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CFP finalizes new format for 2024 and 2025

The final plan for the new 12-team College Football Playoff is a done deal. The playoff will now include the five highest-ranked conference champions and the next seven highest-ranked teams determined by the CFP committee.

While the CFP doesn’t use the terms “Power 5” or “Group of 5” because it’s technically not an official name, in essence, what this means is that the four highest-ranked “Power 5” champions and the highest-ranked “Group of 5” champion will likely claim the automatic qualifier bids. The other seven teams will enter the playoffs as “at-large” teams based on their ranking.

It is worth noting in their release that it was stated that “No conference will qualify automatically and there will be no limit on the number of participants from a conference.”

Despite a voting delay to accommodate the last two members of a decimated Pac-12…err Pac-2, the new 5+7 format was passed unanimously. This was a move that was expected following the flurry of conference realignment since the original format was designed. Oregon State and Washington State have conceded that the Pac-2, in its current form, does not deserve an automatic qualifier bid until they figure out the future of the conference.

With those two on board, the original 6+6 format was scrapped in favor of the new 5+7 model. The new version will go into effect in 2024 and run through the 2025 season (two years).

Here’s how it’ll work: The top four conference champs will get a bye in the first round. The other 8 teams will battle it out in first-round matchups that will take place at the home stadiums of the higher-ranked teams. (#5 will host #12 – #6 will host #11 – #7 will host #10 and #8 will host #9) After that, the quarterfinals and semifinals will be played in the New Year’s Six bowl games with the national championship game continuing to be at a neutral site. Here’s what the 12-team playoff would have looked like in the 2023 season.

Graphic showing a bracket of what a 12-team playoff would have looked like in 2023

Additional Thoughts going forward

There are still a few interesting aspects to monitor going forward as further details get hammered out. It would not be surprising if the Big 10 and SEC, in their new alliance, ask for a guaranteed number of playoff spots and a larger cut of the revenue, hence why I pointed out that crucial wording in their release.

Also, Notre Dame is now in an interesting position. On one hand, as an independent they can never be a conference champion therefore securing a first-round bye. Hypothetically, if they were to finish as the top-ranked team in the CFP poll, they would still enter the playoffs as a fifth seed. On the other hand, they don’t have the risk of playing a conference championship game but still have seven spots to fight for. Personally, I think Notre Dame’s days of being an independent are coming to an end.

This will be especially true if two super conferences are formed, and they have no one else to play or are left to fight for a shrinking number of at-large bids if the CFP caters to the SEC and Big 10. To be fair, with 32 combined teams and counting in the case of additional expansion, they will probably get what they want or break away if they don’t. Furthermore, a 16-team playoff will probably happen somewhere down the line as well. Current Big 10 commissioner Tony Petitti has been in favor of the further expanded format. These possible outcomes put further emphasis on why FSU needs to find its way out of the ACC and into one of the two big power conferences.

For now, the new 12-team format will make for some exciting postseason matchups and solve some issues that arose with the previous model. Although we all expect it to be an overwhelming number of Big 10 and SEC teams, there is still an opening for a Cinderella story from the G5. We should also never see the situation that happened to FSU in the final 4-team playoff happen again. However, there could still be some drama in terms of rankings bias and who the other seven teams will be. After all, they will still be decided by the same committee that screwed FSU.

Getting a bye in the first round is certainly the preferred option, but home playoff games will undoubtedly be a fun twist to this new format. Hopefully, we get to experience it first-hand when the Noles make it into the first edition of the 12-team playoff coming this season. Thanks for reading and Go Noles!!

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