College Football Playoff reveals its 12-team expansion details

College Football Playoff. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
College Football Playoff. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Here is everything you need to know about the College Football Playoff expanding to 12 teams.

With the College Football Playoff expanding to 12 teams, here is what you need to know about it.

The CFP Board of Managers met virtually on Friday and unanimously agreed to expand to a 12-team format. It will begin in the 2026 college football season once the playoff’s TV contract with ESPN expires. The College Football Management Committee (10 conference commissioners plus Notre Dame athletic director) will discuss the feasibility of adopting the new format even sooner.

The absolute earliest this new format could take over is in 2024, but 2026 is the likeliest outcome with 2025 also being a possibility as well.

"“This is an historic and exciting day for college football,” said Mississippi State president Mark Keenum and the chairman of the CFB Board of Managers in a statement. “More teams, more participation and more excitement are good for our fans, alumni, and student-athletes. I’m grateful to my colleagues on the board for their thoughtful approach to this issue and for their resolve to get expansion across the goal line and for the extensive work of the Management Committee that made this decision possible.”"

The CFP Board of Managers outlined several proponents they approved in their meeting Friday.

College Football Playoff 12-team expansion details

The 12 teams making the playoff will be the six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large teams. The ranking process will remain the same as it has been for the last eight years, but accounting for the new requirements for entry. What you can clearly see here is any Power Five or Group of Five distinctions was not mentioned. Therefore, those labels are officially dead after this.

The four highest-ranked conference champions are to receive a first-round bye to the national quarterfinals. Pending a future agreement with the bowl system, the quarterfinals and the semifinals essentially become the New Year’s Six. The biggest difference is teams one through four will either select or be assigned their bowl game (ex. Pac-12 champion gets the Rose Bowl).

As for teams five through 12, they will play presumably on-campus games at the higher-seeded team’s place. No. 5 will host No. 12, No. 6 will host No. 11 and so on. There is also a clause that says a higher-ranked team can use another designated site for this first-round game. For example, a smaller school can technically play at a larger nearby NFL stadium if they were the higher seed.

Three other things of note include higher seeds getting preferential treatment in their national semifinal game locations, the four highest-ranked conference champions being assigned their national quarterfinals opponent based on how the bracket shakes out and that these first-round games are not going to have over-the-top signage, as it will feel like a regular-season home game.

Again, none of what the Board of Managers agreed on is all that shocking. The only thing that really moves the needle is the notion of essentially six automatic qualifiers. It is not that per se, but the sixth-best conference champion is getting shoehorned in there over what will probably be a top-10 team otherwise. Either way, college football is changing and you better get ready for it.

Don’t worry, you have at least two years before seeing this new playoff system being enacted.

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