Bigger is always better for CFB Playoff, but how many is too much?

The CFB Playoff has not conducted a 12-team version and yet there are talks of expanding the field to 14, 16, even 24 teams. How many are too much?
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

A couple of weeks ago it was reported ESPN and the CFB Playoff had concluded a new $7.8B deal. The reports were premature. ESPN did not want the then 6+6 format with six auto qualifiers. Several days later the format was sounding changed to the 5+7 format that will be used in the 2024 season.

There were also disagreements among the CFP Board of Managers and the Management Committee over how money would be distributed to conferences and teams. Those debates will persist whatever is decided about divvying up the money from the 2024 and 2025 seasons.

Inside the swirl of debate, new format discussions have become public. As reported by Pete Thamel and Heather Dinich, it is possible the 2026 Playoffs will include 14 teams. Also being discussed is a 16-team format and even a 24-team format.

What CFB Playoff Field Is Too Much?

For years, the prevailing opinion across the college football world has been more is always better than less. From a standpoint of fan interest, more Playoff teams may always be better. In addition, there is the argument that equitable access for 'Power' and 'Group' conferences is important to the credibility of the Playoffs.

Then there is the business side, which is dictated by money. ESPN may not be interested in added games if they include uncompetitive teams. Such games, even when one of the opponents is a 'name brand' might only be distributed through streaming options.

The SEC and the Big Ten may have ESPN's support for future fields of 14 or more to provide multiple auto bids for college football's Power Two. Money is at the core of this issue as well. The current Playoff structure has 80% of the revenue going to the Power Five conferences. The SEC and the Big Ten will make a play that the two conferences provide the most high-value product, and as a result, should earn the biggest chunks in revenue distribution.

The recent shared goals statements by commissioners Greg Sankey and Tony Petitti suggest the two conferences might be a threat to package and market their own Playoff product. Will the rest of college football let the big dogs eat? The wait for an answer may not be a long one. The CFP management groups have never acted quickly, but Bill Hancock was optimistic that major issues could be resolved quickly, in weeks rather than months.