The American Athletic Conference champion should compete in the playoffs.
Cincinnati entered Thursday’s game as the 6th best team in the American Athletic Conference. They missed their starting quarterback and beat a Miami team that entered as 6th in the ACC. In a fair match of conferences, Cincinnati won 34-23.
Both Temple and Memphis of the American Athletic Conference beat Cincinnati earlier this season. The winner of the conference should get a shot in the playoffs if they go undefeated (unlikely as Temple would have to beat Notre Dame, and Memphis would have to beat Mississippi; plus they would need to beat each other in the regular season and perhaps in the conference title game as well).
Our projection for the playoffs right now is that Ohio State beats UCLA in one semifinal, and TCU beats LSU in the other and then wins the title.
The real solution is an eight-team playoff that would create a play-in bracket for the Group of 5 (non-Power 5 Conferences) that gave every FBS team in the country the opportunity to win their conference, then beat other Group of 5 Champs to get the “8-seed” in the 8-team playoff.
All five Power Conference Champions would make the eight-team tournament along with the Cinderella, and all the selection committee would do is seed and pick the two best at-large teams (we would go with Baylor, with the Big 12 being the top-rated conference and deserving the second team, and Notre Dame right now).
Everything else would be decided on the field of play.
It is a tough call going with Pac-12 champion UCLA over Notre Dame or Baylor for a final spot, but with an eight-team playoff all would be in and seeded ahead of the champion of the weakest Power 5 conference this year, the ACC.
College football could catch a little of the basketball March Madness that features Cinderella teams that we know will not win it all but thrill us with an upset or two early in the tournament.
Right now the highest ranked champion from the Group of 5 (AAC, Sun Belt, Mountain West, Mid-American and Conference USA) automatically go to a major bowl, our proposed playoff format would let the Group of 5 determine the “Cinderella” team on their top 5.
November 14 the set schedule would conclude for Group of 5 champions, except for the weakest two by the previous seasons rankings. At this stage the Mountain West and the Sun Belt rank as the weakest, however, because the Sun Belt does not have the 12 teams for a championship game this season they would get a pass. We would project Boise State to beat Hawaii. That same week the No. 2 team in the West Division would play the No. 2 in the Mountain Division, etc., all the way through to let teams that did not make the early championship fill out their season.
November 21 would feature championship games for the AAC, MAC, and CUSA with the rest of the teams in each playing in a match-up of No. 2 East vs. West, etc. The Mountain West champion Boise State would project to crush Georgia Southern of the Sun Belt. Our other projected winners would be Marshall, Toledo, and, in our biggest game, Temple over Memphis.
Therefore, every Group of 5 team would play on November 14 through 28, their opponents simply would not be selected until the rest of their games were completed. On November 28 the remaining four Group of 5 champions would play each other in the Cinderella semifinal games.