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How to make college football fun again: The Non-Conference Super Scheduling Lottery

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What if we reimagined the matchups before conference play begins in earnest?

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

With the College Football Playoff playoff culminating tonight, I’m realizing that it annually feels like a three-team invitational with another three teams fighting for that fourth spot.

I’ve been thinking of ways to make college football more fun. How could we force more compelling non-conference match-ups early in the season that could impact the playoff standings? How can we force teams to travel? How can we create a made-for-TV event that maybe would convince the powers that be to do it?

Well, here’s the idea: The College Football Super Scheduling Lottery with match-ups below. And, yes, I know this idea would never happen, but we can dream. Here is how we do it.

1. Every FBS team has to keep an open date for the 3rd week of September. Because, duh, that’s when we’re going to play these games.

2. Next, all 130 FBS teams are split into 13 pods of 10 teams each, ordered by ranking. CFP rankings from the just-completed season are used for the top 25 teams, while ESPN’s FPI is used to rank the rest of FBS. (I would prefer to use SP+, but full rankings are behind a paywall now via ESPN+ and FPI is the easiest to use that ranks all FBS teams.)

3. A lottery is held live on TV where every team in each pod is drawn against another member of the pod. It’ll take place in the last week of January (dead week of the NFL before Super Bowl goes into full effect). Since signing day isn’t really in early February anymore, the live TV event provides a big ratings/relevance boost during a period that is now void of one. You could even split it up into multiple days like the NFL draft

4. Non-conference match-ups (as well as conference teams who are not scheduled to play the next season) are preferred. No, the lottery will not be pure, because what we all want is these heavyweight intersectional games, right? Sometimes conference matchups are unavoidable; in that instance, the game would be counted as non-conference in event there are no other options. (Sorry in advance to the MAC.) It generates big early season P5 match-ups and opens door for G5 to get a shot at some P5 teams. College football should be fun, and this prioritizes fun.

5. The game will be played the following season on that open date in September. In even years, the higher-ranked team in the final rankings is home, in odd years the lower-ranked team is home. (So, in this upcoming 2021 season, the lower-ranked team is home.)

Before we get to the matchups, a point of order: I used this service to randomize the matchups in each pod and then redrew if conference match-ups happened — https://www.randomresult.com/tournament.php

Since this is a Coug site, let’s look first at WSU’s pod and matchup:

Pod 7 (Teams Ranked 61-70)
- Tulane (61) @ Marshall (62)
- Kansas State (63) @ Oregon State (66)
- UAB (64) @ Rutgers (70)
- San Diego State (65) @ SMU (67)
- Washington State (68) @ Memphis (69)

I would absolutely love this chance to travel to Memphis for a non-conference matchup in September. Other notable Pac-12 match-ups would be Oregon @ Auburn, Virginia Tech @ Washington, and LSU @ UCLA. I also really like the thought of Ohio State having to go on the road to Cincinnati and Texas A&M having to go to Ames to face the Cyclones. The Thursday to Saturday slate would be the appropriate use of the word awesome.

Now, here are the rest of the matchups:

Pod 1 (Teams Ranked 1-10)
- Alabama (1) @ Oklahoma (6)
- Clemson (2) @ Florida (7)
- Ohio State (3) @ Cincinnati (8)
- Notre Dame (4) @ Georgia (9)
- Texas A&M (5) @ Iowa State (10)

Pod 2 (Teams Ranked 11-20)
- Indiana (11) @ Miami (18)
- Coastal Carolina (12) @ Iowa (15)
- North Carolina (13) @ BYU (16)
- Northwestern (14) @ USC (17)
- Lousiana (18) @ Texas (20)

Pod 3 (Teams Ranked 21-30)
- Oklahoma State (21) @ UCF (28)
- San Jose State (22) @ Penn State (29)
- NC State (23) @ Arizona State (30)
- Tulsa (24) @ Wisconsin (26)
- Oregon (25) @ Auburn (27)
Pod 4 (Teams Ranked 31-40)
- TCU (31) @ Louisville (39)
- Utah (32) @ West Virginia (37)
- LSU (33) @ UCLA (34)
- Virginia Tech (35) @ Washington (36)
- Stanford (38) @ Pitt (40)
Pod 5 (Teams Ranked 41-50)
- App State (41) @ Missouri (50)
- Ole Miss (42) @ Buffalo (45)
- Minnesota (43) @ Boise State (49)
- Wake Forest (44) @ Michigan (48)
- Kentucky (46) @ Nebraska (47)
Pod 6 (Teams Ranked 51-60)
- Baylor (51) @ Boston College (57)
- Purdue (53) @ California (52)
- Tennessee (56) @ Virginia (59)
- Arkansas (58) @ Houston (55)
- Mississippi State (60) @ Colorado (54)

Pod 8 (Teams Ranked 71-80)
- Texas Tech (71) @ Wyoming (73)
- Air Force (72) @ Maryland (75)
- Ball State (74) @ Nevada (80)
- South Carolina (76) @ Army (77)
- Liberty (78) @ Illinois (79)

Pod 9 (Teams Ranked 81-90)
- Michigan State (81) @ Toledo (82)
- Western Michigan (83) @ Miami (OH) (89)
- Ohio (84) @ Kent State (86)
- Florida State (85) @ Central Michigan (87)
- Georgia Tech (88) @ Troy (90)

Pod 10 (Teams Ranked 91-100)
- East Carolina (91)@ Colorado State (99)
- Georgia Southern (92) @ Duke (98)
- Georgia State (93) @ Fresno State (97)
- Florida Atlantic (94) @ Rice (95)
- Arizona (96) @ Arkansas State (100)
Pod 11 (Teams Ranked 101-110)
- Syracuse (101) @ South Florida (108)
- Hawaii (102) @ Louisiana Tech (107)
- Navy (103) @ New Mexico (109)
- UTSA (104) @ Charlotte (110)
- Eastern Michigan (105) @ Western Kentucky (106)

Pod 12 (Teams Ranked 111-120)
- Temple (111) @ Southern Mississippi (116)
- Northern Illinois (112) @ Middle Tennessee (120)
- Vanderbilt (113) @ Kansas (117)
- South Alabama (114) @ Texas State (115)
- North Texas (118) @ Utah State (119)
Pod 13 (Teams Ranked 121-127)
- Florida International (121) @ Louisiana Monroe (124)
- UNLV (122) @ Akron (125)
- UTEP (123) @ Bowling Green (126)
- UMass (127) BYE

What match-ups stand out to you? What changes would you make to the lottery? What ideas do you have to get us out of this super team world other than expanding the playoff?

Also, if you want your own “College Football Scheduling Lottery” logo schedule, I got you covered. See you in Memphis, maybe someday.