College Football Playoffs Explained: What You Need to Know

For some, the new year is a time for resolutions, celebration and family. For most, it is a time for College Football Playoffs. Four teams will compete for the College Football Playoff National Championship, but how are these teams decided? Find out how the College Football Playoffs work below.

How are Teams Selected for the College Football Playoffs?

Who Decides the College Football Playoff Rankings?

The College Football Playoffs (CFP) are decided upon by a 13-member selection committee, known as the CFP Selection Committee. This committee is a combination of coaches, former players, athletic directors, college administrators, and journalists. The committee is responsible for determining the top four teams that will make up the CFP. The top four teams will be placed into Playoff Semifinal bowl games and the winners of those games will face each other in the CFP National Championship game. The CFP Selection Committee is also responsible for creating the ranking of the top 25 teams each week. The top 25 team rankings are released each week over a six-week period throughout the season. The final selection of these rankings and determination of who will be in the CFP takes place on what’s known as Selection Weekend.

How are Rankings Decided?

The rankings of these teams is a complicated and a precise process. According to the CFP Selection Committee Protocol, “Ranking football teams is an art, not a science.” So, let’s start from the beginning of the process. The members of the CFP Selection Committee are given a three-year term and are chosen by the CFP Management Committee. The CFP Management Committee is comprised of 10 Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) conference commissioners as well as the Notre Dame athletic director. The CFP Selection Committee is given the arduous task of ranking the top 25 teams in the country based on a number of metrics, including video review, statistics, win-loss records, conference championships won, head-to-head results against common opponents, strength of schedule, each teams’ opponents’ record, and their own individual expertise. They also use SportSource Analytics to provide the committee with the maximum number of data points needed to make their final decisions.

The Voting Process

All 13 committee members of the CFP Selection Committee meet on a weekly basis and, each week, in no particular order, individually create a list of 30 teams they believe are the best in the country. Teams who are listed by three or more members of the committee will be under consideration for the overall ranking pool. More teams can be added to the overall ranking pool later on if they receive a vote by three or more committee members. Each member will then choose who they believe are the best six teams in the overall ranking pool, again in no particular order. The six teams receiving the most votes will be placed in the first ranking pool, this is known as the “listing step.” Each member will then rank each team one through six, with one being the best team on the list. The members of the CFP Selection Committee will then compare rankings, and the top three teams with the lowest point total (No. 1 = 1 point) will be chosen as the top three seeds. The three non-ranked teams in this six team pool will be placed back with the other non-ranked remaining teams in the overall pool. The committee will again choose the top six remaining teams from the overall pool and begin the process over.

Recused CFP Committee Members

A recused member is any member of the CFP Selection Committee who is directly related to, or has an immediate family member related to, a team that is under consideration for ranking. Being a recused member involves being compensated for a salaried position or a consulting arrangement from a school as well as being a former player or coach of a school. A recused member will not participate in any votes involving the school/team they are recused from.

Changes for the 2024 Season

Since 2014, the process listed above has been the determination of who will compete in the CFP. However, in 2022 the CFP Management Committee unanimously voted to expand the CFP from four teams to 12. The 12 teams will be decided upon by the CFP Selection Committee between the six-highest ranked conference champions and the six-highest ranked non-conference champions. The four top seeded teams will receive a first-week bye and the remaining eight teams will play in the first round (No. 12 at No. 5, No. 11 at No. 6, No. 10 at No. 7, No. 9 at No. 8). The four quarterfinal, two semifinal games and the CFP National Championship game will be played at bowl games on a rotating basis.

How Does Seeding Work for the College Football Playoffs?

Seeding for the CFP is relatively straightforward. During the semifinal games, the No. 1 seed plays the No. 4 seed at a bowl game and No. 2 seed plays the No. 3 seed at another bowl game. The winner of the two semifinal games play each other in the CFP National Championship game.

What Bowl Games Make Up the College Football Playoffs?

The CFP semifinal games rotate annually between three sets of different bowl games. These games include the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix; the Orange Bowl in Miami and the Cotton Bowl in Texas; and, finally, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The 2022 CFP semifinal games will be played at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix.

What are the New Years 6 Bowl Games?

The New Year’s Six (aka “NY6”) bowl games include: the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl.

What Teams Have Won the College Football Playoffs?

Since the 2014 change to the CFP only five teams have won the CFP National Championship. The CFP winning teams have been Georgia (2021), Alabama (2020, 2017, 2015), LSU (2019), Clemson (2018, 2016), and Ohio State (2014).

How Do I Get Tickets for the College Football Playoffs?

You can get National Championship tickets at Ticketmaster, the Official Ticket Marketplace of the College Football Playoff National Championship. Upcoming NCAA College Football games can be found below, including college bowl game tickets.

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