Point | A 12-team College Football Playoff opens the door for more exciting opportunities


TPN File Photo

A pile of Pitt footballs.

By Alexander Ganias, Staff Writer

This column is part of a point-counterpoint series. To read the opposing side, click here.

The College Football Playoff announced that it will expand its playoff field to 12 teams as soon as 2024 and no later than 2026. The announcement has divided college football fans around the country, but the benefits greatly outweigh the potential detriments. Here are the reasons why a 12-team playoff will work for college football.

The more the merrier.

Since the College Football Playoff began play in the 2014 season, only 13 different schools have qualified for the mini-tournament. Alabama has made every CFP except the 2019 season. Clemson qualified for every CFP except for the first one and the most recent one. Repetition is good in small doses, but the same four teams in the playoff gets boring after a while.

Pitt is among the teams that would’ve made the playoff last year if it was expanded to 12 teams, along with Penn State, Mississippi State, Colorado and Florida. This isn’t just rewarding teams for good seasons. Joel Klatt, a color commentator on Fox Sports and host of the “Breaking the Huddle” podcast, explained that an expanded playoff would help recruiting as well.

“If you look at where all the top talent has gone, it’s the exact schools that have won national championships,” he said. “If we can separate out some of the talent, we can eventually get to a place where college football can have more parity.”

With more chances at a national title, higher-starred recruits will disperse and even out the talent level across the country.

Potential for fantastic games.

One of the provisions laid out in the expanded CFP field was that the first round will include on-site home games for the higher seeds. The top four seeds will not get this opportunity, but they will receive a first-round bye instead. 

Imagine some different scenarios for Pitt. A trip to USC for the first time since 1965 would be a dream, considering the recent transfers between each school. And a possible Pitt vs. Penn State playoff game will single-handedly revitalize the currently dormant rivalry.

The school rivalries are only part of the picture. Conference rivalries can truly take center stage with an expanded playoff. The American Conference dubbed itself a theoretical “Power Six” conference. Could those teams stand up to the likes of the Big 12 or Pac-12? Several C-USA teams are jumping ship for the Sun Belt and the American. Can they prove that it was the right decision? The conferences can answer those questions with a 12-team field.

A more objective system.

Why didn’t the 2016 Western Michigan team make the CFP? The Broncos went undefeated until they lost that season’s Cotton Bowl against Wisconsin. How about UCF the next season? The Knights went undefeated in 2017 and won the Peach Bowl against Auburn. Many have described the selection process as very subjective, which leaves those Group-of-Five schools out of the running.

Unfortunately, the human-based selection process will still play as the determining factor in who makes the tournament. But Power Five conference winners will earn automatic bids, which rights a wrong from 2014.

The 2014 Baylor team finished the season 11-1, and won the Big 12 over TCU due to a tiebreaker. But the Big 12 did not have a championship game in 2014 and Baylor won the title purely based on regular-season play. The four other Power Five conferences had a title game win on their resume, so those four were first-ever participants of the CFP.

Baylor had missed out on a chance to build its program, which a 12-team playoff would have alleviated. And with the inclusion of one Group-of-5 auto-bid, teams like 2017 UCF and 2016 Western Michigan will get a legitimate shot at a national title.

Chances are the name of the game for the expanded playoff. While some might say it dilutes the importance of the regular season, it gives lower level teams chances at a national title, while also giving viewers more quality match-ups with higher stakes. Teams that deserve a chance at a championship will finally get one with the expanded College Football Playoff.

More is good, and the 12-team field is here. Let the chaos begin.