How Far Will The College Football Playoffs Expand?

College Playoffs Football

How Far Will The College Football Playoffs Expand? | Sports Takes & News | TooAthletic.com

The sun appears to be rising on an era when more than four college football team makes the playoffs. That is, if you believe the news that dozens of ideas are being discussed about increasing the number of teams in the next few years. While their decision will be worth billions of dollars for the sport, the people making the decision about how far to expand the College Football Playoffs need to be careful. That’s because, as the saying goes, too much of anything, even something that is good, can turn out to be bad.  Which leads to the simple question: How far will the College Football Playoffs expand? 

Sixty-three … that’s the number of different ideas that were discussed by the College Football Playoff subcommittee according to a press release issued on Friday. It is also being reported by Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic some of those 63 ideas includes increasing the current four-team playoff field to 6, 8, 10, 12 or even 16 teams. 

Other ideas include automatic bids and/or bye weeks for conference champions once the playoffs begin, and determining the teams that participate for a national title by using rankings, not a selection committee. These discussions are important for one simple reason, the current broadcasting contract for the College Football Playoffs expires after the 2025 season. This means the next round of negotiations for a new deal are coming up fast, but in order to have those talks, College Football needs to know what they are selling.

At this time, I would like to save the subcommittee some time and tell why a 16-team playoff field would be a horrible idea.

First it would require one of two things to happen: Either the four rounds of playoffs games would take place quickly after the regular season and conference title games were played, making the already meaningless college bowl season disappear, or college football would be played deep into January at the same time the NFL playoffs were taking place. In both cases, the teams that reach the national championship game will likely have played as many games as NFL teams, making college football just like college basketball, a postseason sport.

From a mathematical standpoint, having a ten-team field also doesn’t makes much sense either because the teams at the top of the brackets would likely earn one if not two bye weeks as you narrow the field down a group of four national semifinalists.

Think about it, with ten teams, either the top six teams earn a bye, with teams seven to ten narrowing the field down to eight quarterfinalists, or just the top two ranked teams earn a bye, forcing teams three to ten to play two rounds of games to cut their field of eight down to two teams, creating the four semifinalists. Ten teams would create too many problems for the number of extra games it provides, so we are tossing that idea out as well.

So, that leaves us with a choice between a 6, 8 or 12 team College Football Playoff field. An eight-team field is simple since it would just add one more round of games to the current four-team format. These games would likely be played between the conference title games and New Year’s Day, since I never see any plan that doesn’t include January 1st bowl games being used as playoff games. 

A six-team field would also add two more games to the postseason, with the top two teams earning a bye as they await the winners. 

A 12-team field would see the top four seeds earn a bye week as the eight other teams narrow down the field to a quarterfinals group of eight teams, but like a 16-team field, having an 12-team field would either mean playing games close to Christmas break or forcing the college football season to extend deeper into January, neither of which are ideal.

With all of these games making a long season that much longer, it becomes very difficult to have the postseason end before the mid-January deadline for college players to declare for the draft. That deadline can be moved by the NFL and indications are they are willing to do so if asked by the NCAA. 

All that being said, however, seeing more than a four-team field remaining by the time the New Year’s Six Bowl games are played would be a bad plan for the College Football Playoffs. If you want to have a six or eight-team field with everyone playing their quarterfinal games one week after the playoff field is announced, that’s fine. Going to 12 teams, however, would include too many teams, making the regular season much less important, and also water down the field with teams that likely can’t win the title. Thus, turning the college football postseason into December Madness, where upsets are fun until there are no marquee names left in the field to battle for a title. 

In short, I hope the NCAA doesn’t get too greedy here and a network like ESPN does actually care about how well the playoffs unfold rather than just having more games to broadcast. These two hopes, of course tell me that a 16-team field is coming to the College Football Playoffs in 2026, with 18-22 years old soon expected to play a 15, 16 or even 17 game schedule just so a few more fans can attend a few more postseason games and a whole lot of people can make millions of more dollars at the same time common sense takes a back seat on college sports. 

 


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How Far Will The College Football Playoffs Expand? | TooAthletic.com

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