College Football Playoff to consider expanding to 12-team format

By Kevin Kelley -

The College Football Playoff (CFP) will consider expanding from four teams to a 12-team format, it was officially announced on Thursday.

The 12-team format proposal was submitted to the full College Football Playoff management committee by a sub-group of the CFP management committee. The sub-group consisted of Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson, and Notre Dame Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick.

“The four-team format has been very popular and is a big success,” the members of the four-person working group said in a statement. “But it’s important that we consider the opportunity for more teams and more student-athletes to participate in the 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.”

Under the proposed 12-team format, the four highest-ranked conference champions would receive the top four seeds and would also receive a first-round bye (Note: this would exclude Independents such as Notre Dame and BYU). The remaining seeds, seeds five through 12, would play each other at the home stadium of the higher seeded team. Below is a look at the complete first-round format:

  • No. 1 Seed – Bye
  • No. 2 Seed – Bye
  • No. 3 Seed – Bye
  • No. 4 Seed – Bye
  • No. 12 Seed at No. 5 Seed
  • No. 11 Seed at No. 6 Seed
  • No. 10 Seed at No. 7 Seed
  • No. 9 Seed at No. 8 Seed

Quarterfinal and semifinal round games would be incorporated into the bowl games, while the College Football Playoff National Championship would remain at a neutral site.

The proposal calls for the bracket each year to include the six highest-ranked conference champions, plus the six highest-ranked other teams as determined by the College Football Playoff selection committee. No conference would qualify automatically and there would be no limit on the number of participants from a conference.

“This is a very exciting moment for college football,” the working group members said in the statement. “We think we can capture what student-athletes and fans love about the game and extend it to more people in more places, while enhancing what’s great about the regular season.”

If the 12-team format is ultimately approved, it will not be adopted for the 2021 or 2022 season, according to the statement. The current CFP agreement extends through the 2025-26 season.

“Now that the working group has presented its proposal, the management committee will solicit input from university presidents, coaches, athletics directors, student-athletes and others,” Bill Hancock, Executive Director of the CFP, said. “That input will help inform what the management committee recommends to the ultimate decision-makers — the presidents and chancellors who serve on the board of managers. I do want to remind you that the final decision will be made by the board of managers, and that decision will not come before this fall.”

Below are additional elements of the working group’s proposal:

    • While the playoff calendar is still to be worked out, broadly this is the recommendation:
      • First-round games would take place on campus sometime during the two-week period after conference championship games;
      • Quarterfinals would be played on January 1—or January 2 when New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday—and on an adjacent day;
      • Semifinals and championship game dates are to be determined; semifinals likely will not be played as a doubleheader.
    • The playoff bracket would follow the rankings, with no modifications made to avoid rematches of teams that may have played during the regular-season or are from the same conference;
    • The bracket would remain in effect throughout the playoff (i.e., no re-seeding);
    • The working group’s charge did not include deciding which bowls might be a part of the CFP in the future; however the group did recommend that if traditional bowls host games, teams would be assigned to their traditional bowls for quarterfinal games with priority going to the higher-seeded team;
  • All 11 games would be under the CFP umbrella, with the administrative specifications and the process for selecting the six bowls that would rotate as hosts of the quarterfinals and semifinals still to be determined.

College Football Playoff Schedule

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Comments (15)

I agree that part is complicated. On one hand, in theory, the fact that you don’t have to worry about a potential first-round loss is a reasonable trade-off for not hosting a game, but in practice it sucks that the home crowd doesn’t get their shot at an extra, big home game.

That said, I wouldn’t blow up the expanded playoff idea just because of that. I’ve wanted more that 4 teams (6? 8? 12?) since they started discussing the possibility of a playoff.

As long as the committee doesn’t continue with its bias toward one or two certain conferences. Otherwise, it’s just a money grub for those conferences and the ones that really deserve it get left out again.

Who was left out that truly deserved to be in the playoffs? Other than Penn State, that was left out in favor of fellow Big 10 member Ohio State, I cant really come up with one. Cincinnati, uh maybe. UCF, no sir. USC, nope. The good thing is those teams will be included when it goes to twelve.

The better way to do it would be:

Top 6 teams from outside the South in one half of the bracket

Top 6 teams from the South in the other half

First two rounds at closest stadiums to each of the top 4 seeds in each region that seat 65K

Regional finals are the bowl rotation

Regional winners in title game

How would that be better? Are you just trying to find the best team or just making sure the “North” or “West” is in the finals? Looks to me all regions will have a much better chance under the proposed plan.

As a fan of several Northern teams, I tire of seeing a Southern team win year after year (last Northern win was in 2014).

So, I want to make a Southern team have to go through a team from somewhere else every year in the CFP final.

I love that it at least includes the Conference champions as part of the criteria. That gives added value and incentive to conference play.

I totally disagree with expanding the playoffs. There is no need. Most years, the semi-finals are blowouts. Why throw more teams in the mix that would have no chance of winning 4 or 3 games in a row?

I get what you’re saying. I think they’re doing this to get more fans and fan bases involved so that more people watch and they can sell the broadcasting rights for more money.

Even if a team doesn’t have a chance, the fans will still probably watch because fans root for an underdog. Overall I think they’re just trying to enhance what they already have. I know I’d be happy even if my team was a 12 seed.

Eight is enough. All teams in a conference, after conference championship games on first Saturday in December, the top four teams host the next four on the third Saturday. The winners play on New Years Day if Rose bowl is one of the host bowls, January 1st and January 2nd if other bowls are the semi finals. The National Championship Game would be played on the Third Monday or Third Thursday in January, whichever is ten days after the semi finals.
The four team that lose in first round would play in a New Year Day or New Year Eve bowl game to try to redeem their season.
Adds only one game with a week or more between each round.

Put the first round games in bowls. Let the quarters be on the home fields of 1-4.
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Still 6 bowls total. The first round games can be set in early bowl games the second weekend after conference championship games weekend.
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The reason they don’t want to do that is they’re giving into the bowls for the 4 quarterfinals around New Year’s Day weekend.
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I get it, they want to turn the bowls into something else that sustains them. After all, the bowls originally made their money not off of television but off of local sponsorship and the spur to tourism created by to visiting teams and fans.

Four is the best.

Going to 6 could work, but beyond that, you are watering it down too much.

Most years there aren’t even four teams that deserve being in the playoff.

The home-field rule would be interesting, for example if a Big Ten team hosted an SEC team at home in December. The home field rule could be BIG.