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Report: CFP Leaders Focused on ‘More Inclusive’ Playoff Format

As the next round of College Football Playoff expansion talks approaches, there seems to be one main theme that fans continue to highlight—the semifinal blowouts on New Year’s Eve. 

Alabama trounced Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl while Georgia overwhelmed Michigan in the Orange Bowl, resulting in a rematch of the SEC championship for the national title on Jan. 10. It’s the second time in eight years they'll meet in the CFP finale. Only three of the 16 semifinal matchups in CFP history have ended up with scoring margins of 10 points or fewer. However, the commissioners are reportedly not focused or concerned about the lack of competitiveness in the semifinals. 

The 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick are set to meet on Saturday to continue discussing the expansion format, which was evidently divided following the last meeting

“I don't think it should really matter,” American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco told ESPN. “I think we're talking about a playoff that would be essentially more inclusive, give more teams an opportunity, and if you gave more teams an opportunity, you know, a few of those teams might perform at a level better than the teams that you choose.”

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Greg Sankey (SEC commissioner), Bob Bowlsby (Big 12 commissioner), Craig Thompson (Mountain West commissioner) and Swarbrick proposed the 12-team playoff model in June, which would guarantee spots to the six highest-ranked conference champions as well as at-large bids to the next six highest-ranked teams.

Since then, the committee has continued to deliberate, delaying its decision again on Wednesday. The main obstacle still exists; there is no unanimous consensus on a specific format. Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger previously reported that they continued to argue over the number of teams (eight vs. 12) as well as the role of automatic qualifiers (no AQs vs. some AQs vs. AQs for Power 5 champions).

Given the differing opinions, sources told ESPN that there are doubts about whether they can all agree on an expanded format right now. Sankey made it publicly known following the early December meeting that he was "fine" with leaving the playoff format at four.

“My expectation is that we'll continue discussions, and people will say in the room what they said publicly, which will reiterate the fact that we don't have 11 people agreeing on any format,” Pac-12 commissioner Georg Kliavkoff told ESPN. “And unfortunately, that means that we now need to focus on what the model could look like after the current term and hopefully make it retroactive so that we can expand within the current term.”

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