A working group within the College Football Playoff Committee introduced a proposal last week to expand the current four-team playoff format to a whopping 12 teams. The proposed layout would be the top six ranked conference winners as seeds 1-6 with the top four receiving a bye. Seeds 5-12 would then be the next six teams in the rankings.
6 highest ranked conference champs & next 6 highest ranked teams will make @CFBPlayoff. 4 highest-ranked conference champs seeded 1-4 will receive 1st-round bye. Teams 5-12 will play 1st round at home field of highest-ranked team. Notre Dame/Independents can’t get 1st round bye— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) June 10, 2021
“The four-team format has been very popular and is a big success, but it’s important that we consider the opportunity for more teams and more student-athletes to participate in the playoff,” stated the group. While that sentiment may be true, this feels like an unnecessary attempt at trying to shake a bigger tree in hopes that different apples will fall. There are three big reasons why 12 teams is a poorly thought-out construct: Parity (lack thereof), Group of 5 dreams being shattered, and a much higher risk of injuries.
Reason One: Parity
No sport has less parity amongst the “big four” American sports than football, and college football takes that to a level that even the NFL couldn’t dream of. College football is currently in an era of dominance and dynasties. Of the 28 teams selected over the seven years of the College Football Playoff, 20 of those bids have gone to just four teams: Alabama and Clemson with six each, Ohio State with four, and Oklahoma with four, though they’ve yet to win a playoff game. Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State are responsible for six CFP National Championships, the lone outlier being the historic 2019 LSU Tigers team.
On top of that, only twice has a four seed even won a game in the CFP; Ohio State in the inaugural playoff and Alabama in the 2017 season. Both went on to win National Championships. The other five years? Four seeds have lost by an average of 20 points and have never held a lead going into the half. An expansion to 12 does nothing to really change the stranglehold these three juggernauts hold on college football.
Reason Two: Group of 5 would be doomed... Again
2020 was a year of absolutely nothing being normal, and that was epitomized within college football. Cincinnati and more specifically Coastal Carolina were the nation’s G5 darlings. Cincinnati posed a formidable threat as an unbeaten conference champion, and Coastal going out of its way to schedule a home game against eighth-ranked BYU and beating second overall pick Zach Wilson was most likely the highlight of the entire season. However, what gets glossed over are two major factors: Lack of respect from the committee towards these teams and why the committee is rightfully wary.
Cincinnati was massively disrespected by the committee. They were ranked in the Top 15 all season long but never even sniffed the top four, only getting as high as seventh. They were jumped multiple times by two-loss teams (even a three-loss Florida Gators team!) in power-five conferences despite being unbeaten and the American Conference champions which have proven to be consistently the best group-of-five conference.
Every season there’s one team from the Group of Five conferences that everyone collectively agrees could put up a fight against the top four. Coastal Carolina was not that team. While Coastal was also unbeaten with its own massive trademark wins, and despite seeing more upward movement in the CFP rankings than Cincinnati, it was all within the 12-20 range and they never had a real shot at the CFP let alone a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Even in a COVID-riddled year, a 6-0 Ohio State team made the Playoff while Coastal drew Liberty in the Cure Bowl. The respect is not there, and while it sounds harsh, it’s rightfully so. It’s worth remembering that Coastal lost that Cure Bowl to Liberty. Those losses go a long way in stacking up a résumé against the non-American Conference Group of 5s. Coastal climbed spots last year because it didn’t matter. We saw what the committee did to not just Cincinnati, but even the unbeaten UCF teams in years prior. They will just do the same with most of its group-of-five schools especially if there’s no set spot guaranteed for an at-large group-of-five team. An expansion will only help two-loss power-five teams and make little difference for the group-of-five conferences.
Reason Three: Injuries
This is a very cut-and-dry point. For collegiate athletes, asking them to possibly play a similar 16 to 17 game season such as the NFL is beyond careless.
All in all, a 12-team College Football Playoff presents way more problems than it does solutions. There are way more than just three reasons why this does nothing to change college football’s problems.
Is it time for expansion? Most definitely.
Is 12 teams the right answer?
Absolutely not, but we all know why we’re here.