The 5 yards that will get a team into a 12-team playoff
What a 12-team CFP would've looked like over the past decade, what it takes to get there and how far Nebraska has to go.
Happy New Year, and may good College Football Playoff games find you in 2024. As someone who never has New Year’s Eve plans, having the semifinals on the 31st didn’t bother me. If I’m going to be at home either way, I’ll take watching football over watching other people party in cities I’m not in.
But having these games on Jan. 1 is better. I consider it an ode to the way things used to be. It makes New Year’s Day feel like a holiday that can stand on its own instead of just the nice-to-have encore at the end of another marathon set from Holiday Season.
And, while the quality of contestants doesn’t guarantee a close a game, the games look pretty good on paper. You have smashy classicism in the Rose Bowl (Michigan-Alabama, 4 p.m. CT), splashy play-calling modernism in the Sugar Bowl (Washington-Texas, 7:45 p.m.) and Big Ten v. SEC both ways. Or at least we would if we used the conference affiliations that take effect later this year.
I’ll be thinking of that, our Power 2 preview, while watching tonight’s games, but I’ve been thinking about our 12-team-playoff future while I watched the other bowls, which seem to have devolved into increasingly ostentatious promos for junk food (and those are the good ones1).
Using the planned criteria2 for Playoff selection, I decided to do a 12-team CFP tally using the rankings of the last 10 seasons in hopes the past might offer a glimpse of the future. It does indeed point towards Big Ten/SEC dominance, but within that you get a glimpse of the variety we might get with 12 teams.
And, since we’re here, I decided to take one simple statistical look at what it’s going to take for a Power 5 team make the 12-team field based on the past decade. As Matt Rhule said of this year’s Playoff teams and their activity in the portal, “I think if you want to get to a certain spot, you should look at what those spots do.”
So, let’s look back to look ahead.