A four-team bracket is about to transform into a 12-team bracket. The exact timing of this transformation is still to be determined, although given the money to be made through television contracts, count on it being sooner than later.
Since the announcement on Friday, debate has raged.
Is it too much? Is the regular season being watered down? Is college football broken beyond repair?
The reality, however, is pretty simple. This is going to be a gambler’s paradise.
For a moment, let’s think about each other. Yes, pay the players for playing more games. Yes, go ahead and have concerns about the details. Yes, be worried about watering down the regular season, although frankly it will bring more programs into the mix and probably do the opposite.
But think about what will come from this: multiple playoff weekends that will produce a flurry of unique gambling opportunities.
The top four seeds will get byes. The next four seeds will play playoff games on their campus, a development we should all wrap our arms around.
Much is still to be determined, including which days and weeks on the calendar these games will be played, but adding eight more playoff games along with a slew of programs that wouldn’t have sniffed a four-team bracket is certainly welcomed.
Bowl games will still exist. The national championship will still be played and worshiped. But we will now tap into college football’s greatest commodity, the environments, and attach some of the most meaningful stakes imaginable.
Days with playoff games, no matter when they occur on the calendar, will be wonderful. We will watch and debate and gamble, just like always.
The format will have flaws, just like the ones that came before it. But adding more in this instance isn’t a bad thing. Bring me more games on college campuses and more point spreads to consume.
That will do just fine, thank you.
The Appetizer: Football Tidbits and Observations
1. Ohio State-Notre Dame told us plenty, although I still feel unsure of both teams moving forward. The Buckeyes closed as 17-point favorites, and they failed to cover that number. Losing wideout Jaxon Smith-Njigba to injury certainly hurt, and it never truly felt like Ohio State was in rhythm. Notre Dame’s speed seemed to keep up, though, and I thought the Irish, despite so little offense, delivered a solid showing. Let’s not overreact to either team’s performance. Both seem solid, although we tend to overreact early no matter what.
2. One key takeaway from the Buckeyes? The defense is light-years better. I can declare this without even knowing what Notre Dame’s offense will look like from this point forward. Tackling, speed, energy and effort were all significantly better. If you’re an Ohio State fan, you are thrilled with this development. Jim Knowles, the team's DC, is a wizard.
3. Georgia has reached Alabama status. Forget about which team you believe would win that rematch right now; that is not the point. The Bulldogs lost 15 players to the NFL draft and clobbered Oregon as 16-point favorites. That was awfully impressive, and I am excited to see more. Also, I can’t believe I cashed the Under bet. It felt dead from the start. (We'll talk more about Stetson Bennett's Heisman status in the coming weeks.)
4. Hello, Florida! The Gators beat Utah outright as 3-point underdogs, doing so on a timely interception to close the game. Quarterback Anthony Richardson saw his Heisman odds move wildly after running for three touchdowns. I don’t think I would budge at 22-1, which is where he sat Sunday afternoon, although I will say this: He has a ton of talent and is a ton of fun to watch.
5. App. State-North Carolina was absolute madness. The two teams combined to score 124 points, which was more than double the closing total. Heck, each team hit the Over. The line hovered around pick’em all week, although Appalachian State closed as a slight favorite. The final 10 minutes were nothing short of a gambling frenzy: quick touchdowns, returned onside kicks, odd penalties and two failed two-point conversions. We have a long way to go, but this will go down as one of the best games we see all year.
6. Now, here's a matchup that wasn't that. Iowa won a football game 7-3. It did so by scoring two safeties, totaling 166 yards of offense (yikes) and punting 10 times. The Hawkeyes closed around 10-point favorites, and they flirted with disaster. I have no idea how a team that struggled so badly on offense last year did so little to improve that unit, but here we are. Iowa State up next.
The Buffet: The Five Best Games for Week 2
All rankings are entering Week 1. With the holiday weekend, new AP rankings won’t be released until Tuesday.
1. No. 1 Alabama (-18.5, 62.5) at Texas
The 2010 BCS Championship rematch will be played in Austin, and the temperature at game time is going to be roughly 789 degrees. Both teams cruised to covers in Week 1 against lesser teams, which shouldn't be a surprise. The concern I have for Texas in this matchup, however, is how it plans to handle Will Anderson Jr. and Alabama’s immense pressure. Quarterback Quinn Ewers played well in his debut, although he did throw an interception. It will be crucial for him to play a clean game this week. Alabama, meanwhile, let Bryce Young do his thing in Week 1. The Tide also showcased just how good running back Jahmyr Gibbs can be. The environment will help the Longhorns, but they’ll need a magnificent effort to not get handled here.
2. No. 25 BYU (-3, 52.5) vs. No. 10 Baylor
Did you lay the points, like I did, with BYU last weekend? I certainly hope so. The Cougars demolished South Florida as 11-point favorites, and the score after one quarter was 28-0. Now, what do we do with this information? USF is not a great team, although BYU’s performance was still noteworthy. The oddsmakers seem to have been taking note as well with this spread, which shows the home team plenty of respect. Baylor played Albany and won 69-10. I’m not sure what that tells us, although it’s certainly good for a young roster to get some seasoning. This, however, is another challenge entirely. Look out for QB Jaren Hall, who could lift BYU in this one.
3. Florida (-5, 51.5) vs. No. 20 Kentucky
Things move quickly in college football, and the phrase “surging Gators” is now something that: a) we need to talk about, and b) Kentucky needs to worry about. After intercepting Utah in the end zone, Florida enters Week 2 at 1-0. Richardson was sparkling at QB, running for 106 yards and three touchdowns. The burden on him was tremendous, and it likely will be again against Kentucky. The Wildcats won this matchup in 2021, which was when Dan Mullen’s troubles really kicked into motion. Kentucky also won its Week 1 game against Miami (Ohio) 37-13, which was fine but not really jaw-dropping. This one is tricky, although Billy Napier might be the right coach at the right time for UF.
4. Tennessee (-4.5, 64) at No. 17 Pittsburgh
Although it wasn’t pretty, Pittsburgh held off West Virginia in its opener. The Panthers barely missed covering the 7.5-point spread, although the glimpses on offense were intriguing. Specifically, we saw plenty of good from new QB Kedon Slovis. The Vols also showcased plenty of promise on offense in a 59-10 victory over Ball State, easily covering the 33.5-point number. QB Hendon Hooker was excellent, and the Vols’ attack was balanced. While we were curious about what Tennessee we would see this year, and Ball State isn’t a fair barometer, this was as promising of a start as you could ask for. Flash forward to this game, and it feels like Pitt will have to be more efficient and better overall to hang with the road team.
5. No. 19 Arkansas (-8.5, 52.5) vs. South Carolina
Elsewhere in the SEC, two promising teams hoping to cause havoc will meet up in Arkansas. The Hogs powered past Cincinnati in their opener, covering the 6.5-point spread by a half-point. South Carolina also covered its spread against Georgia State, an underappreciated foe. QB Spencer Rattler delivered a mixed batch of results in that game, throwing for a touchdown and two interceptions. He’ll now hit the road to play in a tough environment, which is a lot to ask of a player we’re still trying to figure out. For Arkansas, it will be about finding consistency. QB KJ Jefferson was excellent, although he must find a way to eliminate hits to stay on the field. If he can do that, the Hogs should be able to play with just about everyone. South Carolina, beware.
Last Call: Parting Shots on Other Games of Note
Texas Tech (-3, 65) vs. No. 24 Houston: I’m telling you right now, do not sleep on Texas Tech. The offense has been revamped, and Houston, after a tough win against UTSA, gets the next crack. I’m digging the home team.
Fresno State (-1, 61) vs. Oregon State: On the topic of teams not to sleep on, enter Fresno State. Oregon State was awfully impressive against Boise State in the opener, but Jake Haener will be a much different test for the Beavers.
Iowa (-3.5, 41) vs. Iowa State: The good news for Iowa? Of late, it has its rival’s number. The bad news is, well, we’ve already talked about it plenty. This total says a lot about what kind of game we’re going to get.