Analysis: What if 12-team College Football Playoff was here?

Dec 5, 2021, 10:21 AM | Updated: Dec 6, 2021, 6:41 am
Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) is tackled by Houston's Gervarrius Owens during the secon...

Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) is tackled by Houston's Gervarrius Owens during the second half of the American Athletic Conference championship NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

(AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

IRVING, Texas (AP) — A fun thing to do this season has to been ponder how the College Football Playoff race would have played out if expansion to 12 teams had already happened.

The CFP selection committee set the four-team field on Sunday, matching top-seeded Alabama against No. 4 Cincinnati in one semifinal and second-seeded Michigan against No. 3 Georgia in the other.

The committee ranks 25 teams to help fill out the lineup for some of the other marquee bowl games, too.

In the 12-team playoff model proposed earlier this year — and still being debated by the conference commissioners who manage the CFP — a selection committee would still have a role, but it would be less impactful because it would place more emphasis on winning a conference.

Which conferences are emphasized — if any — is one of biggest unresolved issues.

The original 12-team proposal included spots for the six highest-ranked conference champions and the next six highest-ranked teams, regardless of conference.

In the the last few weeks, the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference commissioners have pushed for a tweak that would guarantee automatic bids only to the Power Five conference champions and the highest-ranked champion from the other five conferences in the Bowl Subdivision.

That suggestion has not been well received by most of the other commissioners, especially those outside the Power Five who have been trying to get rid of that distinction.

“I think, to have credibility, I think there has to be a foundation of fairness, meaning you don’t give selected groups, divisions, conferences, in this case, preferred status. There isn’t any playoff that you can point to does that,” American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco said Sunday.

American Athletic champion Cincinnati made history Sunday, becoming the first team from outside the Power Five to reach the four-team playoff in its eight-year history.

But it should be noted that if a 12-team playoff format was used this season, the teams and seeds would have been no different if the so-called six-and-six model was used or the five-plus-one model.

The strange part about how this has become a sticking point in expansion talks is that using past final CFP rankings as an example, only last season would the best six conference champions not have included each Power Five winner.

Last season, both Cincinnati from the AAC and Coastal Carolina from the Sun Belt finished ahead of Pac-12 champion Oregon. But the Ducks played an abbreviated Pac-12 schedule because of the pandemic. There is little reason to believe that wasn’t an anomaly.

In the committee’s final rankings released Sunday, the second-highest ranked Group of Five conference champion was Louisiana-Lafayette of the Sun Belt at No. 23. The lowest-ranked Power five champion was Pittsburgh of the ACC at No. 12.

In fact, the losers of each Power Five conference championship game were all ranked ahead of Louisiana-Lafayette.

There could be a compromise between six-and-six and five-plus-one where if a second Group of Five conference champion finishes head of a Power Five champ, the G5 team is guaranteed a spot and one of the at-large spots is taken away. But that might not go over well with everybody, either.

Anyway, what would the playoff have looked like this season if the proposed 12-team format — in which the top four conference champions get first-round byes and those four first-round games are played on campus — was used?

Here goes, though we made one small tweak to the format (teams from the same conference should not play in the first round if it can be avoided with a small shift in seeds):

First round

No. 12 Pittsburgh at No. 5 Georgia

No. 11 Michigan State at No. 6 Notre Dame

No. 10 Utah at No. 7 Ohio State

No. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 8 Mississippi

Second round

Pitt-Georgia winner vs. Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl

Michigan State-Notre Dame winner vs. Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl

Utah-Ohio State winner vs. Michigan in the Rose Bowl

Oklahoma State-Ole Miss winner vs. Alabama in the Sugar Bowl


Follow Ralph D. Russo at and listen at


More AP college football: and Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter:

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Arizona Coyotes forward Barrett Hayton, left, collides with Anaheim Ducks defenseman John Klingberg...
Associated Press

Drop the puck: What to know about the 2022-23 NHL season

The NHL is back to normal with the regular season stretching from October through the middle of April before the two-month thrill ride that is the chase for the Stanley Cup. Over that time, teams are scheduled to play a total of 1,312 games over 189 days, starting with Nashville and San Jose facing off […]
1 day ago
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) and Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) battle for t...
Associated Press

LeBron in Vegas? He makes an expansion pitch to Adam Silver

LAS VEGAS (AP) — LeBron James came to Las Vegas for a preseason game. And a pitch. James, who has spoken in the past about wanting to eventually own an NBA franchise — with Las Vegas on his mind — sent a crystal-clear message to Commissioner Adam Silver on Wednesday night, reminding him of his […]
1 day ago
FILE - Dallas Stars' Jason Robertson skates during the third period of an NHL hockey game against t...
Associated Press

Stars sign 41-goal scorer Robertson to $31M, 4-year deal

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Jason Robertson has signed a $31 million, four-year contract with the Dallas Stars after the young 40-goal scorer missed the first two weeks of training camp. The Stars announced the deal late Wednesday night, after their exhibition game in Denver, only a week before the regular season opener Oct. 13 at […]
1 day ago
The ski slopes are almost devoid of snow at the Tūroa ski field, on Mt. Ruapehu, New Zealand on Se...
Associated Press

Missing snow puts famed New Zealand ski areas on precipice

TUROA SKI AREA, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s Turoa ski area is usually a white wonderland at this time of year, its deep snowpack supporting its famed spring skiing. This season, it’s largely a barren moonscape, with tiny patches of snow poking out between vast fields of jagged volcanic boulders. The ski area was […]
1 day ago
FILE - Kansas City Royals pitching coach Cal Eldred in the seventh inning of a baseball game, May 1...
Associated Press

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians. The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, […]
1 day ago
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) blocks a shot by Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25...
Associated Press

James scores 23 points, but not enough as Suns defeat Lakers

LAS VEGAS (AP) — LeBron James flashed his midseason form Wednesday night, scoring 23 points in 18 minutes before the Phoenix Suns beat the Los Angeles Lakers 112-115. James, who missed all seven of his shots in Los Angeles’ loss to Sacramento on Monday, was much more aggressive with the Lakers playing without Anthony Davis. […]
1 day ago
Analysis: What if 12-team College Football Playoff was here?