OPINION: 12-team playoff is best thing for future of college football

·4 min read

The recent announcement that the College Football Playoff is expanding from four to twelve teams has caused quite a stir in the college football community.

There are those that claim an expanding playoff devalues the regular season, taking the drama out of a sport where every single game has championship implications. The idea is that the heavyweights of the sport can afford multiple losses and still be in contention for the sport’s top prize.

I am begging those who think this way to stop looking at college football through the eyes of the Alabamas, Ohio States and Georgias of the world.

Let me explain.

Those three programs are operating at a completely different level than the rest of the sport. In fact, I would argue that they’re playing semi-professional football rather than college football. The self-sustaining infrastructures that those three programs are running can not be compared to the rest of the nation.

It doesn’t matter if the CFP has four teams or twelve teams, those programs will always be in the mix to compete for a national championship. That’s just the reality of the situation.

The “participation trophy” narrative is only true if you look at it from the perspective of the juggernauts that are going to make it every year.

What this expanded playoff does is give a large majority of teams a chance to play meaningful games late in the season. It also makes winning your conference mean something rather than it being arbitrary. You’re rewarding actual on-field results with a berth in the playoffs for the six best conferences, rather than the “well, I just don’t think that team is good enough” argument we’ve heard so many times before.

This also means the super conferences thing is pushed down the line at least, which is something I like. There’s nothing appealing to me about USC being in a conference with Purdue. The closer we get to just having college football versions of the AFC and NFC, the further we go from the traditions, regionality, and environments that make college football what it is. See last week’s Backyard Brawl.

The top four conference champions will receive a bye in the first round, further rewarding on-field results. Do you think the top teams in the nation won’t put effort late in the season to assure they get additional time off to rest up?

For those teams that don’t receive a first-round bye, they will host a playoff game on-campus. Imagine seeing a Penn State white-out game in the playoffs. Imagine 90,000 fans singing Tom Petty under the lights of the Swamp with the season on the line. Those environments are the lifeblood of the sport, and the implications of those first-round games only elevate the mysticism of what makes college football beautiful.

College football’s identity has never been about crowning a national champion. That narrative has only been at the forefront of the conversation since television executives and conference commissioners realized how much money they were leaving on the table. It’s about the environment that surrounds the sport and how those fan bases prop up their programs because of the intense love fan bases have for their programs.

Now that we’re in a new reality where the CFP dictates the identity of a program, this expanded playoff makes an effort to incorporate more programs later on in the season. College football will never go back to a time when winning nine games and your conference is enough to make a fan base happy.

But under the 12-team playoff format, the importance of winning nine games and your conference has been revived, even if it’s now a catalyst for the richest tournament in collegiate sports.

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