The Best College Football Playoff System Ever Designed

This article is part II to an article I wrote a year ago about the most sensible way to align the teams in Division I college football to allow for a workable format for a playoff system.

In this article,  not only do I show you the way the conference can be broken up with regional sense but I also walk you through how the conference championship games would look,  how the playoff brackets would be set and how the bowl games can still be played in conjunction with this system.  In addition,  I lay out the dates that each event could take place and show how it can all be worked into the same amount of time that is currently being allotted for the current BCS system.

Just as a reference point,  I am posting my suggestion for conference alignments once again as I will need to point back to it in explaining the other aspects of the plan.  You will notice that the alignments have a regional feel and quality to it.  You will also notice that I do not lump all the mid-tier teams into a conference together.  The mid-tier teams are mixed in amongst others.  Those programs’ desires to obtain a championship will promote parity.

Each team each year would play every team in their division once and then matchup against a division from another conference for their remaining games.  For example.  In 2011 the Southern Conference East Division would play all the teams from Southwest Conference West Division for their non-conference games.  This would be rotated each year and no conference division would play the other division within their own conference.  So, in no given year would the Eastern Division of the Southern Conference play the teams in the Western Division Southern Conference for their non-divisional games.

Your overall record would be used to determine division winners with record within the division to be used as tiebreakers.

In this plan,  every team plays 11 regular season games.

Conference Alignments

East Region West Region
Southern Conference Southwest Conference
Miami Alabama LSU Tex A&M
FSU Florida TCU Texas
Georgia Tech Georgia Baylor Houston
FAU USF Louisiana Tech SMU
UCF Troy St. Rice N. Texas
FIU UAB ULL Arkansas St.
Southeast Conference Mid-American Conference
Auburn South Carolina Iowa Pittsburgh
Tennessee Clemson Purdue Illinois
Miss. St. Ole Miss. Notre Dame Missouri
Memphis Vanderbilt Iowa St. Indiana
S. Miss. Tulane Ball St. Miami Ohio
Mid. Ten. St. Lou. Monroe Bowling Green Marshall
Northeastern Conference Midwestern Conference
Penn St. Ohio St. Oklahoma Nebraska
Boston College U.Conn Oklahoma St. Arkansas
Syracuse Cincinnati Colorado Kansas
Navy Rutgers Colorado St. Kansas St.
Army Temple Tulsa Wyoming
Buffalo Kent. St. Air Force Idaho
Mideastern Conference Mountain West Conference
Virginia Tech North Carolina Texas Tech Boise St.
Virginia Wake Forest Arizona BYU
West Virginia NC State Arizona St. Utah
Louisville Maryland UNLV Nevada
Kentucky East Carolina New Mexico Utah St.
W. Kentucky Duke New Mexico St. Utep
Northern Lakes Conference Western Conference
Wiconsin Michigan Oregon California
Minnesota Michigan St. Oregon St. Stanford
Toledo Northwestern Washington USC
W. Michigan Eastern Michigan Washington St. UCLA
C. Michigan N. Illinois San Jose St. Hawaii
Akron Ohio Fresno St. San Diego St.

Below I have used the strength and records of the teams during the 2011 season to construct a hypothetical set of conference championship games to demonstrate how the system would work.  Every conference would have a championship game pitting the teams with the best records from each division against each other.   See what that would look like below.

Conference Championship Games

Conference Championship Games
East Region Winner
N23 Southern Conference Florida St. Alabama Alabama
N23 Southeast Conference Auburn South Carolina South carolina
N24 Northeastern Conference Penn St. Ohio St. Penn St.
N24 Mideastern Conference Virginia Tech NC State Virginia Tech
N24 Northern Lakes Conference Wisconsin Michigan Wisconsin
West Region
N23 Southwest Conference LSU Texas LSU
N23 Mid-American Conference Notre Dame Missouri Notre Dame
N24 Midwestern Conference Oklahoma St. Arkansas Oklahoma St.
N24 Mountain West Conerence Arizona St. Boise St. Boise St.
N24 Western Conference Oregon Stanford Oregon

Now that we know who are playoff teams are after the conference championships,  we can now begin filling our bowl games with their match ups.  In my system,  bowl match ups are predetermined by the place in which teams finished within their respective conferences.  So,  for instance, the Humanitarian Bowl each year would host the Southern Conference East Division 3rd place finisher against the Southwest Conference East Division 3rd place finisher.  Under the heading “Conference Matchup” you will see abbreviations.  This was done to preserve space.  However,  the abbreviations are for the conferences with divisions and the numbers stand for the place in which team finished.  So SECE-2 would stand for Southeast Conference East Division 2nd place finisher.  Moving further down the bowl list NECrun would stand for the Northeast Conference runner-up which would be the team that lost the conference championship game.   In the bigger bowl games like the Cotton Bowl for example,  you see ERDL1 v. WRDL1.   This provides for losers of the playoff games to play in bowl games.  So ERDL1 would mean East Region Round 1 loser v. WRDL1 West Region round 1 loser.

Bowl Game Matchups

 date  Bowl Games  Conference Matchup Hypothetical 2011 matchups
1 D11 Humanitarian SCE-3 v. SWCE-3 Miami TCU
2 D11 New Orleans SCW-3 v. SWCW-3 Florida Texas A&M
3 D11 St. Petersburg SECE-3 v. MACE-3 Mississippi St. Purdue
4 D12 Las Vegas SECW-3 v. MACW-3 Vanderbilt Pittsburgh
5 D12 Poinsettia Bowl NECE-3 v. MWCE-3 Syracuse Tulsa
6 D13 Hawaii Bowl NECW-3 v. MWCW-3 Rutgers Nebraska
7 D13 Little Caesars Bowl MECE-3 v. MWCE-3 Virginia Arizona
8 D13 Independence Bowl MECW-3 v. MWCW-3 Wake Forest Utah
9 D14 Champs Sports NLCE-3 v. WCE-3 Western Michigan Washington St.
11 D14 Insight NLCW-3 v. WCW-3 N. Illinois California
12 D18 Military Bowl SCE-2 v. SWCE-2 Georgia Tech Baylor
13 D18 Texas Bowl SCW-2 v. SWCW-2 Georgia Houston
14 D18 Alamo Bowl SECE-2 v. MACE-2 Southern Miss. Iowa
15 D19 Armed Forces Bowl SECW-2 v. MACW-2 Clemson Illinois
16 D19 Music City Bowl NECE-2 v. MWCE-2 Boston College Oklahoma
17 D20 Holiday Bowl NECW-2 v. MWCW-2 Cincinnati Kansas St.
18 D20 Car Care Bowl MECE-2 v. MWCE-2 West Virginia Texas Tech
19 D20 Sun Bowl MECW-2 v. MWCW-2 North Carolina BYU
20 D21 Liberty Bowl NLCE-2 v. WCE-2 Toledo Washington
21 D21 Chick-fil-A Bowl NLCW-2 v. WCW-2 Michigan St. USC
22 D27 Outback Bowl SECrun v. MACrun Florida St. Texas
23 D28 Capital One Bowl NECrun v. MWCrun Ohio St. Missouri
24 D29 Gator Bowl MECrun v. MtWCrun NC State Arizona St.
25 J1 Compass Bowl ERD1L v. WRD1L Penn St. Notre Dame
26 J1 Cotton Bowl ERDL1 v. WRD1L Michigan Stanford
27 J1 Rose Bowl ERD1L v. WRD1L Auburn Arkansas
28 J2 Fiesta Bowl ERD2L v. WRD2L South Carolina Boise St.
29 J3 Orange Bowl ERD2L v. WRD2L Virginia Tech Oregon
30 J4 Sugar Bowl ERD3L v. WRD3L Wisconsin Oklahoma St.
31 J8 National Championship ERD3W v. WRD3W Alabama LSU

Now that we have that out of the way,  we can take a look at what the playoff brackets look like.  In this proposed system you have a 14 team playoff. You get your Top 10 teams from the conference championship games and you also get two wildcard teams from the East Region along with two wildcard teams from the West Region.  You select those wildcard teams as the two highest ranked teams in East Region that lost their championship games.  If you end up with situation where you don’t have ranked conference losers than you set up some parameters for selection and tiebreaker to take the two next best teams from each region that weren’t champions.  The majority of the time you will end up with ranked teams that lost championship games.

The highest ranked team in the East Region and the West Region would get first round byes while everyone else would play week one.  From there you carry through the normal course of a bracket playoff system and illustrated below.  The notations at the top with a letter and number stand for the date in which the games would take place.  So D15 stands for Dccember 15th.

Playoff Brackets

Playoff Brackets
D8 D15 D22 J8
Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Championship
East Region
Alabama Alabama
South Carolina South Carolina
Penn St. Alabama
Michigan * Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech
Auburn * Wisconsin
West Region
Notre Dame
Boise St. Boise St.
Stanford I Oklahoma St.
Oklahoma St.
Oklahoma St.
Arkansas * Oregon

In the end,  each team plays 11 regular season games.  The two teams that play in the championship game would have either played 14 or 15 games at the end of the season.  You have teams now playing 13 and 14 games in a season.  So there’s no extra wear and tear to worry about.

I will continue to expand on this as questions and comments are received about the workings of this system.  This system makes the most sense to me.  By all means, share your thoughts.

Author: Chad Wilson

Chad Wilson is a college football recruiting expert and creator of the GridironStudsApp which allows high school football players to gain exposure to college football coaches and fans. Wilson is a former college football player for the University of Miami (92-94) and Long Beach St. (’90-’91) and played briefly for the Seattle Seahawks (’95). He is also a former youth and high school football coach for over 15 years. Wilson’s older son Quincy plays in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts and his younger son plays cornerback for the University of Florida. Email:

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