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How would past Michigan State football teams match up in new CFP format?

MSU would have had three playoff teams if this format existed since the beginning.



Michigan State football

The College Football Playoff is expanding to 12 teams. How would Michigan State football teams from the past fare in this format?

The College Football Playoff is expanding to 12 teams for the first time beginning in the 2024 season. You know what that means? More football for us diehard Michigan State football fans. On a serious note, I think 12 teams is perfect for college football because every season you can always point to a couple of teams left out of the four-team playoff that would have a realistic shot at winning at all.

With it moving to 12 teams in 2024, we no longer have to wonder if any team excluded could win it all because a team outside of the top 12 likely wouldn’t stand a chance against the top teams.

The format of where these games will be played has also been confirmed, and its a big win for college football as the four first-round games will be played on college campuses. This will make for some wild atmospheres as the home teams fans will be going absolutely crazy in these games, but the potential weather some of these games will be played in only increases my interest level. Imagine for one second getting to watch Michigan State football play an SEC school in a late-December playoff game in a snowy Spartan Stadium. I don’t think those SEC boys would stand a chance.

As it stands now, the 2024 and 2025 playoffs will consist of 12 teams with the top four receiving a bye to the quarterfinals. The bottom eight teams will play their opening round games with seeds 5-8 playing host to their game on their home field. The quarterfinals, semifinals and championship games will all continue to be held on neutral site fields similar to what we are used to with the current version of the playoff.

If the playoff consisted of 12 teams since it began in 2014 like this new format, what would that have meant for past MSU teams?

Michigan State football would now have three playoff appearances in program history compared to the one we currently have now. The 2015 Big Ten champion MSU team would have earned the 3-seed and a bye from the first round of the playoff and would have played the winner of (7) Ohio State and (10) North Carolina. A rematch against Ohio State on a neutral field would have been crazy that year.

Under this new format, MSU’s 2014 squad that finished the regular season 10-2 would have made the playoff earning the No. 8 overall seed. This would have led to the Spartans hosting a first round game in East Lansing against (9) Ole Miss with the winner playing the top overall seed Alabama in the quarterfinals. I doubt that team would’ve been able to hang with Alabama that year, but hosting a playoff game in the inaugural College Football Playoff would have made for one of the best nights in Michigan State football history.

The final MSU squad that would have made the playoff is the 2021 team that also finished the regular season 10-2. This would have had MSU traveling on the road to face No. 7-seeded and Big 12 champion Baylor. This would have been another amazing game and a rematch of the 2014 Cotton Bowl that saw MSU come back to win after being down 20 points in the fourth quarter. I would have loved our chances to win this game with K9 in the backfield, and a win would then have us facing off against (2) Michigan. Sign me up for that.

Michigan State’s 2017 team that finished the regular season 9-3 would have narrowly missed out on the CFP that year as they were ranked No. 16 in the final CFP rankings.

What does this mean for MSU in the future? The main goal in relation to the CFP is still to get one of the top four seeds. Doing that will earn our guys a bye which means one less game needed to win a national championship and much needed extra rest. After that, earning a 5-8 seed is the next best option so we can host a first round game in East Lansing. Honestly, I kind of hope we get one of these seeds the next time we are in position to make the CFP because Spartan Stadium would be electric hosting a playoff game in late December.

However, I still won’t complain about getting seeded 9-12 because although we don’t get to host a playoff game, we are still in the field and have a chance to win a national championship and that is the ultimate goal at the end of the day.

The playoff expanding to 12 teams is the right move for college football, and having the first-round games played on campuses is even better. Earning a top four seed is extremely difficult in college football and that’s why Michigan State only has one playoff appearance in their history even with all the great teams we have had since 2014.

Now MSU stands a much better chance at making the playoff field, and any season where we finish 10-2 or better will end with a CFP berth and a chance to host a first-round game in Spartan Stadium.

Lead writer for Spartan Shadows since April 2023, writing over 450 articles. Michigan State basketball, football and recruiting expert. Class of 2019 graduate from Michigan State University specializing in Sports Management. Daily MSU runs a popular X page (@daily_msu) covering all things MSU Sports.


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