College Football

College Football Playoff expansion to 12 teams doesn't go far enough

June 10

By RJ Young
FOX Sports College Football Writer

We all knew the College Football Playoff would expand someday.

Today we’re hearing, louder than ever, that the expansion is likely to be to 12 teams. 

The field, per ESPN, would be as follows: the six highest-ranked conference champions and the six highest-ranked teams as determined by the selection committee. 

So, here’s what I have to say about all that: It doesn't go far enough.

Check it out ... 

– In 2017, Alabama staged a dramatic second-half comeback to beat Georgia in the national title game.

– That season, the Crimson Tide became the first team in the modern era to win a national title without first winning its division in the playoff era. That year, the Tide lost to SEC West foe and rival Auburn.

– Auburn earned a berth to the Peach Bowl to play Central Florida — the undefeated American champ and the best Group of 5 team in the country. UCF won that game, finished undefeated and staked its own claim to the national title – but Alabama is recognized as the consensus national champion.

– Years earlier, Alabama lost to another SEC West foe, LSU, at home and didn't even score a TD in that game. Yet, they played for and won a national title.

Ohio State lost to a 6-6 Virginia Tech squad 35-21 at the Shoe in 2014. We still let the Buckeyes play for and win a national title.

The problem with the four-team playoff is that it acts as a protection racket for the three best teams in the country. 

Expanding the playoff will help grow the game – especially in a time when sports are competing with streaming services for audiences.

As The Hollywood Reporter detailed last January, "Alabama’s 52-24 rout of Ohio State in the title game averaged 18.65 million viewers ... a drop of 27 percent — and almost 7 million viewers — compared to last year’s title game (25.46 million) ... The previous six title matchups averaged about 27.6 million viewers, and the low before Monday was 25.28 million for Clemson’s blowout win over Alabama in 2019."

The more teams that get in, the more people who will have a reason to watch. 

Playoff expansion is what made the NCAA men's basketball tournament into the month-long extravaganza it has become. 

Playoff expansion is what made the NFL/AFL merger so popular.

For college football to continue to grow and evolve – as it has reluctantly over the years with integration, TV contracts, scholarship limits, coaches salaries, bowl systems, the redshirt rule, transfer portal and NIL – it's going to have to take advantage of this tremendous reservoir of talent.

There are 130 programs that play FBS football. I believe 16 of them should earn (self-)selection into a tournament.

Sixteen is a number we're all familiar with. 

Sixteen out of 30 NBA teams make the playoffs every year. Sixteen out of 31 (32 next season) NHL teams make the postseason. Sixteen out of 30 MLB teams did last year (and this year, if J&J are to be believed). Fourteen of the NFL's 32 teams will make the playoffs under their latest schedule plan. And the Football Championship Subdivision goes even bigger, with 24 teams in its tournament.

I'm asking for 16 out of 130 in FBS football.

It's a number that would make sure everyone gets in that should get in.

And who should get in? Good question.

How it should work is simple: First of all, the 10 conference champions in the FBS earn automatic qualification. Win your conference, roll straight to the playoff.

The last six spots we can leave to the suits in the boardroom to assign as at-large bids — Lord, help me — along with seeding.

This incentivizes winning a conference title, but also finishing the regular season undefeated, with the home-field advantage going to those teams with the highest seeding.

The NCAA made its bed when it allowed teams to schedule 12 regular-season games in 2006. 

A team had to play 14 up until the invention of the College Football Playoff. Now to win a national title a team must play 15.

In my 16-team playoff model, teams are adding four games to the 12 they already play for a total of 16. This at a time when the NFL has added a 17th regular-season game, ensuring the Super Bowl champ has to play at least 20.

If you're worried this 16-game format causes more injury, financially compensate those players for the risk they're taking on — just like in every other profession.

There's room for bowl games here, too, if you want them. There will be 44 bowls played in the 2021 season. That’s 88 teams playing in the postseason already. Yet, you want to fight me about a 16-team playoff?

(This is why I have trust issues.)

Call each one of these playoff games or whatever you like, as long as you play them. And sorry Rose, Cotton, Orange, Fiesta, Sugar and Peach Bowls, your stock value already crashed with the invention of the BCS.

As for the sanctity of the regular season: Nick Saban has won seven national titles — six at Alabama alone since 2009. The Tide's regular-season schedules have included: Chattanooga, Kent State, Western Kentucky, Western Carolina, New Mexico State, Charleston Southern, Mercer and The Citadel.

Do you realize Alabama has played Chattanooga and Western Carolina a combined six times since 2009? There's no sanctity in that.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young. Subscribe to "No. 1 Ranked Show w/ RJ Young" on YouTube and wherever you get your podcasts. He is not on a StepMill.

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