SEC dominates in final year of Four-Team Playoff format

The College Football Playoff is entering its final year of the four-team format, having been dominated by the SEC. In the past nine years, Alabama, Georgia, and LSU have won six national championships. Clemson and Ohio State are the only other teams to have won at least one national title during this era.

The CFP titles have only been won by the three SEC teams who have qualified for it. Despite having won BCS national championships, Tennessee, Florida, and Auburn have been excluded from the CFP. Nevertheless, the 12-team playoff debuting in 2024 may change that.

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The 12-team playoff might open doors for programs such as Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, Texas A&M, and Ole Miss to name a few. Based on the annual CFP rankings post-conference championship weekend, nine out of the SEC’s fourteen current programs would have made the 12-team playoff at least once if this format were in place in the past nine years.

The podcast ‘SEC Football Unfiltered’ features a debate on how the larger playoff will affect the postseason prospects for programs that never made the four-team format. The podcast hosts, Blake Toppmeyer and John Adams, agree that most SEC teams should have a shot in a 12-team format. In most seasons, this playoff format will probably include three or more SEC qualifiers.

In the five years since the CFP began, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt are the only SEC teams that haven’t made the 12-team playoff at least once. However, when Oklahoma and Texas join the conference in 2024, the divisional format will end, making it tougher for Vanderbilt. The question here is, which SEC teams will have the hardest time qualifying for the 12-team playoff from a 16-team, undivided SEC? Podcast hosts Adams and Toppmeyer both address this question and each identifies four teams.

John Adams’ list of four SEC programs that will have the hardest time qualifying for a 12-team playoff include Vanderbilt, Missouri, Kentucky, and Mississippi State. He states that Vanderbilt couldn’t qualify for a 72-team playoff. Missouri had their glory days back when they were still playing in divisions. The Wildcats of Kentucky seem to have benefited largely from being in the SEC East and have played mostly easy nonconference schedules. Mississippi State could stand a chance if only they could find another Dak Prescott and ramp up their NIL spending.

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Blake Toppmeyer’s list of four SEC programs with the hardest path to the 12-team playoff include Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Missouri, and South Carolina. Vanderbilt hasn’t ranked in the top 20 of the AP poll since 1948, and now with Oklahoma and Texas in the conference will make things tougher. The Wildcats will face a much stiffer schedule after their accommodating nonconference schedule. Missouri won back-to-back SEC East titles under former coach Gary Pinkel, but that seems like a distant memory now. South Carolina had three consecutive 11-win seasons under Steve Spurrier, but they have a much tougher road ahead facing the likes of Alabama, LSU, and Oklahoma every two years.

Additionally, on this episode of the ‘SEC Football Unfiltered’ podcast, there’s a discussion about Billy Napier’s upcoming recruiting class at Florida, which is currently ranked number three in the nation. Despite their position of power, the Gators need to secure a quarterback for 2023. Austin Simmons, a highly rated recruit, recently flipped from Florida to Ole Miss to join the Rebels’ roster this season. The Gators will likely be relying on Graham Mertz, a transfer from Wisconsin to lead the team. Meanwhile, Florida is waiting impatiently for five-star recruit DJ Lagway’s arrival in 2024.

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The 10th and final year of the four-team College Football Playoff marks the domination of the SEC. Over the past nine years, the SEC has taken six national championships, with Clemson and Ohio State only coming up with one each.

All three SEC teams to win CFP are also the only three SEC teams to qualify for it, which doesn’t include teams such as Tennessee, Florida, and Auburn who have won a BCS national championship. Fortunately, the implementation of the 12-team playoff, which will debut in 2024 should bring an open platform for programs such as Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and UF to qualify. In fact, if the CFP rankings were anything to go by, nine of the SEC’s current 14 programs would have made a 12-team playoff at least once in the past nine years. In this episode of ‘SEC Football Unfiltered’, podcast hosts Blake Toppmeyer and John Adams argue how the playoff’s effectiveness will affect the postseason prospects of programs that have never made it to the four-team format. They do agree that most SEC teams should occasionally contend in a 12-team format, which probably will contain at least three SEC qualifiers every season.

Only five SEC teams have never made the 12-team playoff at least once in the five years since the CFP began: Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt. After the introduction of Oklahoma and Texas in 2024, the divisional format will end, making it more difficult for Vanderbilt. The question remains, what SEC team will have the most difficult time qualifying for the 12-team playoff in the future?

Podcast hosts John Adams and Blake Toppmeyer have differing opinions, but both agree on four schools that may have trouble making it past the post-season. John Adams believes that Vanderbilt, Missouri, Mississippi, and Kentucky will struggle to make the playoffs, while Blake Toppmeyer believes that Vanderbilt, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Missouri will likely miss the cut. Vanderbilt’s struggles are well documented as they have reached the top 20 of the AP poll only once since 1948, but that does not mean that there is no hope for them to secure a place in the playoffs. A newer challenge for them in the near future would be facing tougher competition after the arrival of Oklahoma and Texas in the SEC.

Kentucky has been a beneficiary of SEC East and light non-conference teams, which may come back to bite them with a more austere schedule. Missouri has won two sec championships back to back, during the divisional format under former coach Gary Pinkel. However, things can turn out differently for them this time around.

South Carolina has great potential with Shane Beamer as their coach, yet they will still face a tough time with programs such as Alabama and Oklahoma. Finally, in this episode, the ‘SEC Football Unfiltered’ hosts discuss Florida’s recruiting journey with Billy Napier, who is ranked number three overall for the 2024 class nationally. The Gators need to find a quarterback for 2023 but so far have had no luck. Meanwhile, five-star quarterback recruit DJ Lagway has committed to Florida for 2024, but there are doubts if Napier can wait that long and if Lagway would deliver as expected.


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