Will expanded playoff field deliver more CFB title winners?

March 10, 2023 by Staff

The College Football Playoffs will be expanding for the 2024/25 season, bringing with it all the increased excitement of extra football with high stakes.

Since the NCAA initiated the playoff system in 2013/14, the system has been an overwhelming success. There has been a little bit of a debate regarding how the teams are ranked over the course of the campaign, but these arguments have been more or less muted by the quality of games on offer.

Standout Results

There has been the odd case where a team has simply been outplayed, such as the Georgia Bulldogs’ domination of the TCU Horned Frogs in the 2023 National Championship Game. The Bulldogs were relentless against their opponents from the Big 12, who had only lost one game before the contest, losing out to Kansas State Wildcats in the Big 12 Championship. However, TCU beat the Michigan Wolverines in the College Semi-Finals and rightfully earned their place in the National Championship Game before being blown out in a 65-7 defeat to Kirby Smart’s team.

The Horned Frogs were not the first team to be beaten by the powerhouse Georgia program and will certainly not be the last. Even established outfits such as the Alabama Crimson Tide lost out to the Bulldogs in the 2022 National Championship Game in a one-sided game. Out of the nine Championship games played since the inception of the playoffs, five have been by double-digit victories, while the other four games have been tense affairs. It proves that you don't know what you're going to get when two top teams collide for the crown.

Although TCU were overmatched, they earned their spot ahead of other more illustrious names in the college game. One of the pleasing aspects of the new system is that reputation counts for little. All the teams competing in the post-season are there on merit rather than the reputation of their program. It gives teams such as the TCU Horned Frogs their day in the spotlight, albeit not the cinderella story that they would have hoped for before kick-off.

You are going to those results even with an expanded field, but it will give the opportunity for teams to get hot at the right time to potentially win the crown. There aren’t many surprise winners of the National Championship unlike the NFL, where teams can sneak up on the outside and reach the Super Bowl as the sixth or seventh seed in their respective conference. The 2007 New York Giants are a prime example of a team that found the perfect blend on the field at the right time. They surged through the field in the NFC Conference as the fifth seed before stunning the unbeaten New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. 

College football is in danger of being a closed shop at the top of the game. The dominant programs such as the Bulldogs, Crimson Tide, Clemson Tigers and Ohio State Buckeyes have been a constant presence in the playoffs, leaving little room for new teams to emerge. Unlike the NFL where parity is encouraged through the draft where the weakest side has the opportunity to secure the top player out of the college ranks, the leading programs have the ability to recruit top prospects out of high school to ensure they remain on top.

The Horned Frogs are a good example of why fresh blood is required to mix up the zeitgeist. Although they failed to win the crown, the Horned Frogs can now build on their charge to the National Championship Game to attempt to lure a higher standard of recruits in the future. It is a good thing for the competition and the game at the college level as a whole.

Marketing The Game

Adding a further eight teams into the system gives College Football the same levels of drama that will be played over three weeks rather than two. The only disappointment with the current college playoffs is that it is over in the blink of an eye. The addition of an extra week of action from the best teams in the game will only continue to raise the profile of teams and players in the United States, but also overseas.

It also hands greater opportunities for bettors and the leading sportsbooks to secure further growth in revenue from college football with more odds and lines available for the standout games. Betting on College Football Playoffs has allowed the game to compete with the NFL for standing on the national stage, and it’s certainly a beneficial approach for all parties.

The top sportsbooks on the market are always looking to improve their levels of service for customers, offering a range of intriguing betting options and new features, including live streaming of select games from the playoffs. This further enhances the reach of the game, although betting on college sports is not universally available across the United States, even in locations where sports betting is active. 

There are numerous new revenue streams available for college football, notably the increase in revenue from television companies for staging an extra week of games. College programs and local businesses will also be grateful for the additional game available to pack out their stadia, offering huge boosts to the local economy.

There are certainly huge benefits from expanding the post-season financially, although there also has to be a careful balance to protect the integrity of the game as well as the health of the players, who will be tasked with putting their bodies through an additional week of action. 

There are also fears about watering down the level of competition and that teams from the SEC would have an advantage. The last four winners of the National Championship Game have been from the SEC, including two crowns for Georgia. Clemson Tigers and Ohio State have prevented an SEC sweep, and as long as those programs remain strong, the SEC is unlikely to dominate, but it will be a cause of concern.

Teams from the west coast have been far too quiet recently in the upper echelons of the game, and the expanded field would give USC Trojans, Oregon Ducks and UCLA Bruins the chance to receive greater exposure. The Trojans used to boast one of the strongest programs in the game, but have fallen off the map over the last 10 years.

Oregon has been the best team on the west coast for a number of years now and competed in the first College Football Playoffs in 2015 with Marcus Mariota at quarterback. They reached the National Championship Game only to lose out at the hands of Ohio State. The Ducks have unearthed a number of quality starters at quarterback, including Mariota, Justin Herbert and now Bo Nix. The 2023 season could see a return to the playoffs for the Ducks and the west coast. It would be timely too considering the shift in the balance of power in the game toward teams in the SEC. 

College football cannot afford to become solely based on teams in the SEC. To improve the brand and the overall product of the game, expanding the playoff system and a wider pool of winners could make it the second sport behind the NFL.