If the College Football Playoff Ever Expands, Here’s the Conference Realignment That Should Accompany It

In the past, I’ve been adamant about my support for the current four-team playoff system. I still stand by that, not because it is most advantageous to Clemson, which has a wide path to the playoff in the current format, but because it maintains the value of College Football’s Regular season and what shred of value remains with the non-playoff bowls.

That said, the unfortunate reality is that playoff systems enviably expand. More playoff games means more premium content. The NFL just expanded their playoff to 14 teams, opening the door for many 8-8 teams to sneak in. MLB recently added a second wild card team in each league with a ridiculous one-game playoff and are discussing adding a third wild card. The NCAA tournament is the biggest culprit. In 1968, the field consisted of just 23 teams. The next year the number grew to 25. In 1975, it grew to 32. In 1979 it moved to 40. By 1980 it was up to 48. Then 52 teams in 1983, 53 in 1984, and finally 64 in 1985. Play-in games were slowly added to reach the 68-team field we have today.

With the eventuality of expansion to six or eight teams, here’s a bold realignment plan that would allow six conference champions to claim automatic bids. It would help preserve the value of the regular season and create the best fan experience with the most meaningful conference matchups.

First, here are a few parameters I stayed within:

  1. I’m assuming these moves are happening in approximately the 2025 time frame, which is when the Big 12’s grant of rights, which ensures the conference owns each member’s TV rights, expires.
  2. For purposes of this exercise, I did not allow myself to “demote” teams that are already in a Power 5 conference.
  3. Some of these moves don’t make sense from a financial perspective under the current world of conference TV contracts. This assumes some sort of revenue sharing across conferences or otherwise prioritizes geography and rivalry, putting fans first.
  4. These six conferences receive automatic playoff bids and must have the same number of teams.
ACC Big 12 Big 10 Pac-12 SEC Eastern Athletic Conference (EAC)
Clemson Oklahoma Ohio St. Oregon Alabama Notre Dame
Florida St. Oklahoma St. Penn St. Oregon St. Auburn Navy
Virginia Tech TCU Wisconsin Washington Florida Boston College
Virginia Texas Michigan Washington St. Georgia Louisville
Miami Baylor Michigan St. Stanford Tennessee West Virginia
Georgia Tech Texas Tech Nebraska UCLA LSU Pittsburgh
Duke Texas A&M Indiana USC Vanderbilt Syracuse
UNC Kansas St. Iowa California Kentucky Rutgers
NCSU Kansas Minnesota Utah Mississippi St. Cincinnati
Wake Forest Colorado Purdue Arizona Ole Miss Temple
Maryland Iowa St. Illinois Arizona St. Arkansas UCF
U of SC BYU Northwestern Boise St. Missouri Memphis

Check out the video below for my explanation behind these moves and then let me know what you think in the comments below or on social media.

Conference Maps:

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