I’ll go ahead and preface with a couple of things.
Can I blame those in charge for making this choice?
No, there is an incredible amount of money to made from an expanded playoff and public support was in overwhelming favor of doing so. More teams feel like they have a chance at a title now, meaning that the landscape has expanded for teams to be nationally relevant.
That is it for the positives. I will now categorize my reasons for not being a fan of this decision. I will attempt to be brief in doing so, although I could rant for a while on any of these topics.
Promoting More Mediocrity
We all know that Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Georgia, and Oklahoma have been the kings of the college football landscape for many years now. They have resided in a higher tier of football than the rest of the country has, and outside of 2019 LSU, nobody has been able to truly dethrone them.
So, we now expand the playoff to allow more teams in. This is in an effort to give more teams the chance to challenge the likes of Alabama and Ohio State in a playoff atmosphere. However, I would counter that this only ensures more blowouts and discourages teams from even attempting to reach the dynasty-like levels of the elite. Here is why.
With a 12-team format and 6 automatic conference bids (from what we have been hearing), this allows for multiple 2-loss teams to make the playoff, and potentially even some 3-loss teams to make a claim.
Answer me this: Does that inspire teams to still want to pursue the level Alabama and Ohio State are at?
No, if anything it encourages them to do just enough to make the playoff and be satisfied with that. The biggest issue in college football right now is nobody can catch up to Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, etc. Their standard is what other programs dream of becoming.
Instead of continuing to make new rules and adjustments to try to hurt their success, we should be continually pushing schools across the country to pursue the culture and success those programs have experienced.
Easier said than done. Believe me, I know. I just now worry that teams will just accept being good not great, or great but not elite. Competition breeds excellence, and it just seems to me like we are handing out participation trophies rather than forcing teams to really chase greatness.
If that is the case, then nothing will change when playoff time comes around, leading me into my next point...
Level Of Competition
The College Football Playoff, ever since its inception, has featured only 3 semi-final games that have been one-score affairs. 2014 Alabama vs. Ohio State, 2018 Oklahoma vs. Georgia, and 2020 Clemson vs. Ohio State. There have been 16 total semi-final games.
So riddle me this. A team plays an incredibly intense and taxing 8 vs. 9 game in Round 1 of the playoff. They come out victorious in a hard-fought game, and what is their reward?
Getting to play a rested and prepared #1 Alabama the next week (or two weeks, scheduling will be discussed later in this). That is criminal. That is a blowout waiting to happen, and it will be ugly. Same goes for the 7/10 seed facing #2 Ohio State. You can make a case for the 6 challenging the 3 seed, but I would still bet on the #3 coming out on top the vast majority of the time.
The cards are just so stacked against the teams that participate in the first round. In a playoff that has already proven that, consistently, there are 2-3 teams that are far superior to everybody else in the country, the imbalance would only get that much worse.
Nine times out of ten, it will end up being a combination of the 1-5 seeds in the final four of the playoff. Therefore, what does adding 8 more teams do to change the level of competition in the playoff?
I mean, all I need to say here is that the Big Ten and SEC will have at least 7-8 teams in this playoff every season. If you are against that, then you should’ve fought against the expansion.
Those conferences will be so strong that a 3-loss SEC team would likely be a far better (and frankly more deserving) team than a one-loss Big 12 team or a one-loss Group Of Five Champion. Think about it, all 3 of those losses would likely be to ranked, quality opponents. One loss in the new Big 12 will equate to 3 in the new SEC and Big Ten, book it.
In the 4-team playoff, maybe we get away with keeping two Big Ten or SEC teams out some years. In the 12-team playoff, say hello to less conference representation.
Death Of Other Bowls/Regular Season Importance
Say goodbye to anybody paying attention to any other bowl games. With an expanded playoff, very few people are going to care about the Pinstripe or Outback Bowls. Casual college football fans already chastise bowl games as they are, and it will only get much worse with the expanded playoff.
For those of us that did grow up with some great memories of traveling to bowl games or watching some classic ones on TV, it will be sad to see nobody care about many bowl games that have been staples of college football for so long.
Even more disturbing is the fact that the importance of the regular season will be diminished greatly. In the 4-team format, losing one game in the regular season spells disaster for your playoff hopes. In the 12-team format, you could drop 2, maybe even 3 games depending on the conference you reside in, and still make the playoff.
One of the aspects of college football that people cherish so much, and that separates it from other sports in the country, is that every single game matters. With the 12-team playoff, you can not say that for certain, and that harms the integrity of the sport in my eyes.
On the logistical side of this argument, you have to look at how scheduling would work.
The College Football Playoff Championship Game generally takes place within the range of January 7th-13th. The 2022 NFL Playoffs begin on January 14th. See an issue there?
It would be incredibly unwise for college football to attempt to venture into the NFL’s playoff schedule with a CFP championship game. While CFB is growing, it is not at the level where it can dethrone the professionals (for now...).
So, you then have to look at squeezing the playoff schedule. Right now, teams generally have 1-2 weeks between their semi-final games and the championship game, an appropriate time period. With an added game in the playoff, things get a bit tight.
The obvious answer is to move the first round to 1-2 weeks after championship weekend, then have semi-finals still take place around New Year’s. That provides roughly a week in between each game, which would be somewhat tight yet logistically would likely work (especially with round one just being held at home stadiums). Logistics are not the only side to this dilemma though...
...leading me into my last point. While not the biggest issue on here, you still have to take the aspect of injuries and fatigue into consideration. These players would now be playing a potential 16-game schedule (if they make the title game), which would logically only incur more injuries.
The most glaring issue here is that if a team in round one wanted to make the playoff, they would have to win a playoff game 3 weeks (ish) in a row, with those games getting progressively more and more difficult each time. The toll that will take on those players will be immense, further giving the likes of Alabama and Ohio State the edge when they are rested in the semi-finals.
If anybody thinks an 8 seed is going to go beat Alabama a week(ish) after playing a playoff game, then they are sorely mistaken. The results will be embarrassing, and not truly representative of that team’s level of play.
At the end of the day, I hope before anything else that I am proven wrong and this is a great change for the sport. I just have little faith in it accomplishing what people want.
The drastic changes college football have undergone in recent years have been mostly improvements, but as Drinkwitz once said in a press conference, there is just too much happening too fast. I worry this is the final straw.