It’s the annual respite between Spring practice and Fall camp starting for college football. With that, inevitably comes the discussion of playoff expansion. Discussions will move forward in July and further in the Fall. However, among university officials, athletic directors across the country, and media executives around the game a 12 team playoff expansion is beginning to gain momentum. In a hypothetical June scenario, we’ll take you through what this could potentially look like by incorporating the bowls, schedules, and formats for a playoff expansion such as this.
What is the right number for Playoff Expansion?
The answer could be that there might not be a right answer. There are certainly holes in each plan or format that could be brought to the table. First and foremost, it’s important to realize that expansion is inevitable. It’s nearly impossible for a Group of Five team to make the playoffs under the current model. Additionally, even at the Power Five level a conference like the PAC 12 doesn’t always have a fair fight in the argument. However, there is a school of thought that moving from four teams to 12 teams could be too much too soon. But, the prospect of 11 College Football Playoff games versus three in the current format would bring an increased level of excitement to the sport.
There have been models of six, eight, 10, and 12 floated around as the most prominent of new formats. For those that are a little nervous of moving too fast too soon, six would be the right format. But, that would still leave out certain teams and scenarios. The expansion of 12 makes sense for so many different reasons. It gives the Group of Five a seat at the table. Additionally, it would guarantee each Power Five conference a representative each year. Finally, it would make the regular season even better as two-loss teams would still have the opportunity to play for a national championship. More than anything, playoff expansion is about opportunity.
Playoff Expansion Format
First, the biggest challenge would be how the 12 teams would be identified. For this hypothetical scenario, we will pick six automatic bids for the Power Five Conference champion and the highest-ranked Group of Five team will receive the next automatic bid. The other six spots will be chosen based on at large bids going to the highest-ranked teams remaining. The rankings will still be managed by the College Football Playoff committee for determining the at-large teams.
Next, the seedings are the most important aspect to discuss. The only weight given to Power Five conference champions will be the automatic bid and will not impact the seedings. The top four teams selected for the playoffs would all receive first-round byes with teams six through 12 participating in first-round games. All first round games will be hosted on campus by the higher seeded team and the final seven games would be played at a neutral site incorporating the bowl games.
One of the biggest growing concerns has been the bowl games losing some of its interest due to opt outs. This will still be a problem in some of the lower tier bowl games. However, in the current College Football Playoff bowl rotation games this format would elleviate the issue. Starting with the Quarterfinals games through the National Championship games there would be a total of seven games. Putting the 2021 bowl rotation into play the quarterfinal playoff games would be played through the Cotton Bowl, Peach Bowl, Rose Bowl, and Sugar Bowl. Semi-Final games would be played through the Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl. And, the National Championship game would come back to the Orange Bowl.
Playoff Expansion in Action
The teams participating will be based on the final regular season rankings after the conference championship games. With that in mind, our automatic bids would go to Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Cincinatti as the Power Five winners and the highest ranking Group of Five team. The at large bids which go to the highest ranked teams in the College Football Playoff rankings would be Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Florida, Georgia, Iowa State, and Indiana.
The top four seeds for the 12-team playoff would be Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. In our format, those teams would receive byes in the first round. Cincinnati, Texas A&M, Florida, and Oklahoma would all host first round games at their home stadiums. The excitement, revenue, intrigue of hosting a first round playoff game could be something like we’ve never seen before. Below is a hypothetical schedule that could take place through all round of the playoff.
The schedule could get tricky when you think about and consider the time between conference championship games and playoff games. Given that all conference championship games are scheduled for the weekend of Friday, December 3rd and Saturday, December 4th here is our schedule for a 12-team playoff. As we go through the schedule, we are moving forward the higher seeded team to show the viewers exactly how the schedule would look. This is not a prediction.
Saturday, December 18th – First Round Playoffs
11:00 AM – (11) Indiana at (6) Oklahoma on ABC
2:30 PM – (9) Georgia at (8) Cincinnati on ESPN
4:00 PM – (10) Iowa State at (7) Florida on ABC
6:30 PM – (12) Oregon at (5) Texas A&M on ESPN
Friday, December 31st – Quarterfinal Games
3:00 PM – Peach Bowl – (1) Alabama vs (8) Cincinnati on ESPN
7:00 PM – Cotton Bowl – (2) Clemson vs (7) Florida on ESPN
Saturday, January 1st – Quarterfinal Games
3:00 PM – Rose Bowl – (4) Notre Dame vs (5) Texas A&M on ESPN
7:00 PM – Sugar Bowl – (3) Ohio State vs (6) Oklahoma on ESPN
Saturday, January 8th – Semi-Final Games
3:00 PM – Fiesta Bowl – (1) Alabama vs (4) Notre Dame on ESPN
7:00 PM – Orange Bowl – (2) Clemson vs (3) Ohio State on ESPN
Monday, January 17th – National Championship Game
7:00 PM – CFP National Championship – (1) Alabama vs (2) Clemson