With expansion to the College Football Playoff now looking like an inevitability, national SI writer Ross Dellenger recently put together a mock 12-team playoff bracket that is sure to have fans excited about the future.
This is a weekly Sports Illustrated series using the current college football standings to create an imaginary 12-team playoff bracket based on the model proposed this summer by CFP executives. In case you’ve forgotten, the 12-team model features (1) the six highest-ranked conference champions and (2) the next six highest-ranked teams. The four highest-ranked conference champions get byes to the second round (independents are not eligible to receive a bye—sorry, Notre Dame).
The Fake 12-team Playoff Selection Committee is canceling any upcoming trips to Eugene, Ore., and Columbus, Ohio, fearing for our lives. The Ducks and Buckeyes are—gasp!—left out of our latest Fake 12-team Playoff.
But how!? Well, it’s complicated (we’ll explain later).
First, though, how about discussing those teams who made our field, including a new No. 2 seed (the Sooners and their star freshman quarterback!), a fresh face claiming the Big Ten championship automatic bid (Harbaugh’s guys) and, for the first time this year, a second Big 12 team in the group (hello, Cowboys!). The state of Oklahoma, yes, is responsible for two of the 12 teams.
Last weekend’s results jostled the field fairly significantly while also leaving out some playoff-worthy squads because of the requirement to include six conference champions in the field. For instance, are San Diego State and Wake Forest better teams or more worthy than, say, Ohio State, Notre Dame or Baylor?
On to the bracket!
1. Georgia (SEC champion)
2. Oklahoma (Big 12 champion)
3. Cincinnati (AAC champion)
4. Michigan (Big Ten champion)
5. Alabama (SEC at-large)
12. San Diego State (MWC champion)
6. Michigan State (Big Ten at-large)
11. Wake Forest (ACC champion)
7. Iowa (Big Ten at-large)
10. Ole Miss (SEC at-large)
8. Oklahoma State (Big 12 at-large)
9. Penn State (Big Ten at-large)
The Oregon–Ohio State quandary: Let’s address the elephant in the room. How in the world do we leave out two teams that may eventually this year win a Power 5 conference? First off, we don’t project future games in this exercise, only taking into consideration those played. Secondly, the Ducks have been playing, er, not well. They lost their starting running back, CJ Verdell, for the season, and they recently squeaked by less-than-admirable competition (Cal) after losing to another ho-hum Pac-12 team in Stanford. And that leads us to Point No. 3: It’s tough to put into the field Ohio State without Oregon (you’ll recall the Ducks won at Ohio Stadium earlier this season). Fourthly, the requirement to include six conference champions took up the last two spots and, ultimately, cost Oregon and Ohio State. Fifthly, we took the Rebels and the Nittany Lions as the final two at-large teams. So that’s that.
Ole Miss–Iowa: What a fascinating first-round matchup. Lane Kiffin and Kirk Ferentz couldn’t be more different and that goes for their teams, philosophies and styles. Kirk likes to punt from his opponent’s 38; Lane likes to go for it on his own 28. Lane likes to tweet memes, razz opposing coaches and boast about his offensive acumen. Kirk doesn’t even have a Twitter account (at least we can’t find one). Imagine the Rebels and the Hawkeyes meeting in Iowa City in mid-December, snow falling and temperatures plummeting.
Welcome Aztecs!: San Diego State, 6–0 and led by former Michigan coach Brady Hoke, cracks the field because, honestly, we needed a sixth conference champion. It nudged Sun Belt champ Coastal Carolina mostly due to its stiffer schedule. Hoke’s squad beat Utah, won at Arizona and survived in double overtime against San Jose State. It isn't a world beater, but then again, the final conference champion in the field will usually be a team ranked outside of the top 15. Aztecs, good luck against Alabama!