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What a 16-Team College Football Playoff Would've Looked Like in 2013

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Samuel ChiCollege Football Playoff GuruApril 9, 2014

The Oklahoma Sooners, your 2013 college football national champions!

Would you have a problem with that?

If you don't, then you must have loved the NCAA basketball tournament, where a fourth-place team from a slightly-less-than-power conference just won the national title. If you do, perhaps you're more of a college football purist who thinks the regular season should matter—a lot.

Either way, we're not here to take sides. Rather, we're here to present some hypotheticals mixed in with facts. Transitive property is used—but not too liberally—to advance a scenario where the Sooners would've won it all last season.

Pundits and critics who disliked the BCS have long advocated for a playoff that involved more than two teams, and they're not even close to being satisfied with the upcoming four-team College Football Playoff. At a minimum, they want 16 teams.

So they'll get 16 teams in our model, and it works because proportionally it best resembles the basketball tournament:

NCAA Tournament vs. 16-Team Football Playoff
CategoryNCAAFBS (2013)
Tournament teams68 (19%)16 (13%)
At-large entries36 (53% of field)6 (38% of field)
Most at-large per conference10 (28% of at-large)*2 (33% of at-large)
*Big East sent a record 11 teams to 2011 tournament

Now, this is how the playoff field at the end of the 2013 regular season would've looked like after the selection committee picked six at-large teams to go with 10 conference champions and then seeded them. The only restriction is that no conference may place more than two at-large entries:


First Round (campus sites)

No. 1 Florida State (ACC) vs. No. 16 UL-Lafayette (Sun Belt)***

No. 2 Auburn (SEC) vs. No. 15 Rice (C-USA)***

No. 3 Michigan State (Big Ten) vs. Bowling Green (MAC)***

No. 4 Stanford (Pac-12) vs. Fresno State (MWC)**

No. 5 Baylor (Big 12) vs. Central Florida (AAC)*

No. 6 Alabama (at-large) vs. No. 11 Oklahoma (at-large)*

No. 7 Ohio State (at-large) vs. No. 10 Clemson (at-large)*

No. 8 South Carolina (at-large) vs. No. 9 Oregon (at-large)**

South Carolina just edged Missouri for the last at-large spot from the SEC because it won head-to-head and had a much better out-of-conference schedule. 

Resume of 16 Playoff Teams
SeedFinal BCSTeamConference
11Florida StateACC
34Michigan StateBig Ten
56BaylorBig 12
77Ohio StateBig Ten*
89South CarolinaSEC*
1111OklahomaBig 12*
1215Central FloridaAmerican
1320Fresno StateMountain West
1431Bowling GreenMid-American
1533RiceConference USA
16URUL-LafayetteSun Belt
*At-large entries

Based on results from actual games (*), use of transitive property (**) and simulation (***), these would've been the quarterfinal matchups. We decided to use an NFL-style format where the highest-seeded team always plays the lowest-seeded team instead of using a rigid bracket:


Quarterfinals (campus sites)

No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 12 Central Florida***

No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 11 Oklahoma**

No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 10 Clemson**

No. 4 Stanford vs. No. 9 Oregon*

The winning teams then would take a week off before heading to the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl for the semifinal games:



No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 11 Oklahoma (Sugar Bowl)**

No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Stanford (Rose Bowl)*



No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 11 Oklahoma (AT&T Stadium)**

The Sooners, pulling off a string of upsets thanks to the hot hand of freshman quarterback Trevor Knight, advanced to the national championship game in Arlington ... er, North Texas. In the same JerryWorld where UConn's basketball team completed its improbable run, OU would upstage Michigan State for its own national title.

Is this a just outcome? You decide. Vote in our poll and comment below.

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