College Football's Future: Super-sized Playoff


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The year is 2020 . . . so whatever you think of this column, don’t question its vision. Major College Football (MCF) has broken away from the NCAA, an administrative body that now calls women’s soccer its flagship sport. (College hoops has been absorbed by the NBA, and no one can take baseball with aluminum bats seriously anymore, not after pitchers were forced to wear helmets.) And women’s soccer — scoff if you dare — is finally attracting the viewers it deserved before the U.S. team won back-to-back World Cups in 2015 and 2019. So you go, NCAA.

But back to Major College Football. This fall will mark the first outright playoff to determine a national champion. Three television networks have paid $4.5 billion for the rights to televise the three rounds (seven games) of playoff football, the money to be split among all 80 MCF teams. For the 40 teams currently relegated to the Bowl Subdivision (B.S.), they will share revenue with the 72 non-playoff MCF teams once profits are cleared from the 15 surviving bowl games (now treated as festivals building up to the MCF playoffs).

The inaugural MCF quarterfinals look epic. Let’s review the match-ups:

• From the Pac 20, we have perennial power (and Nike-backed) Oregon from the West Division facing off with Oklahoma from the East Division in one quarterfinal. Like each of the four MCF conferences, the Pac 20 established two 10-team divisions, with the winners of each division earning a berth in the MCF quarterfinals. Oklahoma edged Colorado and old Big 12 rival Missouri by virtue of its 8-1 divisional record. (Teams from separate divisions within a conference cannot face each other until the playoffs.)

• From the Big 20, we have Texas (having returned to prominence since the infamous TV-network scandal of 2011) facing Michigan (having returned to prominence after deciding to schedule all games at the Big House under the lights). Notre Dame, still bitter after being placed in the North Division with Michigan and Ohio State, stumbled to an 8-4 finish after coach Mike Golic all but guaranteed a playoff berth.

• From the Mighty East, we have a resurgent Boston College team squaring off with Virginia Tech, former ACC rivals that have finally emerged from more than a decade in the shadows of a basketball conference. (You can now find the likes of Duke and North Carolina near the bottom of the SEC East. But the SEC basketball tournament is pure gold!) Pitt and Louisville tested the Hokies in late regular-season action, while the Eagles ran off three straight wins over Maryland, Rutgers, and Virginia to win the Atlantic Division.

• Finally, from the SEC, we’ll see Alabama (now with four statues of Nick Saban outside Bryant-Denny-Saban Stadium) face Florida State. The Seminoles emerged as the best of the three Sunshine State teams battling for SEC East supremacy, Florida and Miami getting knocked off late in the season by Georgia Tech and Tennessee, respectively. The Crimson Tide enters the playoffs as the only unbeaten team (though they needed overtime to edge lowly Baylor).

As excited as fans are to see eight MCF teams battle for a single trophy (a football helmet made entirely of diamonds), the euphoria can’t compare with that on campuses of eight B.S. schools across the country. The most controversial by-law of the newly formed MCF will relegate the last-place team from each of the eight MCF divisions to second-tier conferences like the Sun Belt and Conference USA. (When relegated, a team must play at least three seasons of B.S. football before returning to MCF.) So say goodbye to the Big 20 for now, Indiana. And Memphis Tiger fans . . . hello SEC.

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