What Could a 16-Team College Football Playoff Look Like?


Beginning in 2014, Peyton Manning’s dad, Condoleeza Rice and a 77 year old man who used to coach big time college football will be part of selection committee who will select the four college football teams that will participate in the first ever College Football Playoff.

Is this the best we can come up with? This is America’s favorite sport, yet to decide a champion at the college ranks, we’ve resorted to a closed door vote amongst people who having nothing to do with what happens on the field and come with – intentional or not – built in bias? I know we can do better.

I’m not the first to propose something like this, but I’d like to present my blueprint for a 16 team college football playoff. Before you starting huffing and puffing about how 16 is too many, understand, if you don’t already, that 16 would be less than any other level of college football currently uses in its playoffs.

My plan begins with the conferences. The entity known as NCAA FBS (Division 1-A) is comprised of ten conferences and seven (currently) independent schools. Step one would be to give all ten conference champions an automatic bid to the playoffs. You now have six “at-large” slots left to fill.

Rather than herd a group of old folks into a room like cattle to argue and banter about what six teams get the nod, why not just use a resource we already have – the BCS rankings. The original intent of the BCS rankings was to decide who the top two teams in the nation are. Why not use them to decide who the top six teams who didn’t win their conferences are?

Once you have your 16, you again use the BCS rankings to seed them. This is pretty cut and dry. Basically, you could end up as high as a 2 seed without winning your conference (which has happened in the past).

You then split the bracket into four regions – East, South, Midwest and West. This is how you integrate the current BCS bowls into the new playoff. The round of 16 would be played on the home field of the higher seed. The winners of those games would advance to the quarterfinals, which would be played as bowl games. The East quarterfinal would be the Orange Bowl, South would be the Sugar, Midwest would be the Fiesta and West would be the Rose.

Just like March Madness, you’d send the top four teams to the region closest to their locations, giving the higher seeded team priority.  You could even make an exception with the Rose Bowl, should a Big Ten or PAC 12 team be in the top four. After the quarterfinal bowl round, it’s on to the final four and then the College Football Championship game, which could rotate sites like the Super Bowl (although I’m sure Jerry Jones would make a strong push to put it permanently at Jerry World).

If the 2013 college season were to end today and the teams leading their conference ended up being the champions, this is a rough draft of what my 16 team college football playoff would look like.


#1 Alabama (SEC) vs. #16 Louisiana-Lafayette (Sun Belt)

#8 Missouri (At-Large) vs. #9 Stanford (At-Large)


#4 Baylor (Big 12) vs. #13 Northern Illinois (MAC)

#5 Oregon (PAC 12) vs. #12 Fresno State (MWC)


#3 Ohio State (B1G) vs. #14 Central Florida (AAC)

#6 Auburn (At-Large) vs. #11 South Carolina (At-Large)


#2 Florida State (ACC) vs. #15 North Texas (CUSA)

#7 Clemson (At-Large) vs. #10 Oklahoma State (At-Large)

Outside of your #1 and #2 seed games (and this is just my opinion), there really are not that many mismatches in round one. Some of your potential quarterfinal matchups would be must see TV (Oregon vs. Baylor, Ohio State vs. Auburn).

This playoff plan also gives the Independent teams a fair shot to crack the playoffs. All they would need to do is be one of the six highest ranked teams not to win a conference. In my current example, South Carolina gets in with an overall BCS rank of 11 – a realistic goal for any team with championship aspirations.

What my plan does is give real meaning to winning your conference, regardless of what conference, and rewards the conference champions with something more than a bowl game in Detroit or Mobile. It also opens the door for teams who play in what are perceived as stronger conferences to get into the playoffs via the six at-large bids.

It’s not perfect, but it’s thorough, accurate and inclusive. That’s more than what you can say for the process that’s going to take place starting in 2014.


Follow @KIAFootball on Twitter.



Share Button

About J.P. Scott

Owner and editor of Know It All Football, contributor to AthlonSports.com and GridirionExperts.com. Member of the Football Writers Association of America.

5 thoughts on “What Could a 16-Team College Football Playoff Look Like?

  1. Jose B
    November 21, 2013 at 10:58 am

    I think this idea for a playoff system would work great! It gives the big conferences the respect they always want, and also doesnt leave out the mid-majors or so called little guys. But your assumption that Oregon would play Baylor is a little to quik. I think Fresno State would give Oregon a good run for their money! Derek Carr is the man and should be getting more love and consideration for the Heisman. But I know he needs to play tougher competition. Go Dogs!

    1. admin
      November 21, 2013 at 10:59 am

      Thanks for the read, Jose.

  2. January 31, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    No, it is not bad, it is terrible, much less asking is it the best we can do.
    No committee, no poll (ranking) and no computer… just wins baby.
    As reported by NASCAR.com
    On January 30, 2014 NASCAR announced a new championship format that will put greater emphasis on winning races all season long, expands the current Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field to 16 drivers, and implements a new round-by-round advancement format that ultimately will reward a battle-tested, worthy champion.
    Get it, onl wins can decide a champion in any endeavor.
    We should all want an Undisputed National Champion is America’s game.
    The Perfect Playoff Plan 16 with a total Reorganization of Major College Football is at: http://ncaa2014.us