What if the College Football Playoff had 24 Teams in 2015

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

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 2015, Navy has joined the AAC and gives the numbers needed for the first-ever AAC Championship, which Houston wins en route to representing the Group of 5 in Atlanta with a win over Florida State.

NIU comes closest to being the only G5 repeat…but falls to Bowling Green in the MAC Championship.

What will this new crop of representatives do?

Bracket Shenanigans:

Not as much luck this year, as everyone fails to…. oh wait, what’s that? Western Kentucky went on the road and beat the everloving crap out of Northwestern?

Perhaps this would serve as somewhat of a foreshadowing for the trajectory that Jeff Brohm’s Hilltoppers were traveling on.

The ‘Tops did not advance any further, though they have nothing to hang their heads about after an extremely narrow 29-27 loss on the road. This came at the hands of an Oklahoma team that would steamroll their remaining games all the way to a CFP title, and they needed a last-minute touchdown from Samaje Perine just to advance past their first opponent.

Baker Mayfield was efficient, completing 85 percent of his passes, but threw only one touchdown to Brandon Doughty’s three.

Yeah, this feels like a Western Kentucky squad that would have had a lot more credibility going into the 2016 season had their 2015 season ended in this fashion. This far surpasses a convincing but relatively minor bowl win, and would definitely leave them ranked heading into 2016.

Full data below:

Matchup Winner Final Margin of Victory (tiebreaker)
First Round
[17]Oklahoma State-[16]Houston Oklahoma State 6-4 12.5
[24]Utah-[9]FSU FSU 8-2 25.875
[20]Western Kentucky-[13]Northwestern Western Kentucky 9-1 13.89
[21]San Diego State-[12]Ole Miss Ole Miss 8-2 19.875
[19]Florida-[14]Michigan Michigan 9-1 14.56
[22]Bowling Green-[11]TCU TCU 8-2 11.38
[23]Arkansas State-[10]North Carolina North Carolina 10-0 24.6
[18]Baylor-[15]Oregon Oregon 6-4 5.5
Second Round
Oklahoma State-[1]Clemson Clemson 7-3 13.57
FSU-[8]Notre Dame FSU 7-3 11.43
Western Kentucky-[5]Oklahoma Oklahoma 5-5* (29-27)
Ole Miss-[4]Iowa Ole Miss 7-3 7.88
Michigan-[3]Michigan State Michigan 5-5* (34-23)
TCU-[6]Stanford Stanford 5-5* (40-26)
North Carolina-[7]Ohio State Ohio State 8-2 21.875
Oregon-[2]Alabama Alabama 7-3 20.43
Third Round
FSU-Clemson Clemson 6-4 9.5
Ole Miss-Oklahoma Oklahoma 9-1 22.67
Michigan-Stanford Stanford 7-3 6.86
Ohio State-Alabama Alabama 8-2 14.875
Oklahoma-Clemson Oklahoma 7-3 19.43
Stanford-Alabama Alabama 9-1 21.33
Oklahoma-Alabama Oklahoma 6-4 11.17


Of note: The other three conferences all fall flat, but it’s worth noting that the MAC’s top was higher this year. The unusual champions in the other two allow those schools a spotlight that the current system never did, and gives both programs momentum going forward.

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