We are slowly breaking ground on what the 2014 college football playoff is going to look like. According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN, there will be six access bowls and the highest rated champion from a non-automatic qualifying conference will earn an automatic bid for a playoff spot.
New playoff format: 6 access bowls; highest rated champ from "Group of 5" gets automatic bid. Official announcement shortly— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) November 12, 2012
This means that teams from the C-USA, Big East, MWC, MAC and Sun Belt have all received an early Christmas gift, as the little guy will no longer be kept out of the conversation.
Now the question is, which teams does this benefit the most?
Of course, every smaller program will now have a shot, but there are some teams that should be grinning a little more than others.
Here are five teams that can now make a serious playoff run thanks to these new rules in place.
Conference: Big East
Head Coach: Kyle Flood
Why Team Could Make Playoffs: Rutgers was a program that was able to hold its own under former head coach Greg Schiano and is doing similar things under first-year coach Flood. They will reach a bowl game for the seventh time in eight years and is recruiting better than any other team in the Big East at the moment, according to Scout.com.
The defense is usually above average and the offense is still young enough to make some noise by the time the playoffs take place. The program is currently ranked in the BCS rankings and shouldn't go down quietly for years to come.
Conference: Sun Belt
Head Coach: Gus Malzahn
Why Team Could Make Playoffs: Arkansas State has a ways to go before being true contenders and it would help if the competition improved overall in the Sun Belt. However, Malzahn is an offensive genius that could have taken nearly any job in the country. He decided to stay close to home and it has paid off early on. The Red Wolves are 7-3, will reach a bowl game for the second year in a row and are averaging 35 points per game.
You won't see this program recruit any 5-star players, but with a top of the line coach calling the shots, it is only a matter of time before Arkansas State begins to climb up that ladder for respect.
Conference: C-USA currently, Big East next season
Head Coach: George O'Leary
Why Team Could Make Playoffs: Central Florida has won at least eight games in three of the last four years and was ranked in the Top 25 back in 2010. The Knights don't receive much credit, but are usually a tough defensive team that has competed with many respectable programs over the years such as Ohio State, Missouri and Georgia.
Considering that the team is in Florida, the recruiting is better than you would think and with the move to the Big East, things should only continue to improve for the Knights.
Conference: MWC currently, Big East next season
Head Coach: Chris Petersen
Why Team Could Make Playoffs: It appears that Petersen isn't leaving Boise anytime soon and because of that the Broncos remain one of the favorite little guys to appear in the playoffs. The team will likely win double-digit games for the seventh year in a row and, according to Scout.com, Boise State has a Top 50 recruiting class for 2013.
Petersen seems to be some type of miracle worker that can find diamonds in the rough and win majority of the games his team plays. With the move to the Big East, the strength of schedule will only improve, increasing the chances for the Broncos to make a playoff run.
Conference: Big East
Head Coach: Charlie Strong
Why Team Could Make Playoffs: Strong has found himself during his third year at Louisville, leading his team to a 9-1 record and possibly a BCS bowl for the first time since 2006. As long as he stays and doesn't try to leave for the SEC, the Cardinals will remain in great shape.
The Cardinals are now one of the top teams in the Big East and have a defensive tough-nose coach that will continue to bring in solid recruits. They will likely also have a quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, who would be a senior once the playoffs starts, giving this program a head start and a great chance to be one of those teams clinching a playoff spot.