College Football Playoff, 12-team, 5+7 format's major flaw

There is a major seeding flaw in the College Football Playoff, 12-team, 5+7 format that could create a bizarre competitive situation.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There is a good reason why discussions about the CFB Playoff format for the 2026 season are on hold. Sound minds need to fully understand the flaws in the current 12-team, 5+7 format. It is already known that a major flaw exists. So far, there is little indication that the Playoff brain trust is prepared to provide a solution.

The flaw is the seeding that is assigned to four of the conference champions. As explained on the CFB Playoff site, "The four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded one through four and receive a first-round bye." The fifth automatic qualifier is seeded by its position in the Selection Committee's Top 25 rankings.

A quick take is the current seeding plan is logical. It places a high value on and rewards Power Four conference champions. That is a worthy result, but is it worth distorting what was once the primary intent of the CFB Playoff, affording the best teams a fair chance to compete for a National Championship?

Diving deeper into an example of the major seeding flaw requires a projection of the best teams next December. The ESPN FPI rankings are used in this example. Let's assume the 12 best teams in December are the teams currently projected by the FPI with the highest chances of winning the National Championship.

According to the FPI, Kansas has the best chance to win the Big 12 championship. That would almost guarantee the Jayhawks a bye in the Playoff's first round. Using the FPI's projection of chances to win the National Championship, Kansas at 0.9% would become the 4-seed in the Playoffs.

The FPI gives Georgia and Oregon the best chances to win the SEC and the Big Ten. Based on the FPI's chances of winning the National Championship, that would bump Texas (11.4%) and Ohio State (10.5%) to the 5-seed and 6-seed as at-large teams.

While the Jayhawks rested and prepared, the Longhorns would have to beat Liberty (or Boise State) to advance to a game against Kansas. Given the potential of injury, in a game Texas would be sure to win, would Steve Sarkisian sit a few key players as a precaution?

Admittedly this hypothetical is an extreme example of the flawed Playoff format. But it is a long way from the best taking on the best as the Playoffs were originally intended.

More bizarre and almost unlikely to the level of the impossible is the schedule Alabama Football might have to play to win the 2024 National Championship. Based again on the current FPI, the Crimson Tide would have to play 17 games. The Tide's 2024-25 season could include three games against Georgia and two against Oklahoma. And Kansas would advance to the Playoffs having competed against no Playoff teams in its 13 games.