A few months ago, I wrote up my proposal for college football’s highest level, the FBS, to institute a 24 team playoff that all but mimics the 24 team tournament used by the FCS.
I’m going to let that linked article above serve as my official explanation, so I do encourage you to read it again to refresh your memory on the details, or for those new readers, to learn about the proposal I put forward. But a very brief summary of it would read like this: every single sport at every single level other than Division I FBS football has an extensive tournament to determine its champion, and this is my effort to bring the FBS up to speed with a playoff system that would simultaneously give everybody who, if the sport were anything other than football, would have a shot to play for the national championship while crafting it in a way that significantly rewards the higher seeds in order to keep the regular season relevant.
So, with that in mind, here’s the 2018 edition of my playoff.
As usual, ten slots were rewarded to the ten FBS conference champions. Those four conference champions ranked outside the top 24 received six seeds in their respective regions. Fourteen other slots went to at-large teams, and the final regular season College Football Playoff rankings were used to decide teams’ seedings, minus the six seeds (the #1 seeds finished ranked between 1-4, the 2 seeds between 5-8, 3 seeds between 9-12, and so on).
The selections of the bowl locations will come later, but the first piece of the puzzle to come together are the creations of those four Regions. And the first step of that is to identify the top four teams, and rule out teams from their conferences that they played in the regular season and thus cannot be placed into their regions. (Non conference rematches could occur.)
Region 1: (1)Alabama (Georgia, Mississippi State, LSU and Texas A&M cannot be placed in this region)
Region 2: (2)Clemson (Syracuse cannot be placed in this region)
Region 3: (3)Notre Dame (Syracuse cannot be placed in this Region)
Region 4: (4)Oklahoma (West Virginia and Texas cannot be placed here)
The next task is to pair the 1 seeds with 2 seeds taking both geography and the level of intrigue the potential regional semifinal would create. Though the #1 seeds will get to choose the location of a potential Regional final matchup- and keyword “will,” as they haven’t done it yet- the idea is to pair the #1 seeds with #2 seeds at least somewhat close to them so that the home field advantage isn’t egregious.
So here’s how the 1-2 pairings would go:
Region 1: (1)Alabama paired with (2)Central Florida. The Knights have been clamoring for a shot at the Crimson Tide for over a year now, and the two schools are fairly close. Plus, as the #1 overall seed, it bracketologically makes sense for the Tide to face the #8 team in the quarterfinals.
Region 2: (1)Clemson paired with (2)Georgia. A classic rivalry between two schools barely an hour’s drive from each other would be renewed, likely somewhere extremely close to both campuses.
Region 3: (1)Notre Dame paired with (2)Ohio State. These traditional powerhouses are located so close to each other, and yet they’ve only played six times. Let’s make it seven.
Region 4: (1)Oklahoma paired with (2)Michigan. Two of the sport’s winningest programs potentially facing for a spot in the Final Four? Hell yes.
Keeping in mind that each of these teams will get first round byes, it’s time to select the rest of the at large teams to their brackets. Beyond this point, teams that faced off in the regular season from the same conference could be placed in the same region, with a caveat. The idea is to do everything possible to avoid regular season rematches, and the chances of this are minimized if teams fall on different dimensions of the S-curve. For example, it’s theoretically possible that a #3 seed could face a #5 seed in the Regional final, but a lot of wacky stuff would have to happen first, whereas #4 seeds and #5 seeds naturally play in the first round. So in other words, setting up potential rematches is acceptable as long as they’re clear long shots to happen.
Region 1 of (1)Alabama and (2)Central Florida adds (3)Florida, (4)Washington State, (5)Syracuse and (6)Alabama-Birmingham. The high likelihood of a Sunshine State championship game in the Gators’ second game and the Knights’ first is just one example of the sort of financial bonanza this playoff would bring. First, though, Florida gets to warm up with a UAB team they hammered 36-7 last season- their prize as a #3 seed rather than a #4. Syracuse and WSU are unfamiliar with each other, which is cool, but it’s a rare opportunity to see two schools from opposite coasts clash. All the while, there’s enough geographic diversity for Alabama to maintain the home field advantage it deserves throughout the Region, with the opportunity to either add another SEC win to its resume or finally silence the self-proclaimed national champions of 2017.
Region 2 of (1)Clemson and (2)Georgia adds (3)Penn State, (4)West Virginia, (5)Mississippi State and (6)Appalachian State. Mississippi State is the only team from outside the Eastern time zone, no nobody will have to travel too far for this Region. Still, there plenty of matchups to get excited about: Georgia-Penn State would be a rematch from a classic Sugar Bowl long ago, West Virginia-Mississippi State is another SEC-Big 12 battle, Will Grier and Trevor Lawrence could do battle in the Round of 16, and even Appalachian State getting another shot to pull a stunner over a Big 10 team would draw attention. Also, think about this: for as much as Dabo Swinney openly hates the SEC, his Tigers could potentially face four SEC opponents en route to a national title.
Region 3 of (1)Notre Dame and (2)Ohio State adds (3)LSU, (4)Texas, (5)Texas A&M and (6)Fresno State. The first thing anybody had to notice was the revival of the Lone Star Showdown- come on, with Texas as a #4 seed and Texas A&M as a #5 seed, how could I not do that?- but that barely scratches the surface of the excitement this Region brings. Among the possible matchups: the Buckeyes and Tigers fighting a rematch of the 2007 national championship game, Round III of Notre Dame and Texas, rematches of BCS Bowls this century between Notre Dame-LSU or Ohio State and Texas for the Regional final, and if things really get weird, that Regional final could be a rematch of the seven overtime classic on Thanksgiving weekend between LSU and Texas A&M.
Region 4 of (1)Oklahoma and (2)Michigan adds (3)Washington, (4)Kentucky, (5)Utah and (6)Northern Illinois. Admittedly, this is the least exciting of the four regions, but there are still some interesting games that could result from it. If the Wildcats took care of Utah, they’d set up a Sweet 16 game with the Sooners- a rematch of the 1951 Sugar Bowl that led to Kentucky’s sole claimed national championship. And with two of the three teams from the Pac-12 to make the playoff in this region, it’s the West Coast’s best shot to earn some respect. Not to mention the possible Regional final between two of the sport’s most storied programs.
The final piece of this playoff puzzle is the locations of the games- and the advantages each team has.
#1: Alabama. The Crimson Tide ended the regular season ranked at the top, so they get to choose their location all the way up to the national championship game. First up: the Birmingham Bowl. Because it’s right there and it’s the de facto home game they deserve (Note to the city of Birmingham, fix that stadium ASAP). Of the four Regional final sites- New Orleans’ Sugar Bowl, Atlanta’s Peach Bowl, Pasadena’s Rose Bowl and Glendale’s Fiesta Bowl- Alabama would likely pick the Sugar Bowl. The Peach is slightly closer, but Alabama has more history in the Sugar Bowl, and when you look at who the Tide would likely play- either Florida or UCF- playing that game in Atlanta could reduce the fan advantage they’d have. And as the #1 overall, Alabama gets a special advantage that nobody else gets- picking their semifinal location. Logic suggests Bama would select the Orange Bowl for the national semifinal in order to avoid the potential road game of facing Oklahoma in Dallas, so that’s where I put them.
(2)Clemson. Alabama has made its selections, but they haven’t really spoiled the 2nd ranked Tigers’ ideas. Clemson would select Charlotte’s Belk Bowl for its first round game, a two hour drive, and then Atlanta’s Peach Bowl for its Regional final regardless. However, as a result of being the #2 ranked team, as opposed to #1 overall, Clemson is stuck going to north Texas for its national semifinal game should it get that far, as opposed to Miami.
(3)Notre Dame. Brian Kelly’s club doesn’t really have a say in where it goes for its Regional final, as with the Sugar and Peach Bowls taken off the board, both of its choices are way out west. They’d take the slightly closer one, the Fiesta Bowl. But they do have a choice for its first round game, and they’d take the Liberty Bowl- moved to Indianapolis for this playoff because the stadium in Memphis falls below the 65,000 seat minimum required for this proposal.
(4)Oklahoma. The Sooners are stuck with what’s left for its Regional final game, and they’ll have to head out west for the Rose Bowl. The good news: there are still plenty of nearby locations to pick from for its first round game. Oklahoma selects nearby Dallas (the Cotton Bowl stadium, not Jerry’s World) for the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
From here on out (or really, from (4)Oklahoma on out), everybody only gets to select one game, going in descending order. The picks would go as follows:
(5)Georgia selects Jacksonville’s Gator Bowl, a five hour drive. Ideally, the Bulldogs would want Charlotte, but Clemson already took that.
(6)Ohio State selects Detroit’s Motor City Bowl, a three hour drive. This would be their first pick regardless.
(7)Michigan selects Minneapolis’ Quick Lane Bowl, nine hours away by car from Ann Arbor, and moved out of Detroit to make room for another northern bowl for Big Ten teams. The Wolverines are closer geographically to the Military Bowl in Landover, MD, but would probably like to play indoors since they have the choice. Notice that they’re in this quandary as a result of their head to head loss to Ohio State, who picked one spot before them.
(8)Central Florida selects Orlando’s Citrus Bowl. Home sweet home. Although if Florida beats UAB in its first round as we would all expect, it won’t feel much like it.
(9)Washington doesn’t really have too many great choices since they’re so far away from any bowl game, but they’ll take the closest one, the Emerald Bowl in Santa Clara.
(10)Florida selects Tampa’s Outback Bowl, possibly the most lopsided home field advantage anybody would have in its first round game other than Alabama in Birmingham.
(11)LSU selects Houston’s Texas Bowl, a four hour drive. This would probably be the Tigers’ first pick regardless.
(12)Penn State selects Washington, DC’s (technically Landover, MD’s) Military Bowl. Enjoy the cold.
(13)Washington State selects Los Angeles’s Sun Bowl, moved from the puny field in El Paso to USC’s Coliseum. It’s not that close to Wazzu, but at least it’s in their time zone.
(14)Kentucky selects Nashville’s Music City Bowl. And they’re lucky to do so, because this playoff won’t often shake out in a way that grants the 14th ranked team its first pick.
(15)Texas selects San Antonio’s Alamo Bowl, as it’s either that or San Diego.
And (16)West Virginia is stuck with San Diego’s Holiday Bowl. Sorry, Mountaineers, but you’re screwed. Should’ve finished higher, and maybe you could’ve grabbed the Military Bowl in Landover or the Music City Bowl in Nashville.
And this is how I propose college football could conclude its season. For those of you who disagree, I would again redirect you to my full explanation of why I want such a system. And for those of you who like this, and want this system implemented, take both this article and the one linked above, and spread it to all corners of the internet.
It’s in your hands now, for a college football season to be decided like this.