Restructuring the College Football Playoff: Champions League

There isn’t much about the world that we all agree on. After days of thought and internet searches, I came up with two things. First, the person that invented dual climate control cars deserves a Nobel Peace Prize- just think of how many marriages were saved. I for one can attest that my marriage is a lot happier than it was pre-dual controls. The second thing that everyone agrees on is that the current four team CFP needs adjusting. The rub is the how. Do we put in 12 teams? What about eight teams? Some would just have us keep four since no good solution has presented itself yet. The problem is that everyone is looking at fixing. Forget fixing; blow the whole thing up.

A champion league makes the most sense. Let’s be honest, it’s the same teams the majority of the time. In a previous article, I went through the history of the CFP and found that there are some major trends. The SEC gets at least one team in every year: Alabama all but one time and Georgia multiple times. Sure Clemson and Ohio State have won, but the CFP is the SECs play toy. Most betting sites have Alabama, Georgia, and Texas A&M in the top five favorites to win the title this year. Looking at the ten years before the CFP, the SEC won seven championships: Alabama (3), Florida (2), Auburn, and LSU. Adding in the CFP, the SEC is 12 titles to 6 for the rest of the country. The SEC is a league unto its own.

The SEC is super stacked with big named teams that have tons of history: Florida, Auburn, LSU, Tennessee, Mississippi St, Ole Miss, South Carolina, and Arkansas. Kentucky is an upcoming team. Let’s not forget that Oklahoma and Texas will be joining the SEC soon. Oh by the way, one of the six championships to escape the SEC went to Texas in 2005. Oh by the way, Oklahoma is tied for the third most CFP appearances. What we are saying here is that the SECs third best team is going to be good enough to be a conference favorite in the Big 12 and the PAC 12. The third best team would win the Big 10 and ACC if you removed Ohio State and Clemson. Again, the SEC is a league unto itself.

Some will think my prior paragraphs are hyperbole. Let’s look at conference records. The SEC is 249-184 (since 1998)  against the PAC 12, ACC, Big 10, and Big 12, according to TopDan.com. TopDan also includes the head to head with the old Big East; oddly, the old Big East actually had the 19-27 edge on the SEC (wins coming from teams like Louisville, Rutgers, WV, Cincy, Pitt, and Miami). Still, the overall spread is 268-211. Diving down to the school level, LSU, Georgia, Alabama, Texas A&M, and Kentucky all have winning records. Only three teams are more than one game below .500: Auburn (2), Vanderbilt (4), and Miss St (6). 

A quick look at other conferences is also interesting. The Big 12 had three teams with winning records against the SEC: Oklahoma (headed to the SEC), Missouri (in the SEC now), and Baylor (at 2-1). Texas was an even 7-7. The ACC is similar with three schools, but Pitt hardly counts at 1-0 (win against Tennessee). Clemson is a respectable 28-19, and Florida State is one game over .500. The Big 10 has two winning programs: Northwestern and Minnesota. The much maligned PAC 12 actually has five teams with winning records, but only UCLA has a win against the top of the SEC (LSU in 2021 and Alabama twice in 2000 and 2001). Still the PAC 12 has an overall losing record. Again, the SEC is built differently.

In 2023, the SEC will go to 16 teams, well 15 teams. We can all agree that Vanderbilt isn’t an SEC football school. Honestly, Auburn isn’t seeming like a SEC team lately either. Both Sports Illustrated and 247 have Auburn projected as the worst SEC team not named Vanderbilt. They have a losing record against the Power 5. Arkansas and Missouri are also struggling but seem to be trending in a better direction than Auburn. So my solution, dump Auburn and Vandy from the SEC.

Yes, I did say dump Auburn and Vandy from the SEC. Vandy fans will breathe a sigh of relief that they might land in a high school league and have a winning record for the first time since the Civil War. Auburn fans will be hot, but I have a solution that I will share shortly. Why get rid of teams? Simple, we need to form a Champions League, and the SEC is the best place to start.The Champions League will be The National Champion. Think about it-the SEC has the biggest chip bowl anyway. Plus, we have two empty spots to fill in the SEC, which will be filled by Ohio State and Clemson. This brings us to an even 16 teams for the eventual tournament. It gives the new league every team that has made the CFP Championship Game and every National Champion in the last 20 years except Florida State and USC (plus Auburn that I just demoted).

The beauty of this proposal though is that the Champions League isn’t static- it changes midyear. So here is the nuts and bolts version. We set the CL into two divisions. The eight team divisions will get a game against everyone in their division and one crossover game. At the end of eight games, the league gives the bottom two schools the boot.The bottom two teams just got their lunch handed to them, so they have no one to blame but their inabilities. At this point, the normal NCAAF has also played eight games. The top two teams in the polls will be promoted to the CL. The CL will now go into a March Madness style tournament where each team receives a 1-16 seed. Teams that lost in the tournament will go to a loser’s bracket in order to get their 12 games.

This set-up gives the non-CL a reason to succeed. It will also force these teams to schedule tougher games early in the season, as opposed to winning games by 60. It gives teams in the CL a way out if they can’t hang. It helps keep the hot teams in the spotlight while giving other teams a chance. Plus, you can keep the four team CFP. Now, the PAC 12 could actually get a CFP invite. Well, maybe we can’t go that far, but they at least can dream about it.

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