It’s fair to say that bowl season was already going to be dramatically changed by the expansion of the College Football Playoff next fall. But conference realignment is only going to continue to alter the College Football Playoff selection process.
Remember, the expanded 12-team playoff will consist of guaranteed bids for the top six conference champions in the CFP rankings. No conference will have an automatic bid. It also includes at-large bids for the six highest-ranked remaining teams, which could include additional conference champions.
But with the Pac-12 possibly dissolving as a conference or merging/being absorbed by another conference, a door is now open for a second Group of 5 schools to receive an automatic bid into the 12-team playoff.
So how does the realignment alter the college football playoff selection process now?
That question was posed to On3’s Andy Staples on the latest episode of the Awful Announcing Podcast.
“So we’re still not done with the first 12-year College Football Playoff contract,” Staples told AA’s Brandon Contes. “They’ve changed the format in the middle of it, and so the last two years of the contract, the 2024 and 2025 seasons will be a 12-team instead of a 4-team. They will have the six highest-ranked conference champs and six at-large bids.”
Staples mentioned how the College Football Playoff committee can essentially go back and rip that all up before the contract starts the 2026 season.
“I suspect based on how this realignment shakes out, they’ll reduce the number of automatic bids,” Staples continued. “They’ll say the five highest-ranked conference champs.”
Staples himself likes the 12-team playoff, and while he doesn’t know if he wants it to be any bigger than that, he imagines that the CFP will probably eventually get bigger than that.
“The other divisions play a 24-team playoff,” Staples said. “But 12 is still more selective than any other postseason tournament that we watch as American sports fans. It’s way more selective than the NFL playoffs, the NBA playoffs, than the NCAA tournament. I am fine with that because it’s still fairly exclusive, but you’re gonna get blockbuster matchups for three straight weeks.”
The news of realignment will undoubtedly affect the College Football Playoff selection process. It appears that the expanded 12-team playoff with the criteria outlined above will be in place for 2024 and 2025, but what happens in 2026 and beyond is anyone’s guess.
The full episode with Andy Staples will be available Friday. You can find the Awful Announcing Podcast wherever you get your podcasts.