New Playoff format a Big Two fast track or maybe six new tiers of college football

New Playoff format a Big Two fast track or maybe six new tiers of college football

With increasing frequency, the Big Two (and not the Power Four) define the top of the college football world. Even ‘Big Two’ is impressive enough to be called squishy. Around the bottom of the SEC and the Big Ten, college football programs aren’t in the top tier for anything.

The distinctions, ‘Power Four’ and ‘Big Two’ are mostly defined by conference media rights deals. Discussing National Championships in the CFB Playoff era, ‘Power Three’ barely applies. Six of the ten National Championships in the Playoff era have been won by SEC teams. Big Ten teams have won two and Clemson has won two for the ACC.

Debates for expanding the Playoff field often use the words equity and parity. Those words will be used again when the field expands to 14 or 16 teams. Two other words better describe the value of expanded fields; excitement and dollars. More teams and more games will be great fun for college football fans. Treasure troves of dollars will follow.

What triggered my thoughts about college football’s future was the tweet below.

The bottom row of partially visible teams are LSU, Oregon and TCU. The top row of Alabama, Georgia and Clemson have won 20 or the 30 Playoff games.

We can’t predict the future and any answer to the hypothetical will take at least four or five years for clarity. My wild guess of what might happen is the emergence of what will become six tiers of college football.

Tier One will include National Championship Game winners, going back to the 2015 Playoff. Currently, Tier One would be Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, LSU, and Michigan. Tier Two would be the teams to win a CFB Playoff semi-final game; currently Oregon, Washington, and TCU. Starting in 2024-25; Tier Three would be teams to win a quarter-final game; Tier Four would be winning a Playoff game; Tier Five would be making a Playoff field.

The bottom tier would be all the programs never making the Playoffs. For many the sixth tier could become a kind of college football Neverlandakin to Peter Pan stories, in which those programs are frozen in time. The lowest tier could also be called The Abyssbecause that is exactly what never-ever Playoff programs would be staring into.

All of this is crazy conjecture – right? Maybe and maybe not. At some point college football’s perennial losers will be defined by the programs never to make the Playoffs.

Note: Detailed CFB Playoff history is available here.

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