A 12-team College Football Playoff has reportedly "emerged as the favored outcome" among stakeholders involved in discussions about a future CFP expansion.
Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel reported Tuesday that expanding the playoff field from four to 12 has emerged as the "most likely result" following conversations between university officials, athletic directors, media executives and others with a stake in college football, with a final decision expected in the fall.
"The reason that you go to 12 is because you can develop the road of least resistance toward a good result," a high-ranking college official told Thamel.
There are a multitude of reasons for skipping an eight-team playoff and jumping to the 12-team field based on concerns raised by both Power Five programs, who worry about a lack of at-large bids, and smaller schools, who've been shut out of the playoff field through seven years.
"I do believe they've looked at all kinds of different things. But I haven't even heard an option B discussed in any detail," a source told Thamel about the 12-team expectation.
For the four-team field, every slot is technically an at-large bid. The selection committee meets after conference championship games and picks what it believes are the best four teams in the country.
An eight-team bracket, however, would likely feature a handful of automatic bids—each of the Power Five conference champions and perhaps one slot guaranteed to the top Group of Five team.
That's a concern for the nation's top programs because it would leave just two at-large bids, giving the selection committee less flexibility to consider one-loss teams that may have dominated all year only to lose in their conference title games.
Twelve teams, which would likely see the same auto-bid structure with an increase to six at-large bids, is better for the Power Five schools while possibly leaving a path for two undefeated Group of Five squads.
Thamel noted a potential snag with the bracket, though.
While the initial plan is to give the top four teams a first-round bye, the first-round matchups could be true home games for the higher seed. So the No. 4 seed would have a week off, but the No. 5 seed gets a home game against the lowest seed in the field.
"This could, of course, irk teams that finished higher and don't get the big gate, memorable experience and home-field advantage of a playoff game," Thamel explained.
The next step comes July 17-18 when the CFP management committee provides the CFP board of managers with the findings from the past two years of fact-gathering about potential expansion, which is expected to lead to a final recommendation, per Thamel.
Once a plan is finalized within the upper reaches of the CFP, the talks will then move to include television partners over the "upcoming months" before anything is formally implemented, and that could take until fall to finalize, according to the Yahoo report.
That said, signs point toward a tripling of the College Football Playoff field in the near future.