2019-20 College Football Champions League: The Draw

***Follow along with the 2019-20 CFCL Guidebook***

Trevor Lawrence tries not to fidget with his bowtie. Jim Harbaugh has ditched the khaki pants for a more formal number. Tucked away in one of the boxes under the first mezzanine section, Condoleezza Rice makes small talk with other bureaucrats.

All the college football A-listers have descended upon The Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. This is a black-tie event, and while it’s perhaps a bit fanciful for something so procedural, it’s an undeniably glamorous scene. 

Suddenly, the lights go out in the Colosseum. A couple gasps escape the crowd, followed by a hush.

Then, the horns sound. The NCAA paid Hans Zimmer big money to compose an iconic anthem for this prestigious new competition, and it sounds great––a modern adaptation of an old NFL on CBS theme.

When the anthem is done, the lights come back on to reveal the hosts, standing on the stage: Erin Andrews and Jesse Fowler.

“Welcome, everyone, to the inaugural College Football Champions League draw”

The 32 delegations applaud, some more nervously than others.

Pat Fitzgerald is getting impatient. It’s been fifteen minutes since the start of this spectacle and he still doesn’t know who the ‘Cats will face. Instead, we’ve had needlessly drawn-out introductions and interviews with Cairo Santos and Trent Richardson, this year’s two honorary draw conductors, for some reason. 

Giorgio Marchetti knows the reason. He smiles from one of the boxes. As UEFA Director of Competitions, the NCAA has consulted with him to ensure that everything runs as smoothly and properly as it does in the UEFA Champions League. He’s enjoying not having to speak on stage.

This year’s CFB playoff championship game will be played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Cairo Santos is the host city ambassador, having played college at Tulane. Trent Richardson is the venue ambassador, having won the 2012 BCS National Championship Game at the Superdome. Marchetti is pleased that proceedings are moving along exactly as they would in Europe.

How proceedings move along in Europe

“Please welcome to the stage, NCAA Senior Vice President of Championships, Joni Comstock”

Joni Comstock takes the stage.

“Hello everyone. I’m sure you’re all anxious to get started with the draw, so let’s try and breeze through the procedural stuff as efficiently as possible. To do that, I ask that you all consult your copy of the Official Guidebook for the 2019-20 College Football Champions League. I’ll just be going over the highlights, but the guidebook has full details about how you all qualified, how you were seeded, scheduling procedures, etc.

The 32 teams here today will be drawn into 8 groups of 4. To ensure that the groups are balanced, the teams have been separated into four tiered pots. Each group will contain one team from each pot.

Pot 1 contains the Power 5 conference champions, the Group of 5 team that played in a New Year’s Bowl, and the two highest-ranked remaining teams in last season’s final AP Poll. The remaining teams have been ranked by their CFCL Coefficient, with the best eight teams going into pot 2, the next eight in pot 3, and the last eight in pot 4.

Here are the pots for the draw:

Pot 1: Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Washington, UCF, Notre Dame, LSU

Pot 2: Georgia, Penn State, Michigan, Stanford, Florida, TCU, Texas, Washington State

Pot 3: Northwestern, Kentucky, Syracuse, West Virginia, Texas A&M, Utah, Fresno State, Army

Pot 4: NC State, Utah State, Appalachian State, Iowa State, Georgia Tech, UAB, Pitt, Northern Illinois
The pots for the 2019-20 CFCL Group Stage Draw

Teams from the same conference cannot go into the same group, with the exception of group A. Additionally, there are several complex scheduling restrictions posed by teams’ bye weeks that will limit the groups into which they may be placed. See the guidebook for more details.

Mr. Richardson will draw a team, and Mr. Santos will draw the group the team will go into. After the draw, we will explain how matches work, and how teams advance out of the group stage into the knockout rounds.

Let’s begin…

Kyle Wittingham takes another glance at the giant screen onstage and lets out a sigh. His Utes are undoubtedly in the group of death.

Group A: Washington, Florida, Syracuse, Pitt

Group B: Ohio State, Stanford, West Virginia, Georgia Tech

Group C: Oklahoma, Georgia, Utah, Northern Illinois

Group D: Clemson, Penn State, Kentucky, UAB

Group E: UCF, Texas, Texas A&M, NC State

Group F: LSU, Michigan, Army, Iowa State

Group G: Alabama, Washington State, Fresno State, Appalachian State

Group H: Notre Dame, TCU, Northwestern, Utah State
The Groups for the 2019-20 CFCL Group Stage

“Very exciting stuff,” Joni Comstock says, regaining the audience’s attention. “Now, for how this all works”

“The group stage will be played in a double round-robin format, with everyone in the group playing each other twice––once at home, once on the road.

Every time a team plays a real game, we will simulate a soccer score for that team based on their real-life performance. If a team loses their first game of the season, that converts to 0 goals in their first CFCL match. If they win in real life, they get 1 goal, plus another goal for every 10 points they win by. So winning margin is key.

Of course, this emphasis on winning margin favors teams with weak opponents. The CFCL does two things to account for this:

First, any team playing an FCS opponent will have 1 goal subtracted from that matchday’s converted score. 

Second, we will design the group stage matchups and schedules to be as advantageous as possible to teams from pot 1, and as disadvantageous as possible to teams in pot 4. See the guidebook for details as to how we will do this.

When teams face one another in the CFCL, they are squaring off to see how finishes with a higher converted soccer score for that week. In the CFCL table, winning a CFCL match is worth 3 points, drawing is worth 1 point, and losing is worth 0 points. 

After all teams in the group have faced each other twice, the two teams with the most points will advance to the knockout rounds.

We here at the NCAA are incredibly excited for you all to compete for the first-ever College Football Champions League title. This format has proven to be massively successful and wildly exciting in Europe, and we are confident that this will be replicated in this United States. 

And before I go, I strongly urge you all to consult the official guidebook. It is incredibly thorough and contains all the information you could possibly want to know.

Thank you”

The crowd applauds. Erin and Jesse return to center stage to wrap things up.

“To keep up with the College Football Champions League, check out the guidebook, which is best viewed on a laptop or desktop.”

“You’ll find live scoring updates and standings on tab number 23”

“And for the complete slate of results, matchups and standings for your team’s group, check out tabs 15-22.”

“Thank you all so much for being here. We can’t wait to see where this goes, and we’ll see some of you in a few weeks’ time for the knockout round draw. Good night!”

The lights go back on in the Colosseum and the CFCL anthem plays as everyone files out of their seats.

Once outside, college football’s elite disperse and meander the Vegas strip, guided only by neon lights, the desert moon, and visions of glory.

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