CLEMSON — The College Football Playoff could soon be expanding.
Expansion discussions have ramped up since it was released in late April that CFP decision makers were studying six, eight, 10, 12 and 16-team formats. The CFP’s four-person working group announced its recommendation to move to a 12-team model on Thursday.
The proposed format would include the six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large spots. The four highest-ranked champions would receive a first-round bye, while the other eight teams would play first-round games on campuses of the higher-ranked team.
Quarterfinals and semifinals would be played at bowl games, and the quarters scheduled for Jan. 1, or Jan. 2 if New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday. The rankings wouldn’t factor possible rematches, and the bracket would remain throughout the entirety of the playoff.
A four-man group, the recommendation comes from SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick.
“No conference would qualify automatically and there would be no limit on the number of participants from a conference,” the proposal states.
The recommendation will now move on to the CFP Management Committee, which includes 10 FBS commissioners and Swarbrick. The committee is set to meet next week in Chicago.
The current 12-year CFP contract with ESPN expires after the 2025-26 season. The proposed model could potentially benefit teams outside of the Power Five, as no program from the Group of Five has ever participated in the CFP.
Clemson has made six-consecutive appearances in the playoff, winning two national championships in the four-team format. The Tigers only missed the CFP in its inaugural year when they finished 10-3. Clemson fell this past season to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl; the year before the Tigers defeated the Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl, before falling to LSU in the title game.
Although Thursday’s news is just the first step in a long process, the new model would completely reshape the college football landscape. Conference championships would still hold value, high-caliber nonconference games could set teams up for at-large bids and playoff games on campuses could prove beneficial to the sport as a whole.
For Clemson specifically, making a run in the CFP would be of more importance than just earning a bid. An expanded playoff would make that possible. And that expansion could come sooner rather than later.