The college football world experienced a huge change last week with the news that the College Football Playoff will be expanding to 12 teams. While this expansion will be a significant one for college football, the sport’s latest national champion coach isn’t quite sure what to make of the development.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was asked about the impending change on Monday and how it affected the Bulldogs’ program going forward. Smart explained it’s too early to tell what the expansion will mean for the sport, and he pointed out there will likely be critiques about the 12-team field just like there has been for the 4-team field.
“I think that there’s some good and bad to both, and I don’t think we know the repercussions of going to 12 [teams] over four. There’s been some good things about four; there’s probably some good things about 12,” Smart said. “Everybody loves change, and it’s on a continuum. So, it’s like, there will be somebody complaining about something about 12.
“I don’t really get into whether or not it’s going to be beneficial for us or not. I think it’s year-to-year with what kind of team you have and how other teams do in the country.”
Smart’s Bulldogs have fared fairly well in terms of making the playoff. Georgia has appeared in the playoff twice and played in the national championship game both seasons, having lost to Alabama in January 2018 and having beaten the Crimson Tide in January 2022.
Georgia is tied for the fifth-most playoff appearances since the CFP was first instituted in 2014. The Bulldogs are tied for fourth with the most playoff games played, trailing only Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State and tied with Oklahoma. Georgia is one of only five programs to win a national title in the CFP era, a group that includes Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and LSU.
According to multiple reports last week, the playoff is set to expand from four teams to 12. ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported that 2026 is the expected start date for the expanded field, though 2024 is not ruled out.
The playoff, according to its contract, remains at four teams through at least the 2025 season after the playoff’s board of managers tabled talks earlier this year. Since the four-team format began in 2014, the SEC leads the playoff in appearances (10), wins (14) and national championships (five). Twice, Alabama and Georgia met in the final and three different SEC programs have won a title. Alabama has appeared in the playoff seven times.
The 2021 season’s College Football Playoff was the first year that a Group of Five team appeared in the semifinals, breaking the streak of no parity. Undefeated Cincinnati earned the No. 4 seed in the playoff, but lost to top-seeded Alabama. Georgia then went on to defeat Alabama in the national championship game for its first title since 1980.