While not officially finalized, the expanded 12-team College Football Playoff is expected to debut with the 2024 season. Each week for the rest of the season, The Athletic will test drive the proposed format using the CFP committee’s latest Top 25 rankings.
Here’s how the bracket would be seeded and the site locations determined using the committee’s November 15 rankings and a 2024-25 calendar. Note: The Orange and Cotton Bowls were previously scheduled to host the 2024-25 semifinals and Atlanta was selected as the national championship game.
Top four seeds (first-round byes):
- Georgia (SEC champ)
- Ohio State (Big Ten champ)
- TCU (Big 12 champ)
- USC (Pac-12 champ)
Under the CFP board’s approved model, the top four seeds will be reserved for the four highest-ranked conference champions. For our purposes, we’re designating each conference’s top-ranked team as its champion. That means No. 1 Georgia (SEC), No. 2 Ohio State (Big Ten), No. 4 TCU (Big 12) and No. 7 USC (Pac-12) would get a bye into the quarterfinals.
Nos. 5-12 seeds:
5. Michigan (at-large)
6. Tennessee (at-large)
7. LSU (at-large)
8. Alabama (at-large)
9. Clemson (ACC Champion)
10. Utah (at-large)
11. Penn State (at-large)
12. UCF (AAC Champion)
Under the same model, the six highest-ranked conference champions are guaranteed berths along with the six highest-ranked at-large teams. Were the season to end today, the fifth- and sixth-highest ranked conference champions would be No. 9 Clemson (ACC) and No. 20 UCF (AAC).
Joining them in the field would be the six highest-ranked remaining teams: No. 3 Michigan, No. 5 Tennessee, No. 6 LSU, No. 8 Alabama, No. 10 Utah and No. 11 Penn State.
The CFP schedule
All times Eastern.
Fri. Dec. 13
- No. 10 Utah at No. 7 LSU, 7:30 p.m.
Sat. Dec. 14
- No. 12 UCF at No. 5 Michigan, noon
- No. 11 Penn State at No. 6 Tennessee, 4 p.m.
- No. 9 Clemson at No. 8 Alabama, 8 p.m.
The four first-round games will be played on the campuses of the No. 5-8 seeds over the third weekend in December. Which games get placed in which slots would likely be determined by ESPN, with Clemson-Alabama as the obvious Saturday prime-time selection. And you know LSU would love to host a night game Friday.
Kill. Dec. 31
- Peach Bowl: No. 4 USC vs. Michigan-UCF winner, 7:30 pm
Wednesday. Jan 1
- Fiesta Bowl: No. 3 TCU vs. Tennessee-Penn State winner, 1 p.m.
- Rose Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State vs. LSU-Utah winner, 5 p.m.
- Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Georgia vs. Alabama-Clemson winner, 8:45 pm
It is expected that the current New Year’s Six bowls will rotate hosting the quarterfinals and semifinals, with a goal of playing most quarterfinals on New Year’s Day. And the CFP board stated in its announcement that the top four seeds will be assigned “in consideration of current contract bowl relationships.”
Using those parameters, No. 1 Georgia would go the SEC’s contract bowl, the Sugar Bowl, and No. 2 Ohio State to the Rose Bowl as Big Ten champion. The Peach and Fiesta bowls do not have conference partners, but No. 3 TCU would likely get preference over No. 4 USC. Placing the Horned Frogs in Atlanta would put them at a disadvantage against Tennessee, so TCU gets the Fiesta, USC the Peach.
Thu. Jan. 9
- Cotton Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State/No. 7 USL/No. 10 Utah vs. No. 3 TCU/No. 6 Tennessee/No. 11 Penn State, 7:30 p.m.
Fri. Jan. 10
- Orange Bowl: No. 1 Georgia/No. 8 Alabama/No. 9 Clemson vs. No. 4 USC/No. 5 Michigan/No. 12 UCF, 7:30 p.m.
The commissioners have not officially determined the dates of the semifinals, but they would have to be at least a week later than the quarterfinals, and the CFP would avoid scheduling them opposite the NFL’s Wild Card weekend (Jan. 11-13). That likely means placing one Thursday night and the other Friday night.
In the CFP board’s announcement it said “the higher seeds would receive preferential placement in the Playoff semifinal games.” That would depend on which teams win their quarterfinals, but if No. 1 Georgia advanced, Miami is closer than Arlington.
My. Jan. 20
- National championship game in Atlanta, 7:30 pm
The title game is expected to remain on Monday night, as the NFL’s Divisional Round has a stranglehold on potential weekend dates. The CFP had already selected Atlanta as its site for the 2025 national championship game, and it is expected to remain so even though the game will now likely be played two weeks later than planned.
And here’s how we predict the tournament would unfold in the quarterfinals and beyond:
- No. 8 Alabama beats No. 9 Clemson
- No. 5 Michigan beats No. 12 UCF
- No. 6 Tennessee beats No. 11 Penn State
- No. 7 LSU beats No. 10 Utah
- No. 1 Georgia beats No. 8 Alabama
- No. 5 Michigan beats No. 4 USC
- No. 6 Tennessee beats No. 3 TCU
- No. 2 Ohio State beats No. 7 LSU
- No. 1 Georgia beats No. 5 Michigan
- No. 6 Tennessee beats No. 2 Ohio State
- No. 1 Georgia beats No. 6 Tennessee
Check out last week’s screening here.
(Illustration: Sean Reilly/ The Athletic; Photos: Scott W. Grau, Tim Warner, Jonathan Bachman/Getty)