Like a lot of us I've been wondering if we'll see a 2020 NCAAF season or not. And, also like a lot of us, I'm finding myself having a bit more free time with lockdown.
So without further ado, here's my version of NCAA football. This concept was build with a few ideas in mind. First, it is loosely built on a Power 5 model. I say loosely, because there are P5 teams who didn't make the cut, and there are some FCS / G5 teams who did (more on this in a minute). Far more important than simply including all the existing Power 5 teams was to put a hard limit on the number of total teams, which I've capped at 60 teams distributed into 5 conferences (12 teams each). This is largely because the existing FBS setup is already too massive in my opinion and lacks any sort of "central league" feeling like the NFL or other sport leagues.
With a hard number locked in, the next step is considering geographic distribution. It's plainly obvious to anyone that the US has a much higher cluster of teams in the east, simply due to population density. I wanted to stretch this a bit westward, so you'll note the promotion of Montana, North Dakota State and South Dakota State into this new division. Likewise, Boise State, Nevada, Wyoming and Houston jump up from their G5 status, and Notre Dame is technically not a Power 5 team, but you know, it's Notre Dame. When it comes to team quality, I'm sure someone will argue that Maryland deserves a spot over Wyoming. You're probably right. I'd encourage you to make your own concept if it bothers you.
This mapping also allows the conferences to largely be centered geographically. It's a long way from Lincoln, Nebraska to Piscataway, NJ for a Huskers-Scarlet Knights game. Same goes for Texas Tech fans traveling to West Virginia. It really can't be overstated that geography plays an important part in building rivals.
Here are the conferences:
Moving onto scheduling. Since we're creating a completely new animal, we're not locked into a standard 12-game season. And nobody really cares about academics or students needing to make their final exams before winter break. This is about football and maximizing the number of football games.
Each team plays a full 11-game, round-robin conference schedule. That's right. 12 teams in each conference and your team is playing every single one of them. No more divisions. While I like the concept of divisions within a conference, each conference has historically evaluated their divisional standings different. Some count all conference games for the record. Some prioritize in-division games above cross-over games. And then some years you get the wonky 3-way tie like the famous Big XII South example when Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech were all locked in a rock-paper-scissors match and we allowed the freaking BCS to determine who "mathematically" won the division. Funny enough, that same year Nebraska and Missouri tied for the Big XII North, meaning that 5/12ths of the conference was a Divisional Champion for that season. Shoot me.
Each team gets 14 games overall, meaning three non-conference games are on the docket. And yes, this means that your team can schedule their traditional rival who is now in a different conference. Schedule the non-cons however you like, because there are only 59 other teams in the whole of this league. Also, while there are a few (potential) cupcakes like Wyoming, there's no more scooping up teams from the NAIA, D3 or local YMCA to pad your schedule. I'm mostly looking at you, SEC. Time to divorce yourself from the annual Citadel-and-Grambling-but-really-a-Bye-Week games.
Speaking of BYE weeks, each team gets three of them, to accommodate for a longer schedule. I suppose technically, teams get a bit of a rest during the current Conference Championship Week and then waiting period until the bowl games, but ideally, a team shouldn't have to go on some 7-10 game slog before a BYE. Generally, you'll see 4-6 game chunks before a BYE, which seems reasonable.
Here's a sample schedule for Nebraska and Texas. Note that UT is free to schedule Oklahoma (non-conference game) as an annual rival. Non-cons are in red, post-season is in yellow.
On the subject of the post-season, here's how that plays out:
At the end of the regular season, the top three teams from each conference qualify for post-season play. The team with the best record is, obviously, the conference champion. 3 x 5 gives you fifteen teams for the bracket, which means a sixteenth team is chosen as the lone wild card.
The ranking/seeding works a little differently as each team is evaluated against their "peers" from other conferences. For example, in the graphic below you'll see that Washington, Oklahoma, Ohio State, LSU and Florida State are the five conference champions. Thus, in the final ranking/seeding, those five teams will be ranked #1 through #5 (in some order). No other team can jump up from their "tier" to usurp one of those #1-#5 rankings. In other words, Georgia is your 2nd place Eastern Conference Team. As such, the absolute highest that Georgia can be ranked is #6. They cannot jump into the #1-#5 tier as that portion of the bracket is reserved for conference champions.
Likewise, the 2nd place finishers are ranked in the #6-10 range, and third place finishers are in the #11-15 range. Finally, the wild card gets a #16 ranking regardless.
Effectively, what this does is ensures that Conference Champions are always starting off their bracket against a 3rd place (or 4th place, for the wildcard) team. Yes, there will absolutely be discrepancies in how strong each conference is from year-to-year. But essentially, we're awarding the conference champs a slightly easier road for having won their conference. In spirit, it's similar to the NFL model where divisional winners get a first-round BYE, except we're making them actually play a game. This also opens up massive potential for Cinderella-style upsets which are more common in things like the current FCS Tournament or even March Madness.
Once teams are seeded, we move to the playoffs.
The bracket operates exactly as you'd expect (1 vs 16, etc) and we borrow the CFP New Year's Day Six model with bowls. The Fiesta, Peach, Rose, Orange, Cotton and Sugar all rotate as the four quarter-final bowls and two semi-final bowl games each season. The only change here is that the first round is played at the home stadium of the higher-ranked team. Again, an incentive for teams to finish highly in their conference as all 1st place conference champs are guaranteed a home game against a low-ranked opponent, while the 2nd place finishers have a 3/5ths chance of getting a home game for the first round.
So that's it. That's the concept.
Comments welcome unless you're going to gripe that Oregon State or Vandy deserves a spot over Houston.