Oct 21, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Davison Igbinosun (1) celebrates in front of Penn State Nittany Lions offensive lineman Caedan Wallace (73) during the NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium.

What 12-team College Football Playoff would have looked like in ’23

The College Football Playoff is about to expand to a 12-team field, but that leaves fans in 2023 with one more great “what if?” to answer.

If this year’s college football season had gotten the 12-team treatment, the debate over whether to rank Alabama or Florida State fourth still would have mattered — but it wouldn’t have been a question of in or out.

The new format, as currently constructed, will guarantee the six highest-ranked conference champions will make the field. Then the six highest-ranked remaining teams will round out the field, with teams seeded according to the final CFP rankings.

The top four teams will get a bye in the first round. The fifth through eighth seeds will get to select the host venue for their respective quarterfinal games.

Using the final rankings of the 2023 season released earlier Sunday, the 12-team playoff would have looked like this:

No. 8 Oregon vs. No. 9 Missouri (quarterfinal)
Winner plays No 1. Michigan (first-round bye)

No. 5 Florida State vs. No. 12 Liberty (quarterfinal)
Winner plays No. 4 Alabama (first-round bye)

No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Penn State (quarterfinal)
Winner plays No. 2 Washington (first-round bye)

No. 6 Georgia vs. No. 11 Ole Miss (quarterfinal)
Winner plays No. 3 Texas (first-round bye)

The quarterfinals would create some conference rematches. In the regular season, Ohio State defeated Penn State 20-12 and Georgia demolished Ole Miss 52-17.

There’s also the fascinating case of Florida State against Liberty, two teams that finished the regular season 13-0 with conference titles in the ACC and Conference USA, respectively. In real life, the Seminoles dropped from No. 4 to No. 5 this week despite beating Louisville in the ACC championship game, as the committee determined they were “a different team” without injured quarterback Jordan Travis available.

The first team out? No. 12 Oklahoma. The Sooners would not make the cut as Liberty, the No. 23 team in Sunday’s rankings, would get the 12th seed as the winner of the sixth and final conference champion auto-bid.

–Field Level Media

Alabama Crimson Tide band plays Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, before the College Football Playoff National Championship against Georgia at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

CFP makes it official: 12-team playoff in 2024

The College Football Playoff made official Thursday its plan to expand to a 12-team format beginning in 2024.

The final hurdle was removed late Wednesday when the Rose Bowl finally acquiesced to the expansion.

“We’re delighted to be moving forward,” said Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff, in a news release. “More teams and more access mean more excitement for fans, alumni, students and student-athletes. We appreciate the leaders of the six bowl games and the two future national championship game host cities for their cooperation. Everyone realized that this change is in the best interest of college football and pulled together to make it happen.”

The first round of the 2024 playoff will take place the week ending Saturday, Dec. 21.

The 2024 quarterfinals will take place in the Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, while the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl will host the playoff semifinals. The 2025 quarterfinals will take place in the Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, while the Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl will host the playoff semifinals.

The national championship games will be played Jan. 20, 2025, in Atlanta, and Jan. 19, 2026, in Miami.

The CFP’s current TV contract with ESPN expires following the 2025 season and the group’s Board of Managers in September agreed to an expanded playoff format beginning in the 2026 season. But soon after, the CFP began working to expand the 2024 and ’25 seasons, as well — a move that could bring in an estimated $450 million in revenue.

While most parties — particularly the other five CFP bowls — agreed to amend the current contract to accommodate the early expanded format, the Rose Bowl in November announced publicly it was not yet ready to agree to the change. Much of the reluctancy was over potentially surrendering the coveted 5 p.m. ET time slot on New Year’s Day that the Rose Bowl enjoys.

Multiple outlets reported the CFP gave the Rose Bowl to the end of this week to agree to terms of the early expansion or risk being left out of the new CFP contract beginning in 2026.

–Field Level Media

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban and offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood (70) celebrates with the CFP National Championship trophy after beating the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

CFP leadership to review proposal for 12-team playoff

A College Football Playoff committee agreed Friday to send a proposal for a 12-team playoff to the full group for discussion.

A group tasked with exploring options to expand the current four-team playoff presented its report to the CFP management committee in a meeting in Chicago. Now, the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the College Football Playoff will review the proposal Tuesday at a conference in Dallas.

Approval won’t be quick. At the meeting next week, the management committee will ask the full board to seek feedback from a variety of groups, including their peers, student-athletes, athletic directors and coaches. A feasibility assessment of the 12-team format also is expected to commence.

“Vetting with everyone on campus will be an important element,” said Bill Hancock, the CFP executive director. “The working group’s proposal was the first step in a long process. It’s important to reach out and listen to a wide variety of people involved in college football.”

The working group’s proposal puts the six highest-ranked conference champions, plus the next six highest-ranked teams as determined by the CFP selection committee, in the playoff. There would be no automatic qualifiers, nor a limit on how many teams could represent a conference.

The four highest seeds would get a first-round bye, with the other games pitting No. 5 vs. No. 12, No. 6 vs. No. 11, No. 7 vs. No. 10 and No. 8 vs. No. 9.

The first-round games would be played at the home field of the highest seed, with remaining games on a neutral field.

“This is a very exciting time for college football,” Hancock added. “The working group’s proposal includes many details that must be carefully reviewed and discussed. We look forward to that review.”

The CFP has been in effect since after the 2014 season, and only 11 teams have appeared in the seven years: Alabama (six appearances), Clemson (six), Ohio State (four), Oklahoma (four), Notre Dame (two) and once each for LSU, Georgia, Washington, Michigan State, Oregon and Florida State.

The existing format will remain for at least the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

–Field Level Media