What would power-pairing look like in the context of a college football season? Here’s an example that I drew up involving this year’s Big Ten. I experimented with a few different setups, and happen to like this one, but feel free to disagree with the particulars (this is more a proof-of-concept than anything I’ve thought all that much about).
It works like this: Each team plays nine conference games, the same number they play under the Big Ten’s current rules. Five of these are scheduled in advance, while four are power-paired or “flex” matchups determined only once the season is underway.
Nate Silver presents an interesting look at what the Big Ten could have looked like this season. It guarantees that the top teams all play each other, and avoid situations where one division is much weaker than the other, resulting in either an uncompetitive championship game, or an upset and 3-4 loss team becoming your conference champ.
If you could combine these flex matchups with a playoff that simply took all conference champs, and no one else, I think you’d go a long way towards finding the truly “best” college football team each season.
Of course, it would eliminate so much of the money-making apparatus that there’s no way the NCAA would go for it.