The recent vote made by the NCAAF Playoff Committee will expand the current format from four teams to twelve.
As summertime ends, we enter the best time of year: football season. Amidst what has already been a turbulent summer in the college football landscape, it was recently announced that the College Football Playoff will adopt a 12-team format moving forward.
While the change won’t go into effect until 2026, some governing body members are pushing for a quicker turnaround. Per the New York Times, some want to see the format adopted as early as 2024. And I must say, it’s about time.
When introduced in 2015, the College Football Playoff revolutionized the sport. The flawed Bowl Championship Series system was finally dismantled and we finally had a good system to declare a national champion — or so we thought.
In reality, the four-team playoff has been flawed since its inception and hardly solved the problems from the BCS model. Instead of providing a level playing field for more teams to compete for a national championship, the College Football Playoff maintained the status quo for college football royalty.
Basic math proves the system is flawed. In the eight years of the current four-team system, 32 spots were available. However, just three schools; Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson account for 17 of the 32 available bids. This means three schools have accounted for 53% of available playoff spots.
While yes, Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson have been dominant programs in the last decade, there’s no reason three teams should account for over half of the playoffs. No other collegiate or professional sport has such a lack of diversity in postseason tournaments.
Expanding to the new format alleviates this. By adding to the field of playoff teams, more schools are given the opportunity to compete for a national championship. Thus, reducing the monopoly on postseason appearances by merely three schools.
With the new system, the Notre Dame issue has also been solved. In years past, deciding playoff spots have been a point of contention. Historically, the winners of the Big Ten and Southeastern Conferences had automatically earned a spot. The other two spots were left to either another conference champion or an at-large bid if the committee deemed them better than a conference champ.
Since Notre Dame is an independent institution in college football, the committee has had trouble determining its playoff worthiness. Per the official release from the board of managers, “the 12 teams will be the six conference champions ranked highest by the selection committee … plus the six highest ranked teams not included among the six highest ranked conference champions.” Schools like Notre Dame now have a clear and defined path to the postseason.
My only issue comes from the sixth conference champion. As it stands, the new format gives the bids to the highest-ranked conference champions. It can be fairly assumed that the Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Big 12, and PAC 10 will account for the first five spots. However, which non-power five conferences will the committee choose to favor via the rankings?
I can see points of contention arising between smaller conferences like the Sunbelt or the MAC on which team deserves the last automatic bid. However, this seems like a small price to pay for a true national championship.
Overall I’m optimistic about the future of college football. Amidst conference realignment, new legislation regarding the payment of players and new television deals, the sport is alive and well. As SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement, “This is an exciting day for the future of college football.”