College Football Playoff Part Three: The Regular Season

In parts one and two of the CCCFP I laid out some realignment steps that would help to eliminate the disparity between conferences who play championship games and those who do not. Just a few simple moves, and if one was willing to get radical a few more, would level the playing field for every team in America. Add in some radical moves and things are even more level across the board. But how and when would those teams play their games? Part three deals with the layout of the season.

The Regular Season

I suppose a good place to start with the second part of the CCCFPP is the biggest roadblock. Major changes to the status quo do not come perfect, and there is one fairly big drawback to the new era of college football that could be upon us with this plan. You see, in today’s world the regular season is 12 games long. This allows schools to play their 8 (or 9) conference games and tune up before them by usually feasting on cupcakes or 1-AA teams. The extra game has brought a lot of revenue into the game and while it largely sucks for the fans to have to watch Directional State U come in and play their team in the non-con, it’s been a boom for the institutional coffers. However with a 16 team playoff plan it’s just impossible to feasibly have a 12 game regular season – at least while keeping some semblance of academic integrity, but we’ll get to that later. Fortunately, it is possible to only have to trim one game and return to the days of yesteryear (or 2001) and have everybody play 11 games.

The new era of college football will begin every year on Labor Day weekend, the Saturday and Sunday before Labor Day. In this past year that weekend was August 30th and 31st, next year it falls on September 5th and 6th. Opening on a holiday weekend could open up all sorts of possibilities for expanding the role of the official start of college football season. It could, if the NCAA so chose to go this route be three days of nearly nonstop college football. Imagine three different Gamedays with three straight nights of marquee nonconference matchups with a few little guy powers clashing head to head sprinkled in. Wouldn’t that be great for college football? But even if opening weekend doesn’t morph into that, the season would still start at the same time every year and everybody would be able to celebrate the 3-day weekend in style with the official kickoff of college football.

Including Labor Day weekend teams would have the next 11 weeks to play 11 games, allowing one week off for a bye during conference play. Every team in the major conferences would play 8 conference games and 3 non-conference games utilizing the exact same structure that the Big 12, ACC, and SEC do. Those in the little guy conferences would play all seven of the other teams in their eight team conferences with four noncon games. Then, the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, every major conference plays their conference championship games. Thanksgiving has always been a football holiday and this would once again place college football in the forefront of the sports world around a major US holiday. I took the liberty of looking at calendars for, essentially, the rest of eternity (seeing as how the calendar repeats itself in a pattern) and between Labor Day and Thanksgiving week there is either 13 or 14 total weekends for playing games. In years with the extra week there would simply be an extra bye week, much like this past year. In the current system teams have 13 weeks to play 12 games, save for the extra week years like 2008 where they have 14 weeks to play 12. Simply cutting a week out would allow for a full fledged 16 team playoff to occur. But how?

The Sunday after Thanksgiving would bring a selection show of sorts. In the new era of college football there would still be a BCS-like system in place – something that combines human polls with independent computer polls to determine the top teams in America. The BCS is a really good idea in theory, but with a few minor tweaks it could be a much better system for actually ranking teams. Get the coaches poll out of it (conference politics have no place in determining a national champion), re-instill some reward for playing teams with a pulse in the non-con, and you have a nice little system that could be very easily sorted out even by the people that run the NCAA.

The Bracket

The bracket is actually quite simple to make. Seeds 1 through 6 go to the six major conference champions (ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 10, Pac 10, SEC). The six teams who win those conferences are seeded in the playoff 1 through 6 by their ranking in the new BCS. Taking the 2008 BCS rankings for example would give you Oklahoma, Florida, USC, Penn State, Cincinnati, and Virginia Tech in that order. Seeds 7 through 16 would be filled by the next ten highest ranked teams in the new BCS, with the provision that the one highest ranked little guy team ranked in the top 18 (Utah this year) gets an automatic berth. This year seeds 7 through 16 would go to Texas, Alabama, Utah, Texas Tech, Boise State, Ohio State, TCU, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, and Georgia. BYU, despite being ranked 16th in the BCS would miss out because of the sucktitude of the ACC conference champion barely making the top 20. The teams then would be set up in a regular 16 team bracket like a region in the NCAA tournament (1 v. 16, 2 v. 15, etc.). First round pairings would be Oklahoma/Georgia, Alabama/Utah, Cincinnati/Ohio State, Penn State/TCU, USC/Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech/Boise State, Texas/Texas Tech, and Florida/Georgia Tech. Now try to tell me that those matchups wouldn’t bring boatloads of interest with a straight face. You can’t.

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