Potential 12-team Playoff Would Be Major Boost for Penn State, College Football As Whole

By Joel Neuschwander on June 14, 2021 at 9:29 am
College Football Playoff
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

News broke last week that the College Football Playoff is officially considering a 12-team field made up of the six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large bids. The first round of games would be played on the campuses of the higher seeded teams, with the four highest ranked conference champions receiving a bye into the quarterfinals. 

While potential expansion of the playoff may not happen for several years (ESPN's current contract runs until 2025), the fact that we have gotten this far indicates that an expanded field is not only possible, but probable.

Like many other things in this wild, wonderful sport, playoff expansion has sparked a heated debate.

Calls to expand the field have existed throughout the entirety of the four-team playoff era, and they have only grown louder as the top three to four teams continue to separate themselves from the rest of the country.

Since the playoff began in 2014, we've seen an Alabama-Clemson matchup four times, Alabama-Ohio State twice, and Clemson-Ohio State twice. In seven years, over 80% of playoff games have been won by these three schools.

A 12-team playoff doesn't necessarily stop these matchups from happening. What it does is give a bigger shot to many of the 130 FBS teams to make the field, and possibly make some noise.

It also eliminates a lot of the confusing logic that the playoff committee has used in the past. With the current system, it's obvious that at least one power five conference champion will get left out. However, more often than not, those decisions were a head-scratcher.

It seemed the criteria for a playoff-worthy team varied from season to season. In 2014, conference championships mattered. In 2016 (much to the dismay of everyone reading this) conference championships and head-to-head results were thrown out the window because a team had two losses instead of one.

With 12 teams, if you are a highly-ranked power five champion, you're in. If you're a group of five team, you are no longer ignored entirely.

As far as recruiting goes, the brand-name schools will still rack up their fair share of blue-chip prospects, as they always have. But, with the potential for under-the-radar programs to increase their exposure, perhaps we'd see more of a distribution of talent, both in the power conferences and the group of five.

It's unclear whether the regular season will be decreased or if conference championship games will be a casualty of an expanded playoff.

Either way, the importance of college football's regular season -- a longstanding argument against further playoff expansion -- will be preserved. It will still be a tightly-contested race for those coveted spots. I'll take two and three-loss teams making it if it means more than the usual suspects getting to shine and intriguing matchups we wouldn't see otherwise.

Still not sold? This graphic from RedditCFB may help convince you:

Had a 12-team system been in place from the start, Penn State would have qualified in four consecutive years from 2016-19.

The College Football Playoff will be a topic of contention forever. While a 12-team system (or even an eight-team system, I'll take anything at this point) may not always change the end result, it solves a lot of the current system's fatal flaws.

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