College football's postseason is set.
Teams and fans alike are preparing for bowl games and playoff matchups.
While the playoff is certainly an upgrade over the BCS system, there is still room for improvement. I think I have figured out those improvements.
1) Every conference champion gets in
Do you think Western Kentucky entered the 2015 season with any hope of winning the national title? What about Bowling Green or San Diego State or Arkansas State? Each of those four teams won their conference this season and none of them had any chance of playing for a national title. For schools in Conference USA, in the Sun Belt, in the MAC, the regular season is useless. None of the teams in those leagues have a shot to get into the playoff and they know it. For years, people fretted that the playoff would render the regular season meaningless. Guess what? It's already meaningless for roughly 50% of the country.
How do we fix this problem? Easy..win your conference and you're going to the playoff. Not only would this system create more meaningful regular season matchups,, it would cause fans across the country to become more interested in leagues outside of their own. Oklahoma fans might care who won the Marshall-Southern Miss game if they thought the Sooners would have to face one of those teams in the first round. Every single conference game affect the national championship outcome. The regular season could not possibly mean more.
2) 16-team bracket.
My playoff solution involves a 16-team field. Some will argue that this would mean teams would play to many games. However, under the current system, the national champion will wind up playing 14-15 games this year. That number would increase to 16-17 in my system, meaning that schedules would be roughly the same for 99% of FBS teams.
3) Six teams receive at-large bids.
Didn't win your conference championship? No worries, you still have a chance. The playoff committee, the same one that exists now, would select the six most deserving non-champions and put them in the field. Once the 16 teams are finalized, the committee would seed them. No bonuses would be awarded for winning your conference. The Sun Belt champion with an 8-4 record would not likely not get a higher seed than an 11-2 Florida team that lost in the SEC title game.
4) Higher seeds host until the national championship.
No going to Dallas, then turning around and traveling to Glendale. If you earn the top seed in the 16-team field, you're at home until the very end. Games would be far more likely to be sold out (no embarrassing wide shots of empty upper decks) and lower-seeded teams would have the opportunity to earn national respect. Western Michigan beats Clemson and Baylor at their places to advance to the Final Four? No one will say the Broncos didn't deserve to be in the playoff.
5) Bowl games still exist.
Bowl games are glorified exhibitions and will continue to be so in my system. However, if anyone is worried about the playoff games overshadowing bowls, there's a simple fix for that; play bowl games Monday through Friday and have the playoff matchups on Saturday. Round of 16 games on December 19th, quarterfinals on December 26th, semifinals on January 2nd and the championship game on January 9th. The bowl games get the weekdays to themselves and Saturdays are playoff days.
How the playoff would look this year:
#1 Clemson (ACC) vs. #16 Arkansas State (Sun Belt) - Clemson, SC
#8 Notre Dame (At-Large) vs. #9 Florida State (At-Large) - South Bend, IN
#5 Iowa (At-Large) vs. #12 Houston (American) - Iowa City, IA
#4 Oklahoma (Big 12) vs. #13 Western Kentucky (C-USA) - Norman, OK
#2 Alabama (SEC) vs. #15 Bowling Green (MAC) - Tuscaloosa, AL
#7 Ohio State (At-Large) vs. #10 North Carolina (At-Large) - Columbus, OH
#6 Stanford (Pac-12) vs. #11 TCU (At-Large) - Palo Alto, CA
#3 Michigan State (Big Ten) s. #14 San Diego State (Mountain West) - East Lansing, MI