What would a 68-team college football playoff bracket look like?
Last week, using the 2016 Way-Too-Early Top 25 and the initial Football Power Index ratings, we set up a bracket, then played the first 48 games of our imaginary expanded playoff with picks from Mark Schlabach’s crystal ball and Sharon Katz’s FPI wisdom.
This week, we projected the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 and, well, the chalk started to fade a bit.
Yes, it’s a far-fetched concept. But it’s also a lot of fun, and ripe with debate possibilities.
So let the debating begin … and you can start with Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma, Bedlam II, as a projected 2016 Final Four game.
(1) Alabama over (4) TCU
(2) Oklahoma over (3) Notre Dame
(1) Baylor over (5) Oregon Ducks
(6) Oklahoma State Cowboys over (2) Stanford
(1) Florida State over (4) Ole Miss
(2) LSU over (3) Ohio State
(4) USC over (1) Michigan
(2) Clemson over (3) Tennessee
Schlabach’s breakdown: Teams from the Big Ten (three) and SEC (four) make up nearly half of my Sweet 16 field, but the Big Ten would have the last laugh, according to my projections, with three teams advancing to the Elite Eight. Once again, Alabama would be the last team carrying the SEC flag.
Katz’s breakdown: Mark and FPI “agreed” on the majority of the first two rounds, but the Sweet 16 is where the man and metric go their separate ways. FPI expects LSU’s experience (18 returning starters) to trump Ohio State’s youth (six returning starters), and Oklahoma’s balance (top 5 in predicted offense and defense) to expose Notre Dame’s defensive weaknesses (35th in predicted defense). Given each team’s preseason ratings, LSU, Alabama, Florida State and Oklahoma are FPI’s heaviest favorites to advance to the Elite 8.
(1) Alabama over (3) Notre Dame
(2) Oklahoma over (1) Alabama
(2) Stanford over (4) Michigan State
(6) Oklahoma State over (1) Baylor
(1) Florida State over (3) Ohio State
(2) LSU over (1) Florida State
(2) Clemson over (1) Michigan
(2) Clemson over (4) USC
Schlabach’s breakdown: If a 68-team field ever came to fruition (we can all dare to dream, right?), I would assume the quarterfinal games would be played at neutral sites, probably involving a quartet of the traditional New Year’s Day bowl games on a rotating basis. If that’s the case, Alabama would play Notre Dame in the Allstate Sugar Bowl; Michigan State would play Stanford in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual (keeping tradition intact); FSU would play Ohio State in the Capital One Orange Bowl; and Michigan would play Clemson in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. I’ll take my chances with the teams with the best defense (Alabama), best quarterback (Clemson’s Deshaun Watson) and best tailbacks (FSU’s Dalvin Cook and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey) to advance.
Katz’s breakdown: Could you imagine the outrage if the two strongest teams in the country were placed in the same region? Well, that’s exactly what happened when LSU and Florida State were slotted in the East. In this de facto national championship game, which features two of the nation’s top running backs, FPI would give the Tigers a 50.5 percent chance to win. Elsewhere, FPI project Bob Stoops and the Sooners would have a 55 percent chance to beat Alabama for the second time in four years.
FINAL FOUR MATCHUPS
Alabama vs. Stanford
Florida State vs. Clemson
Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State
LSU vs. Clemson