College Football Playoff officials announced Thursday that the playoff will expand from four to 12 teams beginning in the 2024 season. Both coaches in the Pinstripe Bowl gave the move a big thumbs-up.
"Change is inevitable, change is healthy,'' Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said Tuesday during a news conference for the Dec. 29 game at Yankee Stadium. "You can't grow if you're not changing.''
Added Syracuse coach Dino Babers, "If you embrace that change, you won't be a dinosaur, OK? You won't be extinct.''
Under the new format, the top four conference champions in the CFP rankings will receive a first-round bye, while the remaining eight play four games at the home of the higher-seeded team. One spot will be filled by the Power 5 conference champion outside of the top four, while the top team from the Group of Five conferences will take another spot. That leaves six at-large berths, and Fleck is happy to see the chance for more teams to make the field.
"This allows teams like the University of Minnesota, like Syracuse, in my opinion, to be involved in the hunt,'' Fleck said.
Had the 12-team format been in use in 2019, the Gophers would have been in the hunt until late November. They rose to No. 8 in the CFP rankings after improving to 9-0 with a 31-26 victory over Penn State. Then they dropped to No. 10 after a 23-19 loss at Iowa, rose back to No. 8 after beating Northwestern 38-22, and fell to No. 18 after a 38-17 loss to Wisconsin. Flip the Iowa result, and the Gophers would have won the Big Ten West outright and played in the conference title game, with a strong chance of staying inside the top 11 of the rankings. They ended up 11-2 and No. 10 in the final AP Top 25.
A year earlier, Syracuse was 8-2 and No. 12 in the CFP rankings before falling back after a 36-3 loss to Notre Dame.
"It's still going to be difficult, OK, but it's giving other teams opportunities, just like [the Gophers] had in 2019, we had in 2018,'' Babers said. "We could have been a part of those things. It gives teams like us a chance.''
Time for fun, too
New York City has plenty for visitors to experience, and the Gophers and Syracuse will get their fill during the bowl trip. Pinstripe officials have lined up the following activities for the teams:
- Ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
- Attending the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.
- Taking in a New York Rangers game at Madison Square Garden.
- Touring the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
- Experiencing the One World Observatory.
- Visiting the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Children's Pediatric Center for Cancer.
- Holding a chalk talk with Bronx youth football teams.
"We are going to have great events like we always do — iconic stuff, stuff that feels like New York, smells like New York,'' said Mark Holtzman, executive director of the bowl.
Schmitz to Senior Bowl
Center John Michael Schmitz accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl, which will be played Feb. 4 in Mobile, Ala. It marks the fourth consecutive year that the Gophers will have at least one player in the game, which features a week of coaching from NFL assistants.