Essentially since the inception of the College Football Playoff in 2014, pundits immediately began throwing out ideas of further expansion.
The original playoff merely resulted in two more teams getting a semifinal chance against No. 1 and 2 that were previously getting into the national championship game under the BCS system. Arguments surged over seasons where multiple Power 5 conference champions were left out or a strong SEC team finished No. 5 or a dominant Group of 5 program never got a shot. Remember UCF’s mythical national title?
Many would’ve thought the next logical move was to expand to eight teams — Power 5 conference champions, the best Group of 5 team and two at-large bids. Some pushed to go all the way to 16 teams, but what’s on the table now for the future of college football is a 12-team setup where the top four receive a bye.
How could this impact the Miami Hurricanes going forward?
For starters, it obviously increases UM’s chances of getting into a College Football Playoff, something the Hurricanes haven’t been able to do since the current system was established.
Given that a 12-team playoff would essentially give every team that makes a New Year’s Six bowl a playoff berth, in an alternate history, Miami would’ve already made one in 2017. That year, when UM started 10-0 but lost to Pittsburgh in its regular-season finale and Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, the Hurricanes would’ve been lined up to play at Auburn in the first round instead of Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl, a third consecutive loss to finish that season.
As Miami, under coach Manny Diaz, looks to get to the point where it is consistently competitive again, an expanded playoff offers the program a path into the playoffs without necessarily getting over the hump of Clemson in the ACC.
Under the current format, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Hurricanes can accomplish enough in the regular season to afford an ACC Championship loss to the Tigers and still be one of the top four teams. Sure, Notre Dame, playing as an ACC member last season, did exactly that to get in at No. 4, but it also took a regular-season win over Clemson in which star quarterback Trevor Lawrence was out due to COVID protocols.
Ultimately, while UM can maybe find its way to the bottom half of a 12-team playoff where it currently stands, it’s still going to have to reach new heights to advance to anything beyond a quarterfinal round.
In the seven years of the four-team playoff, there hasn’t been much variation. Simply put, it’s been predictable. If you start a season saying Alabama and Clemson will be there in the end, along with some combination of LSU or Georgia and maybe Ohio State, you’re probably right.
An expanded playoff opens up the possibility of upsets in earlier rounds to break up the monotony of the semifinals and title game. According to ESPN, the probability of all of the top four teams reaching the semifinals in the past seven seasons under the proposed format has ranged anywhere from 9 to 25 percent. In other words, more often than not, you’ll see one of the 5 through 12 teams break into the semifinals.
This could also impact recruiting. Prospects who value the opportunity to play for a title likely only view the handful of programs that have a stronghold on those CFP slots as places to do it. A school like UM can compete with the top-tier programs more often for those high-end recruits.
While a potential expansion to 12 could take away some of the lure of in-conference November games that essentially eliminate the loser, it also means more games across the country will have playoff implications late in the regular season.
Under the proposal, teams ranked 5 through 8 host 9 through 12 in the first round with the top four receiving byes. Once you get down to quarterfinals, the New Year’s six bowl sites get those games and the semifinal games. This benefits the Orange Bowl and Hard Rock Stadium as its host. It guarantees that Miami would host a meaningful College Football Playoff game every season and not just the semifinal once every three years or title game twice a decade it currently gets.
The other major aspect that an expanded playoff could improve is diminish the frequency of college football stars opting out of bowl games. A New Year’s Six bowl game that isn’t part of the playoff has already proven not to be enough incentive for NFL draft prospects looking to get a head start on preparing for the draft, combine and pro day. If their college team has a chance to play for a championship, that would change.
From here, the CFP Management Committee will discuss the proposal at its regularly scheduled meeting June 17-18 to determine how the sport will move forward. The current contract expires after 2025, but some reports indicate an expansion could go into effect by 2023.