This is definitely out of scope for our Mountaineers dedicated commentary, but with the FCS playoffs heating up while the FBS teams rest up for bowl games, I thought it would be interesting to consider what a 16 team playoff would look like for this season.
First question: why 16 teams? Glad you asked! The FCS teams play an 11 game regular season followed by a 20 team playoff. That equates to up to 16 games in one season for those teams. Therefore, the FBS teams, which play a 12 game regular season, could easily accommodate a 16 team playoff or the equivalent of a 16 game slate.
The second issue with a playoff lies in how you tie bowl games into the structure of the playoff itself. The current proposed playoff model for post 2014 includes 6 access bowl games that rotate to host the national semifinals and championship game. Since the model has been set with 6 bowl games, I decided to make every game in the playoff a neutral site bowl game. This way a majority of the quality bowls get involved in the playoff system and it gives the FBS playoffs a feel of the NCAA basketball tournaments.
Finally, there is a need to establish a selection criteria. In the same vein as the NCAA basketball selection process, I was determined to include all the winners of the 5 power conferences and the top ranked conference winner of the lesser 5 conferences. In each regional, I ensured that teams from the same conference did not face off in the first round of the playoffs.
Also, to keep travel costs to a minimum, I grouped the bowls into geographic regions and attempted to match teams to the nearest geographic region. Some exceptions were made (see Notre Dame) where a team was forced into a farther region due to the ranking and the order of teams slotted before them.
So to start the process of creating a playoff, I had to first decide what bowls would be utilized in the playoff structure. When I think of what would be the biggest location for the National Championship game, I imagine 80-yard long televisions bright enough to blind every spectator present. Yes, I think the Jerry Dome “Cowboys Stadium” would be the perfect site to decide the title.
For the semi-finals, I went with two of the current BCS bowls. The Rose and Sugar Bowls were selected both for their prestige as well as their geographic location, making them convenient bowls to ease some of the travel on the fans.
Finally, I organized the locations into four regional locations: the Phoenix Regional (Fiesta Bowl), Houston Regional (Texas Bowl; not a marquee bowl, but great stadium), Atlanta Regional (Chik-Fil-A Bowl), and the Miami Regional (Orange Bowl). Each of the regional bowls includes a pair of lesser bowl games prior to advancing to the regional bowl game.
Now let’s finally get to the good stuff, the match-ups themselves.
Pac-12 at large Oregon will take on Big East champion Louisville in the Holiday Bowl. The high powered Ducks offense squares off against Charlie Strong’s defensive-minded Cardinals.
Meanwhile, in the Las Vegas Bowl, Pac-12 champion Stanford takes on Big 12 at large Oklahoma. This would be a classic clash of two of the top defenses in the country and would promise to bring a ton of hard hitting action.
Notre Dame gets pushed out to the Houston Regional as opposed to the Atlanta Regional due to the greater good of travel and match-ups. The Fighting Irish get the opportunity to take on the mercurial, SEC at large, South Carolina Gamecocks in the Alamo Bowl. This game would feature at least three future top 5 overall defensive draft picks in Jadeveon Clowney, Manti Te’o, and Stephen Tuitt.
In the other half of the Houston Regional, we reunite two former conference rivals in Big 12 champion Kansas State vs SEC at large Texas A&M. The Sun Bowl would center around the battle of the Heisman trophy winning Johnny Manziel and Heisman 3rd place finisher Colin Klein. Those two would certainly put up one heck of a quarterback battle, especially on the ground.
We now turn our attention to the eastern half of the playoff bracket. What better match-up for the Music City Bowl than SEC champion Alabama vs B1G champion Wisconsin. The crowd in Nashville would be treated to a match-up of two teams that took vastly different paths to the post season. Alabama, aside from a misstep against Texas A&M, dominated their schedule while Wisconsin made the most of their B1G title game appearance (one that would have gone to Ohio State had they laid off the ink) after a wildly disappointing regular season.
On the other side of Tennessee, in the Liberty Bowl, fellow SEC west team LSU faces off against a surprising Pac-12 at large Oregon State. Both teams have had to rely on their defenses to carry them throughout the season as both offenses struggled to find consistency from one game to the next. The Liberty Bowl would shape up to be a low scoring affair.
The final regional is centered around the state of Florida. The top of the bracket features the SEC at large Florida Gators facing off against the MAC champion Northern Illinois Huskies. NIU gets into the post season as the final spot in the field of 16. They are ranked #16 in the BCS standings and are a higher rated conference champion than both the Big East and B1G champions. Too bad they will be facing the Florida Gators in the Gator Bowl, a virtual home game for UF. NIU would need a miracle to win this match-up.
On the other side of the bracket, the SEC East champion Georgia Bulldogs face-off with the ACC champion Florida State Seminoles. The Outback Bowl would be arguably the most exciting game of the first round of the playoffs. FSU’s speedy offense vs the talented Bulldogs defense would make for an exhilarating match-up. E.J. Manuel and Aaron Murray would put on quite the quarterback battle, that is, if Jarvis Jones did not lock down Manuel.
The winners of the Phoenix and Houston regionals would face-off in the Rose Bowl in the western semifinal. The Sugar Bowl serves as the eastern semifinal for the Atlanta and Miami regionals.
Looking at the match-ups, I would predict Oregon vs Texas A&M in the Rose Bowl and Alabama vs Florida in the Sugar Bowl. But I’ll ask you, the fans, how do you see these brackets working out? Let me know in the comments section below.
While I think it makes sense to have a 16 team playoff, we will have to settle for the 4 team playoff for the foreseeable future. Any playoff is better than the current BCS system in my eyes.