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B5Q Roundtable: CFP expansion discussion

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Is it good? Is it bad? We discuss!

College Football Playoff National Championship - Clemson v LSU Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

While discussing the new College Football Playoff expansion in our B5Q Slack channel on Thursday, people were firing off takes left and right so we decided to turn it into a post! You’re welcome.

Here, for your easy reference, is how the proposed new playoff would work:

The four highest-ranked conference champions would be seeded one through four and each would receive a first-round bye, while teams seeded five through 12 would play each other in the first round on the home field of the higher-ranked team. (The team ranked #5 would host #12; team #6 would meet team #11; team #7 would play team #10; and team #8 would meet #9.) Under the proposal, the quarterfinals and semifinals would be played in bowl games. The championship game would continue to be at a neutral site, as under the current format.

What is your preferred number of teams for the College Football Playoff?

Tyler: I always liked the idea of six, with the top two getting a bye, but that never seemed to be an idea considered. Eight to me seems like the next logical step but that is clearly not the case. I just think 12 is a lot. Overall, the top four games haven’t really been all that entertaining and I am not sure an expanded model is really going to chance the results of it being Clemson or ‘Bama. At least not right now.

Belz: Zero? The BCS wasn’t perfect but it at least propped up some of the bowls outside of the playoff. I feel as though people get too hung up on “it’s playoffs or bust” now, and that has changed the game slightly the past handful of years. Now that I am off my soapbox, in terms of the ideal number of playoff teams in the current system I think eight is plenty. I am excited about 12 as well though.

J.J.: 64 you cowards. I actually quite like the twelve team idea. The complaints that the expansion of the playoff might dilute the intensity and importance of the regular season are valid, and the twelve team plan provides byes and first round home field advantage that will make regular season games important even if you’ve already lost one. I also like that they’re making sure to guarantee a spot to a group of five team- as we saw with the four team playoff, the committee almost always found a way to keep out a strong G5 school.

Your personal opinion aside, are you excited for a 12-team playoff?

Tyler: Above I said I preferred eight, but that does not mean I am not excited for 12. I will still watch the $H*T out of all the games. More football is never that bad of a thing, and I will take it gladly. For entertainment purposes, money purposes, betting purposes I am all in. I do think it’s somewhat of an overstep, but hey, why not?

Belz: I am excited for more top level games. I think that is the best part of the playoff is that it pits great teams against one another. I think overall it is a net-plus, and I am definitely excited to watch, regardless of how many teams are involved. There is a finite amount of football each full and the more the merrier.

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

J.J.: I’m certainly excited. I really like that this could be a step forward to adding more parity to the college game. The four team playoff was a fun novelty at first, but ultimately ended up making the gap between perennial powerhouses like Alabama, Ohio State, etc and the rest of the college football landscape even bigger. The allure of playing for a “playoff team” became exclusive to a group of about six schools, providing them with a boon from a revenue and recruiting standpoint. The talent gap widened further. With the twelve team playoff there pretty much will always be a list of 20+ teams who will be able to say they have a realistic shot of playing in the playoffs at the start of the season, which hopefully will give those programs a better shot at landing the elite recruits that always head to Alabama and Ohio State.

Does a 12-team playoff diminish the regular season in your eyes?

Tyler: I think it does a bit. For example, in 2020 I think you would have seen rematches in that first round depending on how you lay it out. How I understand it you would have games of Texas A&M vs. Florida in the first round. We saw that game already, A&M won. Do we really need that again? 2020 was a weird season, so maybe lets look at 2019. By the criteria LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma would be your top four conference champs with byes. Then the next two highest conference champs are Oregon and Memphis. Great, there are your top six. Then you have Georgia, Baylor, Wisconsin (hell yeah), Florida, Penn State, and Utah. Matchups by my math would be:

Oregon/Utah

Memphis/ Penn State

Florida/Georgia

Baylor/ Wisconsin

In that scenario Oregon and Utah would have already played the week before where the Ducks rolled in the PAC 12 title game. Florida and Georgia would have played and UGA already won. To me we’ve already seen those playoff games in the regular season which is what makes college football regular season so meaningful. If it ends up being a bunch of rematches and then you’re still stuck with the top four at the end, I am not sure how far that gets you.

Belz: I think it makes the regular season more exciting for the majority of college football fans, and dilutes the regular season for select teams. For example Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State will likely be in the majority of playoffs going forward, but honestly that was already the case. For those fanbases a single loss in the regular season hurts them very little in the 12-team format. For the rest of the CFB world, I think that expanding the field keeps more teams involved later in the year, which heightens the latter part of the regular season for teams on the fringe. I think this also gives a glimmer of hope to G5 teams, which is great.

J.J.: Yes and no. On one hand, teams are now able to take a loss and still put together a very competitive playoff resume, which certainly brings down the intensity from the four team format where most teams would need to go undefeated to have a good shot at playoff football. On the other hand, this makes every game more competitive for more teams. With the conference championship game allowing for an automatic bid, the race for a title game appearance becomes paramount. In the four team system, if Iowa, Northwestern, and Wisconsin all had two or three losses the Big Ten Championship Game would have zero playoff implications. With twelve teams, these teams know that such a title game would provide a ticket to the playoff. You can’t tell me that wouldn’t up the intensity for the regular season B1G West chase.

This seems like a good thing for teams like, oh I don’t know, Wisconsin who have been knocking on the door of the Playoff a few times but have never gotten in. Are there any negatives for a team like the Badgers though?

Tyler: I think the only negative there will be is if the shine wears off on making the playoffs. Yes it will be cool for awhile, but eventually it will be seen as a money grab with the same finish in most cases. Teams like Wisconsin will still need to get over that hump, but at least they will have a shot to do so. Then again, they’ve had shots before. Win the Big Ten title game and you would have been in multiple times.

Belz: I think that expanding the number of teams makes it far more likely that the Badgers will be in the playoff. Wisconsin would have been in the playoff multiple times the past decade under the format, which is awesome for future possibilities. However... I am probably in the minority here, but I actually think that the 12-team playoff reduces the likelihood of Wisconsin winning a national title. Instead of having to win the Big Ten title (neutral site) and then winning two other neutral site games in the current four-team setup, now the Badgers will have to win four or five games against top-12 teams in order to win a title. I think it’s close to a wash because Wisconsin will have more opportunities, but if the Badgers put together a really talented team that was already in the top-four I think that it makes the path harder because it adds another neutral site game to maneuver through.

NCAA Football: Duke’s Mayo Bowl-Wake Forest vs Wisconsin Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

J.J.: I suppose the biggest disadvantage is Wisconsin was the only team in the West to have been at the door of a playoff berth on multiple occasions in the last half decade. This new system will likely make it far more likely that a Minnesota, or Iowa, or Northwestern could all be fringe playoff teams in a good year, which will be a boon for their recruiting and endanger a unique advantage held by Wisconsin over the last several years.

Will this new format still find a way to screw the best G5 teams?

Tyler: What is the purpose of college football if not to screw the little guy?

Belz: Yes. I doubt that a second G5 team makes it very often, even if they were considered in the top-12 prior to the final rankings.

J.J.: I hope it won’t, but let’s be real it probably would.

Which Wisconsin team during the CFP era would’ve had the best chance of winning a national title had 12 teams been allowed in since the beginning?

Tyler: I think 2017 would have been your best shot. Don’t think it would have happened with a certain QB1 but that defense was unreal. That was the best Big Ten title game they played, and they really finished strong against Miami. Depending on the path they could have moved on, but I still think Clemson and Bama meet that year but it would have been fun to see what Wisconsin could have done. For those moments, and those years, an expansion will be exciting.

Belz: I’m in agreement with Tyler and J.J. here. 2017 had the best path and a championship caliber defense with a stud running back. I still think if Quintez Cephus had not missed the last four games of that season the Badgers may have taken down the Buckeyes with a limping JT Barrett, but I think that group had the best chance of getting to a title game in the 12-team format regardless in my eyes.

J.J.: I’m going to go with 2017. If my interpretation of the bracket is correct, the road to the national title that year for the Badgers would have been Washington at home, and Georgia in the semi-final. No disrespect to Georgia intended, but assuming we got through the first round in the other two Badger playoff scenarios (it looks like they would have played Florida in 2019 and USC in 2016 at home), I’m taking a date with the Bulldogs over having to run into the buzzsaws that were 2016 Alabama and 2019 LSU any day of the week.