College Football Playoff expansion: Welcome to the tournament

AP Photo/Roger Steinman

Better late than never. More than a year after we first began hearing rumors of an expanded, 12-team College Football Playoff, it appears to be a reality. The CFP's board of managers unanimously approved the measure on Friday; it will begin in 2026 at the latest but could start as early as 2024. (The way these things tend to work, that means it will likely start in 2024.)

In a nutshell, this is enormous, a much bigger change than the creation of the CFP in the first place. While there are always unintended consequences -- and while those consequences usually favor the sport's most powerful programs and conferences -- this is, in a vacuum, the biggest lurch toward inclusion ever seen in the top subdivision of college football. It increases incentives for both players and coaches, it potentially creates a needed layer of stability across FBS, it adds value to a ton of late-season conference games, and while it will result in certain games losing a bit of present-tense meaning, it will add meaning to countless other games. Here are seven takeaways, including an early shot at what a 12-team playoff might look like in 2024:

Four teams was an extra game; 12 is a genuine tournament

That was my biggest takeaway from this piece, my look at how a 12-team CFP would have taken shape over the past eight seasons. Based on existing CFP rankings, 41 different programs would have reached the playoff at least once in that span, and all but one conference (Conference USA) would have represented at least once.