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College FB Roundup: Playoff Expands; Utes Falter; Ducks Crushed; Kelly Fizzles; Transfers Impress

The grownups finally showed up and took charge of the situation.

Last Friday a group of 11 University presidents and chancellors accomplished what their conference commissioners were unable to do—expand the College Football Playoff.

Like millions of college football fans, the presidents had grown tired of the commissioners’ petty posturing and self-interest.

So they basically said “enough,” and did what should have been done 12 months ago. They unanimously approved a 12-team playoff format, starting in 2026 at the latest.

The presidents’ group is known as the “College Football Playoff Board of Managers” and consists of a president or chancellor from each of the 10 FBS conferences (American Athletic, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Pac-12, SEC, and Sun Belt) and the University of Notre Dame.

The Board of Managers went with the original 12-team CFP proposal presented back in June of 2021, which included the six highest-ranked conference champions and the six highest-ranked at-large teams.

The 12-team format could begin as early as 2024, if ESPN (which pays some $470 million annually for exclusive rights to the playoff) and the commissioners can reach a modified rights agreement for the final two years of the original agreement.

The new TV deal for the 12-team model is expected to fetch $1.5 or 2 billion and involve more than one network.

Details: The four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded 1-4 with first-round byes; the No. 5-8 seeds will host 9-12 on the campus of the higher-seeded teams.

Quarterfinal and semifinal games will be played at rotating bowls, with the national championship continuing at neutral sites.

One of the biggest question marks involves the Rose Bowl. Will it be "protected" with a permanent position on New Year's Day and the traditional Big Ten vs. Pac-12 matchup? Or will it be included as one of the quarter-final or semi-final games?

It is now up to the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, who comprise the CFP Management Committee, to work out the nuts and bolts. Hopefully they’ll do a better job than when they failed to reach consensus on the 12-team format last year.

The committee is scheduled to meet this Thursday in Irving, Texas.

Here’s some free advice: Fellas, no one wants to wait four years for expansion to happen. Get it done. For once, put aside your petty grudges and get it done.

What This Means: The expansion pumped new life into the Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC, as well as all the Group of Five Conferences, because six conference champions are guaranteed playoff access. Not just the Big 2 (SEC and Big Ten).

That means, every year, every Power Five league (assuming they all survive realignment) should get in, plus at least one Group of Five conference.

Friday's news couldn't have come at a better time for the embattled Pac-12. Suddenly, the Pac-12 championship game has real meaning and the Pac-12 media rights have become more valuable.

Sanity Prevails: There was more good college FB news last week. The Division 1 Board of Directors voted against a modification to the transfer rules that would have allowed athletes to transfer multiple times and be immediately eligible.

Thankfully, this proposal had met with significant pushback from all sides—administrators, coaches, media, and fans—this summer. The specter of an athlete playing four years at four different schools was too much to bear. So athletes will continue to be able to transfer one time without having to sit out a year.

Black Mark for the SEC: The SEC—a league in which more than 60% of its players and just under half of its assistant coaches are black—again doesn’t have any black head football coaches. This despite 10 jobs having come open in the past three years.

Disgraceful. The SEC remains the only Power Five conference without a minority head coach. The Pac-12 and Big Ten each have three black coaches, the ACC two, and the Big 12 has one Latino coach.

Week 1 Impressions

Utes Falter: Utah’s playoff aspirations and the already weak stature of the Pac-12 took major hits when the No. 7 Utes lost to unranked Florida, 29-26.

It was a great game, back and forth, with plenty of outstanding plays. The Gators’ quarterback, Anthony Richardson, is going to be a superstar.

The Utes drove the length of the field in the closing seconds and had a first and goal on the Florida six-yard line, but quarterback Cam Rising threw a brutal interception that cost his team the game.

Ducks Grounded: If that wasn’t bad enough, No. 11 Oregon was absolutely crushed by No. 3 Georgia, 49-3. Pac-12 teams have lost eight of their last nine season-opening games to SEC teams.

It’s only week 1, but I wouldn’t bet against Georgia successfully defending its national championship. The Bulldogs looked frighteningly good against the overmatched Ducks.

There is a God: Brian Kelly, who left Notre Dame last year while his team was still contending for a College Football Playoff bid, lost his first game as LSU coach last night when Florida State blocked the Tigers’ extra point attempt on the final play to win 24-23.


Transfers Shine: I wrote last week about the abundance of transfer quarterbacks. Out of 130 FBS college football programs, 61 transfer QBs earned starting jobs to begin the season, including 40 who transferred this year, according to the Athletic.

Several of them made impressive debuts over the weekend, including three in the Pac-12.

As expected, Caleb Williams (the transfer from Oklahoma) sparkled in USC's 66-14 win over Rice. Two others to watch this year are Arizona’s Jayden de Laura (from Washington State) and Washington's Michael Penix Jr. (Indiana). Both threw for four touchdowns on Saturday—de Laura in Arizona's surprising 38-20 upset win over San Diego State and Penix in Washington's 45-20 rout of Kent State.

Empty Seats: A few of the Week 1 non-conference matchups didn’t excite Pac-12 fans. UCLA announced an attendance of 27,143 for its opener with Bowling Green, and Stanford announced 26,826 for its curtain riser with Colgate.

Those numbers represent tickets sold. The number of actual butts in seats was considerably lower in both cases.

It won’t get any better the next two weeks for the Bruins at home against Alabama State and South Alabama in the 90,000 seat Rose Bowl.

Hopefully, Stanford will draw well against USC on Saturday afternoon in Palo Alto. Given USC’s upcoming move to the Big Ten in 2024, and the fact that next year’s game is in Los Angeles, it may be the last chance for Stanford fans to boo the hated Trojans.

Trust me, I’ll be there to take advantage of the opportunity.


Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//

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