You know what the best part of a large, 16-team playoff is? Having your young stars rest on the bench while playing their dreaded rival. NOT! It happens in the NFL every year and with a large playoff in college, it would happen here too. What better week to ruin than rivalry week.
So, to add a twist, a team’s final Rivalry Game* will carry some extra weight:
A) If you lose your rivalry game, you are ineligible for an at-large spot**
B) Rivalry Game results are the first tie-breaker in conference standings, before head-to-head, and
C) If you lose your rivalry game, you will likely*** have to play on the road in the playoff.
*Every team has 1 designated Rivalry Game. This is the final opponent on the schedule that is either a conference-mate or an annual opponent. Except for the Sun Belt teams, all teams with a shot at the playoff in 2015 play their rivalry game Thanksgiving Weekend.
**If your rival is a Top 10 team, a loss does not disqualify you from at-large eligibility.
***Home Field preference will be given to teams by A) A Top 25 Ranking, B) Winning your rivalry game, C) Winning your conference, then D) Ranking within the Top 25.
The Bracket: 10 Conference Champions, The Top 6 eligible at-larges. No conference championship games; instead, up to 3 teams from the same conference will be placed into the same “region” of the bracket. First rounds are played on campus, the semis in Rose and Sugar, the National Championship location is given to the highest bidder: Glendale 2016.
2015 Scenarios heading into Rivalry Week:
2014 Scenarios heading into Rivalry Week:
ACC: Florida State is the only team in the FBS to have clinched a playoff spot, but they are still playing for home-field advantage when their rival Florida Gators come to town.
Georgia Tech is playing to take an at-large spot away from their rival Georgia Bulldogs this weekend. Clemson and Louisville are the final two AP ranked teams and thus have distant hopes for at-large bids. They also play against their SEC Rivals: South Carolina and Kentucky.
American: Memphis, Central Florida, and Cincinnati are all fighting for the highest computer ranking, and the American Title, during their games against rivals: UConn, South Florida, and Temple.
If they all lose once more, then East Carolina (if they also beat UCF) would be in line for the playoff with a victory over rival Tulsa. Otherwise Houston (with a victory over Cincy) would ascend to the playoff with a victory over rival SMU. I suppose if everyone loses once more, it goes back to the highest ranked of Memphis, UCF, and Cincy.
Big Ten: Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin are all playing elimination games against their rivals: Michigan, Penn State, and Minnesota.
Ohio State can sneak back into the playoff if all three lose, though they would no longer be guaranteed a home game. At that point, Minnesota could also be a longshot at-large.
Big 12: TCU, Baylor, and Kansas State are all in virtual playoff games, win and in, against their rivals: Texas, Texas Tech, and Kansas.
Though KSU would likely be out of the running for an at-large spot if they lost to Baylor in December. Oklahoma has a slim shot at an at-large spot with a win over rival Oklahoma State and a jump past one of the three conference front-runners.
CUSA: Marshall must defeat rival Western Kentucky to make the playoff or else the door is open for Louisiana Tech to steal the CUSA Title with a victory over rival Rice.
MAC: The Northern Illinois vs. Western Michigan Rivalry Game will play a large roll in determining the MAC Champion. Though Toledo can make their way to the playoff too if they defeat rival Eastern Michigan while WMU defeats NIU.
MW: Boise State is in a must win situation against rival Utah State. Colorado State too needs a win against rival Air Force to pick up any slack dropped by the Broncos or in pursuit of their own at-large spot. The Utah State Aggies too could claim the MW Title with a win and a Colorado State loss.
Pac-12: Oregon (vs. Oregon State), UCLA (vs. Stanford), Arizona, and Arizona State are all four in elimination games against their rivals this week. Win and in; lose and go home.
SEC: Alabama, Mississippi State, and Georgia, are all playing for their playoff lives against rivals: Auburn, Ole Miss, and Georgia Tech.
Missouri can claim the SEC title with a win against rival Texas A&M and losses by Alabama and Miss State, but if all 4 SEC front-runners fall, Alabama will claim the title. Auburn and Ole Miss would then be in the hunt for some of the last at-large spots.
Sun Belt: Despite their bowl in-eligibility, we’ll give Georgia Southern the “nod” if they defeat conference rival Louisiana Monroe to complete conference perfection in the Sun Belt. If they lose, La Lafayette has a chance to claim the Sun Belt Title with a win over the rival Trojans of Troy.
Final 2014 Bracket
The Power Five conferences each have 2+ representatives, so finding two to pair was tough. The Big Ten, surprisingly, has 3 teams in the playoff. Of the other four, the representatives of the ACC and SEC are more lowly ranked. Depending on the ranking used, Ole Miss or Missouri took the last at-large spot.
WEST REGION (Rose Bowl A)
NR Georgia Southern @ #2 Oregon
#8 Arizona @ #12 Boise State
SOUTH REGION (Sugar Bowl A)
NR La Tech @ #5 Baylor
NR Memphis @ #4 TCU
EAST REGION (Sugar Bowl B)
#11 Ole Miss @ #1 Alabama
#10 Georgia Tech @ #3 Florida State
NORTH REGION (Rose Bowl B)
NR N Illinois @ #6 Ohio State
#9 Wisconsin @ #7 Michigan State