Tonight’s the night, guys — conference title night in college football. Historically, this night has featured plenty of significance anyway, but thanks to the advent of the college football playoff, even more teams are playing intriguing games than ever before. Yes, some of those teams will still be left out out in the cold, but isn’t it nice to know that one loss during a season won’t automatically sink your chances of a national title?
The answer is yes.
But a four-team playoff? Can’t we do better than that?
That answer is also yes.
When they first pitched the idea of a playoff, all the naysayers were quick to ask: “Well why stop at FOUR teams, huh? Why not EIGHT? Someone’s always gonna feel left out anyway!” Ignoring for now what a horrible argument that is, it IS a good question: Why SHOULD we stop at four teams? What would the world look like with eight? Maybe even more?
Well I decided to find out. I used the existing CFP rankings for the top 25 and Jeff Sagarin’s rankings for the rest. Since they differed slightly, I just removed the CFP’s top 25 from Sagarin’s and re-ranked them. Since I don’t want to totally kill myself, I didn’t build out real brackets — just listed the first-round matchups. Here’s how they look:
Four teams is what we really have to look forward to, and things may not look much different than this in reality. Alabama and Oregon have the 1-2 seeds pretty much locked up in some order; TCU is going to be hard to drop after its showing earlier today, and even if FSU barely scrapes by Georgia Tech (which based on literally half of its other games, it will) it’ll be hard to justify leaving out an unbeaten team. There’s a chance either Ohio State or Baylor will be left out in the cold — sucks for them, but this is still a lot better than in past years where they’d have no chance whatsoever since like Week 4.
First two out: Ohio State, Baylor
Some people originally suggested this would be the ideal bracket size to begin with — honestly, I’m inclined to believe them, since four teams still seems like it will eventually punish great teams that had marginally bad days. In this scenario, every one-loss team in the FBS except Marshall makes it — and let’s be honest, they don’t have much of an argument anyway, on account of: being Marshall. Obviously Arizona would be out, having lost to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. This leaves room for Mississippi State, Georgia Tech or maybe even UCLA to sneak back in. See? This is fun! Why stop at four indeed!
First two out: Mississippi State, UCLA
Now we’re in dubious territory since this would mean up to four additional games for the eventual champions — that’s a lot of football for college kids. On the other hand, consider: I don’t give a shit about that. I’m a football fan, not a football player fan, and 99% of these kids will have the rest of their lives to recuperate.
At this point, plenty of good-to-great teams sneak back in. Most, if not all, are good enough to at least challenge their first-round opponents, if not outright win — and everyone knows the best part of the basketball tournament is seeing shocking upsets. (Literally. Everyone knows it. I looked it up.) Chaos reigns! This is great!
First two out: Arizona State, Auburn
There is a small chance that the NCAA would scoff at a 32-team bracket. Tiny chance, really. Almost non-existent, since this is an even better idea. At this point, we see our first six-loss teams enter the fray — but shit, there are already 12 quadrillion bowl games, so this “first-round game” might as well serve as that anyway, right? So congrats, Tennessee and Arkansas — you get to play Alabama and probably Michigan State instead of like, Tulane and Cincinnati. Think your fan bases might like that a little better? Thought so.
First two out: Marshall, North Dakota State
Now we’re getting somewhere! A 64-team field, just like little brother basketball’s size. Imagine how shocking these upsets would be, am I right? Who wouldn’t dream of seeing North Carolina make a run to both Final Fours? How awesome would it be seeing storied teams like USC and Miami or Nebraska and Notre Dame play each other? Besides, only a few of these teams have losing records — that’s really not a bad ratio.
First two out: Nevada, Rutgers
But why stop at just MATCHING the NCAA tournament when you could UTTERLY OBLITERATE it, hmm? Sure, seven more games would mean a longer season than most NFL teams play, but that’s a small price to pay for my personal enjoyment. Besides, I see no danger in pitting teams like Harvard — which was a perfect 10-0, you’ll note! — against a team that played in the SEC title game. And hey, a lot of these pairings already take place during the season, like Iowa-Indiana and Penn State-Illinois. If anything, this 128-team model is a chance for redemption. You’re welcome, Indiana and Penn State.
First two out: Ohio, Richmond
Oh God, what have I done? I flew too close to the sun on pigskin wings and I’ve come tumbling back to Earth because of my hubris. Baylor against winless Ivy League doormat Columbia? USC taking on some clearly fake team called Incarnate Word?! There aren’t even enough eligible teams to complete the tournament — I had to add the top four HIGH SCHOOL teams to make sure Alabama, Oregon, TCU and FSU had opponents! I’m surely destined for Hell thanks to this, and my eternal punishment will be to rank and re-rank all of these teams, over and over again. I am Sisyphus, this is my boulder. I’m deeply sorry to all of you. Please, go before you’re consumed by the madness too.
First two out: [Universe implodes]