We need a new playoff system, one that avoids Power 5 conference bias as best as possible. As long as these playoffs are chosen by people there will be some sort of bias towards the P5, but I think I’ve come up with a way that best avoids it.
Here’s my thought: If you win your conference you deserve a chance to win the national championship. As a result, I’m plotting out a 16-team scenario that includes every conference champion and enough at-large bids to round out the bracket. I even picked out the likely winners of what I think this year’s bracket would have looked like.
Conference Champions/Independent with Best Record
- USC-PAC 12
- Oklahoma-Big 12
- Boise State-Mountain West
- Ohio State-Big Ten
- Troy-Sun Belt
- Notre Dame- Independent
- Penn State
The seeding will be based on a committee; the top-10 seeds don’t have to be the conference champions, the committee will rank them where they see fit. Here is what I think the seeding would look like, I’ll also add the match-ups in there, with the note that just like in the current FCS playoffs, the first two rounds will be played on the higher seed’s home field.
- Ohio State+
- Ohio State*
- Penn State*
- Notre Dame+
- Boise State+
(+-Conference Champions *-At-Large)
#1 Clemson vs #16 Boise.
This would be an entertaining game. I definitely think that Clemson would win, but Boise and Leighton Van der Esch would certainly make life interesting for the Tigers for at least a half, if not longer. Sure, Washington State and Oregon are no Clemson, but if the Broncos could handle those teams, they could at least hold their own against Dabo’s boys. Clemson pulls away late and advances.
#2 Georgia vs #15 Toledo
It’s possible that my perspective here is warped by watching the Rockets get their butts handed to them by Appalachian State in their bowl game, but even shy of that, pre-bowl-whuppin’ Toledo is still in a totally different weight class than Georgia. This one would be over early and the Dawgs would likely be playing their backups by the second half.
#3 Oklahoma vs #14 Troy
Troy has a quality defense, and they did indeed beat LSU on the road. Brandon Silvers was a strong quarterback and leader, but this Oklahoma offense is significantly better than all the others the Trojans faced this season. Much like Boise, they wouldn’t get dominated wire to wire, but the outcome of this one would likely be decided well before the final whistle. Baker and company maybe sweat a bit early on, but they win comfortably.
#4 Ohio State vs #13 FAU
This one was debated for a while. We here at F5 have much respect for what Lane Kiffin accomplished in Boca this season, and he is definitely on the short list of G5 coaches who would not be even remotely fazed by this matchup. He would make sure his team – who can run the ball like nobody’s business – was up for the challenge. Unfortunately, the talent gap between Boca Raton and Columbus is substantial here, and that would likely play its way out on the field. Another top seed advancing without too much concern.
#5 UCF vs #12 Notre Dame
Notre Dame played three games against teams that finished the season in the top 15 of the AP and Coaches’ polls and lost two of them. This would make a third because this would be yet another team that is better than them on both sides of the ball – just like Miami and Georgia. The Knights would come into this game on a roll, and Mackenzie Milton would have yet another game where he executed at a high level, minimized mistakes, and then put away another team against whom UCF is supposed to struggle. The 2017 Undefeated National Champions move on.
#6 Alabama vs #11 Auburn
Ok lookie, a rematch! Yes, we would expect Auburn to do just as well in the rematch as they did in the first go around, and while it would likely be another close one, Kerryon Johnson would likely do a whole bunch of damage, and Nick Saban may or may not change quarterbacks in enough time to stop the bleeding. It’s close, but I’m picking Auburn to squeak by one more time into the next round.
#7 Miami vs #10 Penn State
You have to admit, it’s rather poetic that reached 10-0 on the power of their turnover chain defense lost their last three games and finished -4 in turnover margin in the last two of those. They weren’t outgained, they shut down Clemson’s run game… they did great, except for the turnover thing. Well Penn State’s potent offense can definitely capitalize if you give them turnovers, and an aggressive defense is capable of producing some against a Miami offense that looked overwhelmed against a similarly constructed (but honestly not quite as athletic) Wisconsin team. Yet another double-digit seed advances!
#8 USC vs #9 Wisconsin
This one was pretty cut and dried. You all saw what Wisconsin did to Miami, and you all saw what Ohio State did to USC. The odds of this one panning out any different are pretty low. Sam Darnold would make the playoff and get to add that to his resume, but still get bounced from the postseason in plenty of time to start prepping for the NFL Draft.
#1 Clemson vs #9 Wisconsin
#2 Georgia vs #10 Penn State
#3 Oklahoma vs #11 Auburn
#4 Ohio State vs #5 UCF
Now things get a little bit harder to predict. I’m a fan of aggressive defenses, and Clemson’s carried them all year long; I highly doubt that Alex Hornibrook would have as much success against the Tigers’ experienced pass rush as he did against Miami, and Clemson would have answers at defending Wisconsin’s second-level athleticism that Miami never found. Also, Wisconsin is unlikely to get the short field via turnover against the Tigers, either.
Georgia and Penn State produce another old-school rivalry matchup for us here, and this would be a close one. Two aggressive defenses, two quarterbacks who know how to make plays, and some of the most explosive running backs in the entire country. This one feels like a close contest early on, and then eventually the power of Nick Chubb does just enough damage for the Bulldogs to advance.
Oklahoma’s offense continues to roll, as Auburn’s struggles on the road pop up once again once they face an unfamiliar and highly efficient offense (sounds like a game I watched recently). Meanwhile, the UCF Knights will manage to squeak one out, as Mackenzie Milton and Shaquem Griffin will make just enough plays to keep the Buckeyes on their toes and move into the semifinals.
#1 Clemson vs #5 UCF
#2 Georgia vs #3 Oklahoma
Boy, it got awfully chalky here at the end. I think that UCF manages to beat Clemson in this matchup now that we have finally moved from games hosted by the higher seed to neutral sites for the semifinals. Their defense will give a QB like Kelly Bryant (who can’t throw downfield) fits. Clemson’s defense would keep the game close but Milton would once again do just enough for the Knights to win.
Georgia versus Oklahoma? Well hell, we already know how that one went.
#2 Georgia vs #5 UCF
Yes, we have indeed been all aboard the hyper-positive (but not wildly unrealistic) Knights Hype Train to this point, but I think this is the end of the line. UCF doesn’t win this one; Georgia’s backs are too good and their defense is outstanding and athletic, I think their offense will be able to keep UCF’s off the field with some ball-control ground and pound, and they would win a close game.
This system certainly isn’t a perfect one, and I doubt it will ever happen because of the “My Power 5 school doesn’t belong on the same field as your Forgotten 5 school” way of thinking. But if you look at history, in BCS/NY6 bowls the Forgotten 5 has done exceptionally well against the Power 5 schools. UCF has two wins against P5 schools, Utah has two, Boise has one, and TCU has one. These schools deserve a shot.
People keep saying that these top F5 schools are in weak conferences but this tweet sums it up.
UCF: ‘Can we join your conference?’
UCF: ‘Can we at least play some of your teams?’
UCF: ‘Look! We went undefeated!’
P5: ‘Join a better conference and play tougher teams!’
See the problem here?
— Jay Hatch (@Mr_Jay_Hatch) January 2, 2018
These Forgotten 5 schools deserve a shot at the championship.
Feel free to tell me what you think of this new playoff system either in a comment or tweet me, @AlexFunderburke.