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The New College Football Playoff: Pros and Cons

In December of 2023, the College Football Playoff Board of Managers announced its biggest update in over ten years: the playoff field would grow from having four teams to having 12. 

With this new model, the five highest-ranking conference champions have guaranteed inclusion on the 12-team playoff field in the fall of 2024, followed by the next seven highest-ranked teams. This new model was officially released and announced on February 20, 2024.

This final update is different from the original idea released in December, which called for the six highest-ranked immediately included, with the next six highest-ranked following.

With a big change like this, there is bound to be some good…and some bad. Here are the pros and cons of the new 12-team College Football Playoff format:

Courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports

Pro: There Will Be a Longer Path to the True Champions

With the old format only including four teams in the CFP, to win the National Championship, the winner only had to go through two teams. And, with that, most argued that those four teams included were not even the “best” four teams. 

Under the new, 12-team model, the winning team will have to go through four teams to win it all (or three, if they earned themselves a first-round bye). This longer road to the natty brings many great things: less debate about the teams making it into the CFP, a larger number of people accepting the National Championship winners as deserving of the title…and, simply, more college football for the people.

Courtesy of NBC Washington

Pro: More Teams Included

In the new format, the six highest-ranking conference champions are automatically included in the CFP. With the fall of the Pac-12 conference coming just months before this new format was released, there will be at least one non-Power Five conference champion on the field, allowing for more Group of Five teams to be included.

Despite the crazy conference changes we’ve seen over the past year, the expanded 12-team format will bring viewers some completely new matchups. As I said above, it allows more representation for various conferences. In the past, many upset fans have called the National Championship game the “Big Ten or SEC Invitational.” These allegations are understandable, but with more teams participating in the CFP, it should silence these kinds of comments, and reveal a true winner in the end.

Also, there is the possibility of having some matchups with teams who have never met before, or some with programs who haven’t seen each other in a while. It is sure to be an interesting experience, and it is really an amazing gift for viewers and fans everywhere. 

Courtesy of John David Mercer / USA TODAY Sports

Pro: CFP Games On Campuses

Under the old format, College Football Playoff games were played at two of the New Year’s Six (NY6) bowl games on a rotating basis. This led to teams traveling miles and miles across the country to match up against one another. 

Take the Rose Bowl game this year. Michigan and Alabama faced off, yet neither one of the teams is remotely close to Pasadena, CA.

This has not been a huge problem for programs, as it has just been the norm. Though this will not necessarily go away under the new format (with neutral site bowl game quarterfinals and semifinals), the burden has been lightened. It also adds a new layer of excitement for teams and fans alike, with the first-round games taking place on campuses of higher-seeded teams. 

Courtesy of David Rosenblum / Icon Sportswire

Con: The Complaints Will Not Go Away

This past playoff season, the nation erupted when the College Football Playoff Committee left undefeated and ACC Championship-winning Florida State out of the playoffs. This great debate left the nation torn on whether FSU deserved the spot they lost or not.  

This was not the first time a debate like this sparked, and despite the new format, it will not be the last. However, understandably, the new format does mean that the No. 6 position in the bracket will have a much more convincing argument compared to the first team out, in terms of “deservedness” of a spot.

No matter how more explainable this new 12-team format makes the CFP lineup, people are, and will always be people. And, despite how equal and fair the CFP Committee tries to be, there is still bound to be debate. Hopefully, nothing to the point of what we saw in 2024 with FSU.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Con: There Will Be Debate Over Byes

In the new 12-team format, according to The College Football Playoff, the “four highest-ranked conference champions … will receive a first-round bye.” This is good for programs, as it still adds meaning and incentive to making it to the top four. 

However, there is still so much unknown about the benefits and drawbacks of this new model. In this case, how important and influential will these byes be? We don’t know. But that doesn’t mean fans will not make it their #1 debate topic. 

As I said above, people are people. They love to argue, especially college football fans. This is yet another aspect of the new CFP that is bound to be disputed.

Courtesy of the Rose Bowl Game

Con: A More Meaningful Postseason…But at What Cost?

For years, college football fans have been upset that, for most teams, bowl games are basically meaningless. There are very few “meaningful” bowl games in the old, four-team format. The only ones that truly matter are the semifinal games, which change every year. So, the question is asked: “If my team is not playing to earn a National Title, then what is the point?” Some players even opt-out of bowl games to preserve their own health for the NFL Draft. With this, fans and viewers are left completely hands-off and uninterested. 

With the new format adding more games, and opening up the playing field, fans will be able to watch more bowl games that carry meaning, filled with teams and players giving their all to earn the National Championship Title. 

Does this add less meaning to regular season games, then? Well, under the old, four-team format, it’s understood that every single regular season game carries consequential weight. This meant that there was really never a two-loss team invited to the CFP, as most teams chosen to play in these playoffs are undefeated.

Now, with the 12-team format, a two-loss (or even more) team’s inclusion into the CFP is bound to happen. This will still cause much dispute. Unfortunately, the regular season might be rendered meaningless by fans.

Courtesy of the College Football Playoff

A Waiting Game

No matter how much I or anyone can try to predict, it is really a waiting game. There is so much unknown we are left with in terms of this new 12-team CFP format, and we must just wait and see.

The 2025 College Football Playoff run, as well as the National Championship game, is sure to be an interesting one. Along with the conference changes that will have been put in place, every fan is bound to have their own opinion. However, one thing is certain: we’ll all be tuning in to see how it plays out. 

Edited by Emilia Morello

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