13 teams have qualified for the College Football Playoff since the inaugural playoff in 2014, but how many teams would’ve qualified if the expanded playoff was in place way back at the beginning of the BCS era?
Well, thanks to some excellent research from The Athletic, we know that 66 teams would’ve qualified for a 12-team playoff at least once. That’s a far cry from having four teams — Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma — qualify for the playoff at least four times in eight years. That group, in 21 appearances, produced six champions and six runner-ups.
The likes of Western Michigan, Tulane, Virginia, Oregon State, Northern Illinois, Marshall and Hawaii would’ve qualified for the playoff once.
If not for last season’s 11-3 run with Kenny Pickett under center, Pitt would’ve been one of the then-12 Power Five teams — Boston College, Duke, Kentucky, Minnesota, NC State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers, Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest — without a playoff bid during the last 25 years.
If the 2021 season featured an expanded playoff, Pitt would’ve been the No. 12 seed based on the new playoff rules. Pitt finished as the ACC champion, but not one of four conference champions as selected by the CFP committee.
So, Pitt would’ve faced eventual national champion Georgia, in Athens, in the first round.
That’s tough. Georgia was a buzzsaw last season, losing on to Alabama in the SEC championship game before bouncing back in the national championship game. Pitt… yeah.
Regardless, it would’ve been a playoff opportunity for Pitt. And after a somewhat lackluster 161-118 record in the 21st century, the experience and exposure would’ve been monumental.
“Yeah, it would have been — it’s great,” Pat Narduzzi said Monday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “We all want to play — everybody wants to get in the playoffs, right? Go to 25 teams: we’re good. I think everybody would like that. It’s still just what does it all — what all comes of it?”
With Tennessee on the schedule following the Backyard Brawl win against West Virginia, Narduzzi said he didn’t want to spend a lot of time discussing any potential ‘What If?’ scenarios. However, he also said that more teams in the playoffs would be better for everyone. The opportunities that would arise, Narduzzi said, would be good opportunities.
With Pitt’s schedule and the way the ACC has unfolded through the first week of the season, Pitt’s schedule has aligned in a particular way. Non-conference wins against WVU and a ranked Tennessee to start the season would likely set Pitt up just outside the Top 10 entering ACC play.
It isn’t the toughest conference schedule in the country, with a road game against Miami likely serving as the season’s toughest test, so it wouldn’t be unfair to say an undefeated or even one-loss Pitt squad would be a CFP contender in December.
However, while the CFP has been changed, with the new iteration incoming in the next couple of seasons, Narduzzi said that he hopes the change isn’t all about the monetary benefits. The health and safety of the kids on the field is also pivotal.
“I’ve said that five years ago when we talked about going to expansion and going from the BCS to the current model right now, and it’s just how many more games?” Narduzzi said. “Are we still playing a 12-game season? Are we still playing — I don’t know anything.
“Again, I think we were getting into game week or into game day when (CFP expansion) came out, so I don’t know what’s going on, and I haven’t called to ask. I’m not calling the commissioner. I could care less right now. We’ve got a game to play.”
Pitt’s Week 2 matchup isn’t the end all, be all of Pitt’s season, but if there’s a chance of a dark horse playoff berth, of really establishing a new era of Pitt football, a win against Tennessee would go a long way in setting the tone.