Analysis: Will a bigger College Football Playoff be better?

While eagerly announcing plans to expand the College Football Playoff, those in charge of the post-season system downplayed the unexpected revenue that will result from tripling the number of entrants and declined to speculate that a new format will touch the pauses on the realignment of the game. conference.

Instead, they stuck to a strict script, advertising how many more athletes will be able to play matches with national league implications and how many more fans will cheer on playoff contenders.

“It will be a new day for college football,” Mississippi state president Mark Keenum said late last week after the announced “historic” announcement.

No doubt.

The expansion of the College Football playoffs from four to 12 teams will fundamentally change the sport on and off the pitch, for better or for worse.

More regular season games will have playoff implications, but bigger games will no longer have the tension of the winner takes it all.

The new format will break a conference caste system strengthened by the four-team model, but it won’t stop the growing gap between haves and haves.

More teams will play in the league tournament, and petanque matches suffering from player apathy will be replaced by playoff matches.

But a larger field probably won’t increase the number of teams that have a realistic chance of winning it all.

How soon the expansion will arrive is yet to be determined. As soon as in 2024, but no later than 2026.

“Overall, it’s a day of celebration,” said CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock.


The game of the century, that seasonal meeting of top-tier teams with seemingly everything at stake, has gone from being a staple of college football to an endangered species. The 12-team playoffs will now extinguish that and redefine what it means to play a major regular season game.

Let’s use last year’s Ohio State-Michigan game as an example. The Wolverines not only ended a long losing streak in the rivalry, but they knocked the Buckeyes out of both the Big Ten and the playoff contention.

In a 12-team playoff, that game is for seeding and a goodbye in the first round.

The downside is that with the new format, any team that enters the final month of the season with a chance to win their conference is a playoff contender.

Think back to last Thanksgiving weekend, with Ohio State-Michigan and Oklahoma-Oklahoma State practically playing elimination games and Alabama facing Auburn with playoff hopes in jeopardy.

It was great.

What if Wisconsin-Minnesota, Michigan State-Penn State, Oregon-Oregon State and three different Atlantic Coast Conference games involving Clemson, Wake Forest and North Carolina State also have playoff implications?

For some fans, it sounds even better. For others, those teams are just watering down the field.

“What motivated the presidents and me too was that we needed to have an opportunity for more teams to participate in our nation’s national championship tournament,” said Keenum. “And having only four teams, we felt like it wasn’t right for our student-athletes from a participation standpoint.”

Yes, it’s all about the student-athletes, who will now probably have to play 16 games – maybe even 17 – to win a national championship.

Combine that with what could very well be a $ 2 billion annual payment to major media rights conferences for the new playoffs, and it’s yet another step towards player payment.

“We’re just getting started, but I’ll tell you that the management committee and board as of last fall were having meaningful conversations about a way to provide some player benefits,” said Hancock. “We still don’t know what they will be. We have just begun the road for this ”.

The new format will remove some of the subjectivity about how the field is selected. The selection committee that currently chooses the so-called four best teams does not leave. But six places in the field of 12 teams will be reserved for the best champions of the conference (as chosen by the selection committee). There will be no distinction between the 10 FBS conferences. At least not officially.

“It’s a merit-based format that recognizes the value of conference championships and at the same time allows overall access to six deserving teams,” said American Athletic Association Commissioner Mike Aresco.

The nicknames Power Five and Group of Five also seem to follow the dinosaur path. But make no mistake, the power and wealth in college football will continue to consolidate.

Massive television deals for the Big Ten and the Southeastern Conference are allowing the Super Two to separate from the rest of the Power Five as revenue is converted into competitive advantage.

The new playoff format and the access it provides could help keep Pac-12, Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference alive, but there’s still no school in those leagues that wouldn’t jump to the Big Ten or the SEC given the opportunity.

“I don’t know how this plays out in the entire college track and field landscape,” said Keenum, who heads the group of college leaders who oversees the playoffs.

There is hope among some that greater access to the playoffs will increase parity on the pitch as more schools are able to use playoff appearances to attract recruits.

That might help on the sidelines, but if you bridge the biggest talent gap ever between a small number of elite teams like Alabama and Georgia and the rest it’s uncertain at best.

Early round playoff games, some played on campus, should be a lot more fun than traditional marquee boules, which are now regularly skipped by top players who prioritize NFL draft prep.

The entire postseason should be better, but the outbreaks that plagued the four-team playoffs are likely to happen again, only in later rounds. And an expanded format only increases the chances of one of the super teams winning the title.

The College Football Playoff is getting bigger. Whether it is improving is a matter of personal preference.


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