How a 16-team College Football Playoff would have played out last season

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Matt Campbell, Iowa State Cyclones

Matt Campbell, Iowa State Cyclones. (Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)

This is how a 16-team College Football Playoff field would have played out last season.

With the College Football Playoff potentially expanding to as many as 16 teams in the coming years, let’s take a look at how a 16-team format could have played out a season ago.

Even though there are an infinite number of possibilities for how the playoff field could expand, for the sake of simplicity, we are going to use the final rankings released by the Selection Committee, taking the top 16 teams and pairing them up against each other, regardless of conference championships or league affiliation. If you are a Pac-12 fan, you can stop reading right now.

2021 College Football Playoff simulation with 16 teams getting in

First round, Round of 16, “Sweet 16”

  • No. 16 BYU Cougars (10-1) at No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-0): (Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama)
  • No. 15 Iowa Hawkeyes (6-2) at No. 2 Clemson Tigers (10-1): (Memorial Stadium, Clemson, South Carolina)
  • No. 14 Northwestern Wildcats (6-2) at No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes (6-0): (Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio)
  • No. 13 North Carolina Tar Heels (8-3) at No. 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-1): (Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana)
  • No. 12 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (11-0) at No. 5 Texas A&M Aggies (8-1): (Kyle Field, College Station, Texas)
  • No. 11 Indiana Hoosiers (6-1) at No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners (8-2): (Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Oklahoma)
  • No. 10 Iowa State Cyclones (8-3) at No. 7 Florida Gators (8-3): (Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Florida)
  • No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs (7-2) at No. 8 Cincinnati Bearcats (9-0): (Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio)

At first glance, what is cool is this 16-team field gives us not only four Power 5 champions, but four runner-ups, two Group of 5 teams and six other at-large programs out of the Power 5. The lower-seeded team will travel on the road to face the higher-seeded team in their stadium. Each team is listed with their record at the time of this game. The bolded team is the one that advances.

The top six seeds advance easily. No. 1 Alabama crushes No. 16 BYU. No. 2 Clemson beats tar out of No. 15 Iowa. No. 3 Ohio State defeats No. 14 Northwestern in an immediate rematch for the Wildcats. No. 4 Notre Dame outlasts No. 13 North Carolina. No. 5 Texas A&M ends No. 12 Coastal Carolina’s perfect season. No. 6 Oklahoma trounces No. 11 Indiana who missed Michael Penix Jr.

As for the two other games, these are a bit closer in score and prove to be the most compelling games of the eight. You could argue for the home teams to win their respective “Round of 16” games. However, I am taking the No. 10 Iowa State Cyclones to defeat the No. 7 Florida Gators in The Swamp and the No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs to “upset” the No. 9 Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert.

Iowa State played better ball down the stretch than Florida. The Cyclones nearly beat Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship and crushed Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. Georgia began to play better offensively once JT Daniels was inserted into the lineup as starting quarterback. They also defeated Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl on a last-second field goal. That is why those two advance.

Up next, we will take a closer look at the quarterfinals, the Round of Eight or the “Elite Eight”.

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