This is going to be a season-long exercise in futility, of course, as there is no 16-team championship tournament for big-time college football. Every other division of NCAA football has at least a 16-team tourney to decide its champion, but the Football Bowl Subdivision does not. The reasons why do not need to be revisited here again.

Regardless, this is what we would like to see sooner rather than later: College football joining the 21st century. Will it happen? The fastest way would be for fans to stop giving the sport their money, but that isn’t going to happen. The poor attendance figures and TV ratings for the middling bowl system are a sign, but the (southern) public still eat up the CFP, for some reason.

When the time comes for reality, we will be ready. In the meantime, here is the way we see a 16-team Division I-A football championship tournament, right now:

1. Alabama (SEC autobid)
2. Clemson (ACC autobid)
3. Ohio State (B1G autobid)
4. Oklahoma (Big XII autobid)
5. Washington (Pac-12 autobid)
6. Notre Dame (Independent autobid)
7. Central Florida (American autobid)
8. Boise State (MWC autobid)
9. Georgia (at-large bid)
10. Wisconsin (at-large bid)
11. Texas (at-large bid)
12. Utah (at-large bid)
13. Miami-FL (at-large bid)
14. Appalachian State (Sun Belt autobid)
15. Toledo (MAC autobid)
16. Marshall (USA autobid)

What we have done here is equally distribute playoff berths to all 10 conference champs (projected), the best of the handful of independent teams, and then a “runner-up” bid to each of the five power conferences. This is the most equitable way to ensure a legitimate tournament. Theoretically, the power-conference, runners-up slots should go to teams in the opposite division of the conference winners, and that will take care of itself in time.

This tournament requires just 15 “bowl games” to complete, and basically, the national title game every year should be the Rose Bowl, since it is the Granddaddy of Them All. The longest-standing, most-traditional bowl games should be part of the tournament, and the glut of other silly bowl games can be eliminated since most—if not all—schools lose money on those postseason events (thanks to travel costs and eating tickets the fans are not buying—see below, however).

So, the preliminary first-round matchups would take place at mid-tier bowl games as follows:

  • No. 16 Marshall vs. No. 1 Alabama at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis
  • No. 15 Toledo vs. No. 2 Clemson at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta
  • No. 14 Appy State vs. No. 3 Ohio State at the Outback Bowl in Orlando
  • No. 13 Miami-FL vs. No. 4 Oklahoma at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, LA
  • No. 12 Utah vs. No. 5 Washington at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego
  • No. 11 Texas vs. No. 6 Notre Dame at the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix
  • No. 10 Wisconsin vs. No. 7 Central Florida at the Camping World Bowl in Orlando
  • No. 9 Georgia vs. No. 8 Boise State at the Cheez-It Bowl in Phoenix

We’d want to avoid conference title-game rematches, of course. So switching Washington and Notre Dame would achieve that. We also have tried to give the higher seeds a “reward” by scheduling closer to their home campuses.

So a revised first round now looks like this, with all games played on December 21—which gives fans and teams two weeks to prepare after the conference title games are all played on the first weekend in December:

  • No. 16 Marshall vs. No. 1 Alabama at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis
  • No. 15 Toledo vs. No. 2 Clemson at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta
  • No. 14 Appy State vs. No. 3 Ohio State at the Outback Bowl in Orlando
  • No. 13 Miami-FL vs. No. 4 Oklahoma at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, LA
  • No. 12 Utah vs. No. 5 Notre Dame at the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix
  • No. 11 Texas vs. No. 6 Washington at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego
  • No. 10 Wisconsin vs. No. 7 Central Florida at the Camping World Bowl in Orlando
  • No. 9 Georgia vs. No. 8 Boise State at the Cheez-It Bowl in Phoenix

The second round/quarterfinals will require just four bowl sites, so we choose the next four oldest bowls to host them on December 28:

  • Liberty winner vs. Cheez-It winner at the Sun Bowl in El Paso
  • Peach winner vs. Camping World winner at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas
  • Outback winner vs. Holiday winner at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville
  • Independence winner vs. Fiesta winner at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando

The semifinals celebrate the traditions of two major bowls, second only to the Rose, and these games would be played on January 4:

  • Sun winner vs. Citrus winner at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans
  • Cotton winner vs. Gator winner at the Orange Bowl in Miami

The final will be played on January 11 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. All the other superfluous bowls could continue if they choose to by inviting non-playoff teams, and college football could have the best of both worlds.

This is so logical and simple; if college basketball can do it, college football can, too, with fixed sites every year for planning and scheduling.

Alas, we will wait forever for it, but hopefully, it will be worth it in the end.

Check back every Wednesday for new CFP analysis and projections this season!