I'm sure any fan of a dominant "Power 5" football school just cringed in disgust at that headline. But I am also guessing anyone that is a fan of a Group of 5, FCS football, March Madness, or College World Series is intrigued. Why is the top level of the most popular collegiate sport the only one where we think it is acceptable to accept less than 4% of the entire field (4 out of 130 Division 1 FBS teams) into the playoff system? Yes I am aware it will never happen, but let's put aside our conference and team elitism for a moment and pretend, shall we? What if we combined all of the fun of "Cinderellas" that are in March Madness with the most prestigious sport in college?
Let's just go ahead and knock these out so we can have fun.
"It will make too many games!"
Yes, going to an 11 game schedule would be ideal. However, North Dakota St has played in at least 14 games a year since 2010 in FCS and I haven't heard any complaints.
"It will make the regular season worthless!"
No it won't, you're still having to play your way into the bracket and even within the bracket there are home field advantages and byes to play for.
“It will destroy the traditional bowls!”
Hold on, it won’t destroy them...just change them a bit.
Before we unveil the bracket, let's dissect the logic that goes into making it. The way FCS defines their tournament is:
Starting with a field of 24 teams, 10 automatically qualify as conference champions, and 14 others are selected on an at-large basis by the Division I Football Championship Committee. In this single-elimination style tournament, the top eight teams earn first-round byes.
Matchups are decided based on geographical proximity, with a special focus on conference opponents not facing off in the first and second rounds of the tournament (except for teams from the same conference that did not play against each other during the regular season).
We will only deviate from that slightly in that the "Power 5" conference champions will automatically receive first round byes and a home field advantage regardless of if they are in the top 8 of rankings or not. The “Group of 5” champions will receive an automatic bid but not necessarily a home field advantage. And yes, I gave UCF a first round bye even though technically by the CFP rankings I used they would have been bumped...sue me, they earned it in this pretend scenario.
* indicates a conference champion
The First and Second Round
The first round is played at the campus sites of the next 8 ranked teams below the Power 5 conference champions and the 3 At Large teams that received first round byes. As stated earlier, the focus is teams that haven’t played already with an emphasis on geography. Obviously there was some seeding logic, but renewing geographic rivalries when possible also plays a part (see Texas-Texas A&M and Penn St-Syracuse).
Then, the winner of the first round game will be traveling to a first round bye campus site. You will notice Kentucky is in Alabama’s bracket, making 2 conference teams in a pod, but they never played in SEC play.
Quarterfinal, Semifinal, and Championship
Okay now this is where the FBS will start throwing it’s money around a bit. In the FCS tournament, every game up to the championship is played at a campus site of the higher seed team. You didn’t think we’d kill all the traditional big name bowls though did you?
In this scenario, we are still going to have a six bowl rotation, it will just start in the quarterfinals of the tournament with the higher seed in the matchup getting to pick which of the four bowls it would like to play in. For example, if Alabama (the number 1 seed) won their game against the winner of Utah and Kentucky, they would have the first pick of sites for their next game between this year’s bowls: Peach, Sugar, Fiesta, and Rose. If they chose Peach (the geographic closest) Clemson would be left to pick between Sugar, Fiesta, and Rose. This logic continues to the Semifinal game as well. The Championship game will be in a different stadium every year, just like now.
Again, I am perfectly aware this will never happen and if it did we are decades away from it with current TV deals. It is fun to imagine though, right? Imagine all the office pools of College Football brackets, with Gary in accounting pulling ahead for picking the UAB over Florida upset! And something tells me the “should Syracuse get in over Northwestern” argument wouldn’t be near as intense as the “should Oklahoma be in over Ohio St and UCF” argument.