What the 12-Team College Football Playoff Would Look in 2022

Max EscarpioDecember 7, 2022

What the 12-Team College Football Playoff Would Look in 2022

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    Bryce Young I John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The college football world is making a drastic change at the beginning of the 2024 season. A 12-team College Football Playoff has been agreed upon by the Board of Managers and directors of bowl games across the country.

    While there's still time to cherish the critical four-team playoff, it's interesting to see how the expanded postseason would have played out in 2022.

    The first four teams are set with Georgia, Michigan, TCU and Ohio State all receiving first-round byes. The rest of the games will be played at the home field or requested site of the higher seeds.

    These rankings and matchups were developed using scoring margins, losses to specific teams and recent résumés, with Alabama being the first team out. For example, a conference championship for Kansas State put it above teams like a nonconference-winning Penn State, and the strength of a Big 12 title put the Wildcats over AAC champs Tulane.

    This should help keep the best programs in contention and heighten the importance of conference title games, since a conference title will secure a spot in the playoff for the six highest-ranked champions.

Top 4 Teams: Georgia, Michigan, TCU, and Ohio State

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 04: Members of the Michigan Wolverines celebrate with Donovan Edwards #7 of the Michigan Wolverines after a touchdown during the second half of the Big Ten Championship against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 3, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    No. 1 Seed: Georgia

    After winning the SEC last weekend, the Georgia Bulldogs are heading into the CFP with the No. 1 seed (13-0 record). They pounded the LSU Tigers in the SEC title game and have won all but one game by at least 10 points.

    Georgia seems to be on a different tier than the rest of college football. The Bulldogs would likely be the favorite against any team in the nation, as they're averaging 39.2 points per game on offense and are allowing only 12.8 points per game on defense, the second-best mark nationwide.

    Georgia has faced three ranked teams throughout the season and beat each of them by at least two scores. In the most anticipated game of the year against No. 1 Tennessee, the Bulldogs won 27-13.

    Head coach Kirby Smart has built a strong foundation to consistently compete for the national title, and that reign won't stop soon as they continue to recruit at the highest level.

    No. 2 Seed: Michigan

    Michigan is poised to finish 2022 with one of the best seasons in program history.

    The Wolverines are currently 13-0 after a Big Ten title win over the Purdue Boilermakers. Their back-to-back conference championships thrust them into the No. 2 spot of the CFP even though star running Blake Corum is out for the year after undergoing knee surgery.

    Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy told reporters that the Wolverines have been able to build on last year's success. He said the team is focused on winning a national title, so the conference championship was just a step in the right direction.

    There aren't many rosters more talented than Michigan's, but the Wolverines would need to put their best foot forward to compete with the top teams in the SEC. Their win against the Buckeyes cemented them as a legitimate threat to win the national title, though.

    No. 3 Seed: TCU

    There was some thought that TCU might get pushed out of the CFP after losing the Big 12 title game to Kansas State. However, the Horned Frogs still made it into the four-team field as the No. 3 seed.

    The Horned Frogs suffered their first loss of the season against the Wildcats in overtime last weekend, making them 12-1 on the year. There wasn't a strong case to keep them outside the Top 4 given their five ranked wins on the season, though.

    TCU ran all over the Big 12, taking down No. 8 Oklahoma State, No. 17 Kansas State, No. 18 Oklahoma, No. 18 Texas and No. 19 Kansas. The Horned Frogs had to fight from behind and come back for wins at times, which may have hurt their overall resume, but their undefeated regular season speaks for itself.

    No. 4 Seed: Ohio State

    Ohio State is the final team that would have received a first-round bye in a 12-team format this year.

    The Buckeyes' only loss on the season came during rivalry week, as Michigan pounded them 45-23 in Ohio Stadium. Ohio State otherwise had two wins against ranked teams (Notre Dame, Penn State) and was in the AP Top Five all year.

    Ohio State and Michigan potentially could meet again in the CFP National Championship Game. Bringing "The Game" to a neutral setting could make it one of the most-watched title games in college football history.

No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. No. 12 Tulane Green Wave

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    TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Will Anderson Jr. #31 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after returning an interception for a touchdown against the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks with Henry To'oTo'o #10 and DJ Dale #94 during the first quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 17, 2022 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Alabama head coach Nick Saban pleaded his case for the Crimson Tide to be selected for this year's playoff, but the committee didn't buy it. Despite losing only two games, the Tide are in the midst of one of their worst seasons of the past decade.

    A 10-2 record with three Top 25 victories would make most programs ecstatic, but there's only one expectation in Tuscaloosa: winning a national title. Prior to the 2022 season, Alabama had been in the CFP National Championship Game for six of the last seven years.

    The Crimson Tide have the same record as a few teams across the country, but their only losses came against No. 6 Tennessee and No. 10 LSU by a game-winning score in the final seconds. They were a few minutes away from being undefeated, but their current resume would have them facing the Tulane Green Wave in the expanded playoff.

    Tulane would be the last seed in the 12-team field as the American Athletic Conference champion. Behind Georgia, Alabama has the second-best roster in college football, so this would be one of the Wave's biggest tests in years.

    Tulane finished its 11-2 season with back-to-back wins over Top 25 foes Cincinnati and UCF. The Green Wave had a great year, but the Crimson Tide would likely be the favorite against most teams in the Top 12. They'd handle Tulane with ease.

    Prediction: Alabama 37, Tulane 18

No. 6 Tennessee Volunteers vs. No. 11 Penn State Nittany Lions

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    KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 29:  Tennessee Volunteers linebacker Jeremy Banks (33) celebrates with Tennessee Volunteers defensive lineman Byron Young (6) during the college football game between the Tennessee Volunteers and Kentucky Wildcats October 29, 2022, at Neyland Stadium, in Knoxville, TN. (Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    After knocking off Alabama in mid-October and taking care of business against No. 19 Kentucky, Tennessee was the top-ranked team in the initial CFP rankings. The Vols quickly ceded that throne by losing two of their final four regular-season games, though.

    Quarterback Hendon Hooker was a Heisman candidate for most of the year, but he suffered a season-ending torn ACL in a loss to South Carolina in mid-November. Backup quarterback Joe Milton III helped keep Tennessee's offense afloat, but his seven touchdowns and 720 passing yards weren't enough to keep the Volunteers in CFP contention.

    With an entire month of practice, though, the Volunteers could be a threat in the expanded 12-team bracket. They'd be facing Penn State in their opening-round game.

    This SEC versus Big Ten bout would highlight an offense that's used to being in the end zone and a defense with consistent stars in the secondary like Joey Porter Jr. Penn State has allowed more than 20 points only three times this season, all of which were against ranked teams or conference title contenders, while Tennessee has only one game with less than 30.

    Penn State's offense caught fire toward the end of the season, but Tennessee has barely skipped a beat without Hooker, averaging 53.3 points in its final three games. The Volunteers might hit a wall against the Nittany Lions defense, but it's hard to assume they wouldn't score at least 30 points, which would put the pressure on a streaky Penn State offense.

    Prediction: Tennessee 42, Penn State 32

No. 7 Clemson Tigers vs. No. 10 Kansas State Wildcats

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 03: Cade Klubnik (2) of the Clemson Tigers looks to pass the ball during the ACC Championship football game between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Clemson Tigers on December 3, 2022 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. (Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Clemson Tigers had a year of ups and downs, largely because of the uncertainty they had at quarterback. It was only a matter of time until 5-star prospect Cade Klubnik replaced incumbent starter DJ Uiagalelei.

    Although he made some fourth-quarter appearances throughout the season, he took over for Uiagalelei early in the ACC Championship Game. It looks like true freshman will be the permanent signal-caller moving forward, especially with Uiagalelei entering the transfer portal.

    Clemson started the season 8-0 with three wins over ranked teams before sputtering late. In the 12-team format, the Tigers would still be able to compete for the national title, but their losses to Notre Dame and South Carolina would have them at No. 7.

    The ACC champions would be going head-to-head against the Kansas State Wildcats, who knocked off TCU in the Big 12 title game.

    Clemson has a solid defense with contributors all over the line, which would spell trouble for the Wildcats. Kansas State's offense runs through running back Deuce Vaughn, while the Tigers have only given up 101.1 rushing yards per game.

    Clemson's secondary is exploitable, so Kansas State might be able to air it out. Leading receiver Malik Knowles suffered an injury during the Big 12 title game, but he's expected to be available for the Wildcats.

    The Tigers should play a competitive game with the Wildcats, but they'd emerge as victors in the end. Although Kansas State beat an undefeated TCU squad last week, Clemson looks regrouped with Klubnik.

    Prediction: Clemson 32, Kansas State 26

No. 8 Utah Utes vs. No. 9 USC Trojans

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    TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 24:  Utah Utes tight end Dalton Kincaid (86) celebrates with teammates after catching a touchdown pass during the college football game between the Utah Utes and the Arizona State Sun Devils on September 24, 2022 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    After the Utah Utes took down the USC Trojans twice in 2022, they'd face yet again in the 12-team playoff. Utah seems to be Caleb Williams' and USC's kryptonite, so it'd be interested to see how the Trojans react to a matchup like this.

    In their first meeting of the season, Utah secured a come-from-behind 43-42 victory with a last-minute touchdown and two-point conversion. In the Pac-12 Championship Game, the Utes came out with a 47-24 blowout win. Williams suffered a hamstring injury in that game, while Utah shredded USC's exploitable secondary.

    This would likely be another high-scoring matchup. But unless the Trojans fix up their defense, the Utes would be the obvious favorites.

    USC has one of the best offenses in the country, averaging 41.1 points and nearly 500 yards per game. Head coach Lincoln Riley has shown that he can once again produce an outstanding offense, but USC has some holes to fix defensively before it climbs the championship ladder.

    The Trojans fell to the No. 9 seed after their loss in the Pac-12 title game, and Utah jumped right in front of them. The Utes have the experience, confidence and schemes on both sides of the ball to make a CFP run, starting with a victory in the first round.

    Prediction: Utah 36, USC 30