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College Football Playoff expanding to 12 teams in 2024

A new era in college football is on its way

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 19 College Football Playoff Press Conference Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The College Football Playoff will be expanding to 12 teams starting in 2023, the College Football Playoff Board of Managers announced on Thursday.

The four-team system has been in place since 2014.

The main holdup in finalizing the expanded playoff was the Rose Bowl’s persistence in requesting special treatment, namely retaining its Jan. 1 time slot. In the end, the unwillingness of the bowl to be the sole holdup in bringing a new era to the sport (and a massive influx of cash to all parties involved) helped smooth over the process.

From the LA Times:

A person with knowledge of the discussions between game organizers and CFP officials told the Associated Press that the Rose Bowl is prepared to be flexible and wants to continue to be part of the playoff beyond 2025.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the presidents and chancellors who oversee the playoff still needed to give final approval on expansion plans.

The university presidents and chancellors who oversee the playoff were seeking a decision from Rose Bowl officials about whether they would amend contracts for the 2024 and ‘25 seasons and allow the CFP to triple in size from four teams to 12.

The Rose Bowl is scheduled to have a traditional Pac-12-Big Ten matchup in those seasons. To have a 12-team playoff, instead of the current four teams, the Rose Bowl would need to host a semifinal in its traditional Jan. 1 time slot.

Rose Bowl officials had asked the CFP to guarantee the game would remain on New Year’s Day in the new format for 2026 and beyond.

The original 12-year contract the CFP has with ESPN expires after the 2025-26 season. CFP officials had being unwilling to make any binding commitments about the College Football Playoff beyond 2025.

According to today’s release, the first edition of the expanded playoff will start on Dec. 21, 2024, with the top four teams all receiving byes. Games would be hosted by the higher-seeded time (or played at a location chosen by that team), with matchups between No. 12 at No. 5, No. 11 at No. 6, No. 10 at No. 7, and No. 9 at No. 8.

This year, based on the current CFP rankings, the matchups would be:

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Washington Huskies — Columbus, Ohio
  2. Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Utah Utes — Tuscaloosa, Alabama
  3. Tennessee Volunteers vs. Kansas State Wildcats — Knoxville, Tennessee
  4. Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Clemson Tigers — Happy Valley, Pennsylvania

Florida State currently sits at No. 13, and will likely appear in the top 12 following the conclusion of conference championship weekend.

While the decision does further dilute the regular season and injects even more for-profit methods into a non-for-profit entity, the allure of being able to push for a title with two to three losses is one that can’t be denied. FSU, sitting outside even a New Year’s Six bowl this season after a successful year, would be one of the main benefactors of the new system if it was in place for 2022.

The full release from the College Football Playoff Committee:

IRVING, Texas – Members of the College Football Playoff (CFP) Board of Managers have agreed to begin the newly-expanded 12-team playoff during the 2024-2025 season.

“We’re delighted to be moving forward,” said Bill Hancock, Executive Director of the College Football Playoff. “When the board expanded the playoff beginning in 2026 and asked the CFP Management Committee to examine the feasibility of starting the new format earlier, the Management Committee went right to work. More teams and more access mean more excitement for fans, alumni, students and student-athletes. We appreciate the leaders of the six bowl games and the two future national championship game host cities for their cooperation. Everyone realized that this change is in the best interest of college football and pulled together to make it happen.”

The first round of the playoff in 2024 will take place the week ending Saturday, December 21, at either the home field of the higher-seeded team or at another site designated by the higher-seeded institution. (No. 12 at No. 5, No. 11 at No. 6, No. 10 at No. 7, and No. 9 at No. 8.) The specific game dates, likely late in that week, will be announced later.

For the 2024 and 2025 seasons, the four quarterfinal games and two Playoff Semifinal games will be played in bowls on a rotating basis. The 2024 quarterfinals will take place in the Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, while the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl will host the Playoff Semifinals. The 2025 quarterfinals will take place in the Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, while the Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl will host the Playoff Semifinals. Specific dates for all quarterfinal and semifinal games will be announced at a later time.

The national championship games will be played January 20, 2025, in Atlanta, and January 19, 2026, in Miami.

“On behalf of the Management Committee and the Board of Managers, this is thrilling,” Hancock added. “It’s been a long process, but we are pleased that more teams and more students will have the opportunity to compete for the national championship beginning in the 2024 season. A new era of college football is about to begin. I look forward to it.”

“This is a great day for college football,” said Mark Keenum, President of Mississippi State University and chairman of the CFP Board of Managers. “I’m glad we are able to follow through and launch the expanded playoff early. It’s very exciting for schools, alumni and everyone involved.”

Members of the CFP Board of Managers are Timothy Caboni – Conference USA (President, Western Kentucky); Jim Clements – Atlantic Coast Conference (President, Clemson); Gordon Gee – Big 12 Conference (President, West Virginia); Jack Hawkins – Sun Belt Conference (President, Troy); Rev. John Jenkins – President, Notre Dame (Independent); Kristina Johnson – Big Ten Conference (President, Ohio State); Mark Keenum (chair) – Southeastern Conference (President, Mississippi State); Kirk Schulz – Pacific-12 Conference (President, Washington State); Satish Tripathi – Mid-American Conference (President, Buffalo); Gerald Turner – American Athletic Conference (President, SMU); Keith WhitfieldMountain West Conference (President, UNLV).