“This is the end of college football as we know it” - Jon Johnston
It’s not a correct statement, yet. But, it might not be very far off.
Change scares the living daylights out of college football fans. Though, it seems that this sport changes every few years. At least more than most sports do. No, I don’t have data to back it up. All I know is that it was not too long ago when random humans and computers that had less processing power than my phone decided who was to play in the National Championship game.
Looking back to the old day’s of college football, it was a simpler time. Polls placed the top teams in order and the bowls decided who they wanted playing in them. If we were lucky, we got a No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the game. Most of the time, that didn’t happen. To be honest, it was a mess. A fun mess that we still debate to this very day. I mean, we can’t go a year without talking about who is the true 1997 National Champion.
Those days are why we are here in the first place. Because that was not working. Today we are watching the same two or three teams play for the national championship each and every year. Why, because it makes sense and that is what the powers that be have decided that this option is fair.
Now it looks like the powers that be are interested in shaking things up again. Yes, the current college football structure is not secure and there are people who are willing to shake things up for the good of the sport.
Hold on to your bonnets and derbies ladies and gentlemen. The College Football Playoff management committee is meeting next week in Chicago. One of the items they will be discussing is the possibility of expanding the College Football Playoff from 4 teams to 12.
This is not 6 team or the popular 8 team model that so many have tried to push the organization to. But a whopping 12 slots just waiting to be ridiculed. Why will they be ridiculed? Well folks, I have been following this sport for long enough to know that we are a fickle group of fans. Yes, each and every fanbase.
This expansion would include the six highest ranked conference champions followed by the six highest remaining teams which would be determined by the committee. The top four would have a first round bye. According to the proposal, no conference would automatically qualify and there would be not be a limit on the number of participants from a conference.
The key to this is the “six highest ranked conference champions”. Not the Power 5 but highest ranked. So, if there are three Group of 5 teams ranked higher than three Power 5 at the end of the regular season they will get first dibs on placement.
The SEC shall love this...
I hope the PAC-12 enjoys this...
As for the Big 12...
Now, this past year. Let’s look at it and ignore that COVID had anything to do with it. Just look at the top ranked teams at the end of the season. Just the Top 12 of the AP Poll as to make it easier to understand who would be in contention for the playoffs. In the SEC you had Alabama, Texas A&M, & Florida. In the Big Ten you had Ohio State, Indiana, & Wisconsin. In the ACC you had Clemson, Miami, & ND. Cincinnati, BYU, & Oregon were the other three team that rounded out the top 12.
To me that’s going to be a possible issue. Just by looking at the SEC, ACC, and Big Ten you have six teams that did not win the conference championship and three of those would have zero shot of being in the playoff. Yet, they were among the top 12 teams in the nation at the end of the year.
This type of playoff structure could change how poll placement is done. Maybe Florida and Wisconsin would be ranked lower by the committee to open up spots for other at large teams that “might” be more deserving. Would Notre Dame take a big tumble to help make room for another at large spot? At this point, it is speculation. So just let your mind go wild with the scenarios.
This could also hurt conference divisions. Let’s just look at the SEC as an example. Alabama could be one of the top rated teams in the country. They could also have one loss and very well not make the playoff. Let’s say LSU ends up representing the SEC West over Alabama because the Tigers have a head to head win over the Tide.
For this scenario, let’s have the SEC East represented by a two loss Florida team. So then for fun let’s say that the Tigers beat the two loss Gators. This is making a very good chance that LSU and a now three loss and most likely highly ranked Florida team are both in the playoffs. Alabama with that one loss would be out because they would have not won the conference and the Gators could be looked upon as the at large selection because they were the SEC runner up.
Now, the playoff committee could just push Florida out and put Alabama in because of the fabled “eye test” that so many people use. I am not saying the eye test is right or wrong. Just that it is a little bit more ambiguous to defend. Fan bases would have a field day if their top ranked team was left out because the committee felt that a team like Florida played better against LSU than they did to Alabama.
As you could probably guess, the one conference I can see happy with this the most is the Southeastern Conference. The SEC is almost guaranteed two spots. Their top two are usually in the top 10 and more often than not, there’s a third team in that ranking. That third team, like I stated above, would be left out. Yet, they would but all but guaranteed that at large spot. How many conferences can say that? Maybe the B1G Ten or ACC, depending on the year.
What conferences would most likely miss out? I would say the PAC-12 and Big 12 as of now. They have struggled to have more than one or two teams in the top 12 in the nation at the end of the year. Those second place teams would also most likely miss out on the spot over second place Big Ten or SEC team in most years. The new argument, which I brought up above, is whether there is a third SEC team who is worthy to make it in over another conferences school. Like if Northwestern made it in from the Big Ten last year because they came in second in the Big Ten to Ohio State.
Another note, as of now I do not see this doing much for college football parity. The rich will only get richer and will do more of what it takes to make the playoff each year. Brining in more money to them and their conference while the teams and conferences that do not make the playoffs will be roughly where they were before. Far off behind the leaders.
Finally, you are looking at an upwards of 17 games for some of these teams if they do not have a first round bye and win out. We are heading into NFL territory here with the wear and tear on the body. Can and should these players be put through this? Also, will top rated players want to play this much if they are looking towards the NFL draft in the spring?
These are just a handful of issues that I see with the 12 team playoff. Will all of these happen? It is too early to tell and there are a lot more that will pop up as time goes on. The issues I bring up could also be taken care of as the college football playoff committee moves this forward. Making more rules and changes to better suit the sport. All we can do now is speculate and prepare for another shift in the college sports world.