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Expansion was always a possibility for the College Football Playoff and it appears it will happen as ESPN College Football Senior Writer Pete Thamel reported that the CFP will triple in size to 12 teams beginning in 2026.
The 12-team model is expected to start in 2026, after the current contract, according to a source. There's still a chance that it could go earlier, but those details are complicated and would take some time to work out. https://t.co/sRWlmiDvbe
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) September 2, 2022
The 12-team format will consist of the six highest-ranked conference champions and the six highest-ranked at-large teams, which guarantees that at least one school from the Group of 5 will lock into the CFB Playoff every year. It took eight years for a G5 school to make the playoff as Cincinnati was the first to do so last season.
Another key change to the playoff format will be that the first-round matchups will take place on the home school’s campus rather than at a neutral site bowl game.
The neutral-site playoff games will not begin until the quarterfinals.
“This is an historic and exciting day for college football,” said Mark Keenum, the President of Mississippi State and the chairman of the CFP Board of Managers, in a statement. “More teams, more participation and more excitement are good for our fans, alumni, and student-athletes. I’m grateful to my colleagues on the board for their thoughtful approach to this issue and for their resolve to get expansion across the goal line and for the extensive work of the Management Committee that made this decision possible.”
Where the playoff games are could also depend on how conference champions are ranked and matched up.
Here’s a note from the CFP board on how matchups could work:
‘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 #1, the Big Ten champion were ranked #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.’
In the eight-year history of the playoff, parity hasn’t been the name of the game as only 13 schools have made the exclusive postseason tournament.
“I’m very pleased we were able to get this accomplished and I look forward to expansion taking place,” Keenum said. “The four-team playoff has been highly popular and successful. I believe this new format will be even more popular and successful.”