What If College Football Is Already Planning A 12-Team Playoff?

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 03: LaMichael James #21 of the Oregon Ducks runs the ball against the LSU Tigers at Cowboys Stadium on September 3, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The playoff selection committee is also taking charge of four other marquee bowl matchups, making for a six-game New Year's blowout. Which means we're just a flip of a switch away from a 12-team playoff, instead of a four-team playoff.

The coming college football playoff system isn't just going to sit at four teams for a while and then expand to eight eventually. The officially adopted four-team plan incorporates four non-playoff games so closely -- the same committee will pick the four playoff teams and the eight BCS 2.0 bowl teams -- that it's hard to see this as anything other than an eventual 12-team tournament, and it could even convert before that 12-year agreement is up.

Just look at how SI.com's Stewart Mandel breaks down what the 2011 selection committee's field would've looked like. From the undercard's Clemson-Baylor touchdown barrage in Atlanta to the New Year's Day rematch (ewwwww, rematch!) of LSU and Oregon, that's a neat little two-day event there, and it would set up a title game pretty much free of complaints over who was excluded and a title game with two teams that had actually played football in the past 40 days.

But look closer. This isn't just a playoff with a bowl attachment for the sake of having a bowl attachment. That's a 12-team playoff just waiting on the first No. 5 team to squawk loud enough for somebody to turn the money key. (Large amounts of money are held in money safes, which are locked by money keys. Most people don't know that.)

Let's use Mandel's bracket -- I'm sorry, six-team bowl event -- as an example. We'd have to add a few bowls to the rotation, but hey! Free money! Roll around in it! Why not!

This kind of thing would give the top four teams one-round byes:

  • Chick-fil-A: No. 11 Clemson vs. No. 13 Baylor
  • Sugar: No. 1 LSU vs. Clemson-Baylor winner
  • Capital One: No. 9 South Carolina vs. No. 10 Boise State
  • Fiesta: No. 2 Oklahoma State vs. South Carolina-Boise State winner
  • Champions: No. 6 Arkansas vs. No. 7 Kansas State
  • Orange: No. 3 Alabama vs. Arkansas-Kansas State winner
  • Rose: No. 5 Stanford vs. No. 8 Wisconsin
  • Cotton: No. 4 Oregon vs. Stanford-Wisconsin winner
Voila! A 12-team playoff, using a system we'll already have a few years to get used to, all based around New Year's. As long as the committee shows it can accommodate both deserving power conference teams and outstanding mid-majors, we're all set.


Playoff Stuff We Still Get To Argue About
But while we're here anyway, let's also take a look below at how the last 15 years of the six-bowl thing could've shaken out, just so we can get good and used to it. Feel free to also imagine those eventual 12-team playoff possibilities here. I cannot stop you from imagining things.

One liberty I took here, for the sake of simplicity: ignoring the part about semifinal bowls being ordained ahead of time. Everything's going to break down according to conference ties -- the Champions (which we're placing in Dallas here, I guess) gets the SEC and/or Big 12 playoff host or, failing that, the SEC and Big 12 champs. Likewise for the Rose with Big Ten and Pac-12 teams and with the Orange and the ACC. All other teams get slotted so that the higher-ranking teams in the mind of the hypothetical selection committee get to "host" the closest remaining bowl.

The Champions Bowl becomes just that, hosting a playoff game almost all the time -- even in 2006, Florida ranked No. 2 in real life, but that was somewhat due to the polls keeping Michigan from playing Ohio State again, a little manual rematch-avoidance. The Rose Bowl remains a pristine jewel, preserved for all eternity as a scholarly champions' battle between the Big Ten and Pac-12, and oh no now there's Louisville's KFC all over the parking lot, and Georgia fans just keep coming back. Most of the time it's preserved.

But here we have it -- something sort of like this is what we're working with as of 2014 (numbers by names are pre-bowl AP rankings, which won't always line up with seeding):

Rose Champions Orange Sugar Chick-fil-A Fiesta

2011 4 Stanford vs. 9 Wisconsin 1 LSU vs. 6 Oregon 7 Arkansas vs. 14 Clemson 2 Alabama vs. 3 Oklahoma State 8 Boise State vs. 13 Baylor 10 South Carolina vs. 11 Kansas State

2010 2 Oregon vs. 3 TCU 1 Auburn vs. 4 Wisconsin 7 Michigan State vs. 12 Virginia Tech 8 Arkansas vs. 9 Oklahoma 6 Ohio State vs. 10 Boise State 5 Stanford vs. 11 LSU

2009 7 Oregon vs 8 Ohio State 1 Alabama vs. 4 TCU 9 Georgia Tech vs. 10 Iowa 2 Texas vs. 3 Cincinnati 5 Florida vs. 12 Virginia Tech 6 Boise State vs. 11 Penn State

2008 6 Penn State vs. 15 Oregon 1 Oklahoma vs. 5 USC 10 Ohio State vs. 21 Virginia Tech 4 Alabama vs. 9 Boise State 2 Florida vs. 3 Texas 7 Utah vs. 8 Texas Tech

2007 1 Ohio State vs. 4 Georgia 2 LSU vs. 3 Oklahoma 5 Virginia Tech vs. 10 Hawai'i 7 Missouri vs. 12 Arizona State 9 Florida vs. 11 West Virginia 6 USC vs. 8 Kansas

2006 1 Ohio State vs. 5 Louisville 4 LSU vs. 7 Oklahoma 8 USC vs. 15 Wake Forest 6 Wisconsin vs. 10 Auburn 2 Michigan vs. 3 Florida 9 Boise State vs. 11 Notre Dame

2005 1 USC vs. 4 Ohio State 2 Texas vs. 3 Penn State 5 Notre Dame vs. 22 Florida State 7 Auburn vs. 11 West Virginia 8 Georgia vs. 9 Miami 6 Oregon vs. 10 LSU

2004 1 USC vs. 5 Utah 2 Oklahoma vs. 3 Auburn 8 Georgia vs. 9 Virginia Tech 6 Texas vs. 10 Boise State 7 Louisville vs. 13 Michigan 5 California vs. 11 Iowa

2003 7 Ohio State vs. 15 Washington State 1 Oklahoma vs. 4 Michigan 8 Kansas State vs. 9 Florida State 2 LSU vs. 3 USC 10 Miami vs. 11 Georgia 5 Texas vs. 6 Tennessee

2002 2 Ohio State vs. 4 Georgia 8 Oklahoma vs. 13 Alabama 3 Iowa vs. 16 Florida State 6 Kansas State vs. 11 Notre Dame 1 Miami vs. 5 USC 7 Washington State vs. 9 Texas

2001 2 Oregon vs. 3 Colorado 9 Texas vs. 12 Louisiana State 6 Maryland vs. 10 Oklahoma 7 Illinois vs. 8 Tennessee 1 Miami vs. 5 Florida 4 Nebraska vs. 13 Washington State

2000 4 Washington vs. 14 Purdue 1 Oklahoma vs. 5 Oregon State 2 Miami vs. 3 Florida State 6 Virginia Tech vs. 11 Kansas State 7 Florida vs. 10 Notre Dame 8 Oregon vs. 9 Nebraska

1999 4 Wisconsin vs. 22 Stanford 5 Alabama vs. 14 Texas 1 Florida State vs. 7 Kansas State 6 Tennessee vs. 8 Michigan 2 Virginia Tech vs. 3 Nebraska 10 Florida vs. 11 Marshall

1998 3 Ohio State vs. 2 Florida State 1 Tennessee vs. 4 Kansas State 8 Texas vs. 12 Georgia Tech 5 Arizona vs. 9 Wisconsin 7 Florida vs. 10 Tulane 6 UCLA vs. 11 Arkansas

1997 1 Michigan vs. 3 Tennessee 2 Nebraska vs. 4 Florida State 7 UNC vs. 10 Kansas State 5 UCLA vs. 9 Ohio State 6 Florida vs. 11 Penn State 8 Washington State vs. 12 Georgia

In the comments below, I'll be happy to explain how any of these wound up as they did. The answer is probably egregious mistakes.

While we’re here, let’s watch some college football videos from SB Nation’s new YouTube channel together:

Check out the SB Nation Channel on YouTube

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