We already talked about how the current College Football Playoff and its four-team bracket was a pseudo-expansion of the previous BCS system, and it didn’t solve a whole lot of problems since that expansion still left well over two-thirds of college football teams starting their season with a zero-percent chance of reaching said playoff bracket.
We know that expansion is likely inevitable, it’s just deciding what form it will take. We at Forgotten5 decided to create and simulate a 24-team playoff to take the expansion to the logical extreme and decide just how much expansion would be too much.
Your reminder of the guidelines:
- If you win your conference, you are in
- If you’re a Power Five team, winning your conference also means a first-round bye
- Highest-ranked G5 team gets a first-round home game
- Without a conference title, you don’t get into the top 25 without at least nine wins
Just like with FCS, in the real world this would mean sacrificing 1/12th of the regular season, though most of these playoff matchups are games the participants would love to have on their schedule as a non-conference game anyway.
We used these rules to alter the CFP ranking from each year going into bowl season, then set up the bracket. Each matchup was simulated 10 times using WhatIf Sports and their delightfully easy simulator, with an 11th sim if there was a tie.
In the real world of 2014 college football, a proud Memphis outpaced Cincinnati in the AAC’s last year without a championship game, Marshall shocked the world, and Boise shone in the spotlight.
But what if after all the championship games, the champs went to the playoffs instead?
Boise State got the lone home game as the highest-ranked G5 conference champion, and took advantage with a fairly comfortable win over Missouri. Much more surprising though was seeing Rakeem Cato and the almost-undefeated Thundering Herd absolutely demolish Georgia Tech in Atlanta by three scores.
Yes, the lowest-seeded G5 teams got waxed, but we didn’t say those kinds of games wouldn’t happen in this expanded playoff.
That’s as far as the magic lasted, as Boise got run down on the road in Tuscaloosa and Marshall traveled to Waco, TX for a season-ending loss. Would this playoff have turned out much different? I don’t think so, but it would be hard to argue that Marshall wouldn’t at least see a recruiting bump heading into the following season after dominating Georgia Tech on the road on national television.
Full data below:
|Matchup||Winner||Final||Margin of Victory (tiebreaker)|
|Missouri-Boise State||Boise State||6-4||18.50|
|Georgia Southern-Ole Miss||Ole Miss||9-1||26.89|
|Memphis-Kansas State||Kansas State||9-1||21.89|
|Clemson-Arizona State||Arizona State||7-3||22.14|
|Ole Miss-Michigan State||Michigan State||6-4||18.00|
|Georgia-Ohio State||Ohio State||7-3||15.29|
|Kansas State-TCU||Kansas State||6-4||7.33|
|Arizona-Mississippi State||Mississippi State||7-3||17.29|
|Baylor-Ohio State||Ohio State||5-5*||(13-48)|
|Kansas State-FSU||Kansas State||5-5*||(41-35)|
Of Note: The remaining Group of Five conferences don’t start strong, though in their defense, they lose to an overachieving Ole Miss, the second-best team in the Pac-12, and a surprise Final Four contestant.
Exposure here aids them all, however, especially the MAC and Sun Belt who up to now don’t have their Boise State-style flagship school.