Report: College Football Playoff likely to expand to 12 teams

·3 min read

College football changed forever when Oklahoma State lost in Ames to Iowa State in 2011. The Cowboys fell on the wrong side of one of the greatest upsets in college football history and finished their season 11-1.

Nick Saban’s Alabama squad jumped Oklahoma State in the polls when it mattered, ultimately facing off against LSU in the national championship. The only issue is that the Crimson Tide had already lost head to head against the Tigers in Tuscaloosa.

We know how the story goes. Alabama wins, people are infuriated with the computer system, and the first rumblings of a playoff begin. It took three years but the BCS was ditched in favor of a four-team playoff in 2014.

Even when introduced, the first question was ‘when will it be expanded?’

The answer: 2021.

According to Pete Thamel of Yahoo, not only is the playoff going to grow, it could have 12 teams. Six, eight, and 16 have all been discussed but university officials, athletic directors, conference commissioners, and media executives feel as if 12 is the right number.

The next three weeks offer a critical period in charting what the future of the College Football Playoff will look like. A pair of CFP meetings are expected to decide a specific recommendation, with a final decision, details and television contract determined later in the fall.

“The reason that you go to 12 is because you can develop the road of least resistance toward a good result,” said a high-ranking college official with knowledge of the process.

A couple of elements would be added to make 12 teams work. The first would be automatic bids. According to Thamel’s report, giving playoff spots to teams who win their conference championship “juices up their league title games as play-in games.” The Group of 5 would have an auto bid as well.

Second would be the previously mentioned venues for the first round. Instead of bowl games, campuses would host at least the first round. From there, neutral sites from the New Year’s Six would host, just as they do today.

To give an example of what a 12 team playoff would look like, we will use the 2019 season. Last year went through too many rough patches thanks to COVID-19 to show a good example.

BYES: No. 1 LSU, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Oklahoma

All would be automatic qualifiers as well due to winning their conference. The Pac-12 would have its league champion Oregon and Memphis would represent the Group of 5, despite being No. 17 in the final poll.

Here is the first round:

  • No. 5 Georgia vs No. 12 Memphis in Athens, GA (Winner plays Oklahoma)

  • No. 6 Oregon vs No. 11 Utah in Eugene, OR (Winner plays Ohio State)

  • No. 7 Baylor vs No. 10 Penn State in Waco, TX (Winner plays Clemson)

  • No. 8 Wisconsin vs No. 9 Florida (Winner plays LSU)

A “four-member working group” will lay out this idea to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson on July 17 and July 18 in Chicago.

From there, “a group of 11 presidents and chancellors from the 10 FBS conferences and Notre Dame, will examine what’s put forward and likely determine the potential shape — although not the final details — of the playoff’s future.”

A final decision is expected later in the fall.