While we’re still a long way from it becoming reality, but college football took a big step towards expanding the College Football Playoff to 12 teams.
There are still a number of hurdles and committees to go through until we get there, but the sport is closer than ever from expanding the playoff format from four teams to 12.
Related: College Football Playoff working group recommends expanding to 12 teams
This obviously impacts every program and conference in the country. But some are helped and others will have their own set of challenges to navigate.
Winners: The SEC and Big Ten
In the new format, there will be six spots given to conference champions and six spots that go to at-large programs.
Those at-large berths will get gobbled up by the Big Ten and SEC. In the last four seasons, programs such as Florida, Penn State and Wisconsin would all have multiple College Football Playoff appearances. In the four-team model, those programs still have zero.
Georgia would benefit as well, as the Bulldogs are one of four teams to finish ranked in the top-12/ as one of the six-highest ranking non-conference champions in each of the past four seasons. The only other programs that can claim that are Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma.
Related: What a 12-team College Football Playoff would mean for Georgia football
The Big 12, PAC-12 and ACC also stand to benefit, but recent seasons have shown that those leagues haven’t been able to cram as many teams inside that top-12 ranking.
Losers: Notre Dame(and other independents)
With 12 teams in the field, there will be four teams getting a bye. Those four teams will be the highest-ranked conference champions, as the committee wanted to put an emphasis on winning your conference.
There are a handful of teams though that are not in a conference. One in particular, Notre Dame, has frequently drawn criticism for not being one. Now there will be a slight downside to not being in the ACC.
The Fighting Irish now will not be able to earn a bye due to their lack of conference affiliation. The only way Notre Dame, along with BYU, Army, New Mexico State, Liberty, Connecticut and UMass, can make the College Football Playoff is by an at-large spot.
Until the system is enacted — which won’t be until 2023 at the earliest — we won’t know what kind of impact a bye will have on teams but it is bound to be positive effect more often than not. And the wear and tear that comes from an extra game could make it all the tougher for Notre Dame to win a national championship.
Winners: Group of 5 champions
There’s an important point of clarification as the proposal was put forth. The six automatic qualifiers go to the six highest-ranking conference champions. That does not mean it will go to the five Power 5 conference champions and the highest-ranked Group of 5 champion.
For example, the 2020 season would’ve seen AAC champion Cincinnati and Sun Belt winner Coastal Carolina. PAC-12 champion Oregon would not have made the College Football Playoff.
More often than not, only one Group of 5 team will earn its way into the College Football Playoff. But that is still an improvement over the current set-up, where no Group of 5 team has gotten close to sniffing a berth.
We’ve already seen a handful of Group 5 teams upset Power 5 foes in New Years Six games. Imagine how much more fun those games would be if they had even higher stakes on the line. The Georgia-Cincinnati game proved that this past year, with Bulldogs needing a late field goal to take down the Bearcats.
Losers: The top four teams
The working group that proposed the recommendation stated that the quarterfinal games will be played at bowl sites and will either take place on Jan. 1 or Jan. 2.
That’s not dissimilar from the current set-up but it feels like a letdown when you consider that the first-round games will be played on campus. So teams seeded five through eight get an extra home game and thus extra revenue.
Meanwhile the top four teams, that won their conferences as well, will play their first game at a neutral site venue. That doesn’t feel like quite the same reward. Yes there is the bye, but if we really want to reward the top teams on their seasons, couldn’t the first-round games be neutral sites and the quarterfinal games be on campus?
Early indications are that the quarterfinal set-up will be the biggest sticking point as the various committees attempt to approve the proposal.
Winners: First-round games
The first-round games will be played two weeks after the conference championship games. That likely means the games will fall on the Saturday after the early signing period, making that easily the biggest week of the college football season.
These games will also be played on campus, which is an absolute win for the sport. It’s another chance to showcase the best part of college football, the unique atmospheres on the various college campuses.
These matchups also could make for some pretty great weather spectacles. For example, had this format existed in 2020, Georgia would’ve traveled to Cincinnati. We imagine it would’ve been played on a cold December Saturday.
Related: College Football Playoff expansion talk swirling, Georgia would benefit from 12-team model
In 2018, we would’ve seen Georgia host LSU in Sanford Stadium in a first-round game. The next season would’ve seen Georgia host Memphis.
Ideally, the first-round and quarterfinal games would be played on campus. But to just get the first-round games is still a win for the sport.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation