LSU football has been one of the most successful programs in college football over the last two decades. The Tigers have appeared in four National Championship games, winning three (two BCS National Championships and one College Football Playoff) in 2003, 2007, and 2019. Thus, any discussion that involves changes to the current playoff/bowl format automatically involves Brian Kelly’s team—regardless of the past two years.
It was announced on Friday afternoon that the College Football Playoff would expand its field from four to 12 in 2026. After all, can you think of a better way to present this new model to the world than in a Friday mid-afternoon news dump? It’s so typical of college football; we love the sport. Alas, while the initial reaction to the changes from Tigers fans seems relatively negative, the new system will benefit LSU in the grand scheme of things.
12-team College Football Playoff is beneficial to the LSU football program
The new 12-team format will feature winners of six conferences (presumably each P5 conference winner and the best G5 conference winner) and six at-large bids handed out by the committee to the six best non-conference champions. The first four seeds—ranked in strength by the committee—will receive first-round byes. The remaining eight teams will play each other for the right to advance.
This is a positive development for the Southeastern Conference, especially the Tigers and the rest of the West. Alabama’s dominance over the last decade-and-a-half under Nick Saban has meant the opportunities to play for a National Championship have been few and far between for many of the Crimson Tide’s SEC West foes.
A four-team playoff has featured a pair of teams from the SEC numerous times, but they’ve never been from the same division of football’s premier conference. It would require a superb workload throughout the season and a bit of luck to make the playoffs without even making a conference title game. That’s the kind of luxury only Alabama is afforded.
With the current format in place, a single loss to Saban’s Crimson Tide is almost always enough to ruin Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M‘s playoff respective hopes for that season. An expansion to 12 teams means that the SEC can get more teams into the field, although there is bound to be some pushback to that idea, given the widespread disdain outside of the South for the conference’s reputation.
The Tigers may not be one of the SEC’s top teams right now, but there’s a belief that Kelly will take them to the top shortly. Thus, the expansion only offers another avenue to the coveted National Championship that the 60-year-old’s trophy cabinet is missing. The possible chance to host first-round playoff games at Tiger Stadium in December only adds to the excitement that LSU fans should be feeling right now.
While the idea seemed rather silly initially, it looks like it will be great in practice. Anything that benefits the Tigers gets the stamp of approval from those in Baton Rouge, this future playoff format will likely be no different.