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College Football Playoff: What Would a 16-team Bracket Look Like in 2015?


For the second consecutive season, it looks as if the College Football Playoff committee has done a fine job of sending four deserving teams to the tournament that will decide the national champion. Also for the second consecutive season, it appears as though at least one team that could have won it all was left out.

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As great as the College Football Playoff is, the players, coaches and fans deserve better.

I write a different version of this article every season, and I likely won't stop doing so until the idea contained within comes to fruition: We need a 16-team College Football Playoff.

There is absolutely no reason not to have a playoff that includes every FBS conference champion. It's borderline unconscionable to reward any team — Power 5 or Group of 5 — with a trip to Mobile, Ala., to play a meaningless game that nobody will watch against an inferior team. That's not how you reward champions. That's how you insult a locker room full of scholarship athletes.

I'm tired of hearing two of the main arguments against a 16-team playoff. One has to do with academics and finals and the worry about how to not let those things fall by the wayside. Here's an idea: Ask the lower divisions how they make it work. They make it work every year, and somehow they maintain their academic integrity.

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The other argument is a rather vague one about preserving the sanctity of the bowls. Gimme a break. A 5-7 Nebraska team that got its doors blown off against Purdue is going to be playing in something called the Foster Farms Bowl. Look me in the eye and tell me that's a game we can't afford to lose.

The plan for a 16-team playoff is fairly simple. You start by giving all 10 FBS conference champions an automatic bid. You then look to the same committee rankings you have in place now to determine the six at-large teams. They are simply the top six teams in the rankings that did not win their conference.

You then seed them according to the final rankings. This season, 12 of your 16 participants are in the top 25. Naturally, those teams would get the top 12 seeds. The 13th through 16th seeds would go to the remaining four Group of 5 champions, who would be seeded according to the conference RPI. Too easy.

Once the teams are seeded, the Round of 16 will be played on the home field of the higher-seeded team — just like the lower levels of college football. Your quarterfinal games would be played as four of the six New Year's Six Bowls, which leaves two bowls open to the top four teams that did not qualify for the playoff. The semifinal and championship rounds would rotate every year to different neutral sites.

Here is what a 16-team bracket would like in 2015:

16. Western Kentucky (C-USA) vs. No. 1 Clemson (ACC)

No. 9 Florida State (At-large) vs. No. 8 Notre Dame (At-large)

No. 12 Houston (AAC) vs. No. 5 Iowa (At-Large)

No. 13 Bowling Green (MAC) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma (Big 12)

No. 14 San Diego State (MW) vs. No. 3 Michigan State (Big Ten)

No. 11 Texas Christian (At-large) vs. No. 6 Stanford (Pac-12)

No. 10 North Carolina (At-large) vs. No. 7 Ohio State (At-large)

No. 15 Arkansas State (Sun Belt) vs. No. 2 Alabama (SEC)

Look at that! A beautiful, 16-team tournament full of every champion in the land and six other quality football teams! And look at some of those matchups, not only in the first round, but potential ones right through the quarterfinals and semis.

Not only that, but you'd still have some potential fantastic matchups in the two New Year's Six Bowls that weren't part of the playoff. Those two bowls would have any combination of these four teams: Ole Miss, Northwestern, Michigan and Oregon.

It's easy. It works. It would be a success. But right now, it's a pipe dream. Right now, we don't care about much in college football outside of impressing the Playoff committee members. In the meantime, every other level of college football has a better way of deciding a champion.

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Scott is the editor-in-chief of, a Big Ten site for Big Ten fans. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.