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Follow The Money- A Real Future CFP Model

Updated: Mar 11

I have been thinking about alternatives to the 14-team and 16-team CFP models that have been reported to being considered by the NCAA.


My thought has always been that whatever model was being discussed was never going to be a viable option until the financials were settled. I believe when you hear reports of numerous models being discussed and nothing being agreed upon that the root of the issue with every model is two things.


Representation- The SEC and B1G believe they the model must fairly reward them for what THEY consider to be a far more difficult schedule. This is why they are making demands of four guaranteed auto bids.


Money- It all comes down to the money, and I am going to ask you to think about and follow the money as I present to you a real future CFP model.

The SEC and B1G believe their conferences not only deserve half or more of the slots for the CFP. They believe they deserve more of the financial rewards of the postseason. Why? Because between these two conferences have dominated the 4-team CFP era.


4-team CFP Era

I have formatted these teams by what conferences they will be in starting with the 2024 season.

Conference in 4-team CFP

The two Dominant Conferences have accounted for 73% of the CFP participants. It will get worse. Assuming Clemson goes to the SEC and Florida St. to the B1G, that percentage grows to 90%.


The truth is only Notre Dame can even claim that their participation is as important to driving interest and TV ratings which leads to the revenue.


The Conference Championship game ratings tell the story of interest in the Power 5 conferences. Here are the ratings for the last 10 years.

TV Ratings for the Conference Championship games

The 2020 ACC Championship game had Notre Dame in it and the ratings were 50% higher than they were without Notre Dame. The Pac12 had its most watched championship game last year- in its last year. The Big 12 ratings are 30-50 percent higher than those two conferences without those two games. The Big Ten is almost 30% higher than the Big 12. The SEC game eclipses all of the others.


When the SEC and B1G claim they should get more of the financial pie from the CFP they have plenty of data to back them up.


So, what is going to happen? The bad news is that very few seem to know, and they aren't saying. The good news is that it will happen quickly.




Something is just not right with most of what is being said about the 14-team and 16-team CFP plans. Most seem to be expecting the same type of revenue distribution that has existed for the past 10 years. I don't think that will happen.


I have struggled to share what my thought would be. I knew they would be mocked and dismissed. Then Josh Pate said this:



I found myself saying to my wife over and over during this segment "THAT is what I was thinking! That is what MY model was, but I didn't think anyone would listen."


Thank You Josh Pate. Everyone, please watch this video before continuing.


Josh followed this up with a few tweets with this one being THE most mind blowing to some.














Greg Flugar did a great job in discussing how he was hearing just the opposite in the following.



Folks, I want you to remember one thing when it comes to the future CFP structure- follow the money. Pay attention to the financials being proposed. Does the financial distribution being discussed reflect the dominance of the new SEC and the new B1G teams for the last decade? If they don't, reject that plan.


Josh emphasized two major points in his tweet that we need to reset.


B1G and SEC Expansion


We all know that the SEC and the B1G are expanding. Here are three possible scenarios with increasing SEC and B1G expansions.


Additional Note: Folks, I have said this before, but I want to emphasize it even more. ESPN is in control of the ACC implosion. They can refuse the option for the extension of their media rights deal with the ACC beyond 2027. They must make a decision by February 2025.


If they decide to decline, it will set of the ACC Implosion. Trust me on that. ESPN will negotiate with the schools THEY want to have going forward and direct them to the SEC. Why the SEC? Disney/ ESPN owns the media rights for the SEC. The brands they deem most valuable to them WILL go to the SEC- book it. Keep that in mind when you read this.


Scenario 1

Florida St. and Miami/ Notre Dame to B1G- 20 teams

Clemson and North Carolina to SEC- 18 teams


If Notre Dame refuses to go to B1G, Miami will.


If these teams leave the ACC, the conference will be at 13 and I expect they will add Oregon St. and Washington St. Notre Dame will either join the B1G, the ACC, or maintain the scheduling partnership with the ACC.


Here is what the Power 4 Conferences alignment would be in this scenario.

Expansion Scenario 1

Today, I think this is THE most likely scenario. I think this is more likely than status quo. I assume this would be in place for the 2026 season, but that may be too aggressive.


I put these expanded conferences into divisions to show it is possible, but we will get to the divisions issue later.


Scenario 2

Now I am going to lose some of you by getting expansion wild. Again, I THINK Scenario 1 is far more likely than Scenario 2 or Scenario 3.


What if the SEC and B1G don't stop? What if they decide to implode the ACC as we know it?


Florida St., Miami, Georgia Tech, and Virginia from ACC to B1G AND Notre Dame to B1G AND Kansas from B12 to B1G- 24 teams

Clemson, North Carolina, NC State, Va Tech to SEC- 20 teams


Why would the SEC and B1G do this?

B1G- Well, adding the 4 more to the B1G with Notre Dame would be financially attractive. In this Scenario 2 adding Georgia Tech is a move beyond athletics and gives the academics folks a win. Adding Virginia, expands the B1G into an important region. Adding Kansas helps in basketball and expands this national conference.

SEC- Adding NC State might be a requirement to get UNC. It also may help claim North Carolina as SEC country. Virginia Tech may be more of a defensive move to prevent Virginia being ceded as B1G country.


Assuming this implodes the ACC, I allocated the remaining teams to a second generation of ACC, B12. and P12 conferences. Will this happen? Probably not. Let's assume that the 26 teams form three regional conferences in 2026 that are bigger in stature than the G5 and smaller than the SEC/ B1G. I tend to believe the B12 makes this happen and that is why B12 schools are in all three regions. Consider this the Scenario 2 response to the raiding of the SEC and B1G.


Expansion Scenario 2

Scenario 3

If you thought scenario 2 was crazy you will HATE scenario 3. Again, I THINK Scenario 1 is far more likely than Scenario 2. Scenario 2 is more likely than Scenario 3.


What if the SEC decides they have to get to the 24 teams like the B1G? Who would they go after in their extending regional model?


Clemson, North Carolina, NC State, Duke, Va Tech, West Virginia, Louisville, Oklahoma State to SEC- 24 teams. The SEC goes full heel to extract further damage to the ACC and B12.


Why would the SEC do this? Frankly, I don't think they would. One of the main reasons for these three scenarios is to show how they COULD align into divisions in all scenarios and then, how the conference playoff plans tie to the scenarios.


I would expect the Big 12 might organize into what I started calling the Mega Conference response to the raiding SEC and B1G in June of last year.


This is how the wild Scenario 3 would look.

Expansion Scenario 3

Dominant 2 Conference Championship Expansion with Possible Divisions


This was Josh Pate's second mind blowing point for some, and I agree with him.

I think if the SEC and B1G expand to 20 teams they will divide into some sort of divisions. I KNOW the B1G is saying they won't. I think smart divisions for the B1G CAN work. A schedule structure can be built to keep or develop division rivalries.


This may be a situation that the SEC expands to 18 or 20 teams, and then shows why divisions work.


I am going to ask that you accept that the B1G and SEC will have 2, 3, or 4 divisions for each conference.


Let's Assume Scenario 1 happens.

  • ACC has 15 or 16 teams with Notre Dame

  • B12 has 16 teams.

  • B1G has 20 teams in two divisions.

  • SEC has 18 teams in three divisions.


I am going to blow your mind.

  • What if the SEC and B1G do not crown a single champion but TWO co-champions that both go to an eight-team playoff?

  • What if the B12 and ACC hold conference semi- finals and finals to produce their representative to an eight-team playoff?

  • What if the G5 had their top two rated conference champions play a G5 CFP Play-in Game for the right to make the eight-team CFP.

  • What if after the first round of conference playoff games, the CFP set up an At Large Play-in Game for either the top two first round losers and/or for a non-conference affiliated team (think independent Notre Dame as they could be in Scenario 1.)


Your response may be some version of what the hell are you talking about? I am talking about that completely different mindset that Josh Pate alluded to. I am talking about a world where you can say the playoff is an eight-team playoff or a much larger conference focused tournament.


Let me take you round by round. I have included 2026 dates, times, days of the week, and even locations so you can fully engage.


I will call this exhibit A.

Conference Play-In Round One

Remember- Follow the Money.


Round One

The 12-game regular season leads to division winners who are seeded 1/2 or 1/2/3. The B1G and SEC play FOUR first round games. I know what you are thinking. That is too many games. This yields a new game every two hours on Saturday with some of the biggest brands in college football. Here is how the teams would have finished in 2023. I put this into the division structure I showed and then seeded them with DIVISION CHAMPIONS getting the top seeds. Winning your division means something. Winning a division guarantees you that you get to host these first-round conference championship games.

SEC B1G Standings

Which game are you ignoring?


Are you telling me you don't want LSU going to Alabama playing for their playoff lives? Are you saying you would ignore OKLAHOMA going to AUSTIN to play TEXAS for the right to play to get into the playoff? No, you are watching.


How about the ACC and Big 12 on Tuesday and Wednesday following that weekend? Here is how the remaining conferences play out in 2023.

ACC B12 SemiFinals

There are some great games here too.


Imagine what it does for those eight fan bases to know they have a real shot to play for something. Imagine the last few weeks of the conference races to get one of those spots.


Making the conference championships THE path to the playoff is the way to keep teams engaged. The revenue for this round one and the round two are all going to the conferences. If your conference has compelling matchups that people want to watch, your conference will be rewarded financially. THIS is why the SEC and B1G will want this model.

That was just round one. The TV ratings for round one were bonkers. The entire country can't stop talking about these games and how 12/4/26 to 12/9/26 felt like the first days of March Madness.


Imagine a world where there were upsets and/or Notre Dame is a top 16 team. Did you miss the last line of exhibit A? It is now the night of 12/10/26. All of the Round 1 games are done. The CFP committee has a huge task tonight.

  • Ohio St. who was ranked #7 lost to #8 Oregon

  • Penn St. who was ranked #10 lost to #5 FSU in a shocker

  • Ole Miss who was ranked #11 lost to #9 Missouri

  • Oklahoma who was ranked #12 lost to #3 Texas

  • LSU who was ranked #13 lost to #4 Alabama

  • Notre Dame was ranked #16

The CFP committee has to decide to give a chance to the At Large Play-in Game. The entire sports media world has been non-stop for days. Who gets in?


The CFP committee gives the nod to ..... Ohio St. to play Notre Dame in Houston in seven days!! Houston won the bid to host this game in 2026 on 12/17/26. (Hint- NCAA makes money on this bid for the At Large Play-In game.)


Welcome to ....


Round Two


Here is the general structure for Round Two looks like.


This is the round were the ACC and B12 crown their conference champion who gets to then go to the eight-team playoff.


The SEC and B1G play four second round games with the winners are crowned conference Co-champions with an invitation to the eight-team playoff. Let's play out what these games might look like.


The At Large game gives Ohio St. a second chance to get into the eight-team playoff. Notre Dame has their path.


The ACC and B12 conferences keep their conference championship games at the locations they are at now. They play on an epic Friday night for the opportunity to get into the playoff.


Does Louisville beat vs. NC State in Charlotte? Does Arizona beat Oklahoma St. in Arlington?


The B1G adds a western location for their second playoff play-in game in Las Vegas. The higher seeds get the favorable location. Michigan plays Oregon in Indianapolis, and Washington plays Florida St. in Las Vegas.


The SEC adds New Orleans as a second SEC playoff play-in game location. Georgia plays Missouri in Atlanta, and Texas rematches with Alabama in New Orleans.


The fans are engaged in these games. They mean everything to several of these fan bases.


Who is in? Unlike other years the teams hold the control of their own fate. From the 24 teams that were fighting to get in during round 1 and a 25th team in Notre Dame getting their shot, now after round two we will have seven of our eight teams.


Seven? We need to back up to talk about the Group of Five teams.


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Group of Five


The G5 teams have their own two round path to get into the eight-team playoff. The G5 conferences will take Thanksgiving week off and play their conference championships on the two days before the B1G and SEC. Here is their schedule.

Thats right the epic 12/4/26 to 12/9/26 stretch actually starts two days earlier with the G5. Here is how it might play out in a 2026 projection using 2024 results.




G5 Championship Games


You may be thinking this is no different than what the G5 does now. You pick the G5 participant after those games. Not anymore.


Notice the bottom two lines. The G5 CFP committee picks the top two G5 teams to play a G5 Play-In game similar to the At Large game before.


G5 Round Two- Quarterfinals and Play-In Game


Then the G5 CFP committee picks the top 6 teams to play in a G5 Playoff Quarterfinals. That is right- a G5 playoff of their own.


Let's say the Committee picks Tulane (AAC) and Liberty (CUSA) to play in the CFP G5 Playoff Play-in Game. Who gets to play in the eight-team CFP with the big boys? Win and you are in.


For the simulation I will give the nod to Tulane. The winner goes to the main CFP and the loser of this play-in game plays in the G5 playoff semifinals as the four seed.


Notice this occurs on the off weekend after the Power 4 Round One and before Round Two. It is the G5 Weekend. Also, that weekend hosts the three G5 quarterfinals games. Here is how I say the G5 committee seeded this tournament.

Troy (SB), Miami (OH) (MAC), and Boise St (MW) are in because they won their conference championship games. James Madison (SB), Toledo (MAC), and UTSA (AAC) are awarded their berths due to the committee. Every G5 conference is represented in the Play-in game or the Quarterfinals.


G5 Round 3- Semifinals


Tulane is off to the CFP as 8th seed. Liberty takes the four seed in the G5 Semifinals.


Let's say the home teams won their quarterfinals games- Troy, James Madison, and Miami (OH).


Now these four get the Bowl game treatment. Bowl Games are going to be challenged for matchups in this new CFP world, so I project the Citrus and Holiday bowls roll out the red carpet for these G5 teams. The ratings probably have to make it work for them. But they have prime spots the week after CFP Round 2. They play on Friday night to avoid the NFL now on Saturday and Sunday. It's a Christmas night football party.


I will project Troy and James Madison win and make the Sun Belt proud in all-Sun Belt finals.


G5 Finals


Two weeks later on Friday night, it's the G5 Playoff Final at the Alamo Bowl. We crown the G5 Playoff Champion. The G5 has two winners- the one going to play in the CFP quarterfinals and the G5 Playoff champion.


CFP Quarterfinals


With the G5 Tournament past us, let's rewind back to the main CFP. The traditional New Year's Eve and Day Bowls still have the CFP Quarterfinals at least for now.


The B1G and SEC Play-In game winners are seeded 1/3 and 2/4 and they take on the other teams who are seeded by the CFP on 12/20/26. Here we say Ohio St. (the At Large Play-In game winner) gets the lower seeded SEC team- Texas. Arizona is the higher seeded ACC/B12 champion and gets the lower seeded B1G team- Washington. Louisville is paired up with Georgia, and Michigan gets Tulane.


Honestly, this is where the B1G and SEC dominance may really be evident. People want inclusion and the CFP quarterfinals are the likely downside of it. There could be some blowouts.


CFP Semifinals


The Semifinals move to the second Thursday and Friday after New Year's Day with two other traditional NYD bowls hosting.


Here is how it would likely turn out in most seasons. The SEC and B1G battling it out in the semifinals.


CFP Finals


Ten days later on Monday night the CFP finals takes place. This would be bid like the current CFP National Championship game.


This Playoff model is at its core an eight-team playoff, but it puts the early two rounds in the hands of the conferences. They can determine how they want to produce the teams for the eight-team playoff.


This model gives the conferences (and their media partners) control over the early games. The model once we get to the actual eight team playing is basically what is planned now.


This model emphasizes the value of the regular season and division championships. It keeps near half of the dominant conferences engaged and hopeful of playoff runs. That means viewers and money.


The NCAA may not make as much money on the eight-team CFP as they would on the planned 16- team CFP. The SEC and B1G will make more. THIS is the unreported battle.


Here is the whole model in one glance.


The CFP Model

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