College Football Playoff Expansion – good or bad?

By Ryan Brush

On June 10th, the College Football Playoff announced a proposed expansion of the CFB Playoff up to 12 teams. In the past, it has just been a four-team playoff, with two semifinal games being a part of the New Year’s Six: the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Peach Bowl. Every year, the CFB Playoffs randomly select two of these six to be a part of the semifinal games in which the number one seed plays the four seed and the number 2 seed plays the number 3 seed, and the winner of those two games play for the national championship in the CFB National Championship Game. 

However, with the introduction of the 12 team playoff, the top four teams in college football would get a “first-round” bye, where they would automatically advance to the “second-round” of the CFB Playoff. Meanwhile, while the top four teams have a bye, teams ranked 5 through 12 would play each other in the ranked format: the 5 seed would play the 12 seed, the 6 seed would play the 11 seed, and so on. This would inherently create four rounds of playoffs, rather than just two in the old format. With everything though, there becomes both positives and negatives.

First, let’s start with the positives. Any expansion of the College Football Playoff will eliminate the four-team monopoly of the previous CFB playoff. In the past, it had been Clemson, Alabama, and Ohio State as almost locks for the CFB Playoff, and the fourth team was a throw-up. This consistently ended with a Clemson vs. Alabama title game year after year, and it got old quickly. However, with this new proposed playoff system, it would guarantee handfuls of new teams that would have opportunities at claiming the CFB title that has been left out in years past. And possibly more importantly, the conference championships for each conference would matter much more than in previous years due to the new format. Within this new proposed structure, the top 6 of the 12 included in the playoff would be the conference champions of each of the Power Five college football conferences: the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and the SEC. Additionally, another top-ranked division winner team from another conference not part of the Power Five would also be selected to be in the top 6. This puts more attention and meaning into the conference championship and tournament, especially for teams such as Clemson or Alabama who would already make the tournament in prior years even if they lost in their conference championship. However, with this proposed format, the top four teams in the playoff receive a first-round bye, and since the only eligible teams for that bye would be division winners, the division championship would matter a whole lot more.

However, with every positive comes a negative, which rings true with this new format.  One negative is how much the bowl games wouldn’t mean anything for the teams already in the top 12 or top 6; the value and necessity of these games diminish even more than it already has. Additionally, the value of the regular season is also lessened. It used to be that if you beat a top-ranked team in the regular season, you could have a chance at the playoff, whereas now not so much. Consistency is key, and for the teams outside of the top 15 or 20 in the nation, there is no hope at the playoff. 

However, the overall consensus is that an expanded playoff is desperately needed, and although this format is not perfect, it will get the job done.

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