College Football Playoff moving to new format; How this helps South Carolina football

South Carolina football will have a better chance than ever to make their way to the College Football Playoff now that 12 teams (5 conference champs and 7 at-large teams) will get the chance to compete.

South Carolina football fans have a renewed optimism that their favorite team can win the College Football Playoff National Championship trophy one day.
South Carolina football fans have a renewed optimism that their favorite team can win the College Football Playoff National Championship trophy one day. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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College football fans are already anxious for the 2024 season to begin even though spring practice hasn't even started yet. From the South Carolina football program to the "other USC" on the West Coast, and everywhere in between, fans' optimism about their favorite teams is growing as the College Football Playoff takes on a new format next season.

It has been known for some time that the CFP would move to a 12-team playoff format, but with all of the conference realignment over the past two offseasons (Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, Oregon, Southern Cal, UCLA, and Washington to the Big-10, etc.), fans of the sport have been wondering exactly how the College Football Playoff committee would decide to fill those 12 spots each season.

On Tuesday, the College Football Playoff Board of Managers announced that the CFP would utilize a 5+7 format for the foreseeable future. This means that the five highest-ranked conference champions (likely to be the top dogs from the SEC, Big 10, Big 12, ACC, and one Group of 5 champ) will automatically make the postseason tournament, and the next seven highest-ranked teams will make the College Football Playoff as at-large invitees.

In the 10-year history of the College Football Playoff (in the 4-team format), only 15 total teams have had the opportunity to play for it all. Eight of those teams have only made the CFP once during that span, while six teams have played in a combined 29 College Football Playoffs. In other words, 29 of the 40 total CFP berths have gone to six teams (Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan, and Oklahoma).

Expanding the field to 12 teams opens up significantly more opportunities for non-blue blood programs like the South Carolina Gamecocks.

The Steve Spurrier-led South Carolina football team from 2011-2013 would have made a 12-team College Football Playoff if the committee's rankings looked similar to the AP poll those seasons. Other non-blue blood SEC teams like Ole Miss, Missouri, and Tennessee would have found themselves in at least one CFP.

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, a previous proposal of 6+6 (6 conference champions and 6 at-large teams) was tossed out as a realistic option. With the SEC and Big 10 being significantly better than the other Power-4 conferences and the Group of 5, fans can expect both leagues to get three of four teams into the CFP most seasons.

Five SEC bids is a possibility if certain scenarios play out, as well. For example, this season, four current SEC teams (Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and Ole Miss) and two future SEC teams (Texas and Oklahoma) finished inside the top-12 when the regular season ended.

For South Carolina football and similar programs, a top-6 finish in the SEC likely puts the team in CFP discussion, and a top-4 finish in the league makes an invitation very likely. For both the Big 10 and the SEC, a top-3 conference finish nearly will mean automatic CFP inclusion.

Right now, Shane Beamer's program has some work to do to get into top-12 contention, but with a step forward in 2024, the fan base will be optimistic about the future, perhaps thinking that a 2025 College Football Playoff invitation doesn't seem outrageously farfetched. In contrast, though, another losing season like 2023 will have the College Football Playoff trophy feeling as distant as ever for Gamecock fans.

Next. South Carolina Football: Gamecocks getting official visit from 5-star prospect. South Carolina Football: Gamecocks getting official visit from 5-star prospect. dark