Report: Could College Football Playoff Expansion Be On the Horizon?

Zach Goodall

Long have there been talks of a potential College Football Playoff expansion - really, since the inception of the playoff.

The current playoff set-up awards the perceived top four teams in the country with a spot in the bracket, as decided by a committee. Though, that process has come under fire as it allows for subjectivity in its decision making and often works against mid-major programs.

The reality of the matter is that a four-team playoff for a conference of 130 schools is controversial, especially when they are chosen by the opinion of a committee. There are well-qualified debates that happen on a yearly basis of teams that were either snubbed of a playoff spot, or perhaps rewarded a spot despite seemingly being less qualified.

Therefore, Stadium's Brett McMurphy ran an anonymous survey of all 130 FBS athletic directors asking if expansion should come when the current CFP contract runs out in 2025. The results were overwhelming and in favor of expansion.

112 ADs responded to Stadium's survey, with 88 percent in favor of expansion and 72% believing that eight teams should qualify for the annual event. Another 11 percent of those in favor of expansion would prefer a 12 or 16 team bracket, while 5 percent think six teams is the magic number.

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Graph courtesy of watchstadium.com

The question that remains: How would qualifications work? Would the status quo remain to allow the committee to select who they please? Would rules be in place to include Group of Five teams? Would all Power Five conference champions automatically qualify?

"The top response was that the eight-team playoff should consist of the Power Five conference champions, the highest-ranked non-Power Five team and the two highest-ranked at-large teams," McMurphy noted in his report. "Overall, 66 percent of the ADs want this model with more non-Power Five ADs in favor by a 71 to 59 percent margin."

Group of Five's representation in a new playoff format will be one of the driving points of any debate, notably due to the University of Central Florida's absence from the 2017-18 College Football Playoff despite being the only undefeated FBS team that season. As McMurphy noted within his survey, no Group of Five ADs voted in favor of the Power Five conference champions and three at-large teams becoming the new norm as that does not guarantee a spot for a mid-major program.

Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen has expressed his two cents on expansion in the past, noting that he believes the system produces the correct champion of college football.

“Getting those two teams [LSU and Clemson] seemed to work. And getting those four teams seemed to work,” Mullen said according to USA Today. “I don’t know of many years where the best team doesn’t win the national championship. It seems to work the way it is. But if it expands, that could work too."

The Gators finished at No. 9 in the College Football Playoff rankings this past season, though, so perhaps a top-eight finish in a new format would change his stance.

Through 2025, the College Football Playoff will feature four subjectively-chosen teams to compete as laid out in the original structure of the playoff. Though, it appears that most athletic directors would prefer expansion when the time comes. 

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