First of all, I apologize for getting this post out this late. [This year's been one of so many life events...from a biopsy to my car's starter needing replacement to me needing an MRI. (By contrast, I got the chance to go to a high school reunion.)]
But, anyway...I finally got the chance to find out which teams would populate the 2018 version of an NCAA Division 1-A football playoff (that is...if Mark Emmert and Co. actually conducted such a sports event instead of leaving it up to the people who run the five biggest revenue-producing collegiate conferences).
Without further ado, here's the 24-team field, with each club's record as of 12-15-2018 (just before the bowl games):
1. Clemson (13-0; ACC champ)/2. Alabama (13-0; SEC champ)/3. Notre Dame (12-0; independent at-large)/4. Central Florida (12-0; AAC champ)/5. Oklahoma (12-1; Big 12 champ)/6. Ohio State (12-1; Big Ten champ)/7. Georgia (11-2; SEC at-large)/8. Michigan (10-2; Big Ten at-large)
9. Appalachian State (10-2; Sun Belt champ)/10. Washington State (10-2; Pac-12 at-large)/11. Fresno State (11-2; Mountain West champ)/12. Cincinnati (10-2; AAC at-large)/13. Army (10-2; independent at-large)/14. Utah State (10-2; Mountain West at-large)/15. Washington (10-3; Pac-12 champ)/16. Boise State (10-3; Mountain West at-large)
17. UAB (10-3; C-USA champ)/18. Buffalo (10-3; MAC at-large)/19. Penn State (9-3; Big Ten at-large)/20. Louisiana State (9-3; SEC at-large)/21. Kentucky (9-3; SEC at-large)/22. Syracuse (9-3; ACC at-large)/23. North Carolina State (9-3; ACC at-large)/24. Northern Illinois (8-5; MAC champ)
Some surprises jump out right off the bat.
*First of all, maybe the biggest surprise is how Dabo Swinney's Tigers jumped ahead of Nick Saban's Crimson Tide to snare the top seed in this year's "shoulda-coulda-woulda" D-1-A playoffs.
Clemson earned 680 quality points this time around, while 'Bama totaled 670. (The figures include the 55 bonus points each unbeaten team gets.) The difference: The ACC's best team played eight teams that ended up with winning records, and the SEC's kingpin took on (as things turned out) seven winning squads here in 2018. And Alabama's Division 1-AA foe, The Citadel, had a 5-6 season (same as in 2017!)...while Clemson's single 1-AA opponent, Furman, came in at 6-4 this time around.
Now's a great time to tell you how this point system works. For starters, a Division 1-A team earns 50 quality points for defeating a 1-A club that had a winning record and 45 points for stopping a 1-A squad that played .500 ball or worse. If the 1-A team beat a winning Division 1-AA entry, that's 40 quality points. If the D-1-AA member had a losing (or .500) campaign, that means 35 points.
A team in Division 1-A can lose quality points, too. If a club loses to a winning D-1-A squad, 50 quality points are subtracted. Had a nonwinning 1-A team administered the defeat, our contingent loses 55 quality points.
What if our 1-A team lost to winning 1-AA one? Well, the 1-A team surrenders 60 points...while the 1-A team coughs up 65 points for losing to a 1-AA foe that faced a .500 campaign or worse.
*Well, this version of a 24-team playoff includes four SEC clubs...in addition, the ACC, Big Ten, and supposedly inferior Mountain West each contributed three entries. And in this cycle, the only three leagues with one squad apiece are Conference USA, the Sun Belt, and- that's right- the Big 12.
*Speaking of Conference USA and the Sun Belt Conference...their champions were involved in tiebreakers.
And both won out!
In these playoffs, the first tiebreaker involves the number of wins a club's Division 1-A opponents racked up. And here in 2018, UAB's 1-A combatants won 68 games to Buffalo's 1-A opponents' 65.
Even more startling is how Appalachian State beat Washington State to the ninth seed. The 1-A teams that played the Mountaineers won 67 games while those that took on the Cougars racked up 66 victories. (And, yes, Louisiana-Lafayette- Appalachian's SBC championship-game victim- counts twice on App State's schedule. Conference title games count in this tiebreaker...even if they're rematches of regular-season tilts.)
*Fresno State and Cincinnati were involved in another tiebreaker. The Bulldogs bested the Bearcats because Fresno's Division 1-A opponents won 72 games to the 62 wins picked up by Cincy's 1-A foes. Jeff Tedford's club took on Boise State twice (losing to the Broncos in the regular season, then beating them for the MWC crown)...but if you count just one Fresno State-Boise State game (ending up with a 62-62 tie when it comes to 1-A opponents' wins), the Californians still beat the Ohioans because Fresno's 8-1 conference mark topped Cincinnati's 6-2 AAC showing.
Had Luke Fickell's Bearcats taken on Fresno State, the head-to-head competition would've taken precedence over conference marks.
If the tied teams' conference records are the same, point differential is examined, first in head-to-head competition, then inside the conference(s)...then in all games.
Just in case all else fails, it all comes down to a coin toss.
Well, at any rate, I can't wait to play these games! I'll be using trusty ol' 3-in-1 Football, from Lance Haffner Games (and it'll all be computer vs. computer).
Wishing you all the very best in 2019 and beyond...and thanks for reading this blog!