The College Football Playoff expanding to 12 teams appears inevitable at this point, and though the model being suggested would solve a number of problems that plague the current system, especially with regard to accessibility, it’s far from perfect.
One of the chief concerns among athletic directors, according to Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger, has to do with the home site first-round games. According to the suggested model, teams ranked from No. 5-12 will face off at the home stadium of the higher seed, while seeds one through four have a first-round bye and begin play in the quarterfinal round, which takes place at bowl sites. Naturally, there’s concern about the fact that these teams won’t get the revenue boost or advantage that comes from hosting a playoff game.
According to Dellenger, this decision was made taking factors like weather into account, because, as one athletic director put it, “I don’t think playing in East Lansing, Michigan, on Jan. 7 is a good idea.”
While this is a bit of an oversight in the plan, it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker. However, more practical barriers remain in place, taking the form of a certain flower-themed bowl game in Pasadena.
The Rose Bowl has always been an obstacle to changing the format of the college football postseason given its historic nature. Its organizers don’t like to play the game outside of New Year’s Day afternoon, but assuming the Rose Bowl is part of the six-team site location, the game would have to be played on Jan. 2 if New Year’s Day is a Sunday. Further, it would have to be played a week later if it’s slotted to be a semifinal site.
Other smaller concerns exist, as well, such as the length of the season. A full slate could end up being 17 games, the same number as a full NFL regular season. Considering that college athletes are unpaid, this raises at least some ethical qualms, though their ability to profit off name, image and likeness will mitigate this issue.
Nothing said above would make expansion to 12 teams a nonstarter, but it does indicate that there are a lot of variables that still need to be addressed, and it’s understandable why the decision was made to delay its implementation for at least two years.
This new model would fundamentally change college football. It would give all 130 FBS teams a real shot to make the CFP for the first time ever, and the distinction between the Power Five and Group of Five (which feel like entirely separate subdivisions at times) would begin to diminish a bit. Will the potential for more access help address recruiting disparities in the sport? Or will the Alabamas and Ohio States of the world continue their dominance under the new format?
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