Happy Halloween! The college-sports world just got a lot scarier, and now, the first College Football Playoff rankings are only one week away. Yet our weekly exercise in NCAA football trick-or-treat madness has been around all season.
(Our process is explained here, and it’s about to get real.)
More teams deserve a shot at a real NCAA title in Division I college football (not the current mythical national championship), and it’s time to recognize the fact this sport is the only major sport on the planet not running a legitimate championship tournament.
This week, there were two changes in terms of participants along with some seed shuffling, too, thanks to some losses by seeded teams (Notre Dame, Oklahoma). Here is our 16-team Division I-A football championship tournament, right now after nine-plus weeks of regular-season action (asterisks indicate new teams since last week’s rendition of this list):
- Ohio State (B1G auto)
- Alabama (SEC auto)
- Clemson (ACC auto)
- LSU (SEC at-large)
- Penn State (B1G at-large)
- Oklahoma (Big XII auto)
- Oregon (Pac-12 auto)
- Utah (Pac-12 at-large)
- Notre Dame (Independent auto)
- Baylor* (Big XII at-large)
- Central Florida (AAC auto)
- Boise State (MWC auto)
- Appalachian State (Sun Belt auto)
- Virginia (ACC at-large)
- Florida Atlantic* (C-USA auto)
- Western Michigan (MAC auto)
Dropped out: Texas (Big XII at-large), Louisiana Tech (C-USA Auto)
Remember, we aim for balance in the at-large slots, so each Power 5 conference gets a second bid. Unlike major-media outlets like ESPN that have vested financial interest in pimping certain conferences’ perceived strength, we go for balanced fairness: There will be no conference also-ran pretenders in our championship tourney.
We like to give the higher seeds a slight “regional” advantage for this first round only. Thus, the preliminary first-round matchups would take place at mid-tier bowl games as follows, to be played on December 21, a full two weeks after the conference title matches:
- No. 16 Western Michigan vs. No. 1 Ohio State at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis
- No. 15 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 2 Alabama at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport
- No. 14 Virginia vs. No. 3 Clemson at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta
- No. 13 Appalachian State vs. No. 4 LSU at the Outback Bowl in Orlando
- No. 12 Boise State vs. No. 5 Penn State in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando
- No. 11 Central Florida vs. No. 6 Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix
- No. 10 Baylor vs. No. 7 Oregon in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego
- No. 9 Notre Dame vs. No. 8 Utah in the Cheez-It Bowl in Phoenix
The second round/quarterfinals will require just four bowl sites, so we choose the next four oldest traditional bowls to host them on December 28, using slotted pairings (no re-seeding for upsets):
- Liberty winner vs. Cheez-It winner at the Sun Bowl in El Paso
- Independence winner vs. Holiday winner at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas
- Fiesta winner vs. Peach winner at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville
- Outback winner vs. Camping World 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, the Grandaddy of Them All. All the other superfluous bowls could continue if they choose to, inviting non-playoff teams, and college football fans can have the best of both worlds.
Check back every Wednesday for new CFP analysis and projections this season.