Why D-III Football Bracket is Better Than D-I Bracket

Matt Coates, Reporter

Each year, college sports fans around the country have their eyes glued to the TV for March Madness. The reason is obvious: 68 teams go in, and only one comes out on top. The NCAA Division I basketball tournament is exciting because of its unpredictability and high percentage of upsets. While it’s a shame to see your championship pick go out in the first round, who doesn’t love to see a No. 16 seed upset a No. 1 seed?

Recently, Division 1 college football cashed in on tournament excitement by adopting the College Football Playoff (CFP) where a committee selects the top four teams in the nation to compete for the national championship. However, the CFP cannot come close to competing with March Madness.

The CFP was first introduced in 2015 where fourth-seeded Ohio State stomped on second-ranked Oregon, 42-20, to win the championship. Throughout these past eight seasons, the average point differential of a CFP game is 18.7 points and the average CFP game is decided by over two touchdowns. Sure, there are upsets, but with an average margin this high, it appears most games are decided by halftime.

That is where the Division 3 playoffs step in. They have their fair share of blowouts, as well, but make up for it with their structure. The Division 3 playoff consists of 32 teams, with 27 automatic qualifiers, and five at-large bids.

While being half the size of March Madness, it is eight times the size of the current CFP. More games, more chances for upsets, and more football to watch.

The D3 football playoff also beats CFP with the use of home field advantage. The CFP is three games, all being bowl games and all played at large, neutral venues.

In the Division 3 playoff; however, the higher seed hosts until the national championship. Students don’t have to worry about buying plane tickets and booking a hotel to watch their team in the playoffs. If your team is the higher seed, you can just roll out of bed on game day, go to the stadium and watch your team compete for a national title.

The D3 playoffs offer a true home field advantage, allowing students to be a big factor in their team’s success. If the Misericordia football team won the MAC this year, depending on its seeding in the playoff, a game could be hosted at Mangelsdorf Field.

My opinion on this could soon change, however. Early this month, the CFP’s executive board made the unexpected decision to expand the playoff to 12 teams, the unanimous decision coming during a relatively secret meeting where the board finally agreed on the terms of expansion.

Fans and schools alike have been calling for expansion and the idea has been floating among the executive board for the past year.

In the new playoff, the field will consist of six automatic bids and six at-large selections. The top six highest-ranked conference champions will receive automatic bids and the four highest seeds of those teams will receive a bye.

Like the Division 3 playoff, the expanded CFP will have home games. The first-round matchups (played by seeds 5-12) will be hosted by the higher seed. Four of the 11 games in this new playoff will be played at a team’s home stadium.

This expansion addresses concerns fans have had with the current model of the CFP. As previously mentioned, the CFP has a high average margin of victory. Every blowout game in the playoff leads to fans calling for a team that got “snubbed” in the playoff.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. It’s easy to say a team shouldn’t have made it after it gets blown out by 30 points. Letting 12 teams into the playoff gives the committee some breathing room.

However, the committee will receive criticism because half the playoff pool is composed of conference champions and people will be unhappy if high-ranked teams are left out. I can picture it now: a top 10 ranked team that doesn’t win its conference watches a lower-ranked team in a worse conference compete for the championship. This is likely to plague some BIG10 and SEC schools. Clearly, it would be impossible to create expansion that appeases everyone, so this will have to suffice.

This is an issue the D3 playoff faces, as well. As I mentioned earlier, the D3 playoff also boasts a large point differential throughout the tournament. This is because some conferences that receive automatic bids simply cannot compete with the upper echelon of teams in D3, leading to first-round blowouts.

The D3 playoff can afford this because of the size of the tournament. While many first-round matchups will be lopsided, some are bound to be competitive, not to mention there are four more rounds afterwards.

One large reason March Madness is so popular is because of the number of games played. Football could never replicate this because it is such a physical sport and teams need a week off in between games. Even so, the D3 playoff does a great job bringing in a multitude of teams. The 32-team playoff gives plenty of teams an opportunity to make a splash and potentially win a national title.

For the time being, the Division 3 tournament is more exciting than the CFP. However, the CFP’s new format does increase its entertainment value, offering more teams, more games, more upset possibilities, and the chance to see a Cinderella Story.

However, fans will have to wait for the new playoff as it could come as early as the 2024 season but no later than the 2026 season.

When the new CFP rolls around, we’ll have to see if that changes my take. Until then, I recommend checking out the Division 3 playoff.