What if Division 1 college football had a "real" playoff? Well, forget worrying about how many teams should be invited or what about bowl games. Sure, it would be easy to just take the top 16 ranked teams and play them off, but where's the challenge in that? Where's the reward for finishing high in the polls? We have two real-life working models to look at. So let's take a look at what a Division 1 playoff might look like if modeled after the FCS and also if modeled after Division 2.
But for argument's sake: What about bowl games? To that I say, who cares? Guess who cared about the 2005 Fort Worth Bowl? Kansas fans and Houston fans. Nobody else. Guess who cares about this year's Cure Bowl? That's right, the fans of San Jose State and Georgia State. Nobody else.
So have all the bowl games you want. Hell, make first round playoff losers eligible for bowl games. Because who cares? The bowl system won't be impacted in the least with a larger playoff field.
For our exercises, we'll follow the basic models as they currently operate. Games will be played on campus sites of the higher seeded team, but if you wanted, I'll allow you to play the "Final Four" in a rotation of the "Big Bowls" the way they're doing it right now. We'll also give each conference champion an automatic berth. We'll also reserve the right to alter seeding a line if necessary to avoid rematches of a regular season game in the first round.
First, here are your automatic qualifiers:
|Big 10||Michigan State||3|
|MW||San Diego State||55|
Now let's dive in.
The FCS Model
FCS seeds the top 8 teams and gives them a bye into the second round. I'm honestly not sure how they fill in the rest of the bracket, so I did my own thing. I divided the 24 teams into thirds - top 8, middle 8, and lower 8. Obviously the top 8 seeds get byes. The top four seeds will play the winners of the bottom 8 matches. Make sense?
Here are the rankings:
|55||San Diego State|
So, instead of pairing off Florida State and Arkansas State, FSU gets Oklahoma State, and Arkansas State gets Baylor. Then the BU/ASU winner would play the top overall seed. This would, theoretically, give the seeded teams an "easier" game in the second round. So here's what the bracket would look like:
Download this bracket here:
No regular season rematches (that I'm aware of) occur in the first round, so no massaging of the bracket was necessary. As for the "Last Four Out," you won't be finding Navy, Utah, Tennessee, or Temple.
The Division 2 Model
D2 features a 28-team playoff. Per NCAA.com, seven teams selected per super regional make up the field of 28 teams. The top seed in each region receives a bye in week one.
This is a little more complicated, because Division 2 ranks and seeds teams regionally. For simplicity's sake, I'm not gonna do that - we'll just give the top 4 teams a bye. Here are our rankings and our seeds:
|55||San Diego State||7|
This one I set up on an S-curve. So, the top 1 seed, Clemson, is set up with the lowest-ranked 2 seed, Notre Dame, in the same region. Here's what 2015 might look like using the College Football Playoff poll released on December 6:
Download this bracket here:
If we went on a true S-curve, we would have had an Oklahoma State-Baylor rematch. That's no bueno, so Houston and Baylor, both 5-seeds, were flipped. Southern Cal, who went 8-5, would be the only team in the College Football Playoff top-25 poll that was left out due to automatic qualifiers. The next three out would probably be Wisconsin, Georgia, and one of UCLA or BYU.
Why doesn't everyone pull their heads out of their asses and make tons and tons and TONS of money off of this? The people want to give them their money, you know they do!
In my mind, there's just no good argument against a full, inclusive playoff system like the two models above. You can keep your bowl games. The mythical "integrity of the regular season" is preserved with the advantages given to the higher seeds. You could even guarantee the 10 conference champions a first round home game regardless of ranking to further incentivize the regular season.
You could build in a bye week for everyone for academic finals if you wanted too - not that the NCAA, or let's be honest, the people in charge of college football, actually care about academics. You could start the season a week earlier. You could reduce the regular season back down to 11 games. All of these are options.
Also, and I think this is important, it doesn't matter where you began the season in the polls. Never again would you have Utah destroying Alabama in a meaningless bowl game (2009 Sugar Bowl) with no chance of recognition for a national title because voters didn't think they were good enough.
So go ahead - fill out your brackets, you know you want to. Does your Final Four change? Who do you have winning it all?