The expansion of the College Football Playoff still seems inevitable. It’s likely going to grow from four to 12 teams, it’s just as matter of when. But also just as important is the fact that the powers that be will be moving forward with automatic bids, which would include the Big 12 with a guaranteed bid.
The originally-proposed 12-team model would have given automatic bids to the six highest-ranked conference champions, regardless of league. While it’s likely that would have included the Power 5 conferences most of the that, it would not have been a lock, like even as recently as last year. If used with last year’s standings, Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina, representing the AAC and Sun Belt, would have been in over Pac-12 champion Oregon.
Sports Illustrated‘s Ross Dellenger reports that the group of conference commissioners working on Playoff expansion “introduced a new alternate 12-team postseason model that guarantees a berth to each Power 5 champion.”
The fact that the phrase “Power 5” is still being used is important for the Big 12, as some have wanted to downgrade the league with the impending loss of Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC, but based on the language of Power 5, that appears all but certain it won’t be the case.
And if that holds, then frankly, it could make this move by Oklahoma and Texas all that more head-scratching in some respects, as their path to a conference championships undoubtedly got more difficult with the move.
In this new model, the sixth automatic bid would go to the highest-ranked Group of Five champion, completing the “5+1 model,”. The final six schools would be at-large selections based on the final College Football Playoff rankings.
The Big 12, which was on the brink just before the season kicked off, has rallied to the point where the league is back to being considered a Power 5 program. For all the grief many of us, myself included, have given Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, this is a highly-encouraging sign for the league as it looks to the future.