Imagining Expanded CFP to Accommodate Coronavirus Changes

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJuly 14, 2020

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 13: Grant Delpit #7 of the LSU Tigers raises the National Championship Trophy with Joe Burrow #9, left, Rashard Lawrence #90, and Patrick Queen #8 after the College Football Playoff National Championship game at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on January 13, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The LSU Tigers topped the Clemson Tigers, 42-25. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
Alika Jenner/Getty Images

In a year packed with cancellations, alterations and hopefulness, the College Football Playoff is likely to face a difficult choice.

Should the 2020 college football season be played, it may include zero nonconference games. The Big Ten has already limited its 14 members to only league play, and the Pac-12 followed suit. That chain might continue through all Football Bowl Subdivision conferencesboth Power Five and Group of Five.

As a result, the CFP selection committee could be looking at resumes with no common opponents. An already subjective process will become even more difficult in 2020.

"Whatever the season looks like, the committee will select the best four teams based on the protocol," CFP executive director Bill Hancock said, according to Paul Myerberg of USA Today.

Yes, here are the necessary qualifiers.

We can debate for hours whether the 2020 season is a realistic possibility. No matter your opinion or mine, this hypothetical operates under the premise it happens. And, yes, this is an unimportant conversation relative to the world's status. But for a moment, let's swap frustration for imagination.

It's OK to be simultaneously hopeful for the future and not naive to reality.

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The current setup isn't friendly to Group of Five conferences anyway, but a season with no G5-over-P5 upsets guarantees a non-power program won't reach the playoff. To include all G5 champions, the minimum field would be 16 teams.

As a way to limit travel, the G5 champions take on the power-conference winners based on proximity. For example, the matchups could be ACC vs. American; Big Ten vs. MAC; Big 12 vs. C-USA; Pac-12 vs. Mountain West; SEC vs. Sun Belt.

The selection committee would determine the host team by assigning a ranking to every team. For example, an undefeated Boise State could be more deserving than a three-loss Pac-12 champion. May not happen, but at least the possibility is there.

Rounding out the 16-team group, the final three contests are between at-large programs. The matchups would also be determined based on proximity for those six schools.

  • ACC vs. American
  • Big Ten vs. MAC
  • Big 12 vs. C-USA
  • Pac-12 vs. Mountain West
  • SEC vs. Sun Belt
  • At-large vs. At-large
  • At-large vs. At-large
  • At-large vs. At-large

Because the round-of-16 contests wouldn't necessarily match a standard bracketthink March Madness and 1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15, etc.the quarterfinals demand a reshuffle. The four highest-ranked teams would host games with their opponents based on proximity.

We'll cover the semifinals and championship in a moment, but the intent is to limit travel and also protect the advantage a top-seeded team earns for having a great regular season.

Remember, in the round of 16 and quarterfinals, the higher-ranked team has home-field advantage. At the bracket unveiling, the committee assigns a ranking to each program. That way, if there are multiple upsets by teams ranked Nos. 9-16 in the same part of the bracket, it would still be clear who hosts the quarterfinals.

Now, where do they play the final two rounds?

For the sake of limiting travel, one neutral site. As for where, well, throw a dart at the regions with the best weather in December and January. Whatever works, friends.

This format guarantees every conference is included. Six at-large teams is plenty for a modified season. Each Power Five league will have a regular-season champion, and tiesespecially in the absence of head-to-head matchupshave a potentially painless resolution: Include both teams.

While it's true an expanded playoff leaves a greater amount of power with the selection committee, that's the nature of this setup. At least the committee is more likely to watch every game.


Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.