CFB Playoff will be forced to change format again before next season

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Before the CFB Playoff actually uses a 12-team format, it will be forced to change its selection process again. Mark it down as a 12-team Playoff that took years for agreement – and then never was.

The main reason a change will happen is the collapse of the Pac-12. But there are other reasons why the SEC and the Big Ten will favor more than a minor change.

Asked how the automatic bid qualification might change, CFB Playoff Executive Director, Bill Hancock said,

"It’s too soon to say. The CFP Management Committee and the Board will discuss the future format when it becomes appropriate."

No offense to Hancock but it is appropriate now. Even if the Pac-12 somehow finds a way to be the Pac-8 in 2024, it will not deserve an automatic bid. The new rule that is scheduled to apply after this season’s final four-team format is that the top six conference champions get auto bids.

That is sometimes misrepresented as each Power Five champion and the sixth highest-ranked, non-Power Five champion get the six auto bids. For the 2024 season, there will not be a Power Five.

When the Playoff Management Committee assesses the ripple effects of at most a Power Four, there is no assurance it will do the right thing. The right thing is and has been and will be no automatic qualifiers. The SEC’s Greg Sankey will gladly lead that debate. There is no sound reason for the Big Ten to disagree. Both conferences will have two, three, and maybe sometimes four worthy Playoff teams every season.

David Cobb, writing for CBS explained why the currently agreed-upon structure for 2024 and beyond was passed.

"The awarding of automatic bids to the top six league champions was viewed as a way to achieve national CFP representation and to ensure the little guy would have a shot on college football’s big stage with at least one berth going to a Group of Five conference champion. The boards and committees guiding the CFP are well-represented with administrators from Group of Five schools, and that sixth automatic bid was a nod to them."

Making room for the ‘little guys’ was what used to be called a ‘noble’ gesture. In today’s college football world noble gestures are an anachronism.

12 Best Teams CFB Playoff Format

Greg Sankey and the Big Ten’s Commissioner Tony Petitti are likely to lobby for a 12-team format with no auto qualifiers. Having college football’s 12 best teams in the Playoffs every season makes sense. One problem with the 12-best teams is the Power Two (SEC and Big Ten) might land eight of the 12 teams almost every season. The ACC and the Big 12 cannot abide such a result.

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There is also the factor of what makes the best television. The sports media loves underdog themes. The CFB Playoff Management group might be swayed by opinions of entertainment consultants who suggest a couple of slots going to longshots is good for business.