College Football Playoff to expand to 12 teams by 2026, possibly even earlier

College Football Playoff. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
College Football Playoff. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The College Football Playoff Board of Managers will be expanding the field to 12 teams soon.

As a surprise to absolutely no one, the College Football Playoff will be expanding in due time.

ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported on Friday afternoon that the CFP Board of Managers did decide on making it a 12-team field after their virtual meeting. Although the expectation is for the 12-team format to take place in 2026 once the current TV contract with ESPN expires, Thamel says there is still a chance we could see playoff expansion even sooner, possibly as soon as the 2024 season.

The 12-team format would include many automatic qualifiers, as well as several at-large bids.

Of course, there is still a ton of red tape to be cut through to make this happen well before 2026.

With the bulk of Week 1’s games taking place on Saturday, let’s discuss a 12-team playoff format.

College Football Playoff expansion is happening: 12 teams by 2026 at the latest

Even with teams like Oklahoma, Texas, USC and UCLA switching leagues over the next few years, playoff expansion seems like a pretty good counter to combat the emergence of two power conferences, to some degree. Of course, one should expect the bulk of the at-large teams to hail from the Big Ten and the SEC, the two leagues which these four teams are heading to very soon.

So why announce this the day before the 2022 season really begins? It is simple in that it is all about money. Because ESPN is the only company that has broadcasting rights to the College Football Playoff, there is no incentive for CBS, FOX or NBC to advertise the four-team tournament. Although we are two-thirds of the way through the 12-year contract, a new one has to replace it.

By expanding it to 12 teams, there are ample opportunities for other broadcast partners to bid on these postseason games. Although the sport becoming a bit regional has hurt it, having only one broadcasting partner for the championship games has been such a horrendous idea. If CBS, FOX, NBC or whoever can get a slice of the playoff pie, the entire TV product will be greatly improved.

As far as what a 12-team playoff would look like, look for the top-four seeds to get first-round byes where No. 5 will play No. 12, No. 6 will play No. 11 and so on. How the New Year’s Six bowls will be implemented in this remains to be seen. Will the Rose Bowl remain sacred or just become another game? Either way, we still have time for all parties involved to finally get this thing right.

Congratulations, as we will finally get to see No. 1 Alabama run roughshod on a wider pool of lesser teams!

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