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College Football Playoff: What Would a 16-team Bracket Look Like in 2016?


Well, that was fun.

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We're down to four teams to decide which one will be the champion of the wacky 2016 college football season. It's pretty cut and dry, right?


As always in college football, controversy reigns supreme this time of year – especially when it comes to the four-team College Football Playoff. And as always, the teams that will compete for the sport's national championship have been decided by opinion. That doesn't sit well with me, and it shouldn't sit well with you.

Because of that, I annually author and edit my plan for a 16-team College Football Playoff and demonstrate what it would look like during the current year. My plan gives every FBS team in the nation a clear road to qualify for the playoffs and win a national title while also leaving room for the personal opinions of a dozen or so people in a hotel in Dallas.

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

First and foremost, I'm tired of hearing about one of the main arguments against a 16-team playoff. It has to do with academics and finals and the worry about how to not let those things fall by the wayside. The problem is, the lower divisions make it work and somehow maintain their academic integrity. To help make my plan work – and in the interest of player safety – you eliminate one non-conference game and play an 11-game regular season. Teams would play nine conference opponents and two non-conference opponents. You could go eight and three as well. That part really doesn't matter.

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My plan also allows Notre Dame and anyone else that wishes to do so to remain independent. Rest easy, Irish fans. You still get to act like you're better than us.

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 College Football Playoff 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, 13 of your 16 participants are in the top 25. Naturally, those teams would get the top 13 seeds. The 14th through 16th seeds would go to the remaining four Group of 5 champions, who would be seeded according to the committee. Too easy. For this exercise, I am the committee.

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. The 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 look like in 2016:

No. 16. Appalachian State (Sun Belt) vs. No. 1 Alabama (SEC)

No. 9 USC (At-large) vs. No. 8 Wisconsin (At-large)

No. 12 Western Michigan (MAC) vs. No. 5 Penn State (Big Ten)

No. 13 Temple (AAC) vs. No. 4 Washington (Pac-12)

No. 14 San Diego State (MW) vs. No. 3 Ohio State (At-large)

No. 11 Florida State (At-large) vs. No. 6 Michigan (At-large)

No. 10 Colorado (At-large) vs. No. 7 Oklahoma (Big 12)

No. 15 Western Kentucky (C-USA) vs. No. 2 Clemson (ACC)

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: Oklahoma State, Auburn, Louisville and West Virginia.

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. Right now, a team that didn't even win its division – much less its conference – is playing for a national title while its conference champion watches from home (or Pasadena).

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. His work has appeared on,, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)