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Rethinking the College Football Playoffs

Photo by Kevin Jairaj, USA Today Sports

By Jeremy Dennis @menace524

The draft is over and the start of any substantial football is still months away. Yes, we have reached the dead period for football. While the countdown until the regular season starts, let’s discuss a topic that chafes the hindquarters of fans from Athens, GA to Los Angeles, CA.

The methods for the NCAA to find a champion have been much maligned. It started when everyone just played in random bowl games and the AP would seem to draw champions out of a hat to the BCS, which didn’t seem to make any sense to anyone, to the current 4-team playoff format. However, while the current iteration seems to get a lot closer to really defining a champion, it still has its faults:

  • A team that didn’t even win its own division can make the playoff (Alabama)

  • All conferences are not represented

  • Naturally, teams ranked #5 and #6 feel left out (last year was a great example with Georgia and Ohio State - as a personal aside, a team with two losses who had Alabama on the ropes should not be in nor should a team whose only loss was to Purdue which got boat-raced in a middling bowl against a middling SEC team)

  • All teams are still at the mercy of some sort of committee/computer ranking/AP poll conglomeration that picks teams.

  • Significant variations in the strength of schedule based on out-of-conference opponents.

Well, in the land of milk and honey, I am here to present to you a real college football playoff that should address all of these issues. Before I begin, let me be clear that this is a fluff piece about an idea, and I understand that this is a pipe dream because:

  • There is no way that any college president would sign off on this

  • The current playoff is under contract for several more years

  • The bowl people would never want their system to be turned on its head

  • Some of the ideas here are radical and could cost some of the lesser FBS teams a ton of money if they had a stinker of a season.

  • Now that each conference has its own TV network, they are not going to let something like this happen.

But, if there were a time for much of major college football to break-off from the NCAA and form their own thing…

I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin…



I believe that the European soccer leagues have some good ideas. Therefore, I am totally going to poach some of them in this piece. Let’s focus on the FBS league (or the Premier League, if you will) and the FCS league. This new organization will have 96 teams in both the FBS and FCS. I am sure that we can keep this number for lower leagues down the line to represent Division II and III, but let’s focus on FBS and FCS. There will be six 16-team leagues for each, representing regions of the country. I don’t know about you, but this current crap where Rutgers and Maryland are in the BIG 10, Nebraska is not in the BIG 12 and Missouri is in the Southeastern Conference really doesn’t make any sense. There is also the problem of the conferences having different numbers of teams, and of course the Lesser 5 conferences that are lucky if they get one team in a big bowl game. So, these conferences will be based on location and will try to absorb as many relevant schools as possible. While the number will be set in stone, the participants may not be. But more on that later.

Here is a look at what something like this would look like. Before anyone gets all wound up because a team is not represented, this is just spitballing. It is understood that other options could look totally different:

Of course, the FCS league will look the same with the remaining current FBS schools as well as the homecoming sacrificial lamblike Elon and Winthrop. However, the focus on the rest of the piece will be for the upper tier league.


I have no idea why the ESPN powers that be decided that the group of games that are played before the opening weekend is designated as “Week Zero.” Couldn’t this just be Week One? Let’s now refer to “Week Zero” as the preseason. Look, I think that we can all agree that Northwestern versus Chicago State is about as exciting as watching a middle-aged man learn a new computer language (not that I would know). But let’s be honest, these games do serve some purpose. The starters are usually done by halftime and a lot of bench players get much-needed game experience. It allows fans who can’t (or won’t) spring for $100+ tickets to watch their team play. Finally, the smaller schools get that payout they need for their athletic programs.

So, how about this for a radical idea: Make every team in the FBS play a school from a lower division? The kicker is that all of the games will be played in Week Zero (the preseason) and the results do not count against a team’s record. So, just in case, say Kansas State loses to North Dakota State. Instead of being an official loss, it is merely a learning experience.


Each conference will be laid out like a soccer table, being divided up into four sections called quartiles. This will become more evident in the following sections. Here is an example using the Lower East Region using their records in 2018:

We will get into reasons for the quartiles in the coming sections Oh and relax, I fully understand that in the real world, Georgia Southern and Florida International would not be in the top-4. Serenity now...


Each team will play nine conference games (we might need to call a WAmbulance for the ACC and SEC) and three non-conference games. Eight of these games will be scheduled before the season starts, and the final conference game will be held during the regular season’s final week. The scheduled conference games could follow a system like the ones that conferences do follow currently where they try to mix up some of the match-ups.

The non-conference schedule will be chosen before the start of the new season based on the results of the previous year. Each team will play two teams from a different FBS conference which is in the same quartile that they are. The final non-conference game will cover any inter-conference rivalry games and other possible contractual interconference games.


This is where the fun begins! The ninth conference game will be determined based on how the standings stack up. In the Lower East Region, the final week’s schedule will be as follows (seeds in parentheses):

Florida International (4) at Clemson (1)

North Carolina State (3) at Georgia Southern (2)

Wake Forest (8) at Duke (5)

Georgia Tech (7) at Virginia (6)

Florida Atlantic (12) at Miami (FL) (9)

Florida State (11) at Virginia Tech (10)

Louisville (16) at East Carolina (13)

North Carolina (15) at Western Kentucky (14)

The first two games are play-in games for the postseason, with the winners playing in the conference championship the following week. The next four games on the slate will be used for bowl slotting and seeding for next year’s schedule. Then there are the last two games…


It is my opinion that this is one of the best ideas in sports. Does your team suck? Then you will be banished! In this example, the losers of the Louisville-East Carolina and North Carolina-Western Kentucky games get demoted to the FCS Conference and teams in the FCS Conference Championship games get bumped up. This helps when you have teams no one wants to see like Georgia State and replace them with teams that have been known to upset an FBS team like North Dakota State or Jacksonville State. It would be really wild if Louisville and North Carolina got demoted, huh? The games would actually be more interesting to watch because of what is on the line for the next year.


Conference Championships

The winners of the 1-4 seeded in the final week of the regular season games play in the conference championship. This prevents stinkers like that Clemson-Pittsburgh game last year. We know that the top teams will be playing against each other and not have division-based games that have been laughers at times.

Bowl Games

All of the lower bowls should be intact, although there will be fewer teams so there will be fewer games. Can we all agree that crap games like the Jim’s RV Park Bowl in Walla Walla, Washington featuring Louisiana-Monroe and Tulane could and should be easily eliminated? Unless, of course, you are a degenerate gambler (not that I would know). Maybe have them host some FCS bowl games? Conference tie-ins can still be available. The Rose Bowl Game would still be intact as well as some of the current New Year’s Day Bowls. It will also be easier to pick since the conferences will already be seeded for game choices.

College Football Playoff

The winners of the six conference championships then go to the College Football Playoff. All teams are re-seeded based on records and tie-breakers. The current bowl game format for the New Year’s Six can then be used. Using the 2018 records here would be the line-up for the bowl games:

Peach Bowl - Army (6) vs Oklahoma (3)

Fiesta Bowl - Fresno State (5) vs Ohio State (4)

Byes: Alabama (1), Clemson (2)

Assuming that all of the high seeds win, the semifinals look like this:

Cotton Bowl - Alabama (1) vs Ohio State (4)

Orange Bowl - Clemson (2) vs Oklahoma (3)

I think we agree that the Championship Game would be what it was in 2018, so:

National Championship Game - Alabama (1) vs Clemson (2)

So, how did we do? The strength of schedule is at least tightened up a little bit because FCS games are eliminated from consideration, even though all teams will play one. The conference set-up is tidied up as we move away from the divisional play. Not only would this eliminate teams that did not win their division to be allowed to play for a national title, but it also eliminates conference championship games like Florida State-Duke in 2013 where the best two teams in the conference didn’t play each other for the title. Finally, there is no mention of a committee, computer, ranking, rating or other measuring devices in order to pick participants for a playoff. Win and you’re in, baby!

Well, back to reality… The NCAA corruption machine still exists and their committee of muckety-mucks who get to tell us who are the best four teams in the country. At least the college football preview magazines come out soon!

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