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HCS Roundtable: Should the College Football Playoff Expand From 12 to 14 Teams?

Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; A view of the CFP Trophy before the 2024 College Football Playoff national championship game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Washington Huskies at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The College Football Playoff will implement a 12-team format for the first time in its history in 2024-25, drastically changing the way that college football crowns its champion every year.

However, reports suggest that the 12-team playoff could be the shortest championship format that we’ve ever seen used. With the CFP contract set to expire in 2026, officials are discussing the possibility of expanding the playoff again, from 12 teams to 14.

A 14-team playoff could give the top two seeds a first-round bye and allow at least two teams from every major conference to be guaranteed a spot. While more access sounds good in theory, at what point does it water down what winning a national championship means?

 

In this week’s Heartland College Sports Roundtable, the staff answers the question: Should the CFP Expand from 12 to 14 teams?

Pete Mundo

Yes and No.

I know you might think that’s a non-answer, but my point is this: I do not have a problem going to 14 teams instead of 12 teams in the CFP. However, if the 14-team is about auto bids for the leagues, with the SEC and Big Ten getting more, then I am out. While I admit the SEC is the best college football conference, I don’t think the Big Ten is on the level it thinks it is. And how do we know the Big 12 won’t get to that level at some point? And then the Big 12 will only have two auto bids, per reports, to the Big Ten’s three? That’s unfair.

If we go to 14 teams and we just add two more at-large selections, I am accepting of that, because at this point we aren’t dramatically changing what we are going to be going forward with starting this fall.

 

Bryan Clinton

I’ll be perfectly candid here — In no world am I in support of further expansion. I didn’t like expansion to 12 teams to begin with, and 14 teams would only worsen the issue in my eyes. A four-team playoff is still has some “exclusivity” to it, and in the vast majority of cases, it got things right. Outside of a 13-0 Florida State team being left out of the field (which I agreed with, given the circumstances) and the Baylor/TCU dilemma in the CFP’s early years, the Playoff did a great job of crowning a champ.

Now, with 12 teams, I think the value of being in title contention has been cheapened. Call me outdated, but I would take the BCS model back in a heartbeat. Get rid of the playoff, get rid of the “useless bowl game” nonsense, and bring back the importance of the regular season. Some of the best things about college football were how it differed from the NFL, but there are hardly any notable differences now. One of those things was the value of wins and losses in the regular season, and with every team that’s added to the CFP field, that value diminishes just a little bit more.

Matthew Postins

I have a hard time understanding why you would discuss expanding a 12-team playoff to 14 teams if you haven’t even done a 12-team playoff yet. Actually, I do understand the motivation. It’s money, of course. And access. The SEC and the Big Ten know they’re the big boys and not only do they want their teams to have access to the playoff, they want guaranteed access. That’s really what this is about. I’d like to see the playoff stay at 12 teams for now because there are things that, to me, need calibration. Chief among those is does the regular season needs to be shortened (it won’t be of course), but there’s a workload issue that I would think those who care about player safety would want to track. Maybe I’m wrong about that. Plus, I’m against giving conferences guaranteed access to the playoff, aside from their champion. 

So, no, I’m not in favor of it right now. I’d stick with 12 and let that work for a while and then adjust. 

 

Derek Duke

When the playoff expansion talks were going on, I truly thought it would be an eight-team playoff. Instead, we got 12 which I am fine with. Right now you will have the five highest-ranked conference champions get in (regardless of conference) along with seven at-large selections. Getting the conference champions in should have been done years ago but that’s an entirely different discussion for another day. 

Let’s be real here. Those seven at-large bids are going to favor the Big Ten and the SEC. Maybe the Big 12 or the ACC can sneak another team in every now and then but we all know that the committee is biased towards those two conferences. That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact that we have seen play out time and time again. Expanding to 14 may help the Big 12 get at least two schools in but you also open the door for a potential third or fourth team from the SEC. To that I say, no thank you. This isn’t college basketball where 64 teams get in. This is college football. The regular season should matter and it would be a shame to see a three-loss SEC team get in. 

Joe Tillery

This question is a fair and valid one to ask, but my mind needs to see the 12-team playoff before I sign off on a 14-team playoff. The reality of the committee expanding the CFP to 14 teams feels like spoon feeding the SEC and the Big Ten. I get that the SEC stands above other conference’s in terms of their football prestige but I’m not ready to sign off on the Big Ten being leaps and bounds better than the rest of the field. There is a world where the 14-team playoff works, but if you give someone (SEC & Big Ten) an inch, who’s there to stop them from taking a mile?

What do you think? Should the Playoff expand, or should it stay at 12 teams? Let us know in the HCS member forum, where you can discuss this and many other topics with our staff!

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