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.
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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.
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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. They're the programs that 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 — without 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. That could have been a quarterfinal quality matchup. 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 last year, if we could seed No. 9 through No. 16 without the bid process (based on my final predictions before Selection Sunday):
9. Western Illinois
10. Northern Iowa
11. Weber State
12. Stony Brook
14. Kennesaw State
15. South Dakota
Instead of this, Western Illinois, Samford and South Dakota took a hike on the road. All three games were competitive, and two worthy teams lost. Samford traveled to a team it had beaten in the regular season, Kennesaw State. South Dakota traveled to a team that barely got in, Nicholls, and won. Western Illinois … well, you already saw what I posted above. I'd argue that Western Illinois-Weber State and Samford-Kennesaw State happened too early, and Nicholls should have traveled to South Dakota instead of vice versa.
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:
9. Western Illinois hosts Monmouth
10. Northern Iowa hosts Nicholls
11. Weber State hosts San Diego
12. Stony Brook hosts CCSU
13. Samford hosts New Hampshire
14. Kennesaw State hosts Furman
15. South Dakota hosts Northern Arizona
16. Elon hosts Lehigh
This way, geography is taken into account and nobody is playing an inconference rival.
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 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? 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 in the first round? We know it's a tough attendance weekend with the holiday, but can we have the right teams hosting?
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