What if the College Football Playoff Had 24 Teams in 2017

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 one of the bigger turnarounds in recent memory, the UCF Knights ran the table and dominated Auburn on national television. Appalachian State rolled in the first-ever Sun Belt Championship and Boise State returned to the top of the Mountain West.

But what if UCF got a different post-season chance?

Opening Round Shenanigans:

Appalachian State’s return to the playoff went better than the year before, but only slightly. They still left Happy Valley with a two-touchdown defeat.

Boise State was unfortunately caught up in the purple and gold buzzsaw of their old coach Chris Petersen’s Washington team, though we at least know he’d be displeased by the matchup.

UCF got “stuck” with a cruise-control home win over Toledo in the bracket, while FAU got to essentially play a home rivalry game against Miami and played reasonably well but still lost.

In this universe the Knights had to travel to Camp Randall to face Wisconsin outdoors in December. They handled themselves well and weren’t wildly outgained by the Badgers, but they were the less efficient offense.

They also had no answers for Jonathan Taylor as a touchdown with 53 seconds left was his second in the final three minutes and gave Taylor more than 200 rushing yards and gave Wisconsin the win.

Full data below:


Matchup Winner Final Margin of Victory (Tiebreaker)
First Round
[17]LSU-[16]Michigan State Michigan State 5-5* (14-19)
[24]Appalachian State-[9]Penn State Penn State 8-2 16.125
[21]Boise State-[12]Washington Washington 9-1 11.11
[20]Virginia Tech-[13]Stanford Virginia Tech 5-5* (49-45)
[19]Oklahoma State-[14]Notre Dame Oklahoma State 6-4 16
[22]Toledo-[11]UCF UCF 10-0 16.6
[23]FAU-[10]Miami Miami 6-4 18.33
[18]Washington State-[15]TCU TCU 9-1 24.22
Second Round
Michigan State-[1]Clemson Clemson 10-0 21.1
Penn State-[8]USC USC 7-3 8.43
Washington-[5]Ohio State Ohio State 7-3 22.14
Virginia Tech-[4]Alabama Alabama 8-2 18.5
Oklahoma State-[3]Georgia Georgia 9-1 18.44
UCF-[6]Wisconsin Wisconsin 5-5* (17-27)
Miami-[7]Auburn Auburn 6-4 11.67
TCU-[2]Oklahoma Oklahoma 8-2 13.5
Third Round
USC-Clemson Clemson 10-0 20.7
Ohio State-Alabama Alabama 5-5* (22-31)
Wisconsin-Georgia Georgia 9-1 28.44
Auburn-Oklahoma Oklahoma 8-2 13.625
Alabama-Clemson Alabama 7-3 21.57
Georgia-Oklahoma Georgia 6-4 24.5
Alabama-Georgia Georgia 9-1 17.33


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