On Friday, the college football playoff committee decided to expand to 12 teams. It will begin in 2026, but possibly sooner if it can be worked out with the conferences.
The format will feature the six highest ranked conference champions, and the next six highest ranked teams. The four highest ranked champions will get a first-round bye. First round games will be played at college campuses. The quarters, semis and finals will rotate as bowls. My initial reaction was it involves too many teams. There are not 12 teams capable of winning a national championship. Oh, there will be upsets, but in the end, the four teams that would qualify under the old system are likely the only potential winners. At times, four was too many.
But there are positives. More meaningful games and less meaningless bowls is a good thing. Teams will actually be playing for something. We will see fewer elite players sit out playoff games than bowls. It will give more teams access to a postseason with actual consequences. It gives the little guys – non power fives – access. I don’t really want to see Northern Illinois in a playoff, but the access is there.
And of course, more TV money. As the Amazons of the world enter the rights fray, these extra games could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. CBS Sports speculates the extra games could generate $200 million. Does it water things down? Yes, but percentage-wise college football will still be well below every other sport, with just 12 teams out of 125 Division I schools making the field.
Another possible benefit is it might stem the tide of realignment. Why would the Big 12 want Pac-12 teams when they have a spot guaranteed? Why would Oregon leave when they have an easy path to the playoff? Realistically, the SEC and Big 10 will dominate the second six. Maybe the Big 12 occasionally gets a second team. In addition, maybe we get more high profile early season games because losses will mean less. Of course, the best part of college football is how punitive a loss is. That might go away to some extent. My personal preference would be to try eight and go from there. Tripling the field leads to fears that maybe they move to 16, then even more, because it will mean more money.
But for now, it should make college football a little more interesting. I am willing to give it a shot.