 9-3 Louisville.
The Pac drops the number. They are just the Pac. It works. It sounds cool. Let it happen. BYU comes in off Independent status; Fresno State, Boise State, and Colorado State also join the fray. The Pac is pretty easy to organize because it’s like every state in the west has two schools (California a lot more, obviously) so you just place them in another division with the state next to them and boom. Divisions. The West is made up of all those other schools out west and some from Oklahoma and Texas. They are west enough. It fits. North Dakota St. also makes the jump into the Div I ranks after dominating Div II for a while, taking the place of UAB, who just ended their football program and not forcing Tulane into the West.
The division allows for most of the natural rivals to keep playing every year. You don’t lose the Iron Bowl, The Egg Bowl, The Game and you get back Texas vs. Texas A&M.
The new Tiers, Conferences, and Divisions call for a new scheduling system. No more playing Div II schools twice a year. No more 15 years out scheduling home and homes with your old coaching buddy. The new way is systematic. Allows everyone to play 12 games a year (why do some teams still get away with playing 11 and are still considered for the College Football Playoff? It makes no sense). Each team will get two bye weeks. The season starts the last week of August and ends the last week of November (give or take a couple days because, leap year).
Each team would play five games against teams in the opposite tier and seven games against teams in their same tier. The breakdown of the 14-week season would go like this.
- Three games against your division
- Three games against you equal place in the other three divisions in your conference (i.e. 2014 1st place in your division, plays 2014 1st place in each other division in 2015 season)
- Four games against your division equal in all division in the other tier (i.e. 1st place in 2nd tier division in 2014 plays 2014 1st place in all four Top Tier divisions in 2015 season.)
- One game against a cross conference equal. (i.e. 2014 5th place in the SEC in plays 2014 5th place in the BIG in 2015 season) Note: The Cross Conference schedules will go for two years to give each conference a home game when playing the other conference. (i.e. 2015 SEC Plays BIG at home. 2016 SEC Plays Big on the road.)
- One Game against a cross-conference cross-tier equal (i.e. 2014 3rd place in the Pac in plays 2014 3rd place in the American in 2015 season.)
- Two bye weeks.
Here is a spreadsheet of the basics of the schedule and how they would work out. (Key at the bottom).
All teams would finish the season with a division game. It just is more fun that way. In the division games, the teams alternate home and away each year. If a team gets two home games in your division one year, the next year they play one division home game.
The new scheduling system creates some really big and interesting matchups in the cross conference games. There might not be Notre Dame vs. USC every year, but there would be a lot more Alabama vs. Ohio State or Oregon vs. Florida St. and that is really exciting.
The other thing this does is give everyone a clear cut schedule that is more equal across the board. Yes, some years a second place team is going to get some easier second place opponents. But this is better than Alabama scheduling Western Presbyterian of South Alabama A&T State every year.
After all that change with the conferences and the schedules, the new playoffs system emerges. Technically most will look at it as a 36 team playoff. Going from four teams to nine times that many seems pretty drastic. But sometimes it’s good to be drastic. (I would argue that it really is an eight team playoff with tier tournaments leading up to it.) The two best teams from each tier play in the final eight for a chance at the National Championship.
Here are the playoffs:
Each Tier has eight division winners. They are ranked based on the overall record from one to eight. If there are two teams that have the same record that win their division then head to head will go in as the tiebreaker, if they didn’t play we’ll look at the strength of schedule to rank the teams. The eighth best division winner has to play a playoff game against the best team that didn’t win a division based on the record from the top tier conference in that tier (Wild Card). Ties will go through the same process; head to head then the strength of schedule to determine who is in the first round of the playoffs.
Eight teams, four games, kick off the playoffs the first week of December (2014 would be December 6th). The Division winner hosts the Wild Card Winner. Sponsors can be attached to each game just like the Bowl games. (We don’t want the NCAA to go losing a whole bunch of sponsor money from the bowl games, and we’re pretty sure more people are going to watch the Raycom Media Playoff Game than the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.)
The winner of the first round game moves on to play the number top division winner the next week. The other division winners’ play in a standard playoff system where the second-ranked division winner plays the seventh-ranked, third plays sixth and fourth plays fifth. The higher ranked team hosts the second round game. (Sponsors, of course, welcome) Winners go on to face the winner from the other half of their bracket in the third round.
The third round is moved to neutral site fields. Region specific, and of course sponsored. The winners of round three games get a much needed week off before heading into the last eight.
The last eight teams will play after a bye week (this season the games would be played on Jan 3rd. Yes, this is the same day as the wild card round of the NFL. But are we really going to complain about there being six meaningful football games on, on the same day?). The third round is re-seeded based on overall record during the season. Tie-breakers are head to head, then record against common opponents and then the strength of schedule. Once the eight teams 1-8 they will play in one of four bowl games that rotate between the Fiesta Bowl, Cotton Bowl, a new bowl held in Chicago and a new bowl held in Washington D.C.
The winners of round three will be re-seeded again for the games in the fourth round. Fourth round and the National Championship will be rotated between the Sugar, Orange and Rose Bowls. There is a bye week between the Fourth Round and the National Championship. Two reasons on that:
- One, so that the teams can take some time, rest, travel, and fans can plan their travel.
- Two, so that the National Championship falls on the week between the NFL Conference Championships and the Super Bowl.
Yes. The entire month of January is now packed full of meaningful playoff football. Both NFL and College. Rejoice.
Here is how the playoff bracket would look if the teams were placed by their 2014 records (and calm down, I know records would be totally different because of schedule changes and how the teams would match up in their new conferences. I’m creating an entirely new college football; you have to work with me just a little bit.)
I know there are going to be some issues with this idea.
- The regular season doesn’t matter like it used to.
- Well, the regular season is how you make the post season, so that seems like a ridiculous statement.
- It’s too many teams in the playoff.
- It’s 28% of college football in the 36 team playoff. NFL 37% of the league makes it. NBA and NHL 53% make the playoffs. MLB 33% of the teams make the playoffs. So college football would be the lowest percentage making the playoffs.
- It will never happen.
- Probably, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have the conversation.
This is the end game. This is where college football should go. It’s a popular sport. A sport that brings new fans in for every single year needs a real playoff system. This is the best way to make a playoff that doesn’t rely on committees or rankings; it relies only on what the teams do on the field.
Take this apart, improve it, dismantle it and rebuild it. In the end, this is just an idea. A look at how to make something that is really fun even more entertaining. Also, it would make the NCAA a boat-load of money, and this is America. We love money.
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