Now that the college football spring games have all but sprung us into the excitement again for the upcoming 2024 season, it's time to start thinking once again about the new expanded College Football Playoff that will be moving to 12 teams this year.

The sport of college football is changing rapidly, with the expanded playoff being no exception. Over its long history, college football's postseason has been nothing short of an unmitigated mess. Though bowl season had its time and place, it is now passe, with many iterations attempting to take its place over the years.

Over the past nearly quarter of a century, starting with the BCS, college football has been slowly amending systems to determine the best team in the country. Like the rest of the sport, none of the systems put into place have been perfect but have at least given, most of the time, legible results.

The playoff system, aptly known as the College Football Playoff, has been a commendable replacement for the BCS and anything before it with its original structure of four teams. But starting in 2024, that will see a major jump to 12 teams with attempts once again being made to show fairness and determine the best overall team in the country.

For some coaches, this sparks chagrin, while for others, it will ignite an opportunity for them and their teams who feel like they have always just been on the bubble. These are the coaches, however, who now must take advantage of this new opportunity and make the expanded College Football Playoff 12-team field in 2024.

James Franklin, Penn State

Apr 13, 2024; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin during the second quarter of the Blue White spring game at Beaver Stadium. The White team defeated the Blue team 27-0.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

There has perhaps been no one in college football over the last few seasons that, although their record says they're good, they simply don't classify in the same category with the elite. That is, of course, Penn State.

If anything, head coach James Franklin has brought stability back to a program that had seemingly lost all that under longtime coach Joe Paterno, then followed by Bill O'Brien. Entering his 10th season at State College, Franklin has produced four 11-win seasons and one 10-win, with one of those (2016) leading to his one and only Big Ten Championship victory. This success has also garnered the Nittany Lions four top 10 finishes in the College Football Playoff, including one in the top five, yet, they have remained absent from the actual four-team field itself.

This would be a different story had the 12-team playoff been initiated going back to 2016 when the Nittany Lions would have reached the playoff six times by now. But they've always been on the outside looking in, while their rivals, Ohio State, Michigan, and even Michigan State, have been playing for national championships, making the field a combined nine times.

This upcoming expanded field is made for teams like Franklin's Penn State, who have always been on the cusp of becoming a playoff team. The 2024 season has to be the time for Franklin and his Nittany Lions to make their first appearance.

Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss

Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin watches during the Ole Miss Grove Bowl Games at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss., on Saturday, Apr. 13, 2024.
© Bruce Newman/Special to the Clarion Ledger / USA TODAY NETWORK

I've tended to categorize Lane Kiffin and James Franklin and their respective teams in the same category last season, and even over the last couple of seasons. Kiffin and Ole Miss football, like Franklin and Penn State, have always been a bridesmaid and never a bride. At least Franklin has one Big Ten title under his belt. Kiffin doesn't have that. But now Kiffin doesn't need that to earn a playoff berth.

Again, the expanded College Football Playoff is made for teams like Ole Miss, who, thanks to their conference, can easily get a pass into the playoff with multiple losses. That's the luxury of being in the SEC (or Big Ten if you're Franklin), especially with the new expansions with the conferences and playoff format.

Ole Miss is coming off its best season in recorded history, finishing 11-2 with, ironically a bowl win over Penn State in last year's Peach Bowl. Couple that with Kiffin's excelling efforts in the transfer portal, coming out with the ranked best class, mixed with the current talent, and there's no reason Kiffin and his Rebels should miss this year's College Football Playoff.

Dabo Swinney, Clemson

After six straight appearances with two national championships, the Clemson football team and Dabo Swinney have been absent from the College Football Playoff the last two seasons. So the question is, how much longer will the Clemson brass put up with that?

Swinney and the Tigers still finished with a winning record last season, going 9-4, but it was their worst finish since 2010. Things seem to be on a bit of a downward trajectory over the last few years at Clemson. Again, no national titles or playoff appearances for that matter. But with the way that Swinney changed the culture and standard at Clemson, fans are beginning to become unhinged as the losses now are starting to slowly pile back up again.

The ACC is more or less Clemson's to lose as they are still considered one of if not the best team in the conference. But Swinney has been non-submissive to the new ways of college football, namely the transfer portal, refusing to use it as a resource to enhance their team. That looked to show its effects last year. Will it again this year? Swinney needs to get the Tigers back into the playoff to perhaps get back into the good graces of Tigers fans.

Mike Norvell, Florida State

It will likely be a long while before Florida State football fans forget about being snubbed from the College Football Playoff last season. If the 12-team field would have been moved up to last year, the Seminoles would have been in, even without their starting quarterback. That's why this year it is paramount they make the playoff.

Head coach Mike Norvell, if for nothing else, needs to prove that Florida State was no fluke last year. He doesn't necessarily have to win the ACC, although he doesn't have the same luxury as Big Ten and SEC teams. But, making the playoff will likely be considered a major must for the Seminoles by their fans in 2024. Getting snubbed last year to then follow up not making the expanded field the next would be crushing to Florida State and may not bode so well for Norvell, fair or not.

Ryan Day, Ohio State

Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day watches players stretch during spring football practice
© Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Speaking of fair or not, one of the most winning coaches in college football over the last several years, Ryan Day, may have the most pressure out of any of these coaches on the list. Why? Because it's The Ohio State.

Ohio State simply doesn't excuse losing and not playing for national titles. Even with his 56-8 record, Day has yet to do something his predecessor did, which is win a national championship. Filling the shoes of Urban Meyer, who is considered one of the greatest college football coaches of all time, was never going to be easy, but doing so in Columbus, in his first head coaching gig mind you, was always going to be a tall order.

That's why Day didn't hold back this offseason and did everything imaginable to try to boost his team into the best version of itself possible in 2024. Day made drastic changes to his coaching staff, including adding former UCLA head coach Chip Kelly as his offensive coordinator, to going heavily into the transfer portal for additions, and recruiting at a maximum level.

The real question now is what is acceptable for Day in 2024? Another loss to Michigan could be the final nail in the coffin. However, with the expanded playoff, Ohio State doesn't necessarily have to beat Michigan to make the Big Ten title game and then make the playoff. They could still get in with two, maybe even three losses. But you have to figure that simply making the playoff may not be enough and that winning, or at least making the title game has to be the goal.