Nebraska head coach Scott Frost let his voice be heard on the early edition of January 7’s ESPN’s SportsCenter. His message: there needs to be an eight-team playoff. Well coach, I agree and I’m here to make your dream a reality…kind of.
Using a combination of Frost’s suggestion for a new playoff entry system, current College Football Playoff rankings and a bunch of computer simulations, we’re going to have a look at what this year’s playoff would theoretically look like if the Huskers’ new head man played through a system he’d feel more comfortable with.
First, we acknowledge this year’s conference champions. Clemson, Ohio State, Georgia, Oklahoma, and USC take up five of eight spots. UCF, as the highest-ranked Group of Five team, gets the sixth. With the need for two at-large teams, we’ll look to the final 2017 CFP rankings.
Of the teams that did not get in, the highest-ranking teams left are No. 4 Alabama and No. 6 Wisconsin. Sounds like an appropriate pair.
Now that we’ve determined who’s in, it’s time to seed these teams. Using the CFP poll again will help us determine that. We’ll take the current ranking and use that as a starting point. Obviously, conference champions get preference as they’re in first.
That means the top seeds are (in order) Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, Ohio State, and USC. UCF gets the sixth seed for their respective entry. Again, we refer to the poll to determine at-large seeding in the same way those two teams got in, to begin with. Alabama takes the seventh seed, Wisconsin the eighth.
With teams and seeding done, it’s time to simulate how this all goes down.
I’ll be using NCAA GameSim for this purpose. One go through the system on a neutral field (consider all necessary bowls shanghaied).
No. 1 Clemson versus No. 8 Wisconsin:
Wisconsin 20 Clemson 6
No. 2 Oklahoma versus No. 7 Alabama:
Oklahoma 28 Alabama 23
No. 3 Georgia versus No. 6 UCF
Georgia 63 UCF 17
No. 4 Ohio State versus No. 5 USC
Ohio State 44 USC 21
No. 8 Wisconsin versus No. 2 Oklahoma:
Oklahoma 38 Wisconsin 19
No. 3 Georgia versus No. 4 Ohio State:
Georgia 33 Ohio State 20
No. 2 Oklahoma versus No. 3 Georgia
Georgia 31 Oklahoma 27
So there you have it. While admittedly not a perfect simulation (the site offers a premium service that offers far more in-depth scenarios), this at least gives us an idea of how Frost’s preferred method of college football’s postseason would work out.
What we learned from this particular simulation is that the quarterfinals provided both the opportunity for the big dogs to show they truly belong and teams that would’ve normally been excluded to offer better competition down the road (Wisconsin and Ohio State). Three of the four matchups gave us entertaining games, too.
The semifinals and final appropriately give us steel-sharpened teams that have more than proven they should clash for the national championship and that ultimately would drive ticket sales and ratings for the game.
Perhaps most interesting is that not only did we see a re-match of this season’s semifinal matchup between Georgia and Oklahoma in the national championship game, but that the Bulldogs continued to impose their will throughout the playoff. Will that be the case against this season’s Alabama team? We’ll find out shortly.
While Frost’s team didn’t exactly shine in this particular simulation, that’s not the point.
This system may not be perfect (the current one certainly isn’t), but it’s much fairer across the board and gives fans more quality postseason football on the whole. I call that a win.