What if the College Football Playoff Had 24 Teams in 2016

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.

This year, Western Michigan came out of nowhere to be the first undefeated MAC team in four years and be the Group of Five leader. It could certainly be argued that they would have been ranked higher since they ended 2015 with a playoff win at Northwestern and a near-upset of Oklahoma, but we’re starting this bracket “from scratch” at the end of the actual 2015 regular season.

Western Kentucky and San Diego State repeat as champs, while Temple and Appalachian State give their respective conferences a new representative in the playoffs.

Bracket Shenanigans:

This is the most robust opening-round yet, though it did result in a G5 vs G5 matchup when Temple traveled to Kalamazoo to face Western Michigan.

WMU barely won the matchup, but blew out the Owls in the true coin-flip sim, racking up over 600 yards of offense on a nasty December in Michigan. Half of that came from the legs of Jarvion Franklin, with Jamauri Bogan chipping in as well.

San Diego State showed well in a close loss to Oklahoma State, and Western Kentucky was just good enough to grab themselves a road win against Florida State in Tallahassee. Yes, that’s correct, two career College Football Playoff road wins for Brandon Doughty and the Hilltoppers.

The magic ended there, though Western Michigan wound up losing to the eventual national champions (Washington) for the second year in a row, so they at least had that going for them. WKU drew the short straw that was Michigan and didn’t play quite as well in the second round.

Full data below:


Matchup Winner Final Margin of Victory (Tiebreaker)
First Round
[17]Florida-[16]West Virginia Florida 5-5* (30-11)
[24]Appalachian State-[9]USC USC 10-0 31
[21]San Diego State-[12]Oklahoma State Oklahoma State 6-4 9.33
[20]Temple-[13]Western Michigan Western Michigan 5-5* (21-51)
[19]Utah-[14]Louisville Louisville 7-3 17.14
[22]Western Kentucky-[11]FSU Western Kentucky 6-4 10.67
[23]Virginia Tech-[10]Colorado Colorado 7-3 9.86
[18]Stanford-[15]Auburn Auburn 7-3 25.14
Second Round
Florida-[1]Alabama Alabama 9-1 20.78
USC-[8]Wisconsin USC 6-4 14.5
Oklahoma State-[5]Penn State Penn State 8-2 12.875
Western Michigan-[4]Washington Washington 8-2 25.125
Louisville-[3]Ohio State Ohio State 6-4 13
Western Kentucky-[6]Michigan Michigan 8-2 11.375
Colorado-[7]Oklahoma Oklahoma 9-1 15.56
Auburn-[2]Clemson Clemson 6-4 11.67
Third Round
USC-Alabama Alabama 8-2 12.75
Penn State-Washington Washington 8-2 19.375
Michigan-Ohio State Ohio State 8-2 13.375
Oklahoma-Clemson Clemson 6-4 8
Washington-Alabama Washington 8-2 9.5
Ohio State-Clemson Ohio State 7-3 17.71
Washington-Ohio State Washington 6-4 11.83


Of note: The Sun Belt woes continue, but perhaps the variety of challengers shows that the conference at least has depth?

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