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What would a 16-team playoff looked like in 2012? I'm glad you asked...
By way of explanation and to get the logistics out-of-the-way, our pretend college football playoff would be a 16-team tournament. Eleven of the 16 spots would be determined by the winners of the 11 D-I conferences; the other 5 participants would be at-large, with a maximum of three participants per conference. The 5 at-large teams and the seeding would be determined by a committee (in this case, a committee of one - me).
I am using several things to help my seeding, leaning heavily on Jeff Sagarin's college football rankings. So, without further ado, here are you NCAA football playoff participants.
Conference Champs*: FSU (ACC); Kansas State (Big 12); Louisville (Big East); Wisconsin (B1G); Tulsa (CUSA); NIU (MAC); Boise State (MWC); Stanford (Pac-12); Alabama (SEC); Arkansas St. (Sun Belt); Utah State (WAC)
*Where there were 3- or 4-way ties, I broke them using the team ranked highest in the BCS standings.
At Large: Notre Dame (Independent); Oregon (Pac-12); Georgia (SEC); Florida (SEC); Oklahoma (Big 12)
Last out: Texas A&M (4th SEC team); South Carolina (5th SEC team); Oregon State (4th Pac-12 team); Ohio State (ineligible); Oklahoma State
1. Notre Dame (12-0)
Why: They're undefeated. Yes, they didn't have the strongest schedule, but it was very good. And they didn't lose. 4-0 vs. the top 30.
Flaws: Played a weaker schedule than Florida or Kansas State (according to Sagarin)
2. Alabama (12-1)
Why: SEC Champ.
Flaws: A loss to Johnny Football. And they might not be No. 2 if the Georgia coaching staff knew how to manager the last 60 seconds of a close football game.
3. Florida (11-1)
Why: Top 20 schedule. 4-1 vs. the top 30.
Flaws: Loss to Georgia. That's it. Not too shabby.
4. Kansas State (11-1)
Why: Big 12 Champ. Top 20 schedule. 6-1 vs. the top 30.
Flaws: That humiliating loss to Baylor (7-5) bumps them down a lot, despite 6 wins vs. the top 30. And this looks even worse if, unlike Sagarin, you don't think Baylor is a top 30 team.
5. Oregon (11-1)
Why: 33rd best schedule. 4-1 vs. top 30.
Flaws: No top 10 win. Not a conference champ.
6. Georgia (11-2)
Why: SEC conference champ game participant. Win against Florida.
Flaws: Two losses. Only 1-2 vs. Top 30.
7. Stanford (11-2)
Why: 7-1 vs. the top 30, best record in football. Pac-12 champ.
Flaws: Lost to Washington (7-5). Barely beat UCLA (9-4) in Pac-12 title game.
8. Oklahoma (10-2)
Why: 6-2 vs. Top 30. 5th toughest schedule.
Flaws: Not Big 12 Champ. No top 10 wins (0-2).
9. Florida St. (11-2)
Why: ACC champ. 11 wins.
Flaws: Not a top 50 schedule. Only 1-1 vs. top 30. Loss to NC State (7-5).
10. Utah St. (10-2)
Why: WAC Champ. Both losses close and on the road to bowl-bound teams (Wisconsin and BYU).
Flaws: Weak schedule (93rd). Loss to BYU (7-5).
11. Wisconsin (8-5)
Why: B1G Champ. Top 40 schedule. 2 wins vs. top 30.
Flaws: 5 losses, including to the two teams (Penn St. and Ohio St.) who should be in this spot.
12. Boise State (10-2)
Why: MWC Champ (if decided by BCS ranking).
Flaws: Weak schedule (102nd). Two losses. No wins vs. top 30.
13. NIU (12-1)
Why: MAC Champ. Win vs. Big 12 opponent (really bad Kansas team)
Flaws: Loss to Iowa. Pathetic schedule. Only win vs. a quality opponent came in MAC championship game against Kent St.
14. Louisville (10-2)
Why: Big East champ.
15. Tulsa (10-3)
Why: CUSA champ.
16. Arkansas St. (9-3)
Why: Sun Belt Champ
First Round Match-Ups
My pretend playoff's first round would be hosted by the home teams (higher-seeded team hosts for the first two rounds). Two games would happen on Friday night, with the remainder taking place on Saturday (two noon games, two 3pm games, one 7pm game, one 9 pm game). The first round happens this yesterday and today (Dec. 7-8). The second round would take place the following weekend (Dec. 14-15), with the top seed playing the worst remaining seed (and so forth).
Hypothetical First Round Match-Ups
Arkansas St. @ Notre Dame
Tulsa @ Alabama
Louisville @ Florida
NIU @ Kansas State
Boise St. @ Georgia
Wisconsin @ Oregon
Utah St. @ Stanford
Florida St. @ Oklahoma
Some very interesting games here, including FSU getting a chance to prove they belong, a clash of style in Wisconsin vs. Oregon, and BSU and USU getting decent the chance to play Cinderella.
What do you guys think? Would you have picked different at-large teams? Would this make for a more compelling way to end the season?