Imagine the excitement, hype and general all-around awesomeness of a six-week, 64-team, single-elimination College Football Playoff.
Sure, this is probably too crazy to ever happen. College basketball fans probably said the same thing once upon a time as well, and the people who run that sport have floated the idea of expanding to 96 teams. We detailed what a 12- and 24-team playoff format would look like, but why stop there?
While 64 teams (sorry, no play-in games to get us to 68 for scheduling purposes) in a college football playoff sounds crazy, it’s really not. There are high school associations across the country where kids play five or six postseason games.
Sure, the regular season is cut a little shorter. That would need to be a major, sport-altering concession just to get to this crazy tournament.
At least the first two rounds would probably need to be on campus, and maybe the “Sweet 16” as well. Obviously, all 10 FBS conference champions would be guaranteed bids.
A selection committee trying to pick 54 at-large teams would be pretty wild. Whether to seed 1-64 or do four 16-team brackets like basketball would be a big decision.
It probably wouldn’t take long for clamoring to begin about letting an elite FCS team like North Dakota State into the field. The Bison are currently No. 41 in Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings (Eastern Washington also checks in at No. 49). Both programs have a win against a team in Sagarin’s top 20.
This is going to include the current March Madness model of four 16-team brackets, with preference given to the top four seeds in each region for placement.
A few teams were moved around to avoid first-round rematches. We used the S&P+ rankings to fill out the field, but the same deal for bowls applies for our mythical 64-team tournament: Teams must be 6-6 to qualify.
Side note while we’re here: If FBS has 128 teams, that would set up perfectly for a soccer-style “League Cup” knockout-style tournament. Imagine if that replaced spring football? OK, now we’re really treading in fantasy land territory.
No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 16 Southern Miss
No. 8 IOWA vs. No. 9 N.C. State
Iowa gets another team that has confounded at times this season. The Wolfpack should have beaten Clemson earlier this year, but the Hawkeyes are playing well of late and could keep that rematch from happening.
No. 2 MICHIGAN vs. No. 15 Baylor
No. 7 Miami (Fla.) vs. No. 10 MINNESOTA
This would be a great draw for the Wolverines, given that Baylor was college football’s biggest tire fire in the second half of the season. The Gophers might have a tough time with Brad Kaaya and the Hurricanes, who won four straight, lost four straight and won four straight this season.
In our current playoff system, Michigan-Florida State is a fun but relatively meaningless Orange Bowl. In this system, it could be a fantastic Sweet 16 game.
No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 14 Wyoming
No. 6 Pittsburgh vs. No. 11 Memphis
The Seminoles probably roll through this group, but a team like Wyoming staying with a team like Florida State for a while would be exactly the type of drama that has made the basketball tournament such a wonderful event. Plus, Pitt running back James Conner might be a superhero, and his team doesn’t play defense, so that game would be fun.
No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 Old Dominion
No. 5 Florida vs. No. 12 Georgia Tech
Paul Johnson’s triple option at Georgia Tech seems like a perfect fit as a No. 12 seed. And the Gators seem like a perfect “team with big expectations that disappointed and look ripe for an upset.” Also, Louisville star Lamar Jackson is here so that automatically makes it worth watching.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 16 Central Michigan
No. 8 Colorado State vs. No. 9 Houston
There is no question a No. 16 seed could beat a No. 1 in a football tournament. Not this Alabama team, of course, but it would happen at some point. Houston looked like the No. 9 team in the nation at one point and knocked off two top-four seeds in this tournament.
No. 2 WISCONSIN vs. No. 15 Wake Forest
No. 7 Navy vs. No. 10 Kansas State
Would Wake Forest have the best passing attack in this group? Navy-Kansas State would be a great coaching matchup. The Demon Deacons have a feisty defense but would be a welcome sight for Badgers defensive backs that are probably still having nightmares about DaeSean Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall.
No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 14 Central Florida
No. 6 Temple vs. No. 11 TCU
Mike Gundy and Scott Frost matching wits could be a lot of fun, and a good platform for Frost’s potential move into the “one of the best young coaches in the country” fraternity. TCU has been wildly inconsistent. Temple is way better than most people probably think.
No. 4 Auburn vs. No. 13 Air Force
No. 5 Stanford vs. No. 12 Louisiana Tech
Auburn’s defense would probably handle Air Force, but Skip Holtz and Co. could give Stanford some problems. One team that could throw it 50 times and three that wouldn’t mind running it 50 times in this group.
No. 1 OHIO STATE vs. No. 16 Miami (Ohio)
No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 BYU
At least the RedHawks wouldn’t have to travel very far, and it’s been four years since they played the Buckeyes. BYU would probably be in trouble without injured quarterback Taysom Hill, and while the Tar Heels can score they probably wouldn’t be much of a threat to Ohio State.
No. 2. Oklahoma vs. No. 15 New Mexico
No. 7 Western Kentucky vs. No. 10 Toledo
Here’s another interesting subplot of a 64-team tournament: Does that change college football’s “silly season?” Coaches have always had no problem leaving for a new school before the bowl game. Kirby Smart worked for both Alabama and Georgia during the playoff last year. What would Jeff Brohm, hired away from Western Kentucky by Purdue, do in this instance?
Maybe schools wouldn’t even try to hire coaches until after the tournament was over? That would be nice.
No. 3 Colorado vs. No. 14 Georgia
No. 6 Virginia Tech vs. No. 11 South Florida
South Florida might be a popular upset pick. Sidenote: Imagine the office pools for this thing. Six weeks of it, instead of three.
One of these high-seeded SEC teams is going to win a game, and everyone in the South will proclaim the conference is still the greatest. If Colorado’s Sefo Liufau wouldn’t be available, Georgia might be the one.
No. 4 Western Michigan vs. No. 13 Arkansas
No. 5 Utah vs. No. 12 NORTHWESTERN
Press conferences with P.J. Fleck and Bret Bielema certainly would be fun. Northwestern could be a popular upset pick, if only because a lot of casual fans haven’t seen much of Utah this year. Joe Williams and Austin Carr in the same game would feature two of the under-the-radar great players in the country.
No. 1 Washington vs. No. 16 Middle Tennessee State
No. 8 Texas A&M vs. No. 9 Washington State
A potential Apple Cup rematch would dominate the story lines in this group. Well, that and Kevin Sumlin’s job security at Texas A&M.
No. 2 PENN STATE vs. No. 15 Vanderbilt
No. 7 Boise State vs. No. 10 NEBRASKA
Well, look at that. This wasn’t even a “we don’t plan matchups, with a wink and fingers crossed” move, like the basketball selection committee claims. Penn State coach James Franklin against his former employer just worked out and would be one of the highlights of the first round. Boise State as the higher seed playing a big name brand feels a lot like Gonzaga in the hoops tournament playing Indiana or UCLA.
No. 3 Southern Cal vs. No. 14 Troy
No. 6 Tennessee vs. No. 11 Tulsa
The Men of Troy against Troy! Tulsa would score a lot of points on Tennessee’s bad defense, but the Vols would probably prevail. And Southern Cal against Tennessee would be an interesting game from a “don’t see these two traditional powers together very often” perspective (not since 1981).
No. 4 West Virginia vs. No. 13 Kentucky
No. 5 LSU vs. No. 12 INDIANA
Tom Allen’s improved defense would face an interesting challenge against LSU. Also, it would match Indiana against a former Purdue quarterback (Danny Etling). LSU would probably be a huge favorite to reach the Sweet 16 from this group.
NEXT FOUR OUT: Army, Ohio, Eastern Michigan, MARYLAND