Let’s face it — 2016 sucks. Except for the Cubs and Cowboys winning. But let’s wrap it up on a fun note, with my growing tradition.
As the NCAA has come up with its third edition of a four-team Division I football playoff, it’s that time to imagine a 16-team tournament.
I know, we’ve heard the arguments against practically any playoff. That bowl traditions are dismantled. Student-athletes wouldn’t be able to focus on finals. Schools would lose money. But consider that tournaments haven’t hurt FCS or Division II or III or NAIA schools.
So, fire up those imaginations. Let’s play pretend. Start with automatic champions from FBS (Football Championship Series) conferences -- regular-season champs and championship game victors.
In the instance of co-champions, that conference would determine who gets essentially an automatic FBS bid. From 10 conferences, this year get 12 automatic bids. Average the current computer rankings, and those of Associated Press and coaches polls. Concentrate on schools that get the most place votes, prioritize, and reach a final aggregate Top 25 poll. Top-ranked FBS independents would be considered, of course.
A final 2016 FBS aggregate poll would look like this:
1) Alabama (SEC champion)
2) Clemson (ACC champion)
3) Ohio State
4) Washington (Pac-12 champion)
5) Penn State (Big 10 champ)
7) Oklahoma (Big 12 champ)
10) Florida State
12) West Virginia
13) Oklahoma State
14) Western Michigan (MAC champ)
19) Virginia Tech
25) Temple (AAC champ)
Unranked conference champions
Western Kentucky (Conference USA champion)
San Diego State (Mountain West champion)
Appalachian State (Sun Belt champion)
Ultimately, FBS automatic bids would go to Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State, Oklahoma, Western Michigan, Temple, Western Kentucky, San Diego State, Appalachian State,
Then look at the next set of highest ranked schools in the aggregate poll. They receive at-large bids: Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, USC, Florida State, Colorado
The final FBS tournament seedings would be in a 16 vs. 1, 15 vs. 2, 14, vs. 3, etc. format. Accordingly, they are:
3. Ohio State
5. Penn State
10. Florida State
12. Western Michigan
14. Western Kentucky
15. San Diego State
16. Appalachian State
Take a look at the oldest, popular, most lucrative, traditional bowls. Provide some regional interest where established or geographic rivalries may exist. Make those bowls the new FBS playoff matches. And yes, virtually all will be broadcast on ESPN its seemingly hundreds of channels.
Imagine the increased interest from fans, especially for those bowl games that sometimes do not get sold out. Imagine the ratings. Imagine these bowls having truly something at stake — a chance to advance to play for a championship. Just like most other playoffs/tournaments elsewhere on Earth do. Imagine that.
How about dates for these awesome matches? The “younger”-ish/less lucrative bowls would serve essentially as quarterfinals on various days from mid to late December. Using the seeding format — 1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15, 3 vs. 14, 4 vs. 13, 5 vs. 12, 6 vs. 11, 7 vs. 10, and 8 vs. 9 — this is how this plays out in 2016:
Tuesday, Dec. 13
San Diego State vs. Clemson– Motel 6 Catcus (formerly Copper, Insight, Buffalo Wild Wings); Tempe
Wednesday, Dec. 14
Western Michigan vs. Penn State-- Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus (formerly Tangerine, Capital One); Orlando
Temple vs. Washington-- National Funding (who?) Holiday; San Diego
Thursday, Dec. 15
Western Kentucky vs. Ohio State -- Outback (formerly Hall of Fame); Tampa
Colorado vs. Michigan -- Valero Alamo;
Friday, Dec. 16
Florida State vs. Oklahoma -- AutoZone Liberty; Memphis
USC vs. Wisconsin -– Camping World Independence; Shreveport
Saturday, Dec. 17
Appalachian State vs. Alabama -- TaxSlayer (formerly Gator - c’mon, just call it Gator again); Jacksonville
Clemson, Western Michigan (upset special!), Washington, Ohio State, Michigan, Florida State (throws in wrench), Wisconsin, Alabama
Then let’s go for highest vs. lowest surviving seeds for contests in the following week's semifinal bowls. Regional attractions can remain a factor where a match-up lands:
Wednesday, Dec. 21
Wisconsin v. Ohio State -- Hyundai Sun; El Paso
Friday, Dec. 23
Western Michigan v. Alabama -- Goodyear Cotton; Dallas
Saturday, Dec. 24
Florida State v. Clemson — Chick-fil-A Peach; Atlanta
Michigan v. Washington -- Northwestern Mutual Rose Bowl, Pasadena
Michigan, Wisconsin (shock?), Alabama, Clemson
Final Four of sorts/Friday, Dec. 30 (featuring surviving seeds, low vs. high
Wisconsin v. Alabama – BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl, Tempe
Michigan v. Clemson— Orange Bowl, Miami
Championship game, Monday, Jan. 9
Michigan v. Alabama– Allstate Sugar; New Orleans
Sure, a variation of this may end up this way regardless in the present four-team system. But the fun is to let it all play out. What’s wrong with that?