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What last season’s College Football Playoff field would have looked like under proposed 12-team bracket


The announcement Thursday that a subcommittee examining the College Football Playoff recommended expanding the current four-team system to a 12-team model puts on the table the possibility of a fundamental realignment of the sport, uncharacteristic of previous alterations to the system of determining a national champion that typically have been incremental adjustments.

The new approach would address issues related to accessibility for Power Five league and Group of Five schools left out of the selection process in recent years, and open the door for more at-large berths. But it would also lengthen the postseason by at least one game and possibly two for those playing in the first round.

The new plan would also have ripple effects for the regular season, and impact the value of conference championship games and other in-season matchups that would affect seeding rather than a place in the field. The drama and debate over who is No. 4 is significantly different than arguments for and against who is No. 12.

Alabama's Brian Branch (14) broke up a pass intended for Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba in last season's national championship game.

Alabama’s Brian Branch (14) broke up a pass intended for Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba in last season’s national championship game.

To get a better sense of the positives and negatives, let’s break down what the playoff field would have looked like last season under the proposed 12-team plan announced Thursday.

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As a reminder, this is how last year’s field played out, with the committee rankings for each team:

The first part of the new proposal sees the top six conference champions in the committee rankings included in the field, with the first four receiving first-round byes:

  • No. 1 Alabama (SEC champions)

  • No. 2 Clemson (ACC champions)

  • No. 3 Ohio State (Big Ten champions)

  • No. 6 Oklahoma (Big 12 champions)

  • No. 8 Cincinnati (American Athletic champions)

  • No. 12 Coastal Carolina (Sun Belt champions)

Six at-large selections would have gone to the next six teams in the committee’s order:

  • No. 4 Notre Dame (ACC at-large)

  • No. 5 Texas A&M (SEC at-large)

  • No. 7 Florida (SEC at-large)

  • No. 9 Georgia (SEC at-large)

  • No. 10 Iowa State (Big 12 at-large)

  • No. 11 Indiana (Big Ten at-large)

First-round games would have been played on campus sites, with the No. 5 seed hosting the No. 12 seed, No. 6 hosting No. 11, and so on. That would have created the following first round:

  • No. 12 Coastal Carolina at No. 4 Notre Dame

  • No. 11 Indiana at No. 5 Texas A&M

  • No. 10 Iowa State at No. 7 Florida

  • No. 9 Georgia at No. 8 Cincinnati

The winners of the first round would have advanced to the quarterfinals at a bowl site. For purposes of this explainer, we will assume the higher seed wins:

  • No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 8 Cincinnati

  • No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 7 Florida

  • No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 5 Texas A&M

  • No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Notre Dame

The winner of the Alabama-Cincinnati game would have faced the winner of the Oklahoma-Notre Dame matchup. The winner of the Clemson-Florida game would have faced the winner of the Ohio State-Texas A&M matchup.

Had the higher-ranked teams prevailed in the fictional quarterfinals, the matchups for the semifinals would have been the same as they were selected by the committee.

So what does this new model achieve? Yes, there are significantly more spots available, especially to half of the field, which had previously not made the playoff. Two Group of Five schools would have been in the field after previously being shut out. However, the Pac-12 still would have been without a team, while the SEC would have had four. The ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 would have had two each.

However, the matchups of the first round aren’t exactly what you would call compelling for a national audience. If the goal is to improve TV ratings and make things more interesting, is there an audience for Iowa State-Florida or Indiana-Texas A&M? Probably not.

But that appears to be where the sport is headed. It will take some getting used to, as it did for previous versions. And the cream will continually rise to the top in the biggest games.

Even changing the system won’t change that Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State will be there in the end.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College Football Playoff: Looking at a 12-team model for last season

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