A group of top college sports executives is set to endorse a plan calling for the College Football Playoff to increase from 4 teams to 12, after years of complaints that not enough top teams were getting a shot to win the championship.
The proposed 12-team playoff would include the 6 highest-ranked conference champions, along with the 6 highest-ranked nonchampions, according to a statement from the College Football Playoff.
The top four champions would receive a bye to the quarterfinals, while the other eight teams would play in the first round.
Teams would be seeded 1-12, with higher-ranked seeds hosting first-round games, quarterfinals and semifinals played as bowl games and the national championship being held at a predetermined neutral site.
There would be no limit on the amount of teams from one conference, and no conference champions would be granted automatic bids to the playoff.
Under the current format, only the top four-ranked teams make it into the playoff, regardless of whether or not they are conference champions.
A working group consisting of Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, along with the commissioners of the SEC, Big 12 and Mountain West, are reportedly backing the plan for approval.
What To Watch For
The format of the College Football Playoff will not change for either this season or next season, according to Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff.
“After reviewing numerous options, we believe this proposal is the best option to increase participation, enhance the regular season and grow the national excitement of college football,” the working group said.
What We Don’t Know
It’s not clear if there will be a change in the ranking system’s methods. Currently, a 13-member committee ranks and selects the teams to participate in the College Football Playoff.
The lack of a truly open championship system at the top level of college football has been an issue for decades, and the playoff system has expanded far more slowly than many would have liked. A national championship game between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams was only first established during the 1998 season and expanded to four teams starting with the 2014 season after continuous complaints the system favored traditionally successful programs. The expansion to four teams was welcomed by most, but complaints lingered over its preference for teams in the top conferences. Over its seven-year run, 20 of the 28 bids given for playoff spots have gone to teams from the SEC, ACC or Big Ten.
A particularly notorious example of a team being excluded from the College Football Playoff is the 2017 UCF Knights. The team had a 12-0 record and won the American Athletic Conference championship. But four teams from “Power Five” conferences—all of which had lost a game during the season—were picked for the playoff over them. UCF went on to win the Peach Bowl by defeating Auburn—the only team during 2017 to beat Alabama, the team that won the College Football Playoff.