A Simple Play-off Proposal

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A Simple Play-off Proposal

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[break] We’re only 1 year into the College Football Playoff era, and the howling started for expansion beyond 4 even before the first games were played. I personally think 4 is the right number but without the idiocy and politicking of the selection committee. The BCS standings were perfectly fine to identify the top 4 but had become politically radioactive. The more I think about this topic, the more it becomes clear to me the best solution would be an 8-team, champions-only format. To get to that format would require some extreme changes to the game as we know it especially regarding conference realignment for competitive balance. In response, I appointed myself College Football Czar for the day and came up with a play-off proposal that I think solves the problem.

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I started with the Power 5, the D-1 independents, the Mountain West, Conference USA, and the American as the starting point. I personally don’t believe the MAC or the Sun Belt play the quality of football that its members warrant inclusion. Throw in relegation and promotion, and maybe, I could be convinced. This group yielded a group of 104 schools. To get to the magic number of 96 (12 8-team conferences), I eliminated the bottom 8 of those 104 universities based on home attendance per the NCAA’s 2013 attendance figures. The one surprise elimination was Colorado State based on those figures (they averaged about 18,600 fans per home game, so Bobo has a big challenge in front of him to generate interest in the CSU program). After winnowing down the population to the new D1, I applied an assumption to keep the regional flavor of the college game wherever possible when placing teams into conferences and then into 6-team divisions. Here’s my brave new world of D1 college football by conference and division:
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East: East Carolina, Maryland, Navy, NC State, Virginia, Virginia Tech

West: Duke, Louisville, Kentucky, North Carolina, Wake Forest, West Virginia
[break] [break] Championship Game: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte

Comment: The West is a murderers’ row … for basketball. ECU gets its annual shot at Tobacco Road. Maryland returns home to where it belongs. Some great rivalries remain and some new ones get established.
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DSC (Deep South Conference)

North: Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Tulsa, Vanderbilt

South: Louisiana Tech, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Tulane
[break] [break] Championship Game: LP Field, Nashville

Comment: Bedlam remains intact, but Oklahoma-Texas goes by the boards as an annual game (not sure Charlie Strong would oppose that). LSU would be able to play 3 conference games in state plus their home games.  I couldn’t maintain geographic integrity, but this was the best I could do.
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North: Boise State, BYU, Nebraska, Utah, Utah State, Wyoming

South: Air Force, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Kansas State, New Mexico
[break] [break] Championship Game: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver

Comment: Boise could prove itself playoff worthy in conference with the Arizona schools or Kansas State in a conference championship game. BYU rejoins a conference and would have a legitimate shot at becoming a playoff team.  Based on depth, this conference is clearly the weakest sister of the bunch.
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NCC (Northern Central Conference)

East: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue

West: Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin
[break] [break] Championship Game: Ford Field, Detroit

Comment: Yes, I know this breaks up Michigan-Ohio State, but I’m like Lewis Grizzard once said, “It reminded me of 2 mules fighting over a turnip. Who cares?” It keeps a lot of the classic northern state rivalries, and it would bring back Kansas-Missouri, which I understand is an absolute hate-fest.
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NEC (Northeastern Conference)

North: Boston College, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Temple

South: Army, Cincinnati, Marshall, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers
[break] [break] Championship Game: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

Comment: Notre Dame and Ohio State – the ultimate meteor game to me (other than Auburn-Florida). Pitt and Penn State become annual rivals again. BC and Notre Dame play in the annual Catholic bowl.  One could clearly make the case this is the NOP Conference with Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Penn State.
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North: California, Oregon State, Oregon, Stanford, Washington, Washington State

South: Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, San Diego State, UCLA, USC
[break] [break] Championship Game: Levi’s Stadium, San Francisco

Comment: The North stays as it is now. The Battle for Los Angeles pretty much is the South title game at the end of the year. Fresno gets a bump in recruiting with guaranteed annual trips to a mix of Honolulu, Reno, San Diego, and Los Angeles.
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SEC (what everyone here has waited for)

East: Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Miami, South Carolina, Tennessee

West: Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia Tech, UCF, South Florida
[break] [break] Championship Game: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

Comment: It’s still the best even after it’s realigned with great rivalries in the East (the Cocktail Party, UF/Miami, Clemson/USCe, UGA/Clemson, UGA/USCe, and UGA/UT. The West keeps the Iron Bowl, reintroduces some traditional rivalries (Bama and Auburn vs. tech), and creates some potential monster match-ups with FSU.  This configuration also saves the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry and the 3rd Saturday in October.
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SWC (Southwest Conference)

North: Arkansas, North Texas, SMU, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech

South: Baylor, Houston, Rice, Texas A&M, UTEP, UT-San Antonio (although they could be out to replace with someone else)
[break] [break] Championship Game: Reliant Stadium, Houston

Comment: The gang is back together. How long could they stay together with all of the cheating that would occur? Texas-Arkansas and Texas-Texas A&M become the big rivalries again. This conference would look like fun.
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Playoff Format


Final 8

To preserve the regional flavor of the game and to make travel manageable for the fans of the teams, I selected a neutral field within the two conferences’ footprint for standing conference matchups.  These games would produce a buzz that would last throughout the year and take the bias of a seeding committee and rankings out of the process.

ACC vs. SEC – Georgia Dome, Atlanta

DSC vs. SWC – Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

NCC vs. NEC – Lucas Oil Field, Indianapolis

MWC vs. Pac12 – Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego


Bowl selections occur on the Sunday after the Final 8 with the 4 losing teams guaranteed slots in the New Year’s 6 that don’t host semifinals (Cotton, Chick-fil-a, Fiesta, Orange).


Final 4 (New Year’s Day)

Sugar Bowl (Eastern Championship): ACC/SEC vs. NCC/NEC – Superdome, New Orleans – it would rotate among Atlanta, Miami and New Orleans

Rose Bowl (Western Championship): DSC/SWC vs. MWC/Pac12 – Rose Bowl, Pasadena – it would rotate among Dallas, Pasadena and Phoenix


Championship Game

As it is today, the CFP would put the championship game out to bid to the city with the highest and best bid as a host regardless of their affiliation with any conference or bowl game.

East vs. West – AT&T Stadium, Arlington


Standing Rules:

The 96 schools do not play anyone outside of the new D1, so OOC scheduling doesn’t hurt or help your standing for the playoff

Mandatory 8 game conference format – 5 division + 1 permanent cross-over + 2 rotating cross-over

Central officiating authority similar to the NFL’s format to prevent bias and keep the conference offices from controlling crew assignments



I think it works but would never be implemented because too many conflicting interests would never allow it to happen. Most obviously, the business model for the SEC Network and the Big 10 Network would blow up in this scenario. Notre Dame would have to give up its exclusive TV contract to become affiliated with a conference. Some universities would lose traditional rivalries in the name of competitive balance. The relevance of the polls would disappear overnight. Many think this is simple, but college football at the highest level is far from simple.
[break] When does spring practice start again?
[break] That’s what I think. I would appreciate your thoughts in the comments below.

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The University of Georgia 1991-1994. Lanier Tech 2009-2012. Writer and graphic artist covering UGA athletics, college football, and recruiting. Peach cobbler fears me!