College Football Playoff Expansion Proposal: Who Wins? What's Next In The Process?

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

College Football Playoff Expansion Proposal: Who Wins? What's Next In The Process?

Bowls College Football Playoff

College Football Playoff Expansion Proposal: Who Wins? What's Next In The Process?


The 12-team College Football Playoff expansion idea took a step forward. If it goes through, who wins? Who loses, and what’s next in the process?

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The College Football Playoff types just held a meeting to set up another meeting to have a discussion about the 12-team expansion idea thrown out there last week. Basically …

– Nothing will be decided until September. This is all a work in progress.

– Everyone is trying to do their due diligence. They want the feedback from the schools, college presidents, athletic departments, etc. to try getting this right.

– If it goes through, this can’t and won’t be put in place for the 2021 or 2022 seasons. 2023 is the earliest that this could happen.

So what is this College Football Playoff expansion proposal the kids are all talking about? If it happens, who would win, who’d lose, and what would it be?

Here’s the gist of the expanded College Football Playoff proposal and how this is expected to work … if it actually happens.

– 12 teams. The six top-ranked conference champions are automatically in no matter where they’re ranked.

– The top four ranked conference champions get a first round bye. The other eight teams play a first round playoff game on the home sites of the higher-ranked teams.

– The quarterfinals are played in bowl game. There’s no reseed – more on that later – and the six needed bowls have yet to be determined. However, just assume that they’d be the Rose, Sugar, Peach, Cotton, Orange and Fiesta with another site for the national championship.

– The four-team College Football Playoff would then go on as we know it now. So, essentially, if any of the top four seeds got to the national championship, it would play one extra game. The other eight seeds – if one got to the championship – would play two extra games.

They actually might have gotten this … right? I’m the first to hammer and criticize anything and everything when it comes to how the college football sausage is made, and there are certainly a few things about this that need to be – and will have to be – tweaked, but this is a solid plan that appears to have addressed almost all of the potential concerns and objections.

I know. I KNOW. We all want to find flaws. (Not-so-humble flex alert) I’ve done about 30 different radio appearances since this idea first came out, and like all good sports talk people, most of the hosts tried to create a debate. There isn’t really one to be had – this is as solid an idea as the playoff types have come up with.

Let’s start with the most fundamental question of all when it comes to an expanded College Football Playoff. Does it diminish – or worse yet, ruin – the integrity of the best regular season in American sports?

The last thing college football wants is to become college basketball, or the NBA, or MLB, or the NHL – you don’t need to watch a lick of any of those other leagues/sports until the playoffs.

That’s not happening here with this 12-team plan. On the flip side, with more teams and fan bases involved, it would make the regular season even more interesting.

Now the conference championships become a whole lot bigger. They actually serve as early round playoff games, with the Power Five winners almost certainly getting in.

One key thing to remember … it’s really, really hard to finish in the top 12 in college football. This isn’t the NCAA Tournament that takes everyone who can dribble. Getting into the top 12 would be an achievement.

Before going any further, I’ll keep referencing the importance of finishing in the top 12, because that’s the criteria as it’s being set up. In reality, though, you probably have to finish in the top 11 if you don’t win your conference championship, and you really want to be in the top ten just to be safe. In most years, that 12th-ranked team will be bounced out of the CFP by the sixth-best conference champion.

So who wins out of all of this, besides the College Football Playoff? Pretty much everyone.

The Group of Five programs win. Now, instead of being thrown the stale New Year’s Six Bowl game cookie for the top Group of Five conference champion, that team gets into the College Football Playoff. Last year, both Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina would’ve made it under this format.

The biggest of the big boys win. A segment of Ohio State fans got grouchy – grouchy Ohio State fans, is there another kind? – over how this was originally set up, but it’s actually fantastic for the most powerful of the Power Five.

Now, Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State don’t have to finish in the top four, and they’re almost always going to finish in the top 11 or 12. Even better, there’s a safety net in case one of them loses once or even twice along the way.

Let’s cement this belief system right here, right now. If you can’t win your conference championship, and if you can’t finish in the top 12, you don’t deserve a shot at winning the national title.

Fans of good non-conference games win. Go ahead and schedule that monster date against another powerhouse. The upside to winning is enormous, and the penalty for losing – now, lose twice in a season and you’re essentially sunk – isn’t all that bad as long as the game was competitive.

Notre Dame wins. There’s some grousing from the Irish types about how the program can’t get one of the first round byes in this conference champion-only format, but sort of like it is for the other giant programs, this takes the pressure off. Notre Dame doesn’t have to finish in the top four to be in the playoff. Just be ranked in the top 11.

The SEC really wins. It’s been the constant problem with life in the SEC. You can be fantastic, have an awesome season, go 10-2 with a few thrilling wins over great teams, and then have absolutely nothing to show for it.

Or, like Texas A&M last year, you can be outstanding, and your one big crime is losing on the road to Alabama. And that means …

Georgia wins. Texas A&M wins. LSU wins. Florida wins. Auburn wins. In years when Alabama is an untouchable juggernaut – or like 2019 LSU – now at least the best teams in the top conference can still make the playoff tournament a battle. And that means …

The SEC championship loser wins. I’ll still argue that Texas A&M should’ve been in over Notre Dame last year, and there were a times when Georgia or Alabama really were among the four best teams but didn’t win the conference title.

This goes for the other Power Five conferences, too. The season-long powerhouse can lose the conference title and still get in.

Again, the Power Five conference championship games win. Will Northwestern ever finish in the top four under the current four-team College Football Playoff format? Almost certainly not.

How about Iowa State – a program that’s never won an outright conference title in its history? Under this format, both of those schools would’ve gone into their respective conference championship games last year with a chance to go to the playoff.

Wisconsin wins. And Penn State. And USC, Texas, Texas A&M, Florida, and yes, Harbaugh haters, Michigan.

All of those big-name, big power programs who’ve had plenty of success over the last few years with no playoff appearances will now get a shot. Wisconsin holds the distinction of being the winningest Power Five program during the CFP era to not get in.

The College Football Playoff wins. Last year might have been the final straw. On the plus side, the CFP has been a powerhouse mini-tournament of amazing teams. On the down side, the last three national championships suuuuuuuuuucked, and too many of the semifinals have been brutal blowouts. Of course …

There’s going to be a whole lot of ugly with this. This isn’t the NCAA Tournament where Central Whatever State can come out and hit a bajillion three pointers over a weekend and get into the Sweet 16. There will be a bunch of 55-3 blastings, and this doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of needing a more competitive final four, but …

It’s all about getting a chance. Did anyone really think Cincinnati could’ve won the national title last year? How about some of those great UCF teams? How about any of the teams outside of Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State ranked in the final top 12. Nah, but that’s not the point. All any team wants is its chance to show what it can do. If it gets rolled, it gets rolled – players want to compete.

And that’s the real winner here. It’s one of the fatal flaws of college football that – as you read this – at least 75 teams are already effectively eliminated from winning the 2021 national championship. Now, in fall camp, every single team in college football can at least think there’s a dream of a chance to get into the playoff.

With that said, who loses?

Not to be cheeky, but … the losers. There’s only one winner of the College Football Playoff. Everyone else suffers a loss. Don’t discount how much coaches and athletic directors love ending the season with a bowl win.

The Pac-12 and Big 12 … maybe. More often than not, the top SEC and Big Ten teams are likely going to be in. It wouldn’t be crazy to have half the playoff made up of those two conferences. What’s the revenue dispersion going to be? How mad would a Power Five conference be if it got shut out, like the Pac-12 would’ve been last year?

Potentially, the players. However, this all might tie together with the new Name, Image & Likeness world – because the term NIL makes everyone sleepy – in that the top players could market themselves come playoff time. Bigger stage, brighter lights, more opportunities. But that’s just for the superstars.

For the rank and file players, they’re about to make a whole lot of money for other people.

Potentially, the No. 1 seed. Without a reseed after the first round, the No. 4 could effectively get the reward the 1 should’ve had.

If this was 2014, and if Boise State upset Baylor in the first round, that would’ve meant the No. 4 seed would’ve played the CFP 20th-ranked team and the No. 1 seed would’ve played the 8/9 winner. That effectively nullifies the advantage to being the 1.

The bowl season, depending on how this gets set up. The minor bowls will always be the minor bowls – the mediocre teams will still get to go have their fun – but the mid-range bowls totally lose their importance.

2020 might have exposed how unnecessary the end-of-season exhibitions are, but the expanded CFP really does crush the spirits of those teams outside of the top 12.

Again, remember, this is just a proposal. However, it would’ve have come this far already if the College Football Playoff types didn’t pretty much know that this would fly.

Now, just watch. The next two four-team College Football Playoffs will be epic and fans will be against change, but this is a must.

The College Football Playoff is probably going to expand, and it’ll be okay.

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