By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA—A couple of years ago, I wrote a column for this blog about the need for the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS—aka Division I-A) to have a 16-team playoff.
The automatic bids would go out to the winners of the 10 FBS conferences. Six at-large bids would go out to the highest ranked non-conference champions, according to the final Bowl Championship Series poll of the regular season.
The opening-round and quarterfinal games might be played at the home of the highest seeded team or at the existing bowl sites. Semifinal and championship games would be played at the major BCS bowl sites on a rotating basis.
As a disclaimer, I am probably not the only one who has come up with this idea and so I am not seeking a patent. If you got a better plan, put it out there.
To accommodate final exams for the student-athletes, I would start the first-round games a week before Christmas. Most universities are either finished or close to finishing up exams by that point in December.
The playoffs, even if there’s a two-week delay between the semifinals and the championship game would end by mid-January—when most students would be coming back from the winter break.
Meanwhile, if your team doesn’t make the playoffs and has a good season, they can still go to a postseason bowl game. It would be the football equivalent of college basketball’s National Invitation Tournament—which is kind of what we have now in college football with the plethora of bowl games.
Even with next year’s four-team playoff on the horizon for next year, I still believe there needs to be a 16-team playoff. On one hand, I think the four-team playoff is a step in the right direction because sooner or later it’s going to expand to eight and then to 16. It may take a few years, but it will get there eventually.
If there is an expanded playoff, it will no doubt make tons of money for those institutions—some of which should go to the student athletes putting their bodies on the line to play in those games. In other words, they should pay the athletes in the revenue producing sports just on general principle, but that’s another column.
Bracketology College Football Style
So what if he we had a 16-team playoff THIS year? As we said earlier, your automatic bids would go to the winners of the 10 FBS conferences. The at-large teams would be the six highest ranked non-conference champions in the final regular-season BCS poll.
According to the final 2013 BCS rankings, the six highest ranked teams without a conference championship are: No. 3 Alabama; No. 7 Ohio State; No. 8 Missouri; No.9 South Carolina; No. 10 Oregon and No. 11 Oklahoma.
In the round of the 16, ACC champion and No. 1 seed Florida State would play No.16 Louisiana-LaFayette, champions of the Sun Belt (UL-L had the same record as Arkansas State but beat them head-to-head).
FSU would beat Louisiana LaFayette and in the quarterfinals they would face the winner of eight-seed Missouri versus No. 9 seed South Carolina—I would pick Missouri to win that game.
An intriguing matchup in the first round would be Big-10 title-holder and No. 4 Michigan State and the nation’s best defense versus No. 13-seed and Mountain West standard bearer Fresno State, with their high-powered offense. If you believe defense wins championships, Spartans would probably win.
That would be a dangerous matchup for Michigan State with the way the Bulldogs can put points on the board.
The 5-12 matchup would be a tough fight. Pac-12 champ Stanford as the No. 5 seed versus American Athletic Conference champion and No. 12-seed University of Central Florida would be a heck of a contest. It’s another game that could go either way. Stanford would be the more physical team, in my opinion, and would probably win.
In the quarterfinals—Florida State would overwhelm Mizzou while No. 4 Michigan State toughs out a physical contest with Stanford to face FSU in the semifinals. The Seminoles would beat the Spartans to get to the title game.
On the other end of the bracket, SEC champion and No. 2 seed Auburn would easily defeat No. 15- seed and Mid-America Conference champion Bowling Green. In a game that could probably go either way, No. 7 Ohio State would probably be upset by No. 10 Oregon. Since both of these teams are lacking in defense, this is a pick-‘em game.
Meanwhile, No. 3 Alabama would easily run over No. 14 seed and Conference USA champ Rice. Big 12 champion and No. 6-seed Baylor would beat No. 11-seed Oklahoma—another one of those games that could go either way.
In the quarterfinals, Oregon versus Auburn would be a game of whoever has the ball last wins since neither team is really that great on defense. The Tigers would beat a Ducks team that wasn’t all that sure of itself at the end of the season. The Crimson Tide would rough up the Bears and would beat Auburn or Oregon to get to the national title game.
In the national championship, I believe that Florida State and 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston would be slightly better than Alabama. The Seminoles would take home the trophy.
I know some of the big conferences would complain about the idea of having to share the wealth with the smaller conferences. Even worse, I can almost hear the bigger conferences saying their fourth and fifth team is better than the champion of the Mountain West.
Every so often, we have teams from small conferences beating the big boys from the so-called bigger conferences. What harm is it to give those kids a fair shot at the title by including them in football’s big dance? Are big conferences afraid that a team from the MAC or the Sun Belt might upset an SEC team or an ACC squad?
I don’t know if this plan is perfect, it’s not. Whatever plan or scheme they come up with, I hope it’s fair to the student athletes and their well-being, gives all FBS schools a chance to participate without big conference bias and gives those smaller to mid-level programs that one shot to slay Goliath on a big stage.