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Playoff Expansion a Game Changer

By BJ Bennett
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A new and improved playoff would only give college football even more momentum moving forward.

News of a potential change to the College Football Playoff, with a subcommittee considering a 12-team format with six automatic bids going to the highest ranked conference champions and six at-large berths, could dramatically alter the postseason of the FBS, possibly by as soon as 2023 or not long after.

Such expansion would impact the landscape considerably, greatly expanding the pool of teams in contention, offering more elasticity for top Power Five programs and, in a breakthrough development if implemented, creating a clear pathway for leading Group of Five teams. With a larger field could come even more nuance in evaluation. The update, even if it does result in more of the same champions as has already been speculated, still might prove to be somewhat of a transformative one for college football.

Interest and involvement, from traditional contenders to new and unexpected ones, would obviously increase. One of the most talked about sporting events in the country might soon be bigger, better and even more impactful.

This wouldn't just add more games; it would be a game-changer.

For Power Five conferences, most notably the SEC, the extra at-large slots stand as a clear chance for more multi-team bids. Given proposed guidelines, last season's tournament would have featured Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia and Florida, with the Crimson Tide receiving a first-round bye. The chance of three or four SEC teams making the College Football Playoff, as would have been the case a year ago, would likely be a regular deal. Advancing to the league championship game might often be a guarantee in itself. 

Auto placement into the quarterfinals, coming for the top four seeds, and first-round home games, await as benefits for higher ranked teams.

Group of Five programs will have access to a traditional national title for the first time ever. It's a long overdue development, there being at least a chance at a championship for teams that are very much part of the FBS. Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina would have both advanced in 2020 using the projected new model; given that the auto-bids go to the sixth highest ranked conference winners, then that there are six additional bonus bids, there would be the opportunity for more than one P5 side to qualify.

Expanded access would result in a more comprehensively-determined champion, with all leagues and all teams having the opportunity to be involved and a more representative postseason format determining who wins. To some extent, the inconsistencies in evaluation might become less prevalent and less rigid.

The long-debated premise of comparing and contrasting resumes also becomes extra fascinating; both more open in terms of candidates considered and somewhat diminished in terms of there being straightforward entry for the six highest-ranked conference champions. Though conversations will be more wide-ranging, now with six open slots to fill instead of four, College Football Playoff committee considerations will no longer be the lone decider of who gets in. Discussion will be just one determining factor, albeit in a larger capacity.  

This potential expansion, which still has to be approved and may still be changed along the way, is a captivating hybrid of various macro elements from a regular season, for the sport, which can sometimes be very arbitrary, disconnected and inconsistent. Consider the new proposal a blending of the balance of power, offering some stability with the automatic bids and expanding to respond to the top heavy nature of some of college football's top conferences and the rise of new leagues alike.

It's a dynamic, exciting, thoughtful, and perhaps imperfect, challenging of the status quo.

There is quite a bit of uncertainty, sure, not only to how this will possibly play out, but how the system will respond, too. There will always be debates about access and qualification, some have speculated high-profile pairings could become less dramatic and consequential, others worry about some general devaluing of the regular season and, for teams who advance, the sheer number of games set to be played. There will also be an impact on the overall bowl structure.

The future of scheduling, the value of the eye test and the interpretation of results, from margin of victory to the idea of quality wins and quality losses, will continue to shape and shift. Interestingly, a larger field could come with a less direct exact parallel between records and rankings. More slots to fill mean more teams will have a claim to make. More resumes to consider will result in more factors to consider, too. Issues that weren't issues in the past may soon be front and center.

Expect the positioning and posturing to become even more commonplace -- and for good reason. 

Who knows the circumstances that could come with challenges for the 12-team format currently being considered; growing pains, however, come with growth.  

A new and improved playoff would only give college football even more momentum moving forward. It would be a needed expansion, given the state of the sport. While a 12-team field would certainly be pro-active, it would be quite responsive as well. The future of the game may very well soon be here.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: / Twitter: @BJBennettSports