It is time for a 16-team FBS football playoff

It is time for a 16-team FBS football playoff

3 years ago
4 min read

I’m not one to sugarcoat so I’ll get right to it. The Football Bowl Subdivision needs a 16-team bracket style playoff. The straight up elimination bracket style is done at the division three level, and it works because there’s 32 teams. No “bye weeks” to “wait for your matchup.” The division three bracket as well as the Football Championship Subdivision division one football of the playoff will be my examples going forward.

Why it works

We are all familiar with March Madness. 64 teams minus the “First Four”. You lose you go home. As you progress in the tournament, the games stakes get higher and higher up through the national championship game. When you make the sweet sixteen, that’s a HUGE deal. Think of how many teams are playing division one basketball, 350 schools are at the division one level, and you are one of those 16 teams left out of all of them. There are 130 schools at the FBS level of division one NCAA football, before you lose your mind and say, “hey that’s two thirds less than basketball!” Let me make a point here, you would one of 130 teams selected BY A COMMITTEE to a 16-team single elimination tournament. You would be in the upper 12% of ALL FBS SCHOOLS. Take that into account as we go look at division two.

NCAA Division Two Playoffs: A Case Study

28 teams make the NCAA division two playoffs. Four teams get bye weeks while the other 24 play for survival. Not only is 28 an odd number (at least to me) for a playoff, I just hate the idea of a bye week at that point. Sure, you’ve been playing at game speed for so long that it’s nice to have a break, but I also feel (as someone who competed in college sports) you kind of lose that sense of routine of going to the field at 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning to gear up for a 1 p.m. kickoff. It also becomes way tougher on the coaches time wise to thoroughly watch two sets of game film and create two totally separate game plans and then install it in two weeks. When you do something week in and week out for such a long period of time, it becomes routine, and humans are creatures of habit. 

When you have a bye, your routine is just thrown off entirely and you could be a bit game slow or rusty in a game that really matters. I was lucky enough in college to have my cross country meets in the fall be every other week as our training cycles were 14-day cycles. So yes, we had byes, but our routine wasn’t shaken up. Which brings me to why division two playoffs don’t work. 

Why division two falls short 

Football is known to be a 7-day cycle, especially at the division one level. They get almost four weeks off and I can promise you that the best schools will go 11-on-11 at least two times in that “unseen period” of time. If you somehow lose your best four teams (who all got bye weeks, which seems to be an extreme scenario) at the division two level, then you lose a sizable chunk of that base and the best team won’t win. Before you say “then that makes it more interesting” or something of the sort. I will agree. There would be a Cinderella story I’m sure but that team, though may lose later, the interest will fade quickly. If you do a 12-team FBS playoff and you are Alabama or a fan of Alabama and you lose to a group of five that snuck in at No. 12, you are going to whine and complain that “this isn’t fair, they had the advantage of being game sharp” which brings me back to my point of routines and habits. That team kept its momentum going because they were playing well and at the right time. 

When everything goes right and has been going right for weeks at a time, you feel the momentum and that brings tons of energy. That’s how the Cleveland Indians rattled off 22 in a row. That’s how that same team made it to the World Series and rolled on everyone until game five of that series. If you remember correctly in 2016, Cleveland played the Red Sox in the ALDS and swept, then they played in the ALCS and won four games to one against Toronto. They didn’t really stop playing a routine schedule.

It’s why the Browns went as far as they did last year. The Browns also didn’t get a bye week or bye series in the Indians case. Baker and the whole team rode the energy and momentum of the fanbase and just focused on the week ahead. Momentum is severely an underrated part of high-level college and pro sports is really what it comes to. The only way to make it fair and even is a 16-team playoff in my eyes.

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