College Football Playoff: What would the field look like to expand to 12 teams this week?

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 the proposed format using the latest Top 25 rankings from the CFP committee.

This is how the bracket would be seeded and the site positions determined using the Nov. 22 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 a National Championship game.

Top four seeds (first round byes):

1.Georgia (SEC champion)
2. Ohio State (Big Ten Champion)
3. TCU (Big 12 champion)
4. USC (Pac-12 Champion)

Under the CFP board-approved model, the top four seeds will be reserved for the four highest-ranked conference champions. For our purposes, we designate the highest ranked team from each conference as the champion. That means no. 1 Georgia (SEC), No. 2 Ohio State (Big Ten), No. 4 TCUs (Big 12) and no. 6 USC (Pac-12) would get a bye to the quarterfinals.

No. 5-12 suits:

5. Michigan (overall)
6. LSU (overall)
7. Alabama (overall)
8. Clemson (ACC Champion)
9. Oregon (overall)
10.Tennessee (overall)
11.Penn State (overall)
12. Tulane (AAC Champion)

Under the same model, the six highest-ranked conference champions are guaranteed spots alongside the six highest-ranked overall teams. If the season ended today, the fifth and sixth highest ranked conference champions would be the No. 8 Clemson (ACC) and no. 19 Tulane (AAC).

Joining them on the field would be the six remaining teams with the highest ranks: No. 3 Michigan, No. 5 LSU, No. 7 Alabama, No. 9 Oregon, No. 10Tennessee and No. 11 Pennsylvania State.

The CFP calendar

All eastern tenses.

First round

Friday 12 December 13

  • no. 9 Oregon at No. 8 Clemson, 7:30pm

Saturday 12 December 14

  • no. 12 Tulane at no. 5 Michigan, noon
  • no. 11 Penn State at No. LSU 6, 4:00 p.m
  • no. 10 Tennessee at No. Alabama 7, 8:00 pm

The four first round games will be played on the campuses of the No. 5-8 seeds during the third weekend of December. Which games go into which slots would likely be determined by ESPN, with Tennessee-Alabama being the obvious Saturday primetime pick.

Quarter finals

Tuesday 12 December 31

  • Bowl of Peaches: No. 3 TCU vs. LSU-Penn State winner, 7:30pm

Wednesday January 1st

  • Fiesta Bowl: No. 4 USC vs. Winner Michigan-Tulane, 1:00 p.m
  • Bowl of Roses: No. 2 Ohio State vs. Winner Alabama-Tennessee, 5:00 p.m.
  • Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Georgia vs. Winner Clemson-Oregon, 8:45pm

The current New Year’s Six Bowl is expected to rotate hosting the quarterfinals and semifinals, with the goal of playing the majority of the quarterfinals on New Year’s Day. And the CFP board said in its announcement that the top four seeds would be awarded “in consideration of current contractual relationships”.

Using those metrics, No. 1 Georgia would go to the SEC Contract Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, and No. 1 Georgia. 2 Ohio State to the Rose Bowl as Big Ten champions. The Peach and Fiesta Bowls have no conference partners, but No. 3 TCU would likely get preference over No. 2 Ohio State. 4 USC, and Atlanta is closer. This conveniently allows the Trojans to stay in the west.

Semifinals

Thursday, Jan. 9

  • Cotton Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State/No. 7Alabama/No. 10Tennessee vs. no. 3 TCU/no. 6 LSU/No. 11 Penn State, 7:30 p.m

Friday, Jan. 10

  • Orange bowl: no. 1 Georgia/No. 8 Clemson/No. 9 Oregon vs. no. 4 USC/No. 5 Michigan/No. Tulane 12, 7:30 pm

The commissioners have not officially set dates for the semifinals, but they are expected to be at least a week later than the quarterfinals, and the CFP would avoid scheduling them to coincide with NFL Wild Card weekend (January 11-13). That probably means placing one Thursday night and the other Friday night.

In the CFP board announcement, it said that “the higher seeds will receive preferential placement in the playoff semifinals.” It will depend on which teams win the quarterfinals, but if the no. 1 Georgia is advanced, Miami is closer than Arlington.

Monday, Jan. 20

  • National championship game in Atlanta, 7:30pm

The title game is expected to stay on Monday night, as the NFL’s Divisional Round has a hold on potential weekend dates. The CFP had already selected Atlanta as the venue for the 2025 national championship game, and it is expected to stay that way even though the game will likely be played two weeks later than scheduled.

And here’s how we expect the tournament to play out in the quarterfinals and beyond:

  • no. 9 Oregon beats no. 8 Clemson
  • no. 5 Michigan beats no. 12 Tulan
  • no. 6 LSU beats no. 11 Pennsylvania State
  • no. 7 Alabama beats no. 10 Tennessee
  • no. 1 Georgia beats no. 9Oregon
  • no. 5 Michigan beats no. 4 USC
  • no. 6 LSU beats no. 3 TCUs
  • no. 7 Alabama beats no. 2 State of Ohio
  • no. 1 Georgia beats no. 5 Michigan
  • no. 7 Alabama beats no. 6 USL
  • no. 1 Georgia beats no. 7Alabama

Check out last week’s screening here.

(Illustration: Sean Reilly / The Athletic; photos: Tom Pennington, Jeff Moreland, G River / Getty Images)

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