Jimmy Lake has a plan for a more perfect playoff.
It’s a six-team field, and the seeding is simple: All Power Five conference champions are automatic entrants in the field, with the College Football Playoff committee ranking them using the same criteria it currently employs. The sixth and final spot goes to a “wild card” — whether an independent (like Notre Dame in 2018), a Group of Five champion (like undefeated and subsequently snubbed Central Florida in 2017) or a second-place finisher in a Power Five conference (like Alabama in 2017).
In the first of three rounds, the top two seeds receive a bye and the winners of a 3-6 and 4-5 matchup advance to the semifinals. Then, same as the existing format, the final four teams play for a spot in the title game.
Of course, the JLP (Jimmy Lake Plan) would essentially solve one prickly problem — a Pac-12 program has not been selected for the College Football Playoff since Washington in 2016. It would also put significantly less pressure on the committee, with the foremost responsibility being ranking the conference champions and selecting a single wild card.
“I think that way you take all the subjectivity out of it, all the politics, the East Coast (bias), all of that,” Lake, the Huskies’ first-year head coach, said in a Pac-12 coaches media webinar Wednesday. “Let the champions move on. Let the teams play, and we’ll see who the best team is at the end of the year.”
Lake is so passionate about the JLP, in fact, that he and his oldest son — Jimmy Jr. — recently reseeded every playoff since the CFP came into existence in 2014, using their system. (The coronavirus pandemic, without a doubt, has provided time for passion projects.) Lake declared Wednesday that fans and media “would drool over this schedule.”
And when it comes to UW fans, he’s probably right. In 2018, rather than meeting Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, the Pac-12 champion Huskies would have matched up against undefeated Notre Dame in the opening round of the CFP.
“I know our fans would have loved to see that matchup,” Lake said.
That’s certainly a safe assumption. But don’t expect the JLP to receive widespread support across college football. If, say, an SEC or Big Ten fan or administrator believes there are two (or three, or four) teams from their conferences that are better than the Pac-12 champion — as is the popular perception, right or wrong — then a permanent Pac-12 representative would theoretically steal a spot from a more deserving squad.
And even UCF, an undefeated Group of Five champion, still would not have cracked the six-team JLP field in 2017.
Lake, unsurprisingly (and perhaps correctly), believes the Pac-12’s best can compete with anyone in the country.
And the JLP would give the Pac-12 champion an annual opportunity to prove it.
“I have not shared this much with my peers, but I definitely have shared it internally — definitely with our athletic director, Jen Cohen,” Lake said. “I think we could all get behind it. I think anything after six is too many. We know who the top teams are in the country. You’ve got the Power Five represented, plus one, and there’s going to be very minimal argument beyond that.
“If you don’t win your own championship or your own division, you don’t deserve to vie for a national championship. That’s just my opinion. I have it all planned out.”
(He actually does. Check out Lake’s reseeded brackets for every playoff since 2014 below.)