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Daily Brews: Inside Jim Harbaugh’s pitch for an 11-team College Football Playoff

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The Michigan head coach has a plan that would shake up the structure of college football’s postseason.

Michigan v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

If nothing else, Jim Harbaugh has always been an idea guy, especially when it comes to competition on the field and fairness among teams looking for a shot to play for a chance to win it all. That’s why he believes that the College Football Playoff could be fixed by going to...11 teams?

ESPN’s Heather Dinich surveyed 62 football coaches on their thoughts on the playoff. Of that group, 30 of them were in favor of expanding the field. When Harbaugh was approached, he took his thoughts a step further.

“I came up with my own structure,” he said, via ESPN. “I can take a picture of it and send it to you.”

Harbaugh believes that the playoff could feasibly be expanded to 11 teams. He lays out as being something that can be pulled off as follows:

  • 11 teams make the playoff and play 15 total games from the first week of December to the first week of January
  • No more conference championship games. Power 5 conferences would determine champions by 12-game conference schedule
  • Those five teams, plus the top non-Power 5 team and five at-large bids (which would be determined via computer and strength of schedule)
  • The bottom six-seeded schools in this playoff would play on what is currently known as conference championship weekend and the teams that would lose would then be thrown into the mix of bowl teams just like all the others that did not make it.

“You’d still have the same bowl structure that you have now, and teams that lost on Dec. 1, it’s like they would’ve been in a championship game and then they play in a bowl game,” Harbaugh said. “Nobody would play 16 games.”

That is not entirely true, as a team that has higher than a six seed may would be playing a 16th game if they were to play for a chance to win it all, but hey, it’s a different idea, isn’t it?

In this scenario, Michigan would have played UCF in the Dec. 1 games in the playoff if this structure were in place last season.

Harbaugh has campaigned for an expanded playoff in the past, even saying that he would be in favor of going all the way up to 16 teams. His scenario above essentially eliminates the non-conference schedule, so this would be a major change to the structure. But hey, he took the time to type it out and it’s fun to discuss and debate, at least.

Speaking of Playoff...on Ohio State and Penn State

In terms of the current College Football Playoff structure, the first rankings were released on Tuesday night with Ohio State, LSU, Alabama and Penn State making up the top four schools in 2019’s debut.

Executive director Rob Mullens spoke to the media following the release of the first rankings and explained why a pair of Big Ten teams filled out the first batch of rankings.

“Ohio State is No. 1 because of their overall consistent dominant play each week as well as their strength on offense and defense,” Mullens said. “Undefeated LSU is No. 2 because of its tough schedule and marquee wins over Florida and Auburn. Alabama is No. 3 because committee members are impressed with its overall performance and quality of play on both sides of the ball. Penn State is No. 4 because of its strong play, which includes wins over Michigan and Iowa. Penn State’s strength of schedule gave it an edge over an impressive Clemson, which we ranked No. 5.

“As always, I’m grateful to the members of the committee for the many hours and hard work they put in each week before we gather. It’s a quality group of people, and I appreciate their time and efforts.”

People will debate these until they are blue in the face, but this sets up essentially a pair of playoff eliminations games coming up for all four teams. LSU and Alabama play this weekend, while Ohio State and Penn State will play on Nov. 23. That’s where Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia have a chance to move back up, and even Georgia specifically will have a shot at either LSU or Alabama in the SEC title game. It’s going to get a lot more chaotic, but at least we know the rationale for the selections.

There has been a lot of controversy with Minnesota being undefeated and ranked No. 17, but there should not be much stock put into that. OSU was No. 16 in the first rankings released in 2014 and would go on to not only make it, but win it all. The Gophers have not played anyone yet and if they get through the rest of their schedule undefeated (which seems unlikely), they will be there. The Gophers still play Penn State, Northwestern, Iowa and Wisconsin to end the year.

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