CFP expansion could increase annual revenue to $2 billion

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A new College Football Playoff with triple the number of teams involved could bring in three times as much money to the conferences and schools that share the wealth.

The television rights for a proposed 12-team playoff could be worth about $1.9 billion annually, according to projections from Navigate Research, which consults with professional sports leagues and college conferences.

The Chicago-based company said ticket sales and sponsorship deals that currently account for about 15% of College Football Playoff revenue could push the total takeaway to more than $2 billion per year.

ESPN’s current deal with the CFP pays about $470 million per year. ESPN has separate contracts with the Rose, Sugar and Orange bowls that up the network’s total layout to more than $600 million annually to be the television home of college football’s most important postseason games.

The Power Five conference’s get most of that revenue. According to the most recent figures available from 2019-20 season, the Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference received $67 million each from the CFP. The other five FBS conferences shared $92 million.

How revenue would be distributed in a new model was not part of the detailed proposal the CFP unveiled Thursday. The 12-team model is at least three steps away from final approval from the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the CFP.

And it could be six seasons away from being implemented.

The current TV contract with ESPN runs through the 2025-26 season. Until then the CFP cannot take its new format to market. If expansion comes before the contract ends, a deal will have to be struck between ESPN and the CFP.

“We’re supportive of our partners at the College Football Playoff as they look toward expansion and seek even more opportunities to grow the passion and excitement for the sport and this signature championship event,” the network said Friday in a statement to AP.

The current format provides ESPN with three playoff games per season, two semifinals and a championship game, plus the rights to four other marquee bowl games that have no bearing on the national championship.

The proposed expansion creates 11 playoff games per season.

While viewership for the CFP has never matched the record levels reached when the playoff made its debut after the 2014 regular season, it is still arguably ESPN’s most valuable property.

Even this past season, when Alabama’s blowout victory against Ohio State on Jan. 11 was the least watched title game in the seven-year history of the CFP at 18.7 million viewers, the three playoff games still drew the largest audience for any cable network (an average of 19.1 million per game) since the previous year’s CFP.

Before last season, the six previous College Football Playoff championship games averaged nearly 28 million viewers for ESPN.

Navigate’s projections are derived using the media rights value increases in recent deals made by the NFL, NHL, Southeastern Conference and other sport properties. Those deals increased the average value per viewer to $10.40, according to Navigate.

Assuming TV viewership increases by 25% each round of the playoff until the national Championship, which is in line with most seasons, Navigate estimated total viewers for all rounds of a 12-team CFP would be 183 million.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.