We have criticized the College Football Playoff endlessly here, of course, and now we have to offer some muted applause as the entity itself announced expansion 12 teams starting in 2026, if not sooner. Will this end the corruption? No. Will it open up access to more teams? Yes and no. Will it matter in the end? Only time will tell.

Hopefully, they can make this work for 2024, too, but this is the deal as we see it today:

  1. The 12 teams will be the six conference champions ranked highest by the selection committee (no minimum ranking requirement), plus the six highest-ranked teams not included among the six highest-ranked conference champions.
    • This means that every Power 5 conference champion gets access, so no more shunting the Pac-12 off to the side in favor of an alleged big(ger) moneymaker from the Big XII, etc. It also leaves the door open for a Group of 5 conference champ to make it automatically, if they’re “good enough”—likewise with Notre Dame, of course. In the end, though, it’s still the “selection committee” doing the rankings, and that’s hardly transparent or objective (see below).
  2. The ranking of the teams will continue to be done by a selection committee whose size, composition, and method of selection will remain substantially unchanged. The Management Committee will modify the selection protocol as required by the change to the playoff structure.
    • So, as noted above, it’s still a bunch of power brokers in the smoke-filled back boardroom making decisions the rest of us just have to live with. On the bright side, the biggest debate(s) will now be about the No. 12 team—not the No. 4 team. That’s progress.
  3. The four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded one through four and each will receive a first-round bye.
    • This all but guarantees the champion will come from this select group of Power 5 champs, as the extra game will wear out a “lesser” team and decrease chances of an upset. But the NFL has seen wild-card teams win the Super Bowl, so who knows for sure? Time will tell.
  4. The other eight teams will play in the first round with the higher seeds hosting the lower seeds either on campus or at other sites designated by the higher-seeded institution (No. 12 at No. 5, No. 11 at No. 6, No. 10 at No. 7 and No. 9 at No. 8.)
    • This is cool for a team to get an extra home game if they’ve earned it. But let’s be honest as this is another money grab for Power 5 conferences as they will hoard the six wild-card slots here, especially the two budding superconferences (the $EC and the B1G). You’re not going to see the second-place ACC team getting a wild-card bid all too often, for example.
  5. The model allows for first-round games to be played on either the second or third weekend in December in a way that best accommodates the format and the participating teams, with at least 12 days between the conference championship games and the first-round games. The Management Committee would make the final determination of the calendar.
    • What happened to the academic argument we’ve been hearing for decades? Well, we know the NIL garbage has proven these kids aren’t students; they’re paid professionals, so roll with it, right? Guess the kids can pay for their parents to fly to playoff games during the December holidays, too. With conference title games usually played the first weekend of December, then the first round of the national playoffs will be two weeks later. Keeps the final game on the same timeline as now, either way.
  6. Subject to reaching agreement with bowls, the four quarterfinal games and two Playoff Semifinal games would be played in bowls on a rotating basis.
    • This has been going on for some time with the major bowls (as determined by the committee, which has elevated the Peach Bowl, for example, simply because it’s in the South). But we’d love to see some outdoor Northern bowl games, in Chicago (outdoors), for example, thrown into the rotation. Any chance to see a team fumble in the snow would be super legit.
  7. The national championship game will continue to be played at a neutral site.
    • “Neutral” is a joke, as we have noted in those years (2007, 2019) when the title game has been played in New Orleans. Wanna bet LSU wins the SEC the next time the Sugar Bowl in the rotation for the title game? This is still a big flaw, as the game should be played far away from both title-game participants’ campuses.
  8. Subject to reaching agreement with bowls, the four highest-ranked conference champions will be assigned to quarterfinals bowls on selection day in ranking order, and in consideration of current contract bowl relationships if those bowls are selected for the rotation. For example, if the Pac-12 champion were ranked #1, the Big Ten champion were ranked #3, and the Rose Bowl were a quarterfinal site, the Pac-12 champion would be assigned to the Rose Bowl and the Big Ten champion would be assigned elsewhere.
    • A token nod to traditionalism. How cute!
  9. With the four highest-ranked champions assigned to quarterfinal games in bowls, the opponent from first-round game winners will be assigned by the selection committee based on the bracket.
    • We’d prefer re-seeding after the first-round games are played, but this may make it easier for teams to make travel plans, etc., and if it saves the schools money and helps the academics, we’re all for it.
  10. The higher seeds would receive preferential placement in the Playoff Semifinal games.
    • This basically means if a low seed manages to pull an upset in the second round, they’re going to get the shaft when it comes to pulling a second upset in the semifinals. Well done, “selection committee”! This all but guarantees we will never see a small school win it all.
  11. First-round games will not have title or presenting sponsors and existing venue signage will remain in place. The CFP will control the video boards.
    • This is designed to reduce home-field advantage, on the surface. Good luck with that, though. If those fifth and/or sixth conference champions are from a Power 5 conference, they’re going to do all they can to stack the deck against the lowest-seeded teams.

All in all, this is progress, but we will always remain skeptical of the whole charade until someone other than the usual suspects wins it all. Remember when Coastal Carolina won the College World Series? We do. Remember when Butler came within a few inches of winning the NCAA Tournament? We do. That’s what we want for college football: the kind of chaos that comes with true tournament design.

Until then, this is progress—but it’s not perfection … yet.