Counterpoint | College football shouldn’t expand to a 12-team playoff

By Jermaine Sykes, Staff Writer

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

The College Football playoff expansion seems fair, but in reality, a 12-team playoff isn’t feasible in the current collegiate environment.

College football has changed more in the last decade than ever before. Some of the changes include conference realignment, the addition of the transfer portal and the four-team playoff, which have all occurred in the last decade.

The CFP committee recently expanded the playoff to 12 teams starting as soon as 2024. Fans were thrilled by the change, but is it better than the old playoff system?

In the new format, the No. 1 through No. 4 teams will receive a bye in the first round. The remaining teams play in the first round with the higher-seeded teams hosting home playoff games. 

On paper, it seems like more teams have a chance to make the playoff and win the national championship. In reality, this will only lead to “superconferences,” which will further conference bias. 

The national championship game has featured an SEC team in seven of the past eight years. We’ve already seen teams like Texas and Oklahoma join the SEC in an attempt to drive revenue and increase their chances of playoff selection. Expanding to a 12-team playoff will only invite more teams to try and use the same formula of switching conferences for an advantage. 

Let me give you an example — if the 12-team playoff format was in place last season, No. 12  Pitt would have had to travel to play No. 5 Notre Dame on the road. Pitt would have been the only ACC team in the playoff as the very last seed, despite each of the other major conferences having multiple teams represented. 

Pitt won against No. 17 Wake Forest and No. 19 Clemson last season. In what world are four conference runner-ups higher ranked ahead of a Power Five champion with two top-25 wins? There’s no defined criteria in the committee’s rankings, and a playoff expansion won’t fix that. There’s a clear sign of bias towards the Big Ten and SEC.

A four-team playoff means that almost every regular season matters. A playoff expansion  means that powerhouse football programs like Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Georgia can afford a loss or two — maybe even three — and still make the playoff. In the past we’ve seen the committee give teams in the SEC and Big Ten leeway. The combination of these aforementioned “superconferences” and the nature of college football puts smaller schools in jeopardy.

In a culture where players are flipping schools constantly thanks to the transfer portal, teams in the soon-to-be “Power 2” have a clear competitive advantage. Why would a recruit not choose a school that can give them more money through NIL, more exposure to NFL scouts and a better chance to compete for national championships? It’s a no-brainer. 

On the surface, a college football playoff expansion seems fair and reasonable. These smaller schools are even coming out and saying they’re happy for the expansion. But under the surface lie deep-rooted problems within college football that make a playoff expansion seem impractical.