12-team college playoff raises plenty of NFL-related questions

The powers-that-be in college football reportedly have decided to expand the college football playoff from four teams to a full dozen. That will expand the questions and potential headaches for the NFL and the players expecting to make the league the next stop in their football careers.

The details have yet to be figured out. A 12-team playoff points to an eleven-game tournament, with eight teams competing in a first-round that narrows the field to eight, followed by a round that cuts the field to four, a round that produces two, and the final championship game.

It means that at least two teams will play at least three more games. It also means that two teams can play as many as four more games.

That means, at the most obvious level, more chances for players to get injured, as they are just about to finally move to a level of football for which they are directly paid for the efforts, abilities, and sacrifices.

Beyond the obvious question of enhanced injury risk, the extra games will shrink the amount of time that players have to prepare for the Scouting Combine and other pre-draft activities. The NFL at some point may have to delay the annual gathering of incoming players to account for that fact.

More pressure will be placed on the overall system to pay players, beyond the NIL money that they are now permitted to earn. As the pie keeps growing and growing and growing, the failure to share it with players will become more and more and more conspicuous.

Some will say that an expanded playoff will reduce the number of players who will skip postseason games, since fewer of them will be meaningless. For some, however, the prospect of playing up to four more postseason games could cause them to tap out of the tournament altogether. Some players could possibly skip the opening round and then, if the team advances, rejoin the competition as it gets closer to the championship round.

Some players could even tie their willingness to keep going to a spike in their NIL money. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. A star player who is poised to enter the draft doesn’t want to risk his health or compromise his preparation. So he suggests he won’t play in the playoff. Fans and boosters mobilize to flood him with NIL money. He changes his mind.

Perhaps, in time, players will be more blatant about tying their willingness to keep playing in exchange for getting X number of dollars.

However it plays out, adding eight more playoff games to the three already being played will alter certain dynamics and raise certain questions and lead to certain consequences of which those college football executives who are simply chasing bigger and better are either uncertain or completely unaware.