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BCI Debates: College Football Playoffs

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Boston College Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Curtis: Thoughts on this?

Arthur: With auto bids I’d hope.

Grant: You would think.

Adam: Yeah, 6 from the B1G and 6 from the SEC.

Curtis: Reporting from earlier this week said it would be the same model suggested last year, so autobids for the 6 highest ranked conference champions and byes for the 4 highest conference champ. .Though if it starts in 2026 and 1-3 conferences die by that point, I don’t know if they’ll stick by that.

Joe: Well that would be excellent. If that happens I’m all in on self-relegating to the fifth or sixth best conference. Play against peerish programs, have the occasional NFL caliber player but otherwise maybe a little lower tier but still good, & have the occasional dream pathway to getting to the playoff and getting ass blasted but it would be fun - sounds like the best case scenario we can hope for as BC fans. As long as conferences 3-6 have playoff access they’ll get their share of strong players.

Arthur: Yeah, it’s kind of like where we are now tbh.

Joe: It’ll be like being a fan of a team in one of the second tier euro leagues. Make the champions league. Then die.

Arthur: Ignoring that Clemson exists.

Curtis: Is anyone really sure that Clemson exists?

Arthur: Honestly that is the best case scenario for college sports generally. Assuming nothing else happ-

Adam: Big if true:

Curtis: Hmm...

Grant: Yeah ASSLOADS of money.

Curtis: I could see them fast-forwarding it for that reason definitely.

Grant: 12 team tournament will make SO MUCH MONEY lol.

Adam: I don’t know why it’s taken them so long to come to this conclusion. Why do you think professional sports leagues have playoffs that feature half the league?

Curtis: Because more playoff teams makes oldheads grumpy. And CFB is run by oldheads.

Adam: That’s why baseball is the one sport with the fewest playoff teams lol

Arthur: Gotta preserve the historical integrity of the thing invented like five years ago.

Curtis: I saw someone suggest a 32-team NHL playoff recently with a play-in tournament for the low seeds. Ultimate cash cow for a league that makes smaller money.

Curtis: How likely do you think a 6-autobid playoff would exist in a world when the SEC and B1G take over almost all the big programs? You’d think the autobids would be reduced?

Arthur: I can see it. It at least gives the illusion. The problem the CFP is running into ratings-wise is having the same teams every year is, in fact, kind of boring and doesn’t make people want to tune in. Increasing parity is good for the sport in the long run. At the end of the day, college fans are intense fans— about their school and their team. If their team isn’t in it they are less likely to turn on the championship. If their team isn’t a factor, they aren’t going to even bother paying attention to the sport.

Joe: Right no absolutely. This is something I think the suits are wising up to. There’s definitely value in regularly having these huge power vs power games in super conferences but having different teams and chance of an upset is a big part of college sports’ appeal. This could honestly be a best of both worlds scenario for the super powers. More playoff bids because you have to assume there will be 7 SEC/Big ten teams in every year. So they make the show more often. They will still dominate, because this is football, not basketball - you’re not seeing any St. Mary’s runs in football. And yet the illusion of a chance will suck in more fans, different teams being in will freshen it up. It’s honestly such a win win win for everyone that I’m astonished it’s actually happening?
The one thing that could change it is if we do it this way for five years and the auto bud teams get absolutely smoked literally every time. But in reality if you get one Boise State Fiesta Bowl moment every 5 years or so, every program with a crazy fan base and a dream can cling on to that.

Joe: Obviously the downside risk whenever you expand a tournament is watering down the product. But I don’t think there’s a risk of that with 12 teams in as long as you still end up with 85 or so power conference teams plus your occasional excellent g5.
To some extent it restores some balance. The regular season used to mean everything in college football. With the playoff that kind of killed that - while also rendering games feeling a lot more meaningless for a lot of teams because nobody cares really about the sub playoff bowls anymore. So you kind of had the worst of both worlds in terms of making the regular season less interesting and important.
This setup makes it more important - you want to play hard for an auto bid and that competition will be fierce if you’re in the SEC or B1G, in case you come up short for the conference title. And then for every other conference, more teams have a shot at the lottery ticket.
The next question becomes what happens with the bowls, but honestly, whatever. They will continue to exist to be content for gamblers and ESPN, and they will be nice games for the players and development opportunities. Which is basically what they are now. So whatever. Maybe now that we’ve ripped the bandaid off of the various traditional aspects they can reimagine the bowls to add some prestige to them. Maybe make the biggest bowls region-specific matchups, you know, the top two teams from region X that aren’t in the playoff. Spicy.

Arthur: I think the real risk of watering it down is if you let bottom tier conferences in with an auto bid. Alabama doesn’t need to prove it can beat the winner of the Sun Belt. They have a really good balance with this plan of getting the best auto bids they can, and thus a legit way to get in without dealing with bureaucracy, and a good number of at large bids as well. This way the PAC-12 (or whatever it ends up with), the ACC, the Big Ten even are all but assured a seat at the table. Even the AAC, you’d imagine, should get in fairly regularly.

Curtis: Don’t sleep on the Sun Belt! But I completely agree, I think this format is one of the best possible outcomes. The regular season will have higher stakes for teams with 1-2 losses, whereas before it felt like a loss or two completely dashed your playoff hopes. It will make for juicier out-of-conference scheduling, as the benefit of bolstering your résumé now outweighs the risk of an extra loss.

Arthur: Yeah probably shouldn’t pick on them.

Curtis: And it involves all of college football in a way that it didn’t before, just like you both were talking about. It’s a format that makes more money for everyone and provides a path to success for a greater number of schools. And the NY6 bowls are no longer afterthoughts, they’re 5-12 seed match-ups with importance!

Arthur: You mean having the Georgias and Alabamas of the world picking on directional Mississippi or whatever every year was a bad thing for the sport?

Grant: Well, one major benefit of a 12 team tournament is the top 4 teams have byes. You aren’t going to have an undefeated Alabama playing, like, Central Michigan. You’re going to have something like the AAC champion playing the Sun Belt champion. And then they’ll get smoked by Bama. But they’ll have gotten their big playoff moment first!

Joe: Exactly! Sports is about moments.

Arthur: It’s also probably worth noting: sure, the haves will have more than the have nots. But if you’re a program with punters chance of making the playoffs in a way you didn’t before, that makes your program more attractive for good recruits. Alabama and co. will still likely dominate, but it’s not, like, inconceivable for the big programs to star at least nominally coming back to be pack.

Joe: I mean that’s exactly It. Or for a fifth year guy who’s been mid tier at a SEC or B1G to think, I can go start for a team just a level below and maybe lead them to the playoff.

Arthur: And if you aren’t on like six teams right now, you don’t make the playoffs.

Joe: It’s not going to “level the playing field” - that ship has sailed - but it just creates more opportunity for programs outside the Mega Two to be relevant.

Arthur: Let’s compare it to NASCAR, that’ll resonate with our readership. Before there was only a handful of drivers who were winning all of the races and the rest were really competing for scraps. Now those guys are still the class of the field, but the new car has made everyone a player. There are still better cars than others, but the field, while not level, has gotten closer.

Joe: Good, I think this is definitely the way to appeal to the readership. Agreed.