Canzano: Expanded football playoff is a win for the college game (and Pac-12)
How soon can this get done?
The College Football Playoff is expanding. The board of managers voted on Friday to expand to 12 teams, as first reported by ESPN. The move is slated officially for 2026, but could be implemented sooner.
Some quick thoughts:
• The board, comprised of presidents and chancellors, approved a 12-team model. It includes playoff spots for the six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large teams, per ESPN. This benefits the Pac-12 among others, as the conference champion — Utah in 2021, for example — would have been included.
• The 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick will meet next week in Dallas to determine whether the playoff might be fast-tracked. It could be implemented as soon as 2024. This needs to happen. No politics. No conference tug-of-wars. Get this done. The game needs it and fans deserve it.
• If you’re the Pac-12, you have to like this. I asked conference commissioner George Kliavkoff last month whether media-rights revenue or access to the playoff was more important to the conference. His answer: “Both.” Kliavkoff got halfway home with this news.
• The first-round games would be played at the home stadium of the higher-seeded team, per reports. Quarterfinals and semifinals would likely be held at bowl sites. The championship game would be played at a designated, large-capacity stadium.
• How would a hypothetical 12-team playoff have have looked in 2021?
No. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 8 Mississippi
No. 10 Michigan State at No. 7 Ohio State
No. 11 Utah at No. 6 Notre Dame
No. 12 Pittburgh at No. 5 Georgia
No. 1 Alabama vs. winner of No. 8/9
No. 2 Michigan vs. winner of No. 7/10
No. 3. Cincinnati vs. winner of No. 6/11
No. 4 Baylor vs. winner of No. 5/12
• BYU was No. 13 last season in the final rankings. Oregon was No. 14. Those two programs would have been left on the outside, looking in, under an expanded playoff. I don’t think anyone would have had an issue with that. Oregon lost twice to Utah last season. BYU had three losses. Both were good, but not great. It feels like 12 teams is a wide enough net and captures the true contenders.
• For those who argue that 12 is too many teams, consider that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl two years ago as the No. 5-seed in the NFC. The Atlanta Braves won the World Series after an 88-win regular season. They were a good, but not great, regular-season baseball team. But they earned it in the postseason.
Also, North Carolina — a No. 8 seed — made the NCAA men’s basketball championship game last season. Regular-season success is wonderful, but champions get it done in the postseason. I prefer a system that settles debates on the field.
• Does this make Oregon and some others pump the brakes on potentially fleeing the Pac-12? I’m not convinced anyone else was leaving, but winning the Pac-12 and getting an automatic berth feels a little easier than winning the Big Ten right now.
• A statement from the Pac-12: “The Pac-12 is strongly in favor of CFP expansion and welcomes the decision of the CFP Board. CFP expansion will provide increased access and excitement and is the right thing for our student-athletes and fans. We look forward to working with our fellow conferences to finalize the important elements of an expanded CFP in order to launch as soon practicable.”
• The Rose Bowl wants to remain on January 1. The Pac-12 and Big Ten appear, for now, to support that. It’s unknown how the bowl game might factor in a playoff, but there appears to be interest in maintaining the tradition of the event.
More on this as it develops…
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