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Division IA College Football Playoffs

Tony Dziepak, January 2004, Revised 9 December 2014

This article describes the adoption of a football playoff to replace the BCS subdivision of the NCAA Div. I. It contains current and past hypothetical playoff brackets.

As of the 2-14-15 season, the NCAA Division I bowl subdivision went to a 4-game playoff.

  • 16-team single-elimination bracket filled as follows:
  • "Automatic" selection from the following:
    • Conference champions from all conferences that play an extra conference championship game,
    • Top-ranked team from stronger nonchampionship-game conferences
    • Sometimes, a top-ranked team from lesser nonchampionship-game conference, if highly ranked
  • One or two play-in games between top-ranked team of minor, non-conference-championship-game conferences, if the team is sufficiently strong. If there are an odd number of teams, place lowest-ranked at-large team having played 11 or fewer games to a play-in game.
  • At-large teams (subject to 2 at-large selections per conference) complete the bracket of 16 based on tournament selection committee, which will use BCS-style computer rankings as a selection factor.

2014-15 example (with simulated BCS rank):
"Automatic" selections:

1 Alabama (SEC)
2 Florida St (ACC)
3 Oregon (P10)
4 Ohio State (B10)
5 TCU (B12)
20 Boise State (MWC) w/ch
nr Marshall (CUSA) w/CH
nr Northern Illinois (MAC) w/ch

Play-in games:
nr Memphis (AA) vs nr Georgia Southern (SB)

At-large selections:
6 Baylor (B12)
7 Mississippi St (SEC)
8 Michigan St (B10)
9 Ole Miss (SEC)
10 Arizona (P10)
11 Kansas State (B12)
12 Georgia Tech (ACC)



1) Extra featured games occur starting Labor day weekend (from Thursday night through Labor day Monday).
2) Regular season games take place from the day after Labor day through the 4th Saturday in November (12 weeks to play 11 games; exceptions: teams playing Hawaii--home or away--may play on Labor day weekend; teams playing 12 games AND NOT eligible for a conference championship or the NCAA playoffs may play regular season games through 5th Sat in November/1st Sat in December. Play-in games are determined the following Sunday.
3) Fri/Sat before the first Mon of December: conference championships and play-in games. Playoff bracket determined the following Sunday.
4) Thu/Fri/Sat before the second Mon of December: first round (8 games).
5) Fri/Sat before the third Mon of December: quarterfinals (4 games, 2 each day).
6) Christmas Eve (Dec 24) and Christmas Day (Dec 25): semifinals (1 each day; exception: when Labor Day is Sept 7, semis are played Dec 25 and 26.).
5) New Year's Day (Jan 1): finals (exception: when Labor Day is Sept 7, final is played January 2). Update: Now that we have the 4-team playoff, it may be more acceptable to have the championship game as late as January 8. Comments: minor conferences without a championship game must complete their regular season the 4th Sat in November so that they can be free for the play-in game. Since the brackets are finalized after the play-in game is played, it is a true play-in that is not prebracketed onto any slot (unlike the basketball tournament).

Game limitations: Teams will be restricted to 16 total games per season. All teams selected for the championship must be eligible to participate through the tournament. Therefore, teams entering the bracket of 16 must have played no more than 12 games so far. This includes the total of Labor day feature games, regular season games, play-in games, and conference championship games.

Teams not selected for the 16-bracket (including play-in losers) may participate in one nonplayoff bowl game. This bowl game may take place on any day from the Tuesday before the first Monday in December through start time 4 hours before the start of the championship final on January 1.

Playoff Location: Play-in games will be played at the home field of the higher-ranked team.

The first round of 16 will be bracketed in four regions: East, South, Midwest, and West, four seeds in each region, with the higher seed enjoying home-field advantage. At the home team's discretion, they may use an alternative stadium.

The quarterfinals will be played on a neutral site within the region. The semifinals will be at neutral sites and will likely be at the locations of the current BCS major bowls (Rose, Orange, Fiesta, and/or Sugar).

In seeding and placing in regions, try to break up conferences into multiple regions, try to avoid rematches, esp. conference rematches and conf. championships rematches by placing in different regions or not together in first round.

Bowl eligible: no probation, winning (greater than .500) percentage counting only IA wins but all losses, min 6 IA wins, max 6 total losses, 10-13 games prior to bowl.

Championship eligible: must be bowl eligible plus max 12 total games. Play-in eligible: bowl eligible plus max 11 total games.

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