College football fans could see a long-awaited change to the College Football Playoffs structure. The bad news is that, if the proposals are successful, they will have to wait until the 2025-6 season to see it. A subcommittee of FBS commissioners have proposed a 12 team structure. Supporters of reform see it as an opportunity for “underdog” teams to get their shot at the National Championship. Opponents have suggested that this may result in increasingly unfair recruiting to programs that are all but guaranteed a place at the table.
You Say You Want a Revolution?
The proposed changes to the College Football Playoffs were constructed by three FBS commissioners (Greg Sawkey – SEC, Bob Bowlsby – Big XII, Craig Thompson – Mountain West) and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick. The changes must be approved by 10 FBS commissioners when they meet on June 17th to make it to the College Football Playoffs board of managers. The managers’ meeting is scheduled for June 22nd. If those hurdles weren’t enough, amendments could be proposed in a future FBS commissioners’ meeting in September 2021.
The current College Football Playoffs structure is secured until 2025. These proposals will be relevant to college football programs in the 2025-6 season. These things take time, as with many things both inside and outside the world of college football. Current criticisms point to the limited access to the College Football Playoffs. Alabama has missed out on a place in the College Football Playoffs just once, when LSU beat them to the SEC Conference title. The same can be said of Clemson. The Tigers missed out in the inaugural year, but have been a fixture ever since.
Just six teams have graced the field at the National Championship Game since the 2014 season. Three SEC programs (Alabama, LSU, Georgia) have enjoyed the greatest stage in college football. Oregon (Pac-12), Ohio State (Big Ten) and Clemson (ACC) make up the six elite programs that have competed for the National Championship. Will the new proposals change this? Most likely not. However, what it will do is present a wider pool of programs with the opportunity to get there.
The New Set Up
Under new proposals, the top four seeds will be granted a bye to the second round of games. They will be the highest ranked FBS conference winners. Places 5 and 6 will be gifted to two more FBS conference champions. The difference here is that these schools will not be rewarded with a bye. The remaining spots will be shared between the six remaining highest ranked teams.
In 2020, byes would have been awarded to the following programs:
#1 Alabama (SEC Champions)
#2 Clemson (ACC Champions)
#3 Ohio State (Big Ten Champions)
#4 Oklahoma (Big XII Champions)
As you can see, there is not much change so far. The only team not to appear in the 2021 College Football Playoffs was The Oklahoma Sooners. Under the new proposals, The Sooners would have been able to sit and enjoy the first round of fixtures from the comfort of their television. Of course, we are using the 2020-1 College Football Playoffs final rankings to help calculate these changes.
The fifth and sixth seed in the College Football Playoffs would have been distributed to the following:
#5 Cincinnati (AAC Champions)
#6 Coastal Carolina (Sun Belt Champions)
They would have enjoyed home fixtures against the two lowest ranked teams lucky enough to earn a place in the College Football Playoffs.
#7 Notre Dame
#8 Texas A&M
#11 Iowa State
Now we can see a greater diversity of programs represented. Coastal Carolina, the sweethearts of college football in 2020, are in receipt of a top six seed. Cincinnati, Texas A&M, Florida, Iowa State and Indiana would have all made their College Football Playoffs debuts.
The first round of fixtures would have been as follows:
#12 Indiana @ #5 Cincinnati
#11 Iowa State @ #6 Coastal Carolina
#10 Georgia @ #7 Notre Dame
#9 Florida @ #8 Texas A&M
College football fans would have enjoyed the prospect of some mouthwatering matchups. The Cincinnati Bearcats would fancy their chances to have overcome that mean Hoosiers defence. Iowa State would likely have pulled off an “upset” in their visit to Coastal Carolina. After that, the Georgia-Notre Dame and Florida-Texas A&M fixtures are simply too close to call. For argument’s sake, let’s send higher ranked seeds through.
It is at this point that the top four ranked sides enter the playoffs. However, they must defeat fierce opposition in order to make it to the New Year’s Bowl Games, currently known as the College Football Playoffs semi finals.
#11 Iowa State @ #1 Alabama
#8 Texas A&M @ #2 Clemson
#7 Notre Dame @ #3 Ohio State
#5 Cincinnati @ #4 Oklahoma
It is difficult to see any of the favoured seeds lose their first game of the alternative structure. Of course, an upset is always on the cards. However, chances are that the favoured teams will likely make the semi finals.
And there we can see the central argument against the proposed changes. Oklahoma would replace Notre Dame. Ironically, AD Jack Swarbrick is helping to put forward a measure that would have likely precluded his program from making the semi finals of the College Football Playoffs
If college football fans are hoping that this new structure will end the dominance of the super rich of college football, then they will be disappointed. If, however, they are hoping to see a wider collection of sides from across FBS conferences, then look no further. Teams such as Texas A&M and Coastal Carolina were hard done by under the current structure.
The Aggies lost just one game all year. That was to eventual National Championship winners Alabama. Jimbo Fisher could have done little more to propel his team to the College Football Playoffs, but the system locked his side out of the hunt.
Coastal Carolina won the hearts of college football fans far and wide in the 2020 season. A Sun Belt Championship and unbeaten regular season was an incredible year for the staff, players and fans of the Chanticleers. Imagine how historic the season would have been with the reward of a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
You say you want a revolution? It isn’t quite that, but it’s a start.
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