What follows is about much more than Alabama Football. It is about predicting what is coming for college football within the next 10 seasons. And it may not even take that long.
Alabama fans may prefer considering how many more National Championships the Crimson Tide will win. Or, a just as serious subject about whether Nick Saban has 10 more seasons in him.
To the second question, a guess is six to eight. The first question from Alabama fans always deserves a bold answer. Mine is Nick Saban and Alabama will win at least two more.
Looking at the broader college football world requires taking off crimson-colored glasses. It also requires looking beyond the small number of elite college football programs.
What is also required is accepting that college football has become more, of a product, than a competition. The value of the product is so high it will drive future changes in format and structure. Those future product changes will occur because the CFB Playoff powers that be are locked into a new model that is already broken.
The 2023 National Championship game magnified the flaws in both the current Playoff format and the next one coming in. Before the 12-team format is used at the end of the 2024 season, negotiations will take place on the 2026 and beyond CFB Playoff media deal.
In those negotiations, potential media partners will be concerned about too many blowout games in the expanded format. The viewing audience for Georgia vs. TCU was down from last year’s Alabama vs. Georgia game.; 17.2M compared to 22.6M. Even worse for the future price tag on championship game commercials, in the 4th quarter Monday night the viewer count went down to 10.3M.
Future payouts to conferences and teams are tied to media advertising revenue, which is tied to viewership.
The expanded Playoff seasons will be littered with blowout games. We can know that because in any season there are never 12 teams capable of winning a National Championship game. There are usually two, and sometimes three.
Instead of facing the disparity between championship-capable teams and all other teams, the new format ignores it. It does so by auto-qualifying the top six conference champions. Had the new format been in place this year, the top six (according to the Selection Committee) would have been Georgia, Michigan, Clemson, Utah, Kansas State and Tulane. The first four teams would have received first-round byes.
From the outcome of Playoff games and bowl games, it is fair to conclude among the six teams, only one, Georgia was championship-capable. The Wolverines lost to TCU, which Georgia annihilated. Clemson lost the Orange Bowl. Utah lost the Rose Bowl. Kansas State lost the Sugar Bowl and another team that would have been an at-large team, USC; lost the Cotton Bowl.
What the College Football Future Holds
Playoff media partners will create all the sizzle that can be mustered ahead of what will be in some cases dull games. At some point, they will demand more competitive games.
When school presidents and chancellors refuse to budge from a failed 12-team format, a drastic change will occur.
The result of the drastic change will be a CFB Super League made up of two 20-24 team conferences. Obviously, the two conferences will be the SEC and the Big Ten. The new league will separate from the rest of college football and self-govern itself. And it will have its own Playoff of as many as 16 teams playing for ‘the’ National Championship. The media revenue will be enormous and it will not be shared equally among the 40-48 league teams.
If the above prediction is accurate, most of the college football world will hate it. It will be immensely popular with more than enough fans to make it immensely popular with advertisers.