The inevitable might finally happen. We knew it was coming, and it was just a matter of not if but when. The College Football Playoff is one step closer to the March Madness Tournament with an expansion that will allow 12 teams to play. It will no longer be the prestigious four that get a seat at the table, but that’s okay. A committee will vote on this potential expansion this week.
There have been talks for years that this would happen, and because the CFP and the NCAA are two of the most money-hungry sports organizations in the world, of course, it was going to come to fruition. For a long time, there were talks about expanding to 6 or 8, but the committee landed on 12 teams which will make postseason play in the NCAA something entirely different than what we’ve seen before.
There are certainly some good things to come from this and some bad things to come. Some conferences will benefit more than others, and I am sure that the Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney’s of the world are not happy whatsoever.
Before jumping into why I love this idea, and I think it is good for the sport and the fanbases and the casual college football plans, let’s explain how the bracket and the new system would actually work.
The bracket would be the six highest-ranked conference champions, plus six at-large teams. The four highest-ranked conference champions would earn first-round byes, and the next four highest-ranked teams would host the teams ranked nos. 9-12 in first-round playoff games. After the first round, all of the games would take place at neutral sites.
For my money, this is a great thing. Outside of the drama that encapsulates me, as I eagerly watch to see who the first four in are and who will be left out, this means I get to see more quality football. Think about a late-December game where a team like Liberty or Cincinnati has a chance at bouncing a program like Clemson or Florida.
College football has forever been this weird sport where if you aren’t in a Power 5 conference, you enter the season knowing that there isn’t a shot you make it to the National Championship game. Don’t believe me? You have to go back all the way to 1984 to see a team win the National Championship that didn’t play in a Power 5 conference. Thanks, BYU.
So the biggest winner of this whole ordeal is the Group of 5 players. Last year, Coastal Carolina, Liberty, Cincinnati, and BYU would have benefited tremendously from this kind of structure. Think about UCF a few years back in 2017 when they were left out of the CFP but still declared themselves National Champions for beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl. This is the way that we sort this kind of thing out.
What I really am most excited about is that we have a real fighting shot at not seeing the same characters in the final game of the season. Sure, there will still be plenty of years where Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State are the last ones standing, but with more teams coming in and the possibility for an upset increasing, they could be the victim of a Cinderella team.
Maybe the best part of all of this is that we will get more on-campus games in the playoff with this option. I get why these big, fancy NFL stadiums are the ones that are chosen to host the final three games and all the bowl games that have any importance. It is easy to make those games a “destination,” which brings in tons of revenue for the NCAA. But think about how exciting it could be to have Washington or Texas A&M hosting a game that will determine whether or not they get to the next stage.
For fan bases that are already so deflated and know that they really don’t have a shot to root for their teams past a certain date, this is a total game-changer for them. As an Arizona State fan, I could practically never expect my team to be a top-four in the country by the end of the season, but I could envision them sliding in as a top-12 and working their magic from there. Alex Scarborough from ESPN tends to agree with me.
“I’m still not sold that we actually needed more playoff games or that they will in any way change the outcome, but I’ll take the expansion if it means postseason games taking place on campuses. It’s that important. The worst thing about the playoff and bowl system has always been how it removes the energy of being on campus. So bring on an even more raucous Tiger Stadium or a White Out in Happy Valley.”
I understand the concerns from opposers of the college football expansion. There are still concerns over whether or not the CFP committee will actually allow Group of 5 teams into the top-12, or is this just an expansion for the SEC and Big 10? I hear those concerns, and I get those worries, but there is no other shot those teams get in with the current system in place.
There are many wrong things in college football, but the Group of 5 teams also aren’t totally victimless in the current state. They have the opportunity to schedule a challenging non-conference schedule, but many don’t. There are ways for the Group of 5 teams to raise their profile and strengthen their case for a shot at the table.
Overall, I am on board, and I would like for nothing more than to sit down from mid-December through January and watch teams battle to the death in the College Football Playoff with a shot at seeing Alabama be dethroned by a Stanford or Baylor of the world.