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‘Let the Teams Decide’: Mike Gundy Against Big Ten, SEC Byes in Proposed 14-Team Playoff

‘We need to let the teams decide it on the field and reward those who are most deserving.’



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

College football hasn’t even seen a 12-team playoff yet, but there are already talks about what a 14-tournament could look like.

The considered 14-team model, according to ESPN, would include three spots each for the SEC and Big Ten, and the two byes would go to the Big Ten and SEC champs. The 12-team model set to debut this upcoming season includes byes for the top four conference champions. In almost all instances, the Big Ten and SEC champs will get byes in the first round in the 12-team model, but there is not a guarantee three teams from any conference will make the playoff.

It’s a proposal that would give the two conferences more power than they already have. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was quoted in a story ESPN’s Dave Wilson wrote about the proposed 14-team deal.

“A playoff format that guarantees a first-round bye to any team, division or conference before the season starts is unheard of in any sport as far as I’m aware,” Gundy told ESPN. “Based on the premise proposed, a team could be undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country and still not receive a first-round bye because teams were awarded one before the season even began.”

The 14-team proposal would’ve made things weird as recent as the college football season that just wrapped up. Big Ten champ Michigan would’ve been awarded a bye regardless, as the Wolverines finished first in the College Football Playoff standings, but SEC champ Alabama was down in fourth heading into the Playoff after an early season loss to Texas. The Big 12 champ Longhorns made the Playoff as the 3 seed, but because they weren’t in the SEC yet, they wouldn’t have gotten a bye even if they were the two seed, as Alabama would jump over a team it lost against to get a bye. Pac-12 champ Washington was unbeaten as the 2 seed, but it would have to give up a bye in the proposed 14-team model for Alabama.

In 2022, the SEC champ (Georgia) and Big Ten champ (Michigan) were the top two seeds, so it would’ve worked out that way there, not needing a rule in place to give the two conferences their precious byes. But in the semifinals that season, the Big 12’s TCU beat Michigan.

In 2021, Alabama and Michigan were the top two seeds, so again, no rule needed to get them into that spot. The same would be said in 2019, where LSU and Ohio State were the top two seeds.

So, more often than not lately, the Big Ten champs and SEC champs would have the top two seeds anyway. Putting in a rule to where that must be the case seems unnecessary. If one season the Big Ten or SEC champ finishes the year with three losses while there is an unbeaten Clemson, Florida State, Utah or Oklahoma State only for the Big Ten and SEC champs to receive byes would be a step backward for the sport that is just starting to figure this postseason thing out. It’s another attempt to try to gatekeep the college football ecosystem for the bluebloods.

“We need to let the teams decide it on the field and reward those who are most deserving,” Gundy said.

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