How to fix the College Football Playoffs

So after the first release of the 2020 CFB Playoff ranking, there’s a lot of displeasure about how badly BYU got shafted — and rightly so! The committee appears to have placed a huge penalty on BYU for not playing in a Power 5 conference, and rewarding poor P5 teams for playing in a P5 conference (hi Iowa State!). It’s become very apparent the G5 teams are never going to get a fair shake in the CFB Playoff picture. Should we fix this? Yes we should! G5 teams need love and support too, especially after doing everything right. So how do we fix this? Well, I think the idea has been in front of us the entire time — and all we had to do was pay attention to English football!

That’s right, we introduce the relegation system to FBS-Class College Football! It would give G5 teams a chance to compete with P5 programs, and it would give incentive to perennial bottom-feeders in the P5 conferences to get better or face severe consequences. Now, before I get into the specifics of all this, two main caveats:

1) There’s a lot of reasons why this would never happen, or would have big issues to keep it from happening. First and foremost, this idea would NEVER be approved by the P5 conferences, because they have a lot to lose from this and very little to gain. The increased TV revenue from everything would not be that big. Every P5 school that has sub-par football programs would very likely face relegation, which would be a black eye on each of the conferences. There’s also the issue of if we do this for football, what about the other major sports? For the sake of this article, I’m assuming all P5s are on board with this and non-football sports happen just as they always have.

2) I’m not taking into consideration with this any FCS-or-lower divisions. That being said, of course this idea could be trickled down to these divisions as well, just like it happens in the EPL. I’m definitely not a journalist — just a lifelong fan. I’d leave the FCS-and-lower division work as an exercise for the reader.

3) How would P5 rivalries be handled if one of the teams gets relegated? For this article I’m assuming any games like that would end up being assigned as out of conference games.

So what exactly does relegation mean? It means that the P5 conferences would be the “Major” division, and the G5 conferences would be the “Minor” division. Each P5 would be partnered with a G5 (detailed below). Each P5 and G5 would be forced to make two divisions within each conference. And, at the end of the season, your lowest ranked P5 team in every division would be relegated to the G5 conference. At the same time, your top ranked G5 team for the partnered division would be promoted to the P5 division for the next season. I’ll get into examples below of what this would look like using 2019 end of season results.

Now, there will of course be some assumptions for this:
A) Each P5 conference has their own TV/media network. They would partner with their corresponding G5 conference and start to air their games as well. They would have to setup some form of revenue sharing agreement with said G5 conference (maybe an 80/20 or 70/30 split, then it’s split amongst the teams thereof). I have done zero research into the revenue figures for each conference, but I would hope this would increase the revenue for G5 schools, while only slightly decreasing revenue for P5 schools in each conference. For the season, you get the revenue piece for the level you’re in. Of course, not all P5 conferences have their own network, so . . .
B) Texas finally has to share the Longhorn Network with the rest of the Big 12, rebranding it as the Big 12 Network. Again, I understand this would never happen, but play along for argument’s sake.
C) There would be a ton of scheduling conflicts here. If nothing else, 2020 has shown these conferences CAN redo schedules on the fly with very little issue. You would have to have some type of set schedule across each conference because teams could relegate/promote every year. Again, for the sake of this article, I would assume this is worked out and agreed upon across FBS. This would ALSO be a great time to introduce pod scheduling across the FBS landscape! Keep your rivalry games in place (even if it’s now out of conference!) and let the rest of your schedule be assigned on the fly via rotation amongst each conference.
D) You do have a few independents left across FBS. For this to work, each of these independents have to pony up and join a conference. I’ve assigned each of these independents into the following conferences:

Notre Dame joins the ACC (B1G makes more sense geographically, but they’re already in the ACC!)
Army joins the MAC
UConn joins the MAC
BYU joins the MWC
New Mexico State joins the MWC
Liberty joins the AAC
UMass joins the FCS (sorry UMass!)

Now that that’s done, we need to assign a G5 to every P5 conference. This is how I’ve assigned them, based on geographical location:

ACC(14+1) — Sun Belt(12)
B12(10) — AAC(11+1)
B10(14) — Mid-American(12+2)
PAC12(12) — Mountain West(12+2)
SEC(14) — C-USA(14)

That makes the math work for every conference except for the ACC. I don’t like having an uneven number of teams there but Notre Dame is the only independent that’s considered P5 class. I’ll just have to live with it for now.

So now we have all these conferences! Now what? Well, I’m glad you asked! We will now take this opportunity to revamp the playoff system just a wee bit:
–The P5 Playoffs will be expanded to 8 games. The first 5 slots are auto-awarded to each conference champion, and the 3 at-large bids will be assigned by a revamped BCS ranking system: The top 3 non-conference-champion teams would be awarded the spots. The top 5 spots all go to conference champions — the seeding would be determined by overall BCS ranking.
–You would NOW have a G5 Playoffs! The rankings therein would be assigned the same way: The 5 G5 conference champions get an auto-bid while the 3 at-large bids would be assigned to the top 3 non-conference-champion BCS ranked teams.

The BCS was far from perfect — but it’s my opinion it’s biggest fault was picking the top 2 teams in the nation. If you assign auto-spots to the 5 conference champs, then have the BCS pick the best 3 remaining teams from that, I believe it would be a much more acceptable system.

As far as how this would work? All conference championships get played the first weekend of December. The second weekend would be a bye week for all playoff teams. The third weekend would be the quarterfinals, the fourth weekend would be the semifinals, the first weekend of January would be another bye week, and the 2nd weekend of January would be the championship games. Again, make it all mandatory. As for these games themselves? That’s 14 games that should all be assigned to the top 14 bowl game locations. I’ll default to Big Money as to how these 14 locations should be assigned, but I will say this: For the championship games, hold both championship games at the same location, and rotate it between the Rose Bowl and the Mercedes-Benz stadium in Atlanta. You could play the G5 game on a Saturday and the P5 game on a Monday, it would give the hotels a chance to unclog and whatnot.

So how would all of this played out in real life? Well, let’s use the 2019 season as an example of everything! I found a simulated 2019 BCS End of season rankings at the following tweet — — and according to it, this is how the 2019 playoffs would have looked using the BCS ranking system:

1 LSU (SEC Champ) vs. #8 Alabama

2 Clemson (ACC Champ) vs. #7 Florida

3 Ohio State (B1G Champ) vs. #6 Georgia

4 Oregon (P12 Champ) vs. #5 Oklahoma (B12 Champ)

So yeah, there’s . . . a slight bit of an SEC Bias there that doesn’t look great. I still think the BCS would be the best idea. But, for arguments sake, let’s look at how the CFB Playoff Committee would have done this: (

1 LSU (SEC Champ) vs. #8 Wisconsin

2 Ohio State (B1G Champ) vs. #7 Baylor

3 Clemson (ACC Champ) vs. #6 Georgia

4 Oklahoma (B12 Champ) vs. #5 Oregon (P12 Champ)

….Yeah, I can’t lie — that’s a bit better representation of diversity there. I’ll concede the BCS may not be the best choice for this. Again, I’ll default to folks smarter than me to make this work better.

However, let’s look at how those G5 playoffs would look! (Again using BCS rankings)

1 Memphis (AAC Champ) vs #8 UCF

2 FAU (CUSA Champ) vs. #7 Air Force

3 Miami-OH (MAC Champ) vs. #6 Cincinnati

4 Boise State (MWC Champ) vs. #5 App State (Sun Belt Champ)

That warms the cockles of my heart just looking at it. I think this would turn out some amazing football, and would be played in prime Saturday times during bowl season!

As far as the other bowl games, let them happen amongst the other teams that didn’t make the playoffs like always, and schedule those games as filler during the week (non Saturday times) during bowl season.

Now, for the exciting part — RELEGATION AND PROMOTION! So after the dust settles from the playoff, these are the changes that would happen from each division (basing this on conference schedules and rankings only, and assuming for the Big 12 the last 2 place teams there)

ACC/Sun Belt:
NC State would swap with Louisiana
Georgia Tech would swap with App State

Big 12/AAC:
Texas Tech would swap with Cincinnati
Kansas would swap with Memphis

Big 10/Mid-American:
Rutgers would swap with Miami OH
Northwestern would swap with Central Michigan

Pac12/Mountain West:
Stanford would swap with Boise State
Arizona would swap with Hawaii

Vandy would swap with FAU
Arkansas would swap with UAB

There’s so many incredible changes this would make I don’t even know where to start. FAU would join the SEC — and maybe then Kiffin doesn’t leave for the Ole Miss job? UAB joining the SEC West to be in the same division as Bama? Boise State and Hawaii ascending to the Pac 12 the way it always should be? Memphis and Cincinnati joining the Big 12 and bringing some fresh blood? Not to mention the fallout from Arkansas becoming a Conference USA program or Georgia Tech becoming a Sun Belt team.

In closing, this may not be perfect, but I think it alleviates a lot of the existing arguments that the G5 isn’t fairly represented. This isn’t quite the validation the G5 teams would like, but it gives them a clear-cut path to be able to compete at the P5 level against P5 quality opponents. As for the P5 teams that lose out in this? If the relegated teams wanted to re-join, then get better. If these bottom-feeder P5 teams are as good as they like to think they are, then any relegation would just be a blip in the radar and they’d be back to P5 within a year.