Saturday, December 22, 2018

Schaible: A 24-team playoff would be the perfect cure

By: Brian Schaible
Twitter: @SBNationReports

I love the bowls!

People say there are too many bowl games. Please!

The more, the merrier!

After my experience at the AutoNation Cure Bowl last weekend, I began to wonder if my Bowl philosophy still held water. It was played in front of about 1,200 people in the stands. Reported attendance was 19,066.

Does crowd size really matter? Would it matter if say 5,000 showed up or (gasp) even 10K? For television purposes, the answer is no. For the vitality of the bowl, well that gets more complicated.

The last bowl game to officially fold was the Poinsettia Bowl in 2017. What’s scary to me is that bowl averaged over 30,000 a game and still couldn’t make it work.

Is there a breakeven attendance number? If there is, it certainly isn’t public. I think most would agree that the people and sponsors who stand to lose money are plenty capable of enduring such a financial hardship. In other words, rich people problems.

So, is there a future for these mid-December showdowns?

I hope so.

But I do think the individual games need to do a better job of marketing. I also think regional matchups, especially among Group of Five schools, are critical for generating more fan interest. But most importantly, it’s time to get creative and incorporate these events into a larger playoff field.

What if a game like the Cure Bowl was a first-round playoff game?

Whether this game matters to anybody else, it most certainly matters to the student athletes in uniform. So, the last thing I would want to do is deny players those experiences. However, I think there is a compromise.

Currently there are 39 bowl games, not counting the National Championship, which means more room for 78 teams to participate in postseason play.

I’d like to see 24-week one bowl games. I want more primetime matchups. I’d prefer bowl season to start on Tuesday or Wednesday and have several games every night with a packed schedule on Saturday and Sunday. We will refer to these as Tier One bowls.

Each Tier One bowl will host the first round of a new 24-team playoff every three years. This will provide a big boost in attendance during the playoff year but also maintain the opportunities for student athletes and families to enjoy the bowl experience for teams not competing for a championship.

Tier Two bowls will consist of 16 games. This includes the eight winners from round one and the eight highest ranked teams which are afforded a first-round bye.

These bowl games will rotate between second round playoff matchups and traditional bowl pairings on alternate years. In years where a bowl is not hosting a playoff round, the game can be set closer to New Year’s Day. Otherwise it will occur on the weekend following the opening round.

While a bowl’s status could potentially shift from Tier One to Tier Two or vice-versa, we will start out by assigning all new bowls and lower payout games as Tier One.

After round two, 40 bowl games would have been played, and we would be down to eight teams alive for the National Championship. The Tier Three Bowls will consist of the same six currently set aside for the College Football Playoff. These bowls will alternate between hosting quarterfinal and semifinal matchups based on a round robin formula.

The national championship game will still be up for bid and open to any city within or outside existing Bowl relationships.

So, how would all this work?

Well, the first thing we would need to establish is how the eight first round byes are awarded. I would personally like to see a lot more objectivity in the process and depend less on the opinions of a committee.

So, what does that mean?

It means Colley Matrix, you’re back in business baby!

This rating system along with Sagarin, Wolfe, Anderson/Hester and others would be back. I don’t care if you use 50 different algorithms and polls to form one set of rankings. When the regular season concludes, the top eight according to the new “Super BCS” formula are awarded the bye week.

In theory, no team outside the top four should have a realistic chance of winning a championship. But unlike our current system, at least those twenty additional teams will have the opportunity to compete for one.

In order for all of this to work, we would need to have a total of 47 total bowl games. Considering the championship site will be located based on bidding process, we would need to award seven additional contests.

Are there seven prospective bowl sites? Of course!

Myrtle Beach and Chicago have both been granted a new bowl beginning in 2020.

Austin and Charleston have inquired about additional bowls. Let’s go ahead and award those now.

As for the other three bowls, I’d give Southern California, Atlanta, and Miami the first shot at adding additional bowls. If any of those cities pass, then any and all possibilities can be considered.

What makes this playoff expansion idea unique is that we are not forgetting about the little guy. I’ve read other 24-team playoff expansion proposals that cater primarily to Power Five schools.

In my proposal, 72 teams will participate in the postseason. This is only a reduction of six total programs from the current format.

QI think this is the best of both worlds. We can finally crown a true undisputed champion on the field! And maybe, if the stars align, you might even need a winning record to qualify for a bowl.

For argument’s sake, let’s take a look at how a 24-team playoff might have looked using the final CFP rankings.

Byes: Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, and UCF.

First Round:

13) Washington vs. 24) Iowa State
10) Florida vs. 23) Missouri
11) LSU vs. 22) Northwestern
12) Penn State vs. 21) Fresno State
13) Washington State vs. 20) Syracuse
14) Kentucky vs.19) Texas A&M
15) Texas vs. 18) Mississippi State
16) West Virginia vs. 17) Utah

The playoff snubs are Boise State, UAB, Army, NC State, and Utah State. Oh well?

As for conference representation, SEC would have placed eight teams, Big Ten and Big 12 four, Pac-12 three and ACC two teams. Notre Dame, Fresno State, and UCF round out the field.

For the first round of the playoffs, I’m envisioning a doubleheader on Thursday and Friday and a quadrupleheader on Saturday. Next week, let’s do it again with eight more games.

Under this scenario, by the Christmas holiday, we will be down to just eight teams in contention for the title. This would allow for the big bowls to occur around New Year’s Day with the final two playoff rounds on subsequent weeks.

Sounds perfect! Right?

Will this ever happen? Doubtful.

But it’s fun to dream.