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Playoff Predictions, Round 2; Improving the Playoffs

Every year, I love following the I-AA playoffs. I pick the games, and follow the teams until the champion is crowned on December 16th at Finley stadium in Chattanooga, TN.

The 16 team playoff system is a good one, no doubt about it. 8 autobids, and 8 at-large bids makes for a perfect 4-game playoff and national champion.

But the playoffs could be made even better. Here, in my not-so-humble estimation, are five ways to make the playoffs even better.

1). Get the Ivy and SWAC in there. I don't care what it takes - find a way to move mountains, cajole, and politic the SWAC and Ivy to participate in the playoffs. The Ivy and SWAC teams not only are some of the most important conferences in I-AA, they represent some of the largest, and biggest potential moneymaking, football teams in all of I-AA.

Right now huge teams like Southern, Grambling St., Yale, and Harvard are considered I-AA, but aren't considered part of the I-AA playoffs. That has to change. When most people think I-AA football, they think of Harvard/Yale and Grambling St./Southern. Having schools with a legendary tradition in the I-AA playoffs makes it better for everyone.

2). Expand the playoffs with more at-larges and autobids. It won't be easy, but by adding more autobids (and adding more at-larges, by the NCAA rules), you would have to expand the playoffs to include as many as 24 teams. Along with the Ivy and SWAC, I think the NEC and Pioneer should have the opportunity to also have autobids. That would give 12 autobids, and 12 at-larges.

The rules for a conference playoff autobid would have include the following: there has to be at least 6 playoff-eligible teams in your league, you cannot play a championship game, and no team in your league can play more than 2 non-D-I opponents. The SWAC and Pioneer would have to abandon their conference championships, and many of the scheduling habits of Pioneer teams would have to change. But I-AA would benefit tremendously.

3). Have the first round of playoff games be "play-in" games of significance. The Patriot League, Ivy, SWAC and MEAC have been talking about starting, or restoring, "bowl games" between their champions for years. Why not have these leagues have 10 game seasons, with the 11th game being a bowl game (in a neutral site) where the winner moves on in the I-AA playoffs?

Here's how it could work. Every year during "Rivalry Week", the SWAC and MEAC champions would meet in a brand new "Heritage Bowl", the Patriot and Ivy champs would play in the "Walter Camp Bowl", and the Pioneer and NEC champs play in the "Sports Network Bowl". The last two teams could be the two best at-large teams in the 10-game conferences.

It would require some sacrifice. Grambling St./Southern, Alabama State/Tuskeegee, Lehigh/Lafayette, and Harvard/Yale would have to be pushed back a week or two. But you've got to believe that the prospect of a new "Heritage Bowl", or a new Patriot/Ivy Bowl game, would mitigate some of the changes.

4) Give teams the week of Thanksgiving off. With teams playing an 11-game season, it's only reasonable to give teams a week to rest and heal before a brutal 4-game stretch. In addition, it gives folks a couple of weeks to make their playoff plans. Anyone who has tried to pull together their friends on Thanksgiving week to try to get some friends to go to a I-AA playoff game knows what I mean.

5) Move the championship to around Christmastime. I'm looking at the I-A Bowl schedule, and I see the Motor City Bowl on December 26th, pitting the 7th placed Big 10 team versus the 1st or 2nd placed MAC team. Certainly, there is room on this day for the I-AA championship game, too?

For fun, I made a sample 24-team playoff bracket based on this year's records. See if this wouldn't make the playoffs even more exciting! Plus, every playoff participant would play an equal number of games!

November 12th: Grambling St./Southern; Harvard/Yale; Lehigh/Lafayette

November 19th: Grambling St./Hampton (Heritage Bowl); Brown/Colgate (Camp Bowl); San Diego/Central Connecticut St. (Sports Network Bowl); Lafayette/South Carolina St.

My predictions for Round 2 of the I-AA playoffs:
Northern Iowa at New Hampshire. This will be billed as a shootout, and will be a sold-out Cowell stadium, but I don't think that the kitties will do very well outside the dome. I don't think the Panthers will upset the Wildcats here. UNH 50, UNI 35.

Furman at Richmond.
Looking to be the best game this Saturday, the resurgent Paladin defense will take their hand at containing the Stacy Tutt show in a game for those who love defense. Tutt and Ingle Martin will make this a low-scoring game which could be a fun one settled by a late score. Give this one to Furman, who have played in a lot of these all year. Furman 27, Richmond 24, OT.

Southern Illinois at Appalachian St. This just looks like a mismatch to me. Yeah, the Saluki defense is resurgent, but I just can't see them stopping the Mountaineers at Kidd Brewer stadium. This is my pick to be the ugly game today. App St. 49, SIU 7.

Cal Poly at Texas St. Nobody pretty much picked Cal Poly to be here this weekend, and the 'Stangs are rewarded by appearing for the first time on ESPN2. Unfortunately, if Bobcat QB Barrick Nealy plays the way he did last week, the 'Stangs will be heading home in a hurry. I see the 'Stangs hanging for a half, but the Bobcats should make the semi's without too much of a problem. Texas St. 38, Cal Poly 14.


Anonymous said…
So your trying to put more disrespect on the Patriot League then there already is? Making them play in a play in game cmon. Lets say a PL team has only 1 or 2 losses and is ranked in the top 10. Why should they have to play in a play in game? You may say well then they should win this game. Yes they would win but the have to play 4 more games. That is just adding to the wear down. I know you said you would cut out 1 non conference game, but that non conference pushover game doenst take as much out of a team as a "bowl game". I like expanding the I-AA playoffs, but not the bowl system. Do a 24 team playoff and have play in games, but dont determine those games by conferences. Make it like 17th v 24th nd so on. So that top 10 PL team wouldnt get screwed.
Anonymous said…
How about we replace Lafayette, Fordham and Georgetown, with Villanova Richmond and Johns Hopkins. Three on par academic institutions with Colgate Holy Cross and Lehigh and better athletically than the three above mentioned weak sisters.
Anonymous said…
Glad to see New Hampshire get bounced. Another sham team by the wayside
Anonymous said…
"How about we replace Lafayette, Fordham and Georgetown, with Villanova Richmond and Johns Hopkins. Three on par academic institutions with Colgate Holy Cross and Lehigh and better athletically than the three above mentioned weak sisters."

On par? Adding a D-III school with two scholly schools? What a weird post. (Georgetown is ahead academically of CU, HC, and LU and Lafayette is comparable with two of them.)
Anonymous said…
"How about we replace Lafayette, Fordham and Georgetown, with Villanova Richmond and Johns Hopkins. Three on par academic institutions with Colgate Holy Cross and Lehigh and better athletically than the three above mentioned weak sisters."

Get rid of Lafayette? Is it because we've owned Lehigh on the football field three of the last four years? Sure.. can't beat 'em.. advocate their departure. PS There is nothing wrong with Fordham and Gtown has new facilities. Don't know what would entice Hopkins to DIAA... never seen such a poor compilation of ideas.
Ngineer said…
Agreed with previous posts--who in their right mind would advocate dropping Lafayette? Georgetown has the highest academic rating of the PL's. Hopkins can't compete at I-AA football. Someone's hitting the 'nog' early...
Anonymous said…
ngineer has always fancied himself an expert of sorts. I have never seen a contribution from him that was accurate, or that even made sense. At least he has a place to go to spew his meaningless drivel

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