The 2024 5+7, 12-Team CFB Playoff is a mix of contradiction and compromise

The new CFB Playoff will be great fun, despite the oddities that rankings and seeding will not match, and picking the 12 best teams is absent.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There is widespread excitement about the CFB Playoff being a 12-team format in the 2024 season. The relief of a finally expanded field has obscured some failings in the new format. One failing is the field will not likely include the 12 best college football teams. Another failing is the automatic qualifiers will mean the four, first-round byes may not go to the four best teams.

Before further considering the murkiness, let's review the rules for the 2024 CFB Playoff. The five highest-ranked conference champions will earn automatic qualifying slots. The next seven teams will be at-large selections. That much of the new format is easy to understand.

What may well confuse and disappoint some college football fans is how the teams are seeded. It is presumed the Selection Committee will continue to provide weeks of rankings prior to selecting the 12-team field. At the end, when the 12 teams are seeded, the rankings and the seeding almost certainly will not match.

A review of the format, using 2022 rankings was recently presented to conference commissioners (and Notre Dame) and later shown to select national media representatives. Let's review the 2022 rankings and how those teams would have been seeded in the 12-team format.

2022 CFB Playoff Final Ranking

1. Georgia; 2. Michigan; 3. TCU; 4. Ohio State; 5. Alabama; 6. Tennessee; 7. Clemson; 8. Utah; 9. Kansas State; 10 USC; 11. Penn State; 12. Washington; 13. FSU; 14. Oregon State; 15. Oregon; 16. Tulane

From the above ranking the five auto qualifiers would have been Georgia (No. 1); Michigan (No. 2); Clemson (No. 7 but ACC Champion); Kansas State (No. 9, but Big 12 Champion); and Tulane (No. 16, but the highest ranked Group of Five Champion).

12-Team Format and 2022 First Round Games (campus sites)

  • No. 16 Tulane at No. 5 TCU
  • No. 11 Penn State at No. 6 Ohio State
  • No. 10 USC at No. 7 Alabama
  • No. 9 Utah at No. 8 Tennessee

With a win over USC, Alabama would have advanced to play Clemson in a designated bowl game, quarter-final.

As media representatives pointed out, the first round would have had a rematch of a regular season conference game. The other more troubling quirk is that before seeding, what were the No. 3 (TCU) and No. 4 (Ohio State) teams did not earn first round byes.

Why was such clunkiness accepted for the new format? The probable answer is that money was more important. The SEC and the Big Ten gobbled up larger percentages of the Playoff pie than before. Group of Five commissioners gained little financially, but were appeased by the fifth auto qualifier slot.