MAC'S RANTS: When it comes to a Division I football playoff system, the FCS obviously has the better version — but here's an idea to make it even better.
OUR BRACKETS: Who did we pick through Frisco?
I love the FCS Playoffs. It's everything you'd want in a playoff system, except one thing: I have a problem with how the first round is constructed, big-time.
The first-round pairings are determined by highest bidder and geography (for the most part). I get the geography part, and I get the highest bidder part for the most part (I'm not as anti-capitalist as many media types, I realize the travel costs money — and this level isn't exactly bleeding money like other levels of D-I).
Hear me out on this, and if it's flawed … let me have it.
How about we have a "second seeding". The first seeding stays put … it's the No. 1 through No. 8 part. These teams get to stay home and enjoy a nice turkey dinner, as they did this week. They're the programs that in theory (some schools might disagree) earned a first-round bye and in many cases, the kids on these teams can go home for a day or two and have Thanksgiving with their families, while the coaches can actually go and pick out a Christmas tree with their families, if they do that sort of thing.
For the next batch of 16 FCS teams that have made the FCS Playoffs, they play the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This is a tremendous reward for a season well-played, the aim of any athletic program. But how about this?
Let's seed No. 9 through No. 16 — while ditching the financial incentive/host bidding process — and have them host a geographically logical unseeded team from the No. 17 through No. 24 talent pool. Can we do this? I mean, Weber State-Western Illinois in the first round last year was one of the biggest travesties of recent FCS playoff years. James Madison-Delaware this year also is. Both could have been second-round games if not quarterfinal quality matchups. Weber State went on to very nearly knock off James Madison and was clearly the best Big Sky team. And there were other matchups in the first round that left a lot to be desired.
Here's how I would have seeded the first round teams this year, if we could seed No. 9 through No. 16 without the bid process (based primarily on my final predictions before Selection Sunday):
9. James Madison
10. Jacksonville St.
13. Northern Iowa
14. Stony Brook
16. Montana St.
Now, I had James Madison as a No. 7 seed in my final report — so ultimately I don't even agree with the Dukes being in the first round, but based on what we have to work with, I have JMU at No. 9, for instance.
Here's how I would have matched up the first round, using my seeding criteria — with geography helping determine the matchups. Obviously we're not going to send San Diego to Stony Brook in the first round, and some of these matchups will actually take place tomorrow (NOTE: With teams like Stony Brook-Towson-Delaware-Elon … I went with hair-splitting computer rankings to put these in order — sheesh):
9. James Madison hosts Delaware
10. Jacksonville St. hosts Lamar
11. Nicholls hosts SEMO
12. Wofford hosts Elon
13. Northern Iowa hosts UIW
14. Stony Brook hosts Duquesne
15. Towson hosts ETSU
16. Montana St. hosts San Diego
This isn't about politics, or "setting up the perfect bracket" for some seeded team. This is about putting the right 16 teams in the order they should be. Sorry, North Dakota State, if No. 9 team isn't one you want to face down the line. If you take the politics of bidding + geography out of it, it is what it is.
I had major disagreements with the bracket last year, namely that Eastern Washington, Delaware and arguably Austin Peay didn't get in (though I could see Nicholls squeaking in last year). I would have left New Hampshire out, though the Wildcats got CCSU and then upset seeded Central Arkansas. I also wouldn't have included Monmouth even at 9-2, and the UNI first-round score backed that up. But I digress.
The biggest reason for this idea/proposal is so we don't get a 2017 Weber State-WIU level of matchup in the first round again. Those two were on the cusp of having first-round byes, and yet they meet in the first round because Weber State put a tad higher bid in to host a game? What's the answer to having it come down to something besides money? What can we do to alleviate that?
I have no problem with who they host being geographically based to lower the cost of travel, but how about we have the right teams hosting first-round games, and we avoid these early monster matchups? Last year I actually had Western Illinois — an 8-3 MVFC team with a blowout FBS win — as a seed ahead of Sam Houston State. The Leathernecks went on to lose by two on the road to Weber State — the only team other than NDSU to challenge James Madison in the playoffs.
Can we take a look at this idea? Is there a way to make sure everybody at least breaks even financially in the first round? We know it's a tough attendance weekend with the holiday, but can we have the right teams hosting — and avoid problems down the line in the playoffs, also.
This is a compromise — let's seed some more, but also let geography do its thing.
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