December 6, 2023


Like All Trades

College Football Playoff expansion is still a terrible idea

Welcome to a 12-team college football playoff.

Welcome to a 12-team college football playoff.
Image: Getty Images

With the Rose Bowl officially signing along the dotted line, the expansion to a 12-team College Football Playoff is official. So, starting in 2024-25, there will be a dozen schools vying for the title, and anywhere from six to 10(?) fanbases screaming about being snubbed.

I wrote that going from four to 12 (and not eight) was a bad idea during the season, and I’m more convinced than ever that it’s a terrible idea. Yes, this article is going to be about as persuasive to college football’s overlords as the time I tried to get my mom to buy me beer in high school, but I feel obligated to try.

So who would be in this year?

Look at how perfectly the bracket shakes out before championship weekend.

What fun. Yet it glosses over possible losses from No. 10 and 11 teams Utah and Kansas State.

Taking a look at the current college football rankings, there are seven three-loss teams competing for two spots as the highest-ranked non-power five school gets an automatic bid. (Two-loss Tulane, or three-loss UCF would be that team this year.) That means Kansas State, LSU, Utah, Florida State, Oregon, Oregon State, and UCLA all have arguments for a place in the bracket. Well, if Utah, LSU, and K State lose in the conference title game and pick up their fourth loss of the year — which Vegas believes will happen — they’d essentially be penalized for playing in a conference title game? How the hell is that fair?

At first glance, I thought the Ducks were getting screwed by the committee and their conference. Not only are they on the outside in the CFP rankings, but they lost a beyond confusing tie-breaker that led to the Utes making the Pac-12 title game despite Oregon beating them head-to-head. Thus meaning they’d have no shot at an automatic qualifier or an at-large due to the standings. Yet, is it bad? Because a loss would mean zero chance of luck helping them out at all, or a shot at jumping a loser in front of them.

I singled out Oregon because the Pac-12 already eliminated divisions, which was intended to be a workaround to ensure that the two best teams compete for the conference crown. And, look, it’s already madness. You can say this year is a one-off year, but that’s a lie.

Trying to identify the best 12 teams in the country is much harder than just the top two or four. After a few rounds of this chaos, the BCS and current playoff format are going to be looked upon fondly like that ex you wish you didn’t try to upgrade from. Yes, Denise (or Dennis) had a glaring flaw or two, but they were never as big of a headache as Charlene (or Charles).

Financial fallout will trump physical toll of added games

The arguments stemming from a 12-game field will only lead to added calls for expansion, which would be fine if playing in a football game wasn’t the equivalent of repeatedly smacking your head against a tree stump. This isn’t basketball. There’s a finite amount of hits in the human body, and chances are if a player is good enough to be on a team competing for a national championship, they might have aspirations and the abilities to make the NFL.

There are players opting out of bowl games right now to conserve their bodies, yet we want to put these “student-athletes” in a position where they’re pressured into competing anywhere from one to four extra times? Not all conference champs get a bye, so in theory, if this year’s Clemson team made a run to the title game, Dabo Swinney’s players would be subjected to 16 games, which is basically a full NFL regular season.

While the logical choice would be to lop a week off the schedule, that sucks for the 100-plus other schools who aren’t in the playoff. Universities aren’t going to be amped to lose revenue from that lost game. Fans are only guaranteed 12 days per year from their favorite team, and dropping that to 11 to protect 12 programs seems unfair, as well. Think of the smaller FBS and FCS programs that get big paydays from signing on to be sacrificial lambs that also would miss out on needed money from one less non-conference matchup.

We’ve learned to not expect colleges to act altruistically when it comes to paying their free workforce. However, what if that happens, and the NCAA starts operating like a pro league? The NBA, NFL, and MLB are never in favor of shortening the season.

More isn’t always better. College football is facing enough existential threats as it is, so it seems unnecessary to add another obstacle to the course. Yet here we are. Plowing ahead with the caution of a puppy approaching a raccoon.