A subcommittee tasked with evaluating the future format of the college football playoffs on Thursday recommended a drastic change that would widen the range to 12 teams split evenly between conference champions and general offers.
Described as “the first step in a long process,” the recommendation would bypass a simple doubling of the current four-team format and revolutionize the final stages of college football’s race to the national championship, while raising concerns over whether a such expansion would further dilute the stakes at stake during the regular season.
The proposal came from the four-person expansion task force made up of Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Mountain West Commissioner Greg Thompson, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick.
According to the recommendation, the range would be made up of the six highest ranked conference champions and six overall offers. No conference would automatically qualify for the playoffs, and there would be no cap on the number of participants in a conference. Rankings would always be determined by the selection committee.
The top four seeded conference champions would be granted a match “second round” pass to face the match winners of the next eight seeds in matches played at the home stadium of the team. better ranked. The quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals would then be played in a neutral venue. (The current format features all games on neutral sites.)
This part of the recommendation could create controversy. An unranked champion higher in the playoff standings than a conference winner wouldn’t be eligible for a first-round pass, for example. Additionally, requiring a conference championship to finish in the top four would cause problems for an independent program such as Notre Dame, which would not qualify for a pass and would have to win four straight games to win the national championship.
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The group’s proposal suggested playing first-round matches “during the two-week period after the conference championship games,” followed by quarter-finals on January 1 or 2, depending on whether the day of the conference. An falls or not on a Sunday, and the following day.
The suggested range would not be adjusted to avoid regular season rematch or matches between teams from the same conference, which was a guiding principle during the four-team era, and the standings would remain in effect every round. .
While the quarter-finals and semi-finals are played as part of traditional bowl training, the group recommended that teams “be assigned to their traditional bowls for quarter-final matches, with priority going to the best ranked team ”.
“The four-team format has been very popular and is a great success,” the task force said in a statement. “But it is important that we consider the opportunity for more teams and more student-athletes to participate in the playoffs. After considering many options, we believe that this proposal is the best option to increase participation, improve the season. regularity and develop the national enthusiasm for university football. ”
The recommendation introduces major changes to the current playoff format.
For starters, the format would secure a place for at least one Group of Five conference team and possibly more, if multiple teams from those conferences ended up in the top 12 of the final playoff standings – as they did in 2020. , when Cincinnati finished No. 8 and Coastal Carolina No. 12.
The suggested format also expands the national championship race to potentially include teams from each of the Power Five leagues: the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC. In the current landscape, the SEC and ACC have eight playoff offers while the Pac-12 have just two, and none since 2016.
But the proposal wouldn’t necessarily guarantee a place for champions at any Power Five conference: The Oregon No.20 was the top-ranked team in the Pac-12 during the pandemic-influenced 2020 season, which means that the league would not have sent a team into the playoffs.
With half the field made up of general offers, it’s also possible that one conference, possibly the SEC, dominates the range.
While allowing seeds to automatically advance to the next round creates an incentive to finish in the top four, the expansion could depreciate the regular season and cause teams to focus on programming inferior competition during outings. conference. Planning to avoid any missteps in the non-league play could ensure that a Power Five conference winner ends up with an overall record good enough to secure a spot among the top six conference champions.
The 12-team format would also create a scenario where one or two teams would play up to 17 games: 13 during the regular season, counting the conference championship, then the first round, quarter-finals, semi-finals. -finals and finals.
Taking last season’s example, the 12-team format would have resulted in Alabama’s No.1, Clemson’s No.2, Ohio State’s No.3 and Oklahoma’s No.6 exemptions at the first round.
The Sooners would have met the winner of the No. 12 Coastal Carolina at No. 4 Notre Dame; the Buckeyes would have faced the winner of No.11 from Indiana to No.5 from Texas A&M; the Tigers would have met the winner of No.10 Iowa State at No.7 Florida, and the Crimson Tide would have faced the winner of No.9 Georgia at No.8 Cincinnati.
The proposal now goes to the playoff management committee, which meets next week in Chicago, and could be approved as early as the end of this month. The playoffs are currently taking place under a 12-year deal that began in 2014 and is expected to expire after the 2025 season. The task force has not recommended a date for the implementation of the format changes.