Playoff Explanation: This post takes place in an alternate world where Division I-A college football holds a sixteen-team playoff where the eleven conference champions and five at-large bids (chosen by a committee) play in a tournament. The teams are placed in two "regions", seeded 1-8. The at-large teams are chosen on the basis of who they beat more than who they lost to with seeding working in the same way. Home games are held at the higher seed in each round until the championship, which this year is held in New Orleans. Undefeated teams automatically get at least one home game. Any bitching about whether there should be a playoff should go in any other thread, as this is all hypothetical and just for fun.
What a weekend! This weekend provided a dramatic ending to a great regular season. A pair of upsets on Saturday in the C-USA and ACC Championship games have shaken up the bracket just as the committee was getting ready to make its final decisions. Let's get started by revealing the two number one seeds, and thus giving us the names for the two regions in this tournament.
The overall number one seed is obviously the SEC Champion, LSU. Non-conference wins over other automatic qualifiers Oregon and West Virginia coupled with conference victories over Alabama and Arkansas, and culminating with a victory over Georgia in the SEC Championship game give the Tigers one of the most impressive regular seasons I've ever seen. An easy decision, they will be the top seed in the Baton Rouge Region.
The other top seed went to the champion of the Big 12, Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have wins over Kansas State, Oklahoma, and Baylor, all of whom won at least nine games. Even with their misstep in Ames, the Cowboys had a good enough resume to take the second number-one seed and will be placed in the Stillwater Region.
Now, let's go through the regions and announce which teams are playing where, and at what time. All first round games will be played on December 10, starting at 90 minute intervals and will be aired on the ESPN family of networks starting at Noon EST.
We'll start in the Baton Rouge region, where LSU is the number one seed. They will take on the champions of the WAC, Louisiana Tech, who are the 8-seed in this region. In the 4-5 matchup, South Carolina will host the losers of the B1G title game, Michigan State. Next, the champions of the B1G, Wisconsin will play the winners of the Mountain West, TCU in Madison. Finally, the Pac-12 champions, Oregon will host the team that was able to emerge from the Big East, West Virginia.
Baton Rouge Regional:
(1) Lousiana State
(8) Louisiana Tech
(4) South Carolina
(5) Michigan State
(6) Texas Christian
(7) West Virginia
Next up, the Stillwater Regional. Oklahoma State will host the winners of Friday night's MAC Championship game, Northern Illinois. A third team out of the SEC, Arkansas will play host to the surprise winner of the ACC Championship Game, Clemson. The Pac-12 gets a second team in Stanford, who will host the team that dashed Cougar dreams in Houston, Southern Mississippi. Finally, Alabama will take on the Sun Belt champions, Arkansas State.
(1) Oklahoma State
(8) Northern Illinois
(6) Southern Mississippi
(7) Arkansas State
As for some of the bubbles that were just burst:
Boise State: A tough case with a win over Georgia and only a one-point loss to TCU on their record. The problem is that the other ten games said nothing about this team.
Virginia Tech: Best win was either Georgia Tech or Virginia with absolutely nothing as far as non-conference wins were concerned. Chose to play only three I-A games in the non-conference schedule, with none from a major conference. Had two shots at Clemson, their only decent opponent, and lost by a combined score of 61-13.
Kansas State: Likely has the best case of any team not taken. In addition to their nine-game conference schedule, they took on Miami (FL), a traditional power who had a major down year. But, they had shots at both Oklahoma schools and a win in either of those games would have obviously been enough. That left them with a nice win over Baylor and not much else on their resume, which couldn't get them past other teams, even coming out of a strong Big 12.
Michigan: The Wolverines were a rare at-large contender that did not play a I-AA opponent. However, their best wins of Nebraska and Notre Dame couldn't compare with other teams. They also had an ugly loss to Iowa on their record.
As for some of the seeding questions:
Oregon as a 2: They beat Stanford, which is the nicest win of anyone in that two-loss group (including Stanford, Wisconsin, Arkansas). They also don't have a bad loss (Wisconsin lost to Ohio State, Arkansas got blown out twice). And as conference champs, they deserve credit for winning that extra game.
Four SEC teams, One Big 12 team: Pick by teams, not by conferences. Basketball's done it this way for years.
Southern Miss over West Virginia for a 6: Southern Miss has a horrid loss in UAB, but they did beat Houston on the road. That win is far better than anything the Mountaineers did. Plus, their ACC win (Virginia) looks a lot better than West Virginia's (Maryland).
Michigan State is in with three losses: Regular season wins over Wisconsin and Michigan look quite nice. Besides, punishing a team for winning its division is a crappy thing to do. And while the loss to Notre Dame looks bad, it's not as bad as some of these other contenders.
We'll finish up with the schedule. And let the games begin!
12:00 PM: (8) Louisiana Tech @ (1) Louisiana State ESPN
1:30 PM: (5) Michigan Staet @ (4) South Carolina ABC
3:00 PM: (6) Texas Christian @ (3) Wisconsin ESPN2
4:30 PM: (8) Northern Illinois @ (1) Oklahoma State ESPN
6:00 PM: (5) Clemson @ (4) Arkansas ABC
7:30 PM: (7) Arkansas State @ (2) Alabama ESPN2
9:00 PM: (6) Southern Mississippi @ (3) Stanford ESPN
10:30 PM: (7) West Virginia @ (2) Oregon ABC