It looks like the College Football Playoff expansion will be occurring sometime in the near future.
In its brief history, Michigan State is the only in-state team to land in the playoff. Will the expansion allow Michigan to finally breakthrough and earn a seat at the table?
And what will an expanded playoff mean for the Michigan sports betting scene?
12-Team College Football Playoff Proposed
The four-team playoff for NCAA Division I-A football started in the 2014-15 season and has been running for the past years.
Earlier this month, a sub-group of the College Football Playoff’s management committee presented a proposal for changing the playoff format to a 12-team tournament.
Under the new proposal, the bracket would consist of the six highest-ranked conference champions, along with the next six highest-ranked teams based on the committee’s ranking.
No conference would qualify automatically, and there would be no limit on number of participants for a single conference.
The four highest-ranked conference champions would be seeded 1-4 and receive a first-round bye. Teams seeded fifth through 12th would play each other in the first round at the home field of the higher-ranked team.
Quarterfinals and semifinals would take place as part of the bowl game structure, while the championship game would be at a rotating neutral site each year.
The 12-team playoff will not be approved for the 2021-22 season, but the format could be in place in 2023.
What could have been for Michigan Wolverines
Michigan hasn’t been able to crack the code to get into the four-team playoff, but the Wolverines definitely would have been part of a 12-team College Football Playoff expansion in the past.
In 2018, Michigan ranked seventh in the final CFP rankings. In 2016, the Wolverines were sixth.
U-M would have just missed the cut in both 2015 and 2019, placing 14th.
Under the new proposed format, Michigan would have not only made the postseason, but hosted a first-round game in 2016 and 2018.
With Ohio State being the dominant program in the Big Ten Conference, the expanded playoff opens the door for Michigan and other teams to still compete for a national title.
A 10-win Michigan team is likely to get the benefit of the doubt from the CFP committee. Theoretically, a win over Ohio State is no longer necessary to make the playoffs.
Michigan State gets a shot (and so does the MAC)
Michigan State is the only in-state program to compete in the current College Football Playoff, as it did in the 2015 season.
MSU would have been a staple of the playoffs in its early days, had 12 teams been allowed. In 2014, MSU finished eighth in the rankings, which would have put it in as well.
Although the Spartans are in a rebuild, the expanded playoffs give MSU a more attainable goal to shoot for.
The same can be said for the Mid-American Conference programs in the state. Although the expanded playoff still doesn’t give every team a chance each season, it gives them a sliver of hope.
With the six highest-ranked conference champions being allowed in, a non-Power Five program is assured a spot each season. Should the MAC produce a dominant champion, they will have a chance.
In 2016, Western Michigan would have qualified under coach PJ Fleck. The 15th-ranked Broncos would have been the sixth conference champion in the final rankings to make the cut.
Expect college football futures odds to look different
Once the 12-team College Football Playoff expansion becomes reality, it is likely to significantly shake up futures odds for the sport.
Here’s what you can expect to happen when playoff expansion begins.
National title odds: The top-tier teams won’t see much change, but teams on that next tier could see shorter odds. The challenge now won’t be about making the playoffs, but making one’s way through the bracket. With odds improving to make the playoff, title odds have to be a little better for a larger swath of teams.
Playoff odds: These will definitely go down across the board. There won’t be as much reward with a wager, now that more teams will get in. However, being able to pinpoint that sixth conference champion qualifier could still provide a big payout.
Conference odds: A conference title will still be important, but not hold quite as much weight. Teams may be more strategic with players dealing with injuries, or not be as concerned about a single loss. It’s hard to say what the odds will look like in a conference race until we get into a season under these conditions, but they are sure to be affected in some way.
Win totals: In a similar fashion to conference odds, win totals are likely to see a little impact by the new format. There’s not as much emphasis on going unbeaten, so the importance of a singular win could diminish in a specific situation.