The College Football Playoff is exploring an expansion that would expand the playing field to 12 teams, facing off in an arc that eventually leads to the National Championship game.
It’s a polarizing movement that pits fundamentalists against those who want to see the sport develop, like the original proposal for the playoff itself. However, there are plenty of reasons why expanding the playoffs is beneficial to the sport rather than detrimental to it. A meeting scheduled for next week will determine whether the proposal passes, which could lead to its expansion for the 2025-26 season, when the current supplement agreement expires. The reasoning behind the decision was fairly clear from those who spoke to ESPN.
“In essence, this proposal was created to provide more participation, to more players and schools,” said CFP CEO Bill Hancock. “In short, this is the message of the working group.”
So, what is the advantage of field scaling?
#1: No more “what if”
Well, that might be an exaggeration. will there Always Questions about the playing field in any tournament are similar to playoffs. However, consider the 2020-21 season. We finished the year with both Coastal Carolina and Cincinnati undefeated in the regular season, but were knocked out by the playoffs due to their low schedule power.
Will Coastal or Cincinnati have a shot at Clemson or Alabama? Mostly not. But we didn’t even get a chance to see if these teams could hold onto the sport’s elite. Fans of these teams argued for their teams to be included in the playoffs, but they fell on deaf ears.
In a 12-team extended playoff, we would have seen both teams, giving them a chance to control their own destiny. There is no good reason why this wouldn’t be better for the sport.
No. 2: It makes the season more exciting
This is based on a warning that the extended college football game will eat into the regular season and shorten it as a result. We don’t know what the structure of the new-look cut-off season will be, but the hoped-for result is that fewer cupcake matches will be put into the schedule to increase the score and boost the supplement display, and more, actual high-quality soccer games will be left.
Without the pressure of finishing in the top four, more teams could risk scheduling. There is still a performance drive, but it’s not as clear as it is now – which should in theory lead to better games.
No. 3: It makes early match games unmissable on TV
The problem with the top 4 format as it stands is that due to the growing interest in TV, these games are almost always played in neutral locations. It’s fine, but essentially takes away from the frantic home stadium atmosphere that makes college football like no other.
In a 12-team playoff we still have our top 4 players in these big neutral spots, but the early rounds will likely depend on the local stadium advantage. This is awesome, and much needed. The idea of owning a home stadium is enough incentive to keep teams playing hard during the regular season, and provides a host of bonuses at the back end.
This just makes the game better.
Despite all this good, there are two problems…
There is a working assumption that the NCAA’s solution to expanding the playoffs will simply mean adding more games to the season. That’s not the right way to handle it, but it’s deep in the college football wheelhouse to force more on the players without there being too much on the back end.
Forcing players to participate in a 17-game schedule is not good for their future. It’s that easy.
There is also concern that expanding the playoffs will reduce the cost of the regular season, allowing teams to make more mistakes and losses, while still performing post-season. Only time will tell if this is a real fear or not.
Overall, the idea of a 12-team playoff is a net positive one that will make the end of the season more exciting and give us better matches. Even casual fans will love the idea of a longer segment and it will spark interest beyond just the four teams at the top, die-hard CFB fans who want to see how it all ends.
We’ll know more about the potential qualifier structure next week, and we’ll be here to keep you updated.