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The Mississippi River has long served as the main artery of the land now known as the United States, one of the longest continual waterways in North America. It's so vital that it's included in the Treaty of Paris, the treaty that ended the Revolutionary War.

The British basically pled, "gee, guys, we know you just whipped us pretty good, but it wouldn't be fair to deny us access to the Mississippi." Even with that post-victory swagger, the colonists realized they were right and told the English they could still use it.

That's how important the river is, but now it takes on even more significance. Now the river will serve as the focal point of this very column.

You've probably heard that the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament features four teams from west of the Mississippi for the first time in its history: Gonzaga, Baylor, Houston and UCLA. This fact led me to wonder what the College Football Playoff would look like if it featured four teams from west of the Mississippi.

It's important to remember that most FBS schools (and most of the country's population) reside on the east side of The Mighty Mississippi. Of the 130 FBS schools, only 55 are west of it. Of course, when it comes to the College Football Playoff, not all 130 schools are equal. So when we break it down by Power Five schools and Notre Dame, only 26 of the 65 teams can be considered, and 21 of those 26 teams reside in two conferences not likely to get two teams into the CFP during the same season. 

So who would the four teams be? I'll start with the most obvious choices.

1. Oklahoma 

Everybody in the Big 12 is west of the river aside from West Virginia, which is just another reminder of how ridiculous it is that West Virginia is in the Big 12. Anyway, Oklahoma's the obvious choice here, even if there are plenty of other legit candidates. The Sooners have won the last six Big 12 titles. They have also reached the College Football Playoff four times.

2. Texas A&M

So, full disclosure here, I originally had LSU in over Texas A&M. You see, I'm a moron, and I forgot that while most of the state of Louisiana is west of the river (its eastern border is largely defined by it) the river then runs through the state, and Baton Rouge is on the east side of the river. So, congratulations, Texas A&M! You're the winner over Arkansas and Missouri in the SEC! The Aggies did come pretty close to the playoff in 2020. Granted, their argument for inclusion over Notre Dame wasn't a good argument, or a winning argument, but merely having an argument is a step in the right direction for the Aggies.

3. Oregon 

The Pac-12 isn't going to get two teams into the CFP in all likelihood (unless the NCAA Tournament somehow sways the CFP committee?), so I'm forced to whittle 12 teams down to one, and while USC might be the traditional choice, it wasn't difficult to settle on Oregon here. When it comes to the 2020 season in the Pac-12, I say we just throw it out and try not to take anything away from it, but Oregon did win the conference despite not winning its division. That's not why I'm choosing it here, though. No, I'm choosing the Ducks because Mario Cristobal is recruiting at an SEC level in Eugene, and the rest of the conference hasn't entirely caught up yet.

4. Iowa 

All right, so we've seen the Big Ten do this before when Michigan State reached the playoff in 2015. In our imagined scenario, the Big Ten West Champion goes to Indianapolis and shocks the world by beating Ohio State to win the conference and earn a playoff bid. Well, I only have three options to choose from as Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska are the only three Big Ten teams west of the river. Historically, Nebraska is the more likely option, but that history is growing more ancient by the day. While Minnesota had a terrific 2019 season, Iowa has won the West Division before. Nebraska's lone Big Ten Championship appearance came in 2012 during the Legends and Leaders days.

And there you have it. Our four College Football Playoff teams from west of the Mississippi are Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oregon and Iowa. As for Group of Five candidates, if the CFP committee ever chooses the nuclear option and puts a G5 team in, the most likely candidates would be Houston (which is in the basketball Final Four) and Boise State. In our current fictional universe, I'd have to think it would be Iowa that one of them would be replacing.