The College Football Playoff's board of managers unanimously voted Aug. 2 to expand the Playoff to 12 teams beginning in 2026. The revised format will feature the six highest-ranked Football Bowl Subdivision conference champions and six at-large teams, with the four highest-ranked conference champions receiving a bye in the first round.
If that paragraph meant absolutely nothing to you, congratulations — I’m so happy your brain hasn’t been polluted by the utter nonsense that is college football.
However, chances are you’ve at least heard of the College Football Playoff. More specifically, you’ve probably heard complaints of how the same four teams are always in it.
That line of thinking is understandable but not entirely true. Seven different schools appeared in the Playoff since 2020, including a mid-major school in the University of Cincinnati last year.
Regardless, I totally see why people are disenchanted with the existing Playoff. It receives a ludicrous amount of attention from national media throughout the college football season, only to deliver a handful of uncompetitive blowouts in January.
So, why exactly do people think making the Playoff three times as big is going to fix anything?
Look, I absolutely do not have the brain power to form a novel, profound opinion on the expanded playoff. I spend literal hours on a sofa each Saturday watching men throw a ball around and give each other concussions while I shovel Cheez-Its into my mouth. Do you really expect me to form a cohesive argument for or against the specific postseason structure in which that carnage unfolds?
I just find the notion that an expanded playoff will somehow bring parity to college football sort of funny. That’s what this issue is all about, after all. People are tired of seeing schools like Ohio State or the University of Alabama constantly dominating the sport.
An expanded postseason tournament would definitely give teams seeded five through 12 a chance at taking down one of the big dogs. Maybe that would eventually happen, but we’d see a whole lot of disheartening blowouts first. Is that really what we want?
Sure, it’d be cool if ABC expanded the cast of “The Bachelorette” to include 5-foot-9 marketing students from southern Indiana. Somehow, I don’t foresee any roses from Gabby Windey or Rachel Recchia in my future, but I suppose enduring abject humiliation on national television is its own reward.
If you aren’t really into college football, there’s one fundamental truth you must understand: the sport is hilariously unbalanced. Talent, money and resources are all so tightly consolidated among the upper crust that only a handful of teams even have a chance at winning a championship each year.
Even within that special handful, there tends to be a pretty jarring lack of parity — the last four national championship games were decided by an average of 22 points. I simply don’t envision a bigger playoff changing that.
I’m not even sure how you could introduce parity without either limiting scholarship amounts or capping coaching salaries. The first approach could deny young people the opportunity to go to college — gross — and I’m pretty sure the second violates some antitrust laws.
College football is a sport built on hope, so I completely get why you might want a bigger playoff field. Just remember you’re sort of supporting a magnification of the thing you complain about four months each year.
I know this has all sounded rather dismal, but I have some great news: there’s a decent chance none of it actually matters. If you’re a fan of a school that typically isn’t very good at football — not that you would know anything about that — I doubt you’ll spend much time thinking about the expanded playoff.
I would argue the beauty of college football lies in the regular season, the rivalries and regional matchups that unfold from September through November. What transpires beyond that is largely icing on the cake.
Just focus on what’s right in front of you for a change. Have you ever seen an Illinois punter shank a kick so badly the ball didn’t even reach the first-down marker? Have you ever seen Iowa score seven points yet somehow not score a touchdown? Have you ever seen Indiana’s fifth-string quarterback lose 35-14, then claim he doesn’t believe in pressure?
That’s not just football. That’s art. Wretched, disgusting, beautiful art.