Conference Realignment and College Football Playoff Implications


Conference realignment has been the hot topic for the past couple of weeks, and for good reason. We have more West Coast Pac-12 schools joining the predominantly Midwest Big Ten. Additionally, the Arizona schools, Utah, and Colorado are joining the Big 12, leaving the Pac-12 with just four remaining schools: Cal, Oregon State, Stanford, and Washington State. Is the shuffle over? Will the Mountain West join the Pac-12? Will the Pac-12 still be considered a “Power 5” conference? Regardless of what happens, the outcome will change how College Football Playoff teams are chosen. This article will delve into how the teams are decided and what I think might change.

The current expanded playoff selection, set to begin in 2024, has the six highest-ranked conference champions receiving auto bids, while the rest of the field will be determined by the remaining six highest-ranked teams. The four highest-ranked conference champions will also receive a first-round bye. Let’s take a look at each conference to provide everyone an idea of what each team faces. NOTE: Notre Dame, UConn, Army, and UMass are independent and can only make the playoffs as the remaining six highest-ranked teams.

Is this a format that can survive with the way the field will look in 2024 when the expanded playoff is set to start? I don’t think so. I like the concept of conference champions getting auto bids, but I believe that must go away because: 1. Not every conference is created equally. 2. The field is just large enough to accommodate every conference winner making the playoffs, but you’d be omitting most good teams (think College Basketball Playoff).

Let’s transition to potential conference winners. Is it fair for a team that won a conference of four teams to really make the college football playoff? Say they add the Mountain West; is that conference good enough to earn a team the right to an auto-bid? The odds are that if you’re undefeated, you’re in, regardless of conference. But consider the Big Ten, which is set to have 18 schools in the conference. Those teams will be at a massive disadvantage in terms of earning an auto-bid, as it will be, logistically, the hardest conference to win (most teams).

Enough of me yelling at the clouds; what would I change it to? I think you should literally take the top 12 ranked teams in the country, and the top four get auto bids – simple, right? Well, Mr. Walk-On Moose, sir, we should reward conference champions! I agree with the voice in my head that can’t be medically removed. I think conference champions WILL be rewarded based on how the College Football Playoff Committee views that team. Conference championship games can and will be used as a factor in the ranking. This whole realignment thing isn’t done, so rather than revising the College Football Playoff format a million times, let’s cut the thinking out of it and just pick the top 12 teams. Let’s look at the last three end-of-season rankings (the ones they use to determine playoffs) and show what the field of 12 would look like with the current format and my proposed format.


The changes seem minuscule, but I believe those small changes will improve the product by not only putting the best teams in the playoff but also ensuring the correct seeding. Now, some of you reading might say, “Mr. Walk-On Moose, by removing the conference championship auto bid, you lose out on a very good Tulane team getting the opportunity to play.” Well, I will take your loss of Tulane and raise you a gain of Coastal Carolina in 2020 – a team that would’ve deserved to be in the playoff way more than Oregon did that year.

What would you change? Would you change anything? Please let me know via X (formally known as Twitter) @walkonmoose. And as always, I conclude with a statement of gratitude – you could’ve been spending your time bettering yourself, but you chose to read over my opinion of college football. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you did or hated it so much that you want to tear apart the rest of my work, go check it out at The Walk-On Redshirts website.


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