Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The theme of the week is college basketball and the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 round, which will get underway on Thursday.
The Sweet 16 in college basketball has a more narrow vision toward the best teams in the country, now that (in most cases) the conference champions from weaker leagues and the lower seeds in the bracket have been eliminated from the rounds of 64 and 32.
There are always a few sleepers that get through, and really, who doesn't love a good Cinderella story?
With those thoughts in mind, and the upcoming inaugural college football playoff system being implemented following the 2014-15 season, let's consider what college football's Sweet 16 would look like if the NCAA's basketball and football postseason were identically structured from this point on.
A reminder: Following the culmination of the regular season in 2014, the college football landscape will experience its first-ever playoff system, in which the nation's top four teams will be decided by a special committee to compete in a four-team bracket to determine a national champion. It will be like the Final Four of college football, with the four competitors carefully selected for inclusion.
Here's the potential problem: With a top-heavy college football landscape, how will it be possible to pick the best four teams? And will the selection committee take strength of conference and schedule into account along with record and in-depth statistics when making this final decision? The answer will have to be a hesitant yes, but covering all the bases will be difficult to say the least.
So why not expand the playoff system? That way more deserving teams make the field, and the possibility of seeing an upset (a la Mercer over Duke in the basketball world) would make fans giddy.
Think of Boise State. The Broncos broke onto the FBS scene with a huge win over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, which not many thought was a possibility.
The system is new, so we'll give it time to develop and then we can gauge its effectiveness moving forward. For fun, here's a look at how a Sweet 16 would have played out in the FBS:
Florida State and Auburn would have received the top two seeds in the tournament based on their selection to participate in the BCS National Championship. Michigan State and South Carolina finished as the No. 3 and No. 4 teams in the AP Top 25 following the season, so let's use them as the last two top seeds.
Throw out all the "conference champion" obscurities for the time being, and let's take the best teams in the country. Really, would the Sun Belt Conference champion, for example, have any shot against an SEC threat? Maybe there's a glimmer of hope, but certainly nothing substantial.
According to the AP rankings, Missouri, Oklahoma, Alabama and Clemson would receive the No. 2 seeds. Clemson simply dominated Ohio State in the Orange Bowl at the end of this past season, and Alabama was the odds-on favorite to win it all for the third straight time. But a run-in with Auburn left the nation and Alabama stunned after a Chris Davis touchdown return off a missed field goal. That play possibly demoralized the Crimson Tide, as they were eventually trounced by Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
Oregon, UCF, Stanford and Ohio State were ranked 9-12 in the final AP poll, so they get the No. 3 seeds in the bracket. With some seriously talented players in that group, including some of the best college quarterbacks in Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles and Braxton Miller, it would be hard to count these teams out of any contest. So why should they not be given a chance to vie for the national championship?
Finally, Baylor, LSU, Louisville and UCLA round out the top 16 teams in the country, and would get a chance to take on the No. 1 seeds in the first round. Again, look at the depth of talent. Baylor had a sensational year at 11-2, but was beaten by UCF, 52-42, in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl. LSU, out of the SEC and led by Zach Mettenberger, could make some waves, and Louisville (12-1) dominated with possibly the nation's best quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, under center.
That field is as simply put together as can be - it was based off the final rankings alone. Sure, other teams are likely as deserving as those 16 teams, but a selection committee would be able to determine who is in and who's out.
That's just the start. Think of teams like Texas A&M, USC, Oklahoma State and Arizona State that have to be left out of the field because of record and rankings.
Just taking a look at the field, it's impossible to pick a clear-cut winner without at least giving some thought to an upset (if you even want to call it that with such a stacked lineup of programs).
Go ahead and form your own playoff scenario out of the teams mentioned. Given another chance, Alabama could prove it's the best team in the nation with arguably the most talent depth. But Florida State played an unbelievable season behind Jameis Winston, and maybe Louisville would get a chance to show how good it can be with its weaker strength of schedule tossed aside.
When we're talking playoffs, anything can happen. That wasn't the case with the BCS system because the national "champion" could have been only one of two teams. If the NCAA eventually figures out how to make a field of 16 teams work, then we'll truly find out what it takes to be the kings of college football.