ultimaterealignmentplanclear
If we have learned anything this year from the Ohio State debacle its that the College Football Playoffs are just as ineffective as the BCS ever was.  As I sat here trying to think of how to tinker around  with fixing the playoffs I realized maybe its time to just rip the band aid off and fix college sports. As a cohesive, unified front, with strategic expansion, college sports could compete and someday surpass the interest in professional sports.  In order for this to happen three things need to happen:

I. Expand
II. Realign
III. Normalize Postseason

I. EXPANSION


Here are the current Power Five members.  Currently there are 65 members, including Notre Dame, but over a quarter of our states (15) do not have a representative in a Power Five conference.

Disclaimer: Geographically speaking the map is as accurate as possible. I realize some schools inhabit the same area or city so I had to “relocate” some of the schools so the logos would fit. I apologize if your school has been pushed out by your rival.
cclp5

In doing my analysis I discovered that 80 schools worked out the best.  I also created one with 88 and 96 schools that maybe I will put out at a later date. What I prefer about 80 schools is it allows for multiple schedule configurations while not adding too many teams where it would begin watering down the current Power Five structure.

Here are the 31 finalists I chose to be most worthy of an invite, which only 15 can be accepted.

cclcandidates

The first decision I made was the military academies would not be included. I wasn’t sure if those higher ideal institutions fit into this kind of sports entertainment focused league, but the way the league is structured a non member could play up to 1/3 of their schedule against this new league plus a bowl game (more on that later). I do have them in the 88 and 96 team version I created.  Maybe I just couldn’t make a third Colorado team work cleanly in a division with an 80 school league, so I dropped all the military academies to be fair… You decide.

Without further ado the new invitees to round the College Championship League up to the magic number of 80.

cclinviteesCreating the new College Championship League, or whatever you want to call it. I will be the first to admit that the name is weak, but I was trying to convey the basic concept. I will go into who was left out of each region below, but I can say without a doubt school #81 is Temple. Their exclusion was more out of making nice and clean divisions, so hurl your criticism accordingly.

cclmembers

As you can see some of the picks were for merit and some were strategic, and by adding these 15 teams the map is considerably more filled in from the P5 to the CCL. The CCL would pick up 6 new states, bringing in over 80% of the states with over 95% of the population making it a true national league.

II. DIVISIONS


In sports I believe strongly that location/proximity to another school is the reason for 90% of all rivalries.  In making the divisions I wanted to achieve a few goals.
1. Don’t break up states unless I had to.
     -Only the state of North Carolina was broken up. Sorry Wake Forest.
2. Try to have each division self contained with no overlapping territory.
     – Achieved
3. I wanted them to all share a similar cultural and/or geographical feel.
    – I believe I achieved this. The only one that could be a stretch is the Northeast Division, but I would argue it is a coastal, or even a Colonial division.

Trying to adhere to those principles, this is how I broke down the divisions:

Note: NFL stadiums are used to denote major cities and potential locations for conference championship games (explained in section III).

The BCS/Championsip metric shows how many times the teams in the division appeared in a BCS or Playoff game and how many teams in the division won a championship since the BCS era began through the 2016/2017 season.

cfc north division


G5 Additions:
N/A

First Out:
N/A

Football Grade:
B

Basketball Grade:
A-

Longest Drive:
Manhattan, KS to Chicago, IL
8:57 hours

divbl

cfcl east hd


G5 Additions:
Cincinnati

First Out:
Temple

Honorable Mention:
Marshall

Football Grade:
A

Basketball Grade:
B+

Longest Drive:
Bloomington, IN to State College, PA
8:30 hours

divbl

cfcl northeast hd


G5 Additions:
Connecticut

First Out:
Navy

Honorable Mention:
Army
Eastern Carolina

Football Grade:
D

Basketball Grade:
A+

Longest Drive:
Raleigh, NC to Boston, MA
12:07 hours

divbl

cfcl southeast hd


G5 Additions:
Central Florida

Southern Florida

First Out:
Florida Atlantic

Football Grade:
A+

Basketball Grade:
C+

Longest Drive:
Winston-Salem, NC to Miami, FL
11:24 hours

divbl

cfcl south hd


G5 Additions:
Memphis

First Out:
Tulane

Honorable Mention:
Southern Miss

Football Grade:
A+

Basketball Grade:
A-

Longest Drive:
Lexington, KY to Baton Rouge, LA
11:23 hours

divbl

cfc southwest division


G5 Additions:
Houston
New Mexico

First Out:
SMU

Honorable Mention:
Tulsa

Football Grade:
A

Basketball Grade:
B

Longest Drive:
Albuquerque, NM to Houston, TX
12:28 hours

divbl

cfc west division


G5 Additions:
Hawaii
Nevada
San Diego St
UNLV

First Out:
San Jose St.

Football Grade:
B+

Basketball Grade:
A

Longest Drive:
Tuscon, AZ to Reno, NV
12:48 hours

divbl

cfc northwest division


G5 Additions:
Boise St
BYU
Colorado St
Wyoming

First Out:
Air Force

Football Grade:
B

Basketball Grade:
C

Longest Drive:
Seattle, WA to Boulder, CO
18:49 hours

divbl

How it looks from above:

 ccldivisions

As you can see, geographically speaking they don’t overlap.  Below when just looking at just contiguous state coverage, the Northeast has a tiny, minuscule break where Delaware is and of course the West has Hawaii, for what I hope are obvious reasons, but other than that they are all contiguous.

ccl members states div full key

III. NORMALIZE POSTSEASON


The one thing that gives College Football in particular a professional wrestling/ice skating feel is how it is effectively a judged sport.  Any other sport has a normal way to make the postseason that doesn’t require an “eye” test which is akin to the swimsuit competition. In order to get around this, college sports must normalize its postseason by having a set structure of playoffs like any respectable sport.

Here is how it would work in football. Every team plays 3 out of conference games followed by a 9 game round robin conference schedule. The 3 out of conference games the schools would own outright and would be allowed to play any other school from any level of college sports that they wanted. This allows for maximum flexibility to keep rivalries alive with other CCL schools not in your division anymore and/or play schools not in the CCL. If Texas and Notre Dame wanted to have their own network, they could put those games on them or, if not, they could sell them to the highest bidder. Each school would have autonomy with these three games and be able to keep the revenue, allowing them to schedule according to need.

This also allows every school to play the schedule their fans want to play without fear of playing a more difficult schedule than a rival, which would put them at a disadvantage for making the postseason. Here would be a sample schedule for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 2017/18.

ccl-sample-schedule-nu

I would make the out of conference games as a glorified preseason taking place in the first four weeks of the season. There would be two byes, one in the out of conference schedule and one in conference. Each team could choose when to take their byes with the exception of the opening week, the final week and the first conference week as shown above. Here I have Nebraska starting out with South Dakota, moving up to Army and then playing their traditional rival Oklahoma to get battle tested for the conference season. Obviously every school and coach would have their own strategy, but the reality is these games would only be for the historical record and to prep for your playoff run. They would not factor into a school’s chance to make the playoffs.

PLAYOFFS

There are two ways to do the playoffs:

  1. 8 team tournament using the traditional schedule.

  2. 16 team tournament using one extra week (my preference)

 

In these scenarios the schedules would be basically the same. Following the last conference game there would be a “conference” championship game in early December. Then the final four would play on New Year’s Day and the championship game would be played the following week. In the 16 team tournament version there would be another round in the second or third week of December. Ultimately only 2 teams would play one more game than is currently possible now.

The 8 team scenario is pretty easy. The hardest part is deciding how to split the permanent conferences. The choice would be to preserve the Big XII and SEC or preserve the Big Ten and ACC.  Then there is the quad alignment that just throws everything out the window, but gives you clean geography lines. Here are the three basic ways:

TRADITIONAL BIG XII and SEC

TRADITIONAL ACC and BIG TEN

RADICAL QUADRANT CONFERENCES

 

Below is how an 8 team playoff would be scheduled. As you can see it would be the exact same postseason schedule we currently have. In this example I used the Big XII/SEC conferences from above.

Dec 3rd 
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
West vs Northwest – Pac
Southwest vs North – Big XII
East vs Northeast – Big Ten
South vs Southeast – SEC

January 1st
SEMIFINALS
Pac vs Big XII – Western
Big Ten vs SEC – Eastern

January 8th
Championship Game
Eastern vs Western

Below you can see what that might look like if Alabama were to win the national championship next year.

CCL bama playoff example full

In the 16 team version it would include the top 2 teams in each conference which I am in favor of. The first example I gave was for the traditionalists. This one is more for the radicals like me. However, outside of the antiquated world of college football postseason, a normal playoff isn’t really radical, just common sense.

For the sake of trying something different, in this example I will use the Big Ten/ACC version (example 2) from above. This would keep the traditional New Year’s Rose Bowl game between the Pac and the Big Ten.

The top teams from each division would play their conference division mate’s 2nd place team, and vice versa. That could lead to a divisional rematch in the second round (conference championship game), but it would eliminate any possibilities in the final four or national championship game which I consider a positive. This also eliminates the argument that one division’s second best team is better than another’s first place since they will determine that in the first round.

Since a 16 team playoff has an extra game, the first round game would be played at the home stadium of the 1 seed and the conference championship would be played at an NFL stadium in the region, as they usually are now.

This is how a mock schedule would look. Keep in mind the yellow and red both include one bye.

CCL sample schedule 2017

In this scenario a 16 team playoff would look like this:

 

Dec 3rd 
FIRST ROUND
#1 West vs #2 Northwest – Pac
#2 West vs #1 Northwest – Pac

#1 East vs #2 North – Big Ten
#2 East vs #1 North – Big Ten

#1 Southeast vs #2 Northeast – ACC
#2 Southeast vs #1 Northeast – ACC

#1 South vs #2 Southwest – SEC
#2 South vs #1 Southwest – SEC

Dec 10th or Dec 17th
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
1W or 2NW vs 2W or 1NW – Pac
1E or 2N vs 2E or 1N – Big Ten
1SE or 2NE vs 2SE or 1NE – ACC
1S or 2SW vs 2S or 1SW – SEC

January 1st
SEMIFINALS
Pac vs Big Ten – Rose Bowl
ACC vs SEC – Sugar Bowl

January 8th
Championship Game
Rose Bowl Winner vs. Sugar Bowl Winner

Here is an example of how that might look in 2017 under the proposed set up.

ccl 16 team playoff rev

Ideally you have the first round spread over the entire weekend and put the second round (conference championship) on the 10th, which kicks off the bowl season on the 11th. The bowls would run through the first of January but conclude before the third round of the playoffs start on New Year’s Day. Bowls would be chosen in the exact same way they are today. Any level of football would be welcome and the committees pick from eligible teams.

If you cared about keeping the remaining four (Cotton, Peach, Fiesta and Orange) of the New Year’s Six bowl games with their traditional standing, you could pair up the losers of the Dec 3rd 1st round of the playoffs, since the loser of conference championship games usually play in a bowl too.

CONCLUSION

In what I realize is a fantasy scenario that won’t happen, it still wouldn’t take much imagination to greatly improve college sports and football in particular using these guidelines. At a bare minimum, moving to an 8 team playoff with automatic bids for each conference winner is almost a necessity at this point. The ratings don’t lie and the faux 4 game playoff with the same teams every year isn’t moving the needle. As much as I hate it, even going back to using a computer model would probably be preferable to the bumbling tools on the committee who just seem to always choose, records be damned, who the tv executives want the most.

Ultimately, we are all here because we all love college sports so I don’t need to sell you on them, but with a few improvements here and there they could easily address some of the simple issues. Or, they could take my advice and go all in.

Let me know what you think on social media, the comments or our forum.

34 COMMENTS