While not officially finalized, the expanded 12-team College Football Playoff is expected to debut with the 2024 season. Each week for the remainder of the season, The Athletic will test drive the proposed format using the Playoff committee’s latest Top 25 rankings — and predict how it will play out.
Here’s how the bracket would be seeded and the site locations determined using the committee’s Nov. 1 rankings. Note: The Orange and Cotton bowls were previously scheduled to host the 2024-25 semifinals and Atlanta the national championship game.
Top four seeds (first-round byes):
- Tennessee (SEC champion)
- Ohio State (Big Ten champion)
- Clemson (ACC champion)
- TCU (Big 12 champion)
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 Tennessee (SEC), No. 2 Ohio State (Big Ten), No. 4 Clemson (ACC) and No. 7 TCU (Big 12) would get a bye into the quarterfinals.
Nos. 5-12 seeds:
5. Georgia (at-large)
6. Michigan (at-large)
7. Alabama (at-large)
8. Oregon (Pac-12 champ)
9. USC (at-large)
10. LSU (at-large)
11. Ole Miss (at-large)
12. Tulane (AAC champ)
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. 8 Oregon (Pac-12) and No. 19 Tulane (AAC).
Joining them in the field would be the six highest-ranked remaining teams: No. 3 Georgia, No. 5 Michigan, No. 6 Alabama, No. 9 USC, No. 10 LSU and No. 11 Ole Miss.
The CFP schedule
All times Eastern.
Fri. Dec. 13
- No. 9 USC at No. 8 Oregon, 7:30 p.m.
Sat. Dec. 14
- No. 12 Tulane at No. 5 Georgia, noon
- No. 11 Ole Miss at No. 6 Michigan, 4 p.m.
- No. 10 LSU at No. 7 Alabama, 8 p.m.
The four first-round games will be played on the campuses of the Nos. 5-8 seeds during the third weekend in December. Which games get placed in which slots would likely be determined by ESPN, with LSU-Alabama as the obvious Saturday prime-time selection. (Oregon would not be expected to host a noon ET/9 a.m. PT game on Saturday.)
And hey, Big Ten fans’ long-held “SEC team has to go play up North in December” fantasy finally comes to fruition with Ole Miss playing at Michigan.
Tue. Dec. 31
- Peach Bowl: No. 3 Clemson vs. Michigan-Ole Miss winner, 7:30 p.m.
Wed. Jan 1
- Fiesta Bowl: No. 4 TCU vs. Georgia-Tulane winner, 1 p.m.
- Rose Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State vs. Alabama-LSU winner, 5 p.m.
- Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Tennessee vs. Oregon-USC winner, 8:45 p.m.
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 seed Tennessee would go the SEC’s contract bowl, the Sugar Bowl, and No. 2 seed Ohio State to the Rose Bowl as Big Ten champion. The Peach and Fiesta bowls do not have conference partners, but geography suggests No. 3 Clemson would go to Atlanta, leaving No. 4 TCU for the Fiesta Bowl.
Thu. Jan. 9
- Cotton Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State/No. 7 Alabama/No. 10 LSU vs. No. 3 Clemson/No. 6 Michigan/No. 11 Ole Miss, 7:30 p.m.
Fri. Jan. 10
- Orange Bowl: No. 1 Tennessee/No. 8 Oregon/No. 9 USC. vs. No. 4 TCU/No. 5 Georgia/No. 12 Tulane, 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 on Thursday night and the other on Friday night.
The CFP board’s announcement 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 seed Tennessee advanced, Knoxville is effectively equidistant between the two sites so could theoretically go to either. We picked the Orange.
Mon. Jan. 20
- National championship game in Atlanta, 7:30 p.m.
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 likely be played two weeks later than first planned.
And here’s how we predict the tournament would unfold in the quarterfinals and beyond:
- No. 8 Oregon beats No. 9 USC
- No. 5 Georgia beats No. 12 Tulane
- No. 6 Michigan beats No. 11 Ole Miss
- No. 7 Alabama beats No. 10 LSU
- No. 1 Tennessee beats No. 8 Oregon
- No. 5 Georgia beats No. 4 TCU
- No. 6 Michigan beats No. 3 Clemson
- No. 2 Ohio State beats No. 7 Alabama
- No. 5 Georgia beats No. 1 Tennessee
- No. 2 Ohio State beats No. 6 Michigan
- No. 2 Ohio State beats No. 5 Georgia
Check out all of our CFP rankings coverage.
(Top and inline illustrations: John Bradford / The Athletic; Top photos: Ben Jackson, Donald Page, Mark Brown/ Getty Images)
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