What The FBS Is Missing: A Thirty-Two Team Playoff

It’s amazing to me the amount of news that people don’t hear on a daily basis. I mean- I get it. Everybody has their forte, so to speak. For some its politics; for others, cooking or community events; and still others, sports. And even within every news source there is definitely a commercial appeal- many news companies report what sells. This, of course, takes many forms- mostly in the form of opinions.
Leading up to bowl season, let’s review what we have heard. First, the College Football Playoff (if we can even call it a true playoff). Second, there’s the few athletes trying to protect their potential professional careers by sitting out bowl games or even a whole team threatening to sit out a bowl game for their teammates (I could write a whole article on these alone). Third, there’s the repeated scandals that nobody lets go (Wakey-Leaks and the Baylor scandal). But here’s one you probably haven’t heard: the FCS Championship Playoff and all the drama surrounding it.
Let’s lead into it. First, the FCS had 24 teams involved in the playoff. Within that playoff you had North Dakota State pursuing their sixth straight national title. You had a James Madison team that fought hard through a tough conference schedule in the CAA. Two teams in Eastern Washington in recent history and Youngstown State in later times that have had powerful influence in FCS with 5 titles between them (YSU having 4 and EWU having 1). The ever-powerful Jacksonville State with its long and proud history seeking their first FCS title ranked number 2. The same goes for the Citadel, who continue to make their mark in the landscape of college football. These are just some of the storylines of the teams coming into this tournament.
And what happened in this tournament? CHAOS. And it was beautiful. The matchups were unique. The Cinderellas danced. Some dominance fell. Some rose.
Particularly impressive is the resurgence of Youngstown State as a force to be reckoned with in the football world- something they have lacked ever since Jim Tressel left for Ohio State in 2000. In their semifinal performance against Eastern Washington, they showed themselves to be as resilient as they are talented with a ridiculous final play to send themselves to Frisco for the National Championship.
On the other side of the ball, James Madison has shown from the beginning of the season that they are one of the premier teams to beat in the FCS with their only loss coming from FBS opponent North Carolina in a week one showdown. Since then, they have been showing their dominance by beating most teams by ridiculous margins. Perhaps the most embarrassing of these was in the FCS Championship Quarterfinals with a 65-7 shellacking of Sam Houston State- keep in mind that this Sam Houston State team was undefeated until James Madison.
This National Championship game on January 7 between JMU and YSU is like a Disney sports movie- Cinderella vs. Dominance, David vs. Goliath. I dare not even attempt at predicting who wins…anything could happen.
But my point in writing all of this wasn’t simply to schmooze over this game (which is going to be amazing), but my purpose was two-fold. First, I wanted to bring your recognition to the stories of this game and your attention to the game itself- something ESPN has failed to report on amidst all of the college football scandals and political opinions of athletes. Second, I wanted to propose to you all a new system based on this game and these stories.
Don’t these stories strike you as inspiring? Two teams fighting their way through a sea of opposition for the chance to be crowned champions. It’s the stuff sports legends are made of. It is stories like these that we love in playoffs especially. Both here and in the NCAA basketball playoffs, we see the best of every team and conference. This leads to the reward of season-long hard work and also reward to the determinacy of teams to be the best they can be.
What I propose here is what the FBS has been missing for so long. Earlier I mentioned the FBS “College Football Playoff,” which is lacking in scope and has been something that I have only supported as a step toward a better system of crowning National Champions in FBS football. What needs to happen is the middle ground between the old FBS and the present FCS. Now, of course, there are many ways to make this happen, but let me present my particular model that could show success in how to do this.
1. Create a 32 team bracket for the National Championship.
a. Guarantee a spot for the ten conference champions. Each competitor has earned a right to compete through winning the conference championship.
b. Include the remnant of the top 25 poll. Each team, if added to the poll for their proficiency in the game, strength of schedule, strength of conference in each season, and overall quality, are more than capable of competing. Take for example Florida State- number 10 in the country with three good losses to their record. First, a very tough loss to a very good Louisville team who just had the momentum that day. Second, a close loss on a last second field goal to a good North Carolina team. Third, another close loss to Clemson at home. With three quality losses- two of them to top 10 teams- this team should be allowed a shot again to compete, but aren’t because of the frailty of the BCS.
c. Include up to 7 outside picks depending on the rating of conference champions and the rest of the top 25.
d. All teams can then be seeded according to their strength of schedule, conference that year, and record.
2. For the other teams who qualify, the bowl system is still a great conduit for post-season play. Remaining teams should still have the opportunity, and the system of invitation does not have to change at all. The only thing that would change would be the sheer number of bowls, which would either shrink or rebrand. By this, I mean to say that Chick-fil-a, for example, may still hold their own bowl game and sponsor the playoffs.
Below, I have gone ahead and given the example that would be for this year. To do this, I took the CFP poll, conference champions, and picks; evaluated their schedules and talents; and then renumbered them 1-32 and predicted the entirety of the bracket. The numbering came out as follows:
1. Alabama (SEC Champion)
2. Clemson (ACC Champion)
3. Washington (PAC 12 Champion)
4. Penn State (Big Ten Champion)
5. Ohio State
6. USC
7. Oklahoma (Big 12 Champion)
8. Western Michigan (MAC Champion)
9. Wisconsin
10. Michigan
11. Colorado
12. Florida State
13. Oklahoma State
14. Louisville
15. Virginia Tech
16. West Virginia
17. Appalachian State (Sun Belt Co-Champion)
18. Auburn
19. Pittsburgh
20. Temple (American Champion)
21. San Diego State (MWC Champion)
22. South Florida
23. Washington State
24. Stanford
25. Iowa
26. WKU (CUSA Champion)
27. Utah
28. LSU
29. Navy
30. Tennessee
31. Florida
32. Arkansas State (Sun Belt Co-Champion)
In short, the fact that the FBS hasn’t converted to the playoff and bowl system is insanity. It would be profitable for the expansion of the football season, the inclusion of normally excluded teams, the increased commerce around each game in both the playoffs and bowls, and a true system to determine a Champion other than record perfection. As always, share your thoughts below! I’d love to hear what system you think would work best!


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