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College Football Playoff Reportedly Expanding to 12 Teams by 2026

OSU would’ve made a 12-team Playoff last season.



The College Football Playoff will soon include a dozen teams.

The CFP’s board of managers voted Friday to expand the Playoff to 12 teams in 2026, but that board is encouraging commissioners to implement the 12-team playoff as soon as 2024, according to ESPN. According to ESPN, the 12-team model includes the six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large teams. FBS conference commissioners and the Notre Dame athletic director are set to meet in Dallas next week.

Here is how are some further details in the new format, per ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg.

• The 12 teams will be the six conference champions ranked highest by the selection committee (no minimum ranking requirement), plus the six highest-ranked teams not included among the six highest-ranked conference champions.
• The ranking of the teams will continue to be done by a selection committee whose size, composition and method of selection will remain substantially unchanged. The Management Committee will modify the selection protocol as required by the change to the playoff structure.
• The four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded one through four and each will receive a first-round bye.
• The other eight teams will play in the first round with the higher seeds hosting the lower seeds either on campus or at other sites designated by the higher-seeded institution. (No. 12 at No. 5, No. 11 at No. 6, No. 10 at No. 7 and No. 9 and No. 8).
• The model allows for first-round games to be played on either the second or third weekend in December in a way that best accommodates the format and the participating teams, with at least 12 days between the conference championship games and the first-round games. The Management Committee would make the final determination of the calendar.
• Subject to reaching agreement with bowls, the four quarterfinal games and the Playoff Semifinal games would be played in bowls on a rotating basis.
• The national championship game will continue to be played at a neutral site.
• Subject to reaching agreement with bowls, the four highest-ranked conference champions will be assigned to quarterfinals bowls on selection day in ranking order, and in consideration of current contract bowl relationships if those bowls are selected for the rotation. For example, if the Pac-12 champion were ranked No. 1, the Big Ten champion were ranked No. 3, and the Rose Bowl were a quarterfinal site, the Pac-12 champion would be assigned to the Rose Bowl and the Big Ten champion would be assigned elsewhere.
• With the four highest-ranked champions assigned to quarterfinal games in bowls, the opponent from the first-round game winners will be assigned by the selection committee based on the bracket.
• The higher seeds would receive preferential placement in the Playoff Semifinal games.
• First-round games will not have title or presenting sponsors and existing venue signage will remain in place. The CFP will control the video boards.

The Playoff has been at four teams since its inception in 2014. Oklahoma State would’ve made the 12-team model in 2021, ranking ninth in the final CFP rankings. The Cowboys would’ve been brutally snubbed in a 12-team playoff 2016. Although OSU came 12th in the final CFP rankings, 13-0 Western Michigan would’ve jumped into the Playoff because of the six conference champions rule.

Here is where OSU finished in the CFP rankings year-by-year:

Year Finish
2021 9
2020 21
2019 25
2018 NR
2017 19
2016 12
2015 16
2014 NR

With Oklahoma and Texas leaving for the SEC, this opens the door for Oklahoma State, or any other team, to become a regular in the CFP with the 12-team format. Win the Big 12 and you’re obviously in, but even a good second-place Big 12 team could have a shot at college football’s tournament.

OSU coach Mike Gundy was asked about the possibility of a 12-team Playoff in November. A lot has changed in the college football landscape since that time, but back then Gundy said he’d prefer eight.

“So, when you go to the 12, or even further, you’re now treading water in academic calendars, dead week, finals week, bowl games, how many regular season games can you have, and potentially a number of games that could push right up there with an NFL schedule,” Gundy said last November. “And we still are working with amateur athletes. So, I’m not sure that’s the answer right now based on what else is going on because my academic schedule may not be the same as Stanford’s. So, is somebody going to play — are we going to play each other in a playoff and we’re in finals week and they’re out of school? There’s issues there.

“I’m not saying I have the answers, I’m just saying that I think that we need to be careful, because we have a big-time game right now that people in this country love to watch. I’d be careful about changing too much.”

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