What if the College Football Playoff Had 24 Teams in 2014

We already talked about how the current College Football Playoff and its four-team bracket was a pseudo-expansion of the previous BCS system, and it didn’t solve a whole lot of problems since that expansion still left well over two-thirds of college football teams starting their season with a zero-percent chance of reaching said playoff bracket.

We know that expansion is likely inevitable, it’s just deciding what form it will take. We at Forgotten5 decided to create and simulate a 24-team playoff to take the expansion to the logical extreme and decide just how much expansion would be too much.

Your reminder of the guidelines:

  • If you win your conference, you are in
  • If you’re a Power Five team, winning your conference also means a first-round bye
  • Highest-ranked G5 team gets a first-round home game
  • Without a conference title, you don’t get into the top 25 without at least nine wins

Just like with FCS, in the real world this would mean sacrificing 1/12th of the regular season, though most of these playoff matchups are games the participants would love to have on their schedule as a non-conference game anyway.

We used these rules to alter the CFP ranking from each year going into bowl season, then set up the bracket. Each matchup was simulated 10 times using WhatIf Sports and their delightfully easy simulator, with an 11th sim if there was a tie.

In the real world of 2014 college football, a proud Memphis outpaced Cincinnati in the AAC’s last year without a championship game, Marshall shocked the world, and Boise shone in the spotlight.

But what if after all the championship games, the champs went to the playoffs instead?

Bracket Shenanigans:

Boise State got the lone home game as the highest-ranked G5 conference champion, and took advantage with a fairly comfortable win over Missouri. Much more surprising though was seeing Rakeem Cato and the almost-undefeated Thundering Herd absolutely demolish Georgia Tech in Atlanta by three scores.

Yes, the lowest-seeded G5 teams got waxed, but we didn’t say those kinds of games wouldn’t happen in this expanded playoff.

That’s as far as the magic lasted, as Boise got run down on the road in Tuscaloosa and Marshall traveled to Waco, TX for a season-ending loss. Would this playoff have turned out much different? I don’t think so, but it would be hard to argue that Marshall wouldn’t at least see a recruiting bump heading into the following season after dominating Georgia Tech on the road on national television.

Full data below:
Matchup Winner Final Margin of Victory (tiebreaker)
First Round
[17]Missouri-[16]Boise State Boise State 6-4 18.50
[24]Georgia Southern-[9]Ole Miss Ole Miss 9-1 26.89
[21]Marshall-[12]Georgia Tech Marshall 8-2 9.88
[20]Auburn-[13]Georgia Georgia 7-3 18.86
[19]Wisconsin-[14]UCLA UCLA 6-4 10.83
[22]Memphis-[11]Kansas State Kansas State 9-1 21.89
[23]NIU-[10]Arizona Arizona 10-0 31.30
[18]Clemson-[15]Arizona State Arizona State 7-3 22.14
Second Round
Boise State-[1]Alabama Alabama 10-0 26.50
Ole Miss-[8]Michigan State Michigan State 6-4 18.00
Marshall-[5]Baylor Baylor 9-1 16.44
Georgia-[4]Ohio State Ohio State 7-3 15.29
UCLA-[3]FSU FSU 9-1 11.89
Kansas State-[6]TCU Kansas State 6-4 7.33
Arizona-[7]Mississippi State Mississippi State 7-3 17.29
Arizona State-[2]Oregon Oregon 7-3 16.86
Third Round
Michigan State-Alabama Alabama 10-0 29.40
Baylor-Ohio State Ohio State 5-5* (13-48)
Kansas State-FSU Kansas State 5-5* (41-35)
Mississippi State-Oregon Oregon 8-2 18.00
Ohio State-Alabama Alabama 9-1 22.13
Kansas State-Oregon Oregon 6-4 18.00
Oregon-Alabama Alabama 8-2 11.75


Of Note: The remaining Group of Five conferences don’t start strong, though in their defense, they lose to an overachieving Ole Miss, the second-best team in the Pac-12, and a surprise Final Four contestant.

Exposure here aids them all, however, especially the MAC and Sun Belt who up to now don’t have their Boise State-style flagship school.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s