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MMQB - Let’s Talk a 12-Team Playoff

What would the last 7 years have looked like?

In case you hadn’t heard, the College Football Playoff is considering expanding from the current 4-team setup to a 12-team format.

I absolutely love this idea.

For one, I am all about inclusion in the sport, and including the top six conference champs means that the Group of 5 will actually get a shot at crowning a national champ! Not to mention the handful of really good teams that just missed out on the 4-team format (hello 2016 Penn State).

But what would the actual brackets have looked like from the last 7 years of the 4-team playoff? What sort of “inclusion” would we have had? Let’s take a look!


* Conference champion

** Conference co-champion

So, as the rules stipulate, the top four conference winners get a first round bye. The remaining 8 teams play each other based on their final ranking, with the higher seeded team playing host. The thing to note here is that the remaining two conference champs with auto-bids are not given home-field advantage, but are simply seeded based on final rankings.

Off the bat, there are some really fun matchups here, but the best one has to be Ole Miss having to visit East Lansing in mid-December, which has literally never happened. You also get a regular season rematch in TCU-Kansas State.

Off to a good start, let’s see what’s up next.


Again, we’re going to see some really entertaining matchups in the first round. Florida State, Houston, and UNC are all warm-weather teams having to make trips to not-so-warm locales. A possible second round Clemson-Florida State rematch is on the table, as is a potential Bama-OSU game. Love it.


If there were a single image I could show Penn State fans to get them on board with the 12-team proposal, it would be this one.

Under the proposed format, Penn State not only makes the playoff in 2016, but gets a first-round bye. OSU, who famously got in over the Lions, didn’t win its conference, and so does not slot in as one of the top four teams.

Now, should the Buckeyes beat Western Michigan, we’d get to see a PSU-OSU rematch in the quarterfinals, and some people might consider Penn State the underdog in such a game. But who cares? Penn State got the first dub, won the conference, and is therefore rewarded.

Penn State aside, I’ll once again point out that in the first round, USC and Florida State would both have to make cold-weather treks in the first round, and I’m all for it.


The “what could have been” year for Penn State. An epic fourth-quarter collapse against Ohio State, followed by a complete meltdown in a monsoon against Michigan State meant that the best Penn State team of at least the last decade missed out on the playoffs. Well not in this alternate history!

The Lions instead make the playoffs and face off at USC in the first round, before hopefully taking on Clemson in the quarterfinals. I think Penn State could have legitimately won the natty in 2017 had they been given the chance. Well, here’s the chance!

The otherwise best game in the first round is Bama-UCF. Who wouldn’t want to see national championship-winner UCF go up against Bama??


Again, I’m just pointing out that this whole system would be a boon for Penn State. In the 2018 iteration, the Lions would have gone on the road to play a severely overrated Notre Dame squad, before a potential rematch with Ohio State in the quarterfinals. Remember the 2018 OSU game? The game the Lions dominated until midway through the fourth, ultimately losing by just one point? Yeah, I wouldn’t have minded a rematch later in the season.

Elsewhere, we get a Jawja-LSU rematch, as well as Florida heading up to Michigan for some fun in Ann Arbor. We also get a “cold weather” team in Washington making the trip to sunny Florida to take on UCF, a reverse winter-weather showdown.


The story writes itself. Penn State-Baylor. Matt Rhule vs his alma mater. Two programs on the rise after scandals. Hollywood is lining up to acquire rights to the inevitable film. Again, I love it.

Florida trekking to Madison is the only cold-weather first-round game of note, but I’m intrigued by the potential second-round matchups of OU-UGA, and OSU-PSU. Imagine Cotton Bowl Micah Parsons being let loose on Justin Fields? Mmmm that’s good stuff.



Oh, sorry, was I shouting?

I mean, that setup was directly fueled by the fact that the Pac-12 played a short season, and started much later in the year than everyone else due to COVID-19.


UGA up north against Cincy, Coastal Carolina on the road against Notre Dame, TAMU and Indiana making an appearance. What a fun playoff that would have been.

I think I’ll end this discussion here for today.

Overall, I think the proposed 12-team format is a really good idea. I think it’s a good idea for college football in general, and more specifically I think it’s a good idea for Penn State.

Under the proposed format, the Lions would have made the playoffs in 4 of 7 years. Maybe that helps them fight over the OSU hump more regularly, or at least come a bit closer to closing the talent gap.

Even if things still are the same, you can’t deny that seeing some of these fun first-round games wouldn’t be entertaining. The G5 making appearances, cold-weather games, rematches from the regular season. I don’t see any downside to any of this.

Tune in later this week when I take a bit of a deeper dive into the “inclusivity” of the proposed 12-team setup.

That’s all folks!