Until we get the major conferences down to 4 instead of 5, there’s always going to be an issue with the playoff, because one of the 5 major champions will be left out every year.
To top it off, this year, you even had a team that wasn’t a conference champion (Ohio St) get in over a team that beat them head-to-head and won the conference (Penn St).
But we understand. I wrote an article last week about how the playoff is a for-profit business, and you’re always going to have something shady happen for the sake of ratings, especially after the year 2 experiment with Michigan St, and the poor scheduling of the games, ultimately spelled the playoffs’ doom last year.
This year, they had to make up for it, and Ohio St means eyeballs, whether they won their conference or not.
So maybe the solution to the problem is not expanding the playoff.
Maybe the solution is to change the conferences.
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That’s right. Another round of conference realignment! Aren’t we all excited? I know any website is that’s looking for easy pageviews.
Let’s start off by discussing the fact that after the 2024 season, the Big 12’s TV contracts are done. And at that point, what’s the purpose of Oklahoma and Texas staying in a league that’s has been considered either the weakest or 2nd weakest over the first 3 years of the playoff. The Big 12 has had their champions left out 2 times already. They’ve even added a Big 12 championship game to try and help their chances of getting in. Because getting in means more money.
But if the big schools (Oklahoma and Texas) are already in bigger conferences, why do they need to worry about it?
So we make this easy. If the Sooners and Longhorns move to other conferences, you break up the Big 12 and the other 4 power conferences fill out to 16 teams, which doesn’t take much considering the SEC, ACC and Big 10 all have 14 already, and the Pac 12 still has 12. So let’s hit some bullet points to break this down:
Oklahoma leaves for the SEC, Texas goes to the Pac-12
Once the Big 12 television contract is up, the giants will be looking to split and take on more money from the bigger conferences. Oklahoma aligns with the SEC, and I’m sure the governor will require Oklahoma St go with them. Texas will either join the Big 10 or the Pac-12, and my guess is that the Pac 12 will appeal more along with Austin’s forward thinking.
So we’ll need 4 more teams in the Pac 12, and 2 more in the Big 10, SEC, and ACC.
This is the current Power 5 setup:
This is an idea of the new Power 4 conference setup:
Now, this is just an idea. I’m just doing this geographically – not by power or traditional standards. We could always put in something like 2 traditional rivals, with 3 rotating non-division games, 1 from each division each year. That way you cycle through every team in the conference every 4 years. So just roll with me – the details don’t really matter yet.
The 4 major conferences will continue to utilize their own TV networks as they are currently setup.
Each conference would setup four different 4-team divisions, and the conference championship will be decided by a 4-team playoff, which will basically setup a 16 team playoff for the national title. Each division winner will face off in a conference tournament – a 4 team playoff to determine the 4 team champions playoff.
There will be an 11 game regular season schedule.
An 11 game regular season ensures that no team will play more than 15 games in a season (like it is currently setup), so nobody can complain that college football players play too many games. The regular season schedule will include 3 division games, 5 other rotating conference games (or 2 set non-division games and 3 rotating from each other division), and 3 non-conference games, 1 from each other major conference to make sure that all of the schedules are as equal as possible. This eliminates the games against the group of 5 conferences and against the FCS schools that everyone complains about.
The regular season would start on Labor Day weekend, every team will only get one bye week, and the regular season will be done the week before Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving weekend is when the conference playoffs will begin.
This is an idea of what the conference playoff will look like:
4 division winners, seeded by record (so you won’t always have the same division against the same division every year), with the higher seeded team hosting the game at home, and the conference championship games still being set where their contracts have them (for the SEC, it will be in Atlanta, GA).
Keep the Bowl setup as currently constructed.
To make up for the elimination of regular season games against smaller conference teams, we would keep the bowl game setup as it is currently constructed. Power 4 conference non-champions can still play smaller conference teams in the bowl games, and we can still have power conference big bowls. Basically, the bowl system stays the exact same, but we have, for better or worse, a 16 team playoff for the national championship, with 4 reps from each conference. If you can’t win your 4 team division, then you don’t deserve to be in the national championship playoff.
And this is how all of it would feed into a…
16 team National Championship Playoff
The champions would be seeded according to rankings (like it is currently setup) so you would have have a strict bracket. Basically, you could set one up and then reseed it. Say the SEC has the #1 team in the country, but the #4 team in the SEC wins, while #2 from the ACC and #1 from the Big 10 and Pac 12 win their conferences… the SEC would not be the #1 seed in the playoff. It would be reseeded. So you move on from there.
Now, yes, I understand it would be some major changes… but this is what we’re moving towards. The eventual complete separation of the “haves” and the “have-nots.” The Power conferences want to move to their own division, and that makes sense. The playoff is currently setup as a for-profit business, so you will always have something shady happening (like bringing in an 11-1 Ohio St team over an 11-2 Penn St team that won the conference and beat Ohio St head to head), and this will, basically, eliminate that.
For the naysayers that want college football to be different than the NFL – we’re too late. The bus has already left the station on that. College Football is a business. And it’s a big business. A 16 team championship playoff gives even 3 loss teams a chance at a national championship, and makes games mean even more throughout the season, especially if you give the top 2 seeds in each conference home-field advantage. There are advantages built in for being the best in every phase of this playoff.
Everyone believe it creates more problems… but this is, logically, the cleanest way to get more teams into playoff situations where more games will mean more at the end of the year. You now have 16 divisions between 4 conferences rather than 8. You have more teams that have a shot at a national championship.
Best of all for the corporations that have built the college football juggernaut… more ratings. Imagine how many people would watch a West Virginia / Pittsburgh game if it possibly had implications on the national title race. Imagine how big Ole Miss and Mississippi St could be nationally if the winner won the division and had a chance at an SEC Championship game.
Don’t lie. You know you’re intrigued.