The expanded College Football Playoff should adopt the “5+7” model to incentivize the regular season and add quality matchups

After years of debate and multiple rounds of voting, the College Football Playoff finally approved a new, expanded 12-team format for the 2024 season. And for about eight months, the sport's postseason future appeared to be stabilizing. Then, last summer, the Pac-12 as we knew it imploded.

The Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC all pounced on what was left of the Pac-12, increasing their numbers and drastically changing the math in the college football landscape. The result sent CFP brokers back to first place. Since then we have seen debates about the format, meetings without votes and votes without results.

The CFP board will meet again next week and is expected (according to ESPN) to vote to switch from the current 6+6 model to a new 5+7 format that will increase the number of automatic bids for conference winners will reduce to five, adding an additional total bid.

For some, it's not a perfect change without flaws or drawbacks, but it should have a positive impact on both the regular season and the first round of the CFP.

Why the delay?

On December 1, 2022, the expansion to 12 teams was officially approved for the 2024 and 2025 seasons. At the time, a 6+6 format allowed access to champions from more than half of the FBS conferences. Any change to the playoff format or financial distribution model requires a unanimous vote, and to this point, a change from this 6+6 rule has not received unanimous board support.

Because even though the Pac-12 no longer has enough teams to hold a regular-season conference schedule or a conference championship game, it still has a seat in the CFP meetings. Their representative, Washington State President Kirk Schulz, is reportedly the conduit. He's concerned about how the two remaining schools – Washington State and Oregon State – will be paid out in the next CFP contract without knowing what their affiliation would be.

The hope is that next week's meeting will allow the board to resolve the issue one way or another and provide clarity for the 2024 playoff race.

Retaining 6+6 changes the original intent of CFP

There was a time when the Pac-12's demise looked like a victory for the Group of Five conferences. The American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, Conference USA and the MAC agreed to the 6+6 format knowing they would likely be competing for a playoff spot, similar to how the New Year's Six bowls previously played out. But in 2024, there are only four power conferences left in college football, and a 6+6 format increases access for the conference champions from those leagues.

But staying at 6+6 means a break with the desired balance in the field. Six automatic bids between 10 FBS conferences provided automatic playoff access to most leagues. It was also more or less consistent with how the selection committee has evaluated teams over the 10-year history of the four-team playoffs.

But with nine FBS conferences, the submission of six automatic bids has changed the balance of the group and put another conference winner in the field. It's much harder to find the next best conference champion after the New Year's Six representative. In several previous seasons, that would have meant a playoff representative outside the top 25.

Making the regular season meaningful

The 6+6 model guarantees at least two Group of Five conference winners. While it's possible that these two teams would be in the top 10 on Selection Sunday, that scenario doesn't seem likely based on previous years' rankings. Therefore, in most seasons, these teams would likely enter the CFP as the No. 11 and No. 12 seeds. This means that the numbers 5 and 6 have a home game against a team from Group Five in the first round.

Meanwhile, a 5+7 model likely only puts one Group of Five team in the field (probably a No. 12 seed based on previous seasons' rankings). In this scenario, the only way to avoid a first-round matchup against one of the top teams is to win the conference or become the top-seeded non-champion. This feels like a more exclusive club and an honor worth fighting for in the final weeks of the season. Win your conference or become the next best team, or face a likely top 10 team on campus once in a while with your season on the line.

The odds suggest that a No. 12 seed will eventually beat a No. 5 seed, but many of the most exciting programs in New Years Six history have migrated to the Big 12. Cincinnati, UCF and Houston have combined for five of the Group of 10 five berths and two of its four wins in New Years Six bowls.

Liberty, the team that would have been ranked 12th this year if the playoffs had already been expanded, would have entered the Fiesta Bowl game against Oregon as 17-point underdogs. By going from six automatic qualifiers to five and creating more competitive first-round matchups, you've also placed more emphasis on being a conference champion or, at worst, a No. 5 seed.

5+7 offers better first-round matchups

Cinderella stories are great for the NCAA basketball tournament, and as mentioned, there will likely be a 12-on-5 stunner at some point, giving college football's version of bracket busing a “December Madness” feel . But for on-campus games in a win-or-go-home scenario, fans will want to see teams of comparable caliber.

While it's not exactly a tie, you can use last year as an example. Georgia finished 6th in this year's final CFP rankings. A 5+7 format would have given the Dawgs a first-round rematch with No. 11 Ole Miss. A 6+6 format would have allowed spectators to see No. 24 SMU (which lost the Fenway Bowl to Boston College) on the road to Sanford Stadium. It's not hard to decide which game most fans would rather watch.

More potential opportunities for ACC and Big 12

On paper, adding an at-large seems to play into the hands of the third- or fourth-best team in the Big Ten or SEC. But don't overlook the value it could have for the ACC and Big 12. These two leagues will try to get as many shots as possible to prove on the field that the gap between their leagues and the Big Ten/SEC is not as big as the narratives suggest.

The Big 12 would have sent a champion and an overall team to an expanded field in 2021 (Baylor, Oklahoma State) and 2022 (Kansas State, TCU), and that's not even counting the potential appearances of new members Utah and Cincinnati during these seasons. The ACC would have been in a similar situation in 2015, 2016 and 2017, with both a conference champion (Clemson) and an overall team in the 12-team field in a 6+6 or 5+7 format.

The expanded College Football Playoff will change the way we talk about the national title race, and fans will be excited to see how it all plays out in 2024. Decisions like these are making a lot of noise as college sports continue to have growing pains, but if CFP managers want to put together the best possible championship group and give the regular season more meaning, they'll go with a 5+7 format for the 2024 season Continue.