Next week, the College Football Playoff management committee will consider a proposal to expand the CFP to 12 teams.
The proposal calls for the bracket to include the six highest-ranked conference champions and the six remaining highest-ranked teams, as determined by the CFP selection committee.
So what happens now? The board must first approve the plan. If so, it goes to the board of directors, a group of 11 university presidents and chancellors. If they approve, the conference commissioners and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick will spend the summer figuring out how to implement it.
“It is the first step in a long process that will not end before September,” said CFP director Bill Hancock.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about it now. So let’s break down what we know so far.
What is the best part of the proposed 12-team CFP?
Chris Low: How cool would it have been to see Coastal Carolina or Cincinnati on the big stage last season? Both teams were legit, but would never sniff a playoff berth in a four-team format. In a 12-team format, based on last year’s latest College Football Playoff rankings, both teams would have made it. Interestingly enough, the Pac-12 would have been shut out.
Kyle Bonagura: The month of November. One of the biggest problems with the four-team playoff was that about two-thirds of the season it became clear – with a few exceptions – which teams would remain relevant. This format keeps a lot more teams in the mix deeper into the season, which will inevitably lead to more meaningful games. This will keep more fans investing longer, which is overwhelmingly positive for the sport as a whole.
Mark Schlabach: If nothing else, at least an extended playoff gives more programs the confidence that they can actually make it. No other sport has a playoff as exclusive as the current system of college football — only 3% of the 130 FBS teams make the playoff with four teams and only 6% of the 65 Power 5 teams may go. At the very least, this gives teams other than Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, and Oklahoma a legitimate shot at making it. An extended playoff may not change the outcome — Alabama or Clemson are likely to win more often than not — but it at least changes things. The GVB has become quite old.
Harry Lyles Jr.: Looking through the lens of the things we love about college football, post-season home games would have an incredible atmosphere. Regular season college football games already have some of the best environments in the sport, and if you add more stakes to that, it would be incredible to watch.
Alex Scarborough: I’m still not sold that we actually needed more playoff games or that they’re going to change the outcome in any way, but I’ll take the expansion if it means games take place on campuses after the season. It’s so important. The worst thing about the playoff and bowl system has always been how it drains the energy of being on campus. So bring on an even grittier Tiger Stadium or a White Out in Happy Valley.
David M. Hale: Since the first talk about a playoff, there has been some hand-wringing about its impact on the regular season, but those talks have often reversed the issue. Too few teams in the playoff actually make tons of otherwise good matchups irrelevant if neither team has a chance of finishing in the top four. Sure, if you expand too much there’s a risk that teams will also go to a playoff spot, but I don’t think 12 will get us there. Plus, with on-campus byes and home games on the line for higher seeds, it seems unlikely that anyone will rest in November, even if a spot in the top 12 seems pretty certain. More playoff teams means more games that are important for the playoffs, and that’s a good thing.
Which part are you most skeptical about?
hale: This system doesn’t really solve most of the biggest problems currently plaguing college football. The extra spots provide a lifeline for the Group of 5 and Pac-12, but the SEC and Big Ten are likely to benefit more in the end, if history is any indication. College football urgently needs to expand its geographic footprint, but if this system had played out in the past seven years, half the bids would have gone to the SEC and the Big Ten. We may also be asking some teams to play as many as 17 games, which will certainly be a windfall for the schools, conferences and sports — but it also throws a huge spotlight on the inequality the players face. And if you don’t like the committee’s haphazard approach now, just wait for its role to triple.
Dave Wilson: Will the selection committee have the nerve to arrange multiple groups of 5 teams to compete? Or will they still be an afterthought against powerhouses?
Bill Connelly: Depending on what adjustments are made to the regular season schedule — and in general, when it comes to giving up potential earnings from a game, the answer is “we’re not changing anything” — this would indeed create a scenario. in which a team plays up to 17 games in a season. It’s hard for me to justify this if we don’t make big strides in both name, image and likeness rights and the idea of a medical trust fund that administrators have kicked. The former will happen in some form, but the latter is still not guaranteed. The latter must be guaranteed.
Andrea Adelson: I’ve been a proponent of expansion, but moving from four to 12 teams will absolutely not change who will do that really a chance to win a national championship. The same four to six teams will be in the top four almost every year and will still have a huge advantage over everyone else. Oh sure, getting a group of 5 team is “progress”, until you start calculating A) where they will most likely be ranked (outside the top eight), and B) what that means to lead the table to a championship (not going to happen). It’s like giving the teams of the Group of 5 a lollipop they’ve been begging for, only to turn a corner and enter a Las Vegas-style buffet reserved only for the Power 5. bad? Wait a second.
What’s your favorite what-if about a 12-team playoff since the CFP’s inception?
Wilson: Could the raging Baylor-TCU debate of 2014 possibly have given us a rematch of their regular-season 61-58 classic?
Lyles: It may not be my favorite per se, but one recency bias that I would have liked to see played is the 2020 season with Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina. We all felt strongly with those two, even as a Group of 5 teams, and it would be interesting to see how it would play out in a format like that.
Low: A 2017 second round “National Championship” matchup between Alabama and UCF at Bryant-Denny Stadium. And then a national championship parade the next day.
hale: UCF. 2017. Enough said.
Who is the biggest winner of this proposal?
Lyles: The fans. I think most people are reasonable and realize that regardless of size, the best teams in college football will always be there in the end. But everyone loves a good tournament with at least the potential for upset. And if you’re a fan of a team that gets to host a match, that’s even better.
Low: The rich get richer. The SEC did quite well in the four-team CFP playoff and in the old two-team BCS system. In 14 of the past 15 years, an SEC team has won or played for a national championship, and that includes five different teams. So just because the playoff field is expanding doesn’t mean the usual suspects won’t still be the ones winning the hardware, especially now that there will be even more of those usual suspects in the field.
hale: The biggest winners are the SEC and Big Ten, which should come as no surprise because… well, they are always the biggest winners. Under the current system, the Big Ten had six playoff teams in seven years. If the new system had been in effect, they would have had 20. The SEC is said to have had 11 teams in the playoff in the past three seasons. More playoff teams translates into more revenue and better recruiting for the two leagues that have already been around in both categories.
Scarborough: The Pac-12 finally has a chance now…. right?
connelly: Since the answer could be “the Group of 5” as well as “the SEC and Big Ten”, I have to say that I am extremely impressed with the political calibrations involved here.
Schlabach: I can tell you who the biggest losers are: the bowl games that aren’t part of the 12-team playoff. Most of those second- and third-level bowling games became irrelevant due to a four-team postseason and player opt-outs, and now many will have an even tougher road ahead.
Adelson: An athletic director told me the SEC was pushing the 12-team model, which makes sense because the SEC is the biggest winner — and it doesn’t even come close.
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