College Football Playoff rankings 2022: What a 12-team playoff would look like

Here is what a 12-team College Football Playoff bracket would have looked like for this season.

With the four-team field set for this holiday season, we are all wondering what a College Football Playoff bracket would have looked like had this method been in use for the 2022 college season.

To set the stage, the consensus of what this particular format would be is 12 teams featuring the six highest-ranked conference champions, as well as six additional at-large bids. The four highest-ranked conference champions would get first-round byes into the national quarterfinals, which would all be held at the following neutral-site locations: Cotton, Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls.

It would have been exponentially crazier this year, as two of the four teams getting in (TCU and Ohio State) did not win their conference championships…

What a 12-team College Football Playoff bracket would have looked like for 2022

If the 12-team format were implemented for the 2022 college season, here is precisely what expanded the College Football Playoff bracket would have looked like.

  1. Georgia Bulldogs (SEC Champion): Bye
  2. Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten Champion): Bye
  3. Clemson Tigers (ACC Champion): Bye
  4. Utah Utes (Pac-12 Champion): Bye
  5. TCU Horned Frogs vs. No. 12 Tulane Green Wave (AAC Champion)
  6. Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 11 Penn State Nittany Lions
  7. Alabama Crimson Tide vs. No. 10 USC Trojans
  8. Tennessee Volunteers vs. No. 9 Kansas State Wildcats (Big 12 Champion)

The four teams getting a bye would be SEC champion Georgia, Big Ten champion Michigan, ACC champion Clemson and Pac-12 champion Utah. This would have been immensely controversial, as the No. 3 seed in this format was ranked No. 7 and the No. 4 seed was ranked No. 8. The rules are the rules, but you can clearly see how chaos can massively impact this particular 12-team format.

While it is all bonkers this time around, the really cool part about expanding the playoff field from four teams to 12 is we would be allowed to see essentially four first-round games be played on campuses. Weather permitting (in the Buckeyes’ case mostly here), TCU, Ohio State, Alabama and Tennessee would all get to host home playoff games in their sacred college football cathedrals.

Here are what the four first-round games would look have looked like if implemented this season.

  • No. 12 Tulane Green Wave at No. 5 TCU Horned Frogs (Fort Worth, TX)
  • No. 11 Penn State Nittany Lions at No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes (Columbus, OH*)
  • No. 10 USC Trojans at No. 7 Alabama Crimson Tide (Tuscaloosa, AL)
  • No. 9 Kansas State Wildcats at No. 8 Tennessee Volunteers (Knoxville, TN)

* Home teams are allowed to go to a stadium of their choosing. In Ohio State’s case, the Buckeyes could in theory play Penn State at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis or Ford Field in Detroit to avoid playing its first-round game in the elements. This only really applies to teams who play in harsher northern climates, as teams from the south may not have to navigate sub-freezing temperatures.

Here is what the national quarterfinals would have looked like with the correct bowl designations.

  • Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA): No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs vs. No. 8 Tennessee Volunteers/No. 9 Kansas State Wildcats
  • Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA): No. 2 Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 7 Alabama Crimson Tide/No. 10 USC Trojans
  • Orange Bowl (Miami Gardens, FL): No. 3 Clemson Tigers vs. No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes/No. 11 Penn State Nittany Lions
  • Cotton Bowl (Arlington, TX): No. 4 Utah Utes vs. No. 5 TCU Horned Frogs/No.12 Tulane Green Wave

Georgia gets the Sugar Bowl, awaiting the winner of Tennessee and Kansas State from Knoxville. Michigan claims the Rose Bowl and would face the winner of Alabama vs. USC from Tuscaloosa. Clemson earns the Orange Bowl and would take on the winner of Ohio State vs. Penn State from Columbus. Utah gets the Cotton Bowl and will face the winner of TCU vs. Tulane from Fort Worth.

With the Fiesta and Peach Bowls as this year’s national semifinals, the highest advancing team from the national quarterfinals would pick the next bowl of its choice. As it was this year, Georgia would have picked the Peach Bowl for the national semifinals, assuming the Dawgs got past either No. 8 Tennessee in a rematch or No. 9 Big 12 champion Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl.

Ultimately, the expanded 12-team format does a lot of good, but does have one serious flaw: What happens when the best team does not win its conference championship? This format largely gets the top 12 teams right, with the Group of Five winner getting shoehorned in, but teams like Clemson and Utah getting first-round byes, while TCU has to play in the first round feels so wrong.

Then again, this new format places a massive incentive on winning your conference championship.

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