CFB Playoff: After further review 12-team both bold and sound

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The CFB Playoff recommendation many thought would be presented yesterday had some surprises. If enacted as proposed, conference champions, including Power Five champions are not guaranteed automatic bids.

The 2020 season was extremely different for some conferences, especially the Pac 12. In the last 2020 CFB Playoff rankings, the PAC’s highest-ranked team was 5-1 Southern Cal at No. 17. Under the proposed 12-team format, USC would not have made the Playoff. Neither would have the 4-2 Pac 12 Champion Oregon team ranked at No. 25.

Instead, Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina would have been in a 12-team field. The Bearcats at No. 8 and the Chanticleers at No. 12 were the fifth and sixth highest-rated conference champions and would have earned them two of the six automatic bids.

Southern Cal and Oregon could have been chosen as at-large teams, but only if they had been ranked at No. 11 or higher. Based on the Selection Committee’s final ranking, the final two seeds would have been Iowa State and Indiana.

For years a primary argument for expanding the CFB Playoff was to provide automatic bids for each Power Five champion. While that requirement was always a bad idea, it was believed the Power Fives would not support any format change, not including those auto bids.

Instead of guaranteeing each Power Five a Playoff slot, the proposed expansion works great for non-champions, particularly from the SEC. Using last season’s final Selection Committee ranking, four of 12 teams would have come from the SEC. The Big Ten and the Big 12 would have had two teams each. The ACC would have had one in a normal year, but two last season in the temporary arrangement with Notre Dame.

The plan offered by the working group of the CFB Playoff Management Committee is bold. As Heather Dinich of ESPN succinctly summarized,

"There would be no limit on the number of participants from a conference, and no league would qualify automatically."

That is not only a bold plan. It is a sound one as well. The cake icing is allowing the four highest-ranked conference champions a bye in week one of the Playoffs. The top teams should earn something from their success during the season. One reason is fairness. The other, more practical reason, is solidifying the importance of the regular season for all teams.

The full statement released by CFB Playoff Executive Director, Bill Hancock is available here.

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Within three weeks the proposed Playoff expansion plan can be approved. After that sorting out the future of the bowls and negotiating the money-side of new media deals will take much longer.