College Football Playoff expansion: How a 12-team field would have looked in each of last eight seasons – CBS Sports - STRATEGIES TO EARN MONEY

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College Football Playoff expansion: How a 12-team field would have looked in each of last eight seasons – CBS Sports

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Big changes are on the way for the College Football Playoff after the CFP Board of Managers voted Friday in favor of expanding the field from four teams to 12. The CFP Management Committee, comprised of the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, must still oversee implementation of expansion, but the board’s vote marked a significant step toward adaptation of a format that was first proposed last year and could be put into place as soon as 2024. 

The terms of the proposal will grant automatic bids to the top six conference champions, allowing annual access to at least one Group of Five team. Additionally, first-round byes will go to the nation’s top four conference champions as determined by the CFP rankings. So even though Georgia, last season’s national champion, finished the regular season 12-0 in 2021, it would have been relegated to the No. 5 seed by virtue of its loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game after finishing No. 3 in the actual final CFP rankings.

There is no path for Notre Dame to secure a first-round bye since it plays as an independent team with no potential for a conference title game (2020 being the lone exception when the Irish temporarily joined the ACC). The best the Fighting Irish can hope for is the No. 5 seed.

With playoff expansion finally gaining traction after last year’s false start, debate is rampant over the new format and whether it will be good for the sport. Though only time will tell how it shakes out, a look back at the past eight seasons offers a glimpse at what could lie ahead.

So let’s forget what happened over the last eight years in the old four-team format and take a look back at what college football‘s postseason would have looked like if the CFP had started with 12 teams at its inception back in 2014.

2021 season

Byes (Top-ranked conference champions)
1. Alabama
2. Michigan
3. Cincinnati
4. Baylor
Rest of field (x-conference champion)
5. Georgia
6. Notre Dame
7. Ohio State
8. Ole Miss
9. Oklahoma State
10. Michigan State
11. Utah (x)
12. Pittsburgh (x)

Matchups
No. 12 Pittsburgh at No. 5 Georgia winner vs. 4. Baylor
No. 11 Utah at No. 6 Notre Dame winner vs. 3. Cincinnati
No. 10 Michigan State at No. 7 Ohio State winner vs. 2. Michigan
No. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 8 Ole Miss winner vs. 1. Alabama

With Alabama beating Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, the Crimson Tide would have landed as the No. 1 overall seed. Baylor would have received a first-round bye ahead of the Bulldogs since it won the Big 12 Championship Game. Michigan State would have gotten a rematch with Ohio State after the Buckeyes clobbered the Spartans 56-7 in the regular season. The winner of that game would have gotten a rematch with Michigan in what would have unofficially amounted to a Big Ten pod within the CFP bracket.

2020 season

Byes (Top-ranked conference champions)
1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Ohio State
4. Oklahoma
Rest of field (x-conference champion)
5. Notre Dame
6. Texas A&M
7. Florida
8. Cincinnati (x)
9. Georgia
10. Iowa State
11. Indiana
12. Coastal Carolina (x)

Matchups
No. 12 Coastal Carolina at No. 5 Notre Dame winner vs. 4. Oklahoma
No. 11 Indiana at No. 6 Texas A&M winner vs. 3. Ohio State
No. 10 Iowa State at No. 7 Florida winner vs. 2. Clemson
No. 9 Georgia at No. 8 Cincinnati winner vs. 1. Alabama

With Oregon winning the Pac-12 Championship Game but only registering at No. 25 in the CFP rankings, two Group of Five schools would have made the playoff in a 12-team format last year. A Coastal Carolina vs. Notre Dame meeting in the first round would have been fun. Four SEC schools would have made the field.

2019 season

Byes (Top-ranked conference champions) 
1. LSU
2. Ohio State
3. Clemson
4. Oklahoma
Rest of field (x-conference champion)
5. Georgia
6. Oregon (x)
7. Baylor
8. Wisconsin
9. Florida
10. Penn State
11. Utah
12. Memphis (x)

Matchups
No. 12 Memphis at No. 5 Georgia winner vs. 4. Oklahoma
No. 11 Utah at No. 6 Oregon winner vs. 3. Clemson
No. 10 Penn State at No. 7 Baylor winner vs. 2. Ohio State
No. 9 Florida at No. 8 Wisconsin winner vs. 1. LSU

The 2019 College Football Playoff with a 12-team format is a prime example of how the Pac-12 can benefit from expansion. No team from the league made the top four, but both Oregon and Utah would have made a 12-team field. Ironically, though, they would have been pitted against each other in a first-round game after meeting each other in the conference title game on Dec. 6.

2018 season

Byes (Top-ranked conference champions)
1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Oklahoma
4. Ohio State
Rest of field (x-conference champion)
5. Notre Dame
6. Georgia
7. Michigan
8. UCF (x)
9. Washington (x)
10. Florida
11. LSU
12. Penn State

Matchups
No. 12 Penn State at No. 5 Notre Dame winner vs. 4. Ohio State
No. 11 LSU at No. 6 Georgia vs. winner vs. 3. Oklahoma
No. 10 Florida at No. 7 Michigan winner vs. 2. Clemson
No. 9 Washington at No. 8 UCF winner vs. 1. Alabama

With no exception in place for Notre Dame to get a bye without playing in a conference championship game, the Fighting Irish would have been relegated to the No. 5 seed under a 12-team format despite finishing the regular season 12-0. This year’s first round would have featured some tantalizing matchups, including a Penn State vs. Notre Dame clash.

2017 season

Byes (Top-ranked conference champions)
1. Clemson
2. Oklahoma
3. Georgia
4. Ohio State
Rest of field (x-conference champion)
5. Alabama
6. Wisconsin
7. Auburn
8. USC (x)
9. Penn State
10. Miami
11. Washington
12. UCF (x)

Matchups
No. 12 UCF at No. 5 Alabama winner vs. 4. Ohio State
No. 11 Washington at No. 6 Wisconsin winner vs. 3. Georgia
No. 10 Miami at No. 7 Auburn winner vs. 2. Oklahoma 
No. 9 Penn State at No. 8 USC winner vs. 1. Clemson

Alabama made the 2017 College Football Playoff as the No. 4 seed despite not appearing in the SEC Championship game due to a loss at Auburn. However, the Crimson Tide would not have been the No. 4 seed in the new format. Rather, the No. 4 seed would have gone to Ohio State, which was left out of the 2017 field after coming in at No. 5 in the final CFP rankings. Since the Buckeyes were one of the top-four league champions, they would have gotten a first-round bye while Alabama would have been forced to play a 12-0 UCF team in the first round.

2016 season

Byes (Top-ranked conference champions)
1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Washington
4. Penn State
Rest of field (x-conference champion)
5. Ohio State
6. Michigan 
7. Oklahoma (x)
8. Wisconsin 
9. USC
10. Colorado
11. Florida State
12. Western Michigan (x)

Matchups
No. 12 Western Michigan at No. 5 Ohio State winner vs. 4. Penn State
No. 11 Florida State at. No. 6 Michigan winner vs. 3. Washington
No. 10 Colorado at No. 7 Oklahoma winner vs. 2. Clemson
No. 9 USC at No. 8 Wisconsin winner vs. No. 1 Alabama

The Big Ten would have been well-represented with four teams in the 2016 College Football Playoff under a 12-team format in place. But this playoff would have included a couple quirks, too, with Western Michigan in the mix as the No. 12 seed and Mike MacIntyre’s Colorado Buffaloes in the picture as the No. 10 seed.

2015 season

Byes (Top-ranked conference champions)
1. Clemson
2. Alabama
3. Michigan State
4. Oklahoma
Rest of field (x-conference champion)
5. Iowa
6. Stanford (x)
7. Ohio State
8. Notre Dame
9. Florida State
10. North Carolina
11. TCU
12. Houston (x)

Matchups
No. 12 Houston at No. 5 Iowa winner vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
No. 11 TCU at No. 6 Stanford winner vs. No. 3 Michigan State
No. 10 North Carolina at No. 7 Ohio State winner vs. No. 2 Alabama
No. 9 Florida State at No. 8 Notre Dame winner vs. No. 1 Clemson

North Carolina’s football revival is in full swing under Mack Brown, but the 2015 Tar Heels would have made the CFP under the 12-team format. That squad, coached by Larry Fedora, would have been pitted against a No. 7 seed Ohio State team that slipped from the playoff picture with a late season loss to Michigan State.

2014 season

Byes (Top-ranked conference champions)
1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. Florida State
4. Ohio State
Rest of field (x-conference champion)
5. Baylor (x)
6. TCU
7. Mississippi State
8. Michigan State
9. Ole Miss
10. Arizona
11. Kansas State
12. Boise State (x)

Matchups
No. 12 Boise State at No. 5 Baylor winner vs. No. 4 Ohio State
No. 11 Kansas State at No. 6 TCU winner vs. No. 3 Florida State
No. 10 Arizona at No. 7 Mississippi State winner vs. No. 2 Oregon
No. 9 Ole Miss at No. 8 Michigan State winner vs. No. 1 Alabama

In the debut season with the College Football Playoff, both Ole Miss and Mississippi State rose to prominence and were in the top four of the first rankings released on Oct. 28. But losses dropped both Magnolia State schools from the top four by the time the final batch of CFP rankings rolled out in early December. With a 12-team format, though, both schools would’ve made the playoff. An Arizona team coached by Rich Rodriguez also would have made it as an at-large squad out of the Pac-12.

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