The College Football Playoff is on its way towards expanding.
That’s right. According to various reports, there is a recommendation on the table for the CFP to expand to 12 teams as early as 2023.
The new format would see the top six conference champions and six at-large teams make the cut. The top four conference champions would then receive a first-round bye as the other eight schools battle to advance in the bracket.
The move’s impact on the sport, its schedule and its postseason is complicated and hard to unpack. But I am here now with 5 big thoughts on what the expanded playoff will do to college football, and what it will to do Wisconsin specifically.
Here they are:
(AP Photo/Andy Manis)
Though this part is obvious, Wisconsin's path to the playoff will get a whole lot easier if it moves to 12 teams. In all honesty, there may not be another school in the country that the news helps more than Wisconsin. Think about this: the Badgers play in a division that allows them a shot at running the table, the program has some big-time out-of-conference games on the schedule (to help their resume) and they will get an automatic chance every year they make the Big Ten Championship. Wisconsin can now win the Big Ten with zero, one or two losses and make it, have their only loss be the Big Ten Championship and make it or, even sometimes get in with 2 quality losses. With these new rules, this program could end up making the College Football Playoff 3-4 times over the next 10 years.
This paired with new NIL laws will help to fix the sport
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Yes, here's another discussion about the direction of the sport we all love. Back in January, I went through 5 ways to fix the College Football Playoff. Two of my must-have points? Expand it and allow players to make money off their name, image and likeness. What these changes will do is even out the recruiting playing field, allow schools like Cincinnati to gain national recognition and end the current never-ending cycle of Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson's success. By end I don't mean they will now struggle. But instead these rules will help to disperse talent to other programs and give more teams a shot at the crown. Here's what I had to say about new NIL laws in January's piece:
Instead of Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State landing the nation’s top recruits every year, we would begin to see players avoid being a little fish in a big pond, if you will, and instead go to programs where they can both develop as a player but also maximize their image and set themselves up financially for years to come. Take Graham Mertz for an example. If new NOI laws are passed we would see more players take his path to programs like Wisconsin where they would be an immediate star in the large market and would ensure their ability to find future employment and/or endorsement opportunities. Mertz is a big fish in a small pond, and if NOI laws are passed we would see a lot more players take that path. From my piece on the topic from mid-December: Put simply: instead of every single five-star going to the top-5 schools in every year’s Playoff Rankings where they would wait multiple years to see the field and become stars, they may instead choose to go to programs with similar NFL pedigree, similar-sized fanbases but also those that aren’t competing for National Championships every year (yes, one of those programs is Wisconsin). So, what would that do to the Playoff? Instead of the top recruiting programs landing every single five-star, some of those players would commit to programs where they could see the field immediately and be a true star from Day 1. That isn’t happening today because there isn’t much of an incentive to do so. With new NOI laws (which may be coming soon), a sense of competitive balance would be restored in the sport.
The sport is making progress. Though it may take years to be seen on the field, its better off moving forward.
Notre Dame will be pushed towards joining a conference
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One big loser in this whole situation? Notre Dame. The new playoff accepts the top six conference champions and six at-large teams. With the top four conference champions getting first-round byes, being an at-large team does have disadvantages. Guess what. Notre Dame can't be a conference champion because they aren't in a conference. So unless they join the ACC (which I believe they should), their only path to a National Championship would be entering the Playoff as an at-large team, win multiple road games and THEN go on to face the Alabamas and Ohio States of the world. The NCAA stuck it to the Fighting Irish with their new playoff structure. Now we see how Notre Dame reacts.
Opening-round games on-campus? Yes, please.
Mandatory Credit: Photo By Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports Copyright (c) 2007 Jeff Hanisch
There will be nothing like a weekend on campus when a school is hosting a College Football Playoff game. For the local economy, for the fans of the school and for the team itself, this option opens doors that we didn't think existed. That's my only take on it: that I love it. The only thing here, though, is the top four schools will not be awarded this opportunity. But I love this play, and in the coming years others will as well.
This and NIL will help Wisconsin in recruiting, trust me
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Now, we finally move to the football field itself. This thought will reflect some of my earlier ones on Wisconsin getting into the Playoff and NIL rules helping to even out the sport. So here it is. If Wisconsin becomes a perennial CFP contender, occasional semifinalist or even one-time finalist, they will gain a valuable recruiting chip for those who want to compete for national titles. Second, with Wisconsin leading the pack in terms of name, image and likeness initiatives, they are moving into a tier not occupied by many schools. Listen to this pitch: you can come to Wisconsin, be set up to make money off your personal brand, compete for national titles and live in the best college town in America. It's an impressive pitch. And as time passes, we'll see the program extend their recruiting reach and continue to put together great football teams. I truly believe this: the best is yet to come for the Wisconsin Badgers.