Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; The 2024 CFP logo on the field before the 2024 College Football Playoff national championship game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Washington Huskies at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN to keep CFP broadcast rights through ’31

The College Football Playoff is officially staying with ESPN and its family of networks.

ESPN announced a six-year, $7.8 billion deal to retain the media rights to the CFP through the 2031 season, concluding with the national title game in January 2032.

The deal was first reported in February, but it needed ratification after the playoff finalized its new format. The CFP will expand from four teams to 12 starting next season.

The CFP is extending its current deal with ESPN for two years (2024 and 2025) and giving ESPN the four new first-round games on top of the quarterfinals, semifinals and national championship game.

Beginning in 2026, ESPN’s new deal kicks in, and it encompasses all rounds of the playoff, which may expand to 14 teams by that time.

Further, the national championship game will be broadcast on ABC beginning in January 2027 (for the 2026 season), in addition to ESPN’s usual mega-cast of the game.

“ESPN has worked very closely with the College Football Playoff over the past decade to build one of the most prominent events in American sports,” ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement.

“We look forward to enhancing our valued relationship over the next two years, and then continuing it for six more as we embark on this new, expanded playoff era. This agreement further solidifies ESPN as the home of college football, as well as the destination for the vast majority of major college championships for the next eight years.”

According to The Athletic last month, ESPN will have the right to “sublicense” CFP games over the course of the contract to other media organizations or streamers.

–Field Level Media

Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; A general view as the Washington Huskies take the field before to the 2024 College Football Playoff national championship game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Conferences, CFP agree on financial terms for expanded playoffs

Officials with the College Football Playoff, the nine FBS conferences and independent Notre Dame have agreed to the next playoff contract, which will take effect in 2026, ESPN reported Friday.

Under terms of the agreement, the CFP will include at least 12 teams starting in 2026 and moving forward, though expansion to 14 teams remains on the table and is considered likely to happen sooner rather than later.

Four teams have been part of the CFP since its inception for the 2014 season.

“Anything else regarding format is to be determined,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said Friday, per ESPN. “This is a very important next step for CFP, of course, and we do still have details to be finalized regarding the format, but I want to stress that the really good news is that football fans will continue to see the best teams in the country competing for the national championship on the playing field. This arrangement will also ensure the expanded access will continue to be in place. We firmly believe this, about the importance of a competitive opportunity for more programs and more players and more fans. We’re pleased to be in the position we’re in, while we know there’s still more work to be done.”

Per ESPN, the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference will take the lead in establishing the format of future playoffs beyond guaranteed berths for conference champions of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC, as well as the highest-ranked team from Group of Five champions. Notre Dame was assured it will have “protections” as the format evolves, ESPN reported.

The conferences and Notre Dame also agreed on annual compensation for each conference. Big Ten and SEC schools each will receive more than $21 million, the ACC schools will get upward of $13 million, and Notre Dame and Big 12 members will be paid more than $12 million.

Group of Five schools will receive $1.8 million — a raise of $300,000 — and Washington State and Oregon State will earn $360,000. The two Pacific Northwest schools find themselves as the remaining two members of the Pac-12, and, at least for now, are independents.

These new payouts coincide with an upcoming contract with ESPN, in which the network is expected to spend an average of about $1.3 billion on the CFP in each of the next six seasons.

That’s about three times the amount per season that ESPN has paid for the four-team playoff, Yahoo Sports said.

–Field Level Media

Fans stop to take photos with the College Football National Championship trophy at Meijer in Ypsilanti, Mich. on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. The trophy is going on a tour for fans to see presented by Dr. Pepper.

CFP committee discusses 14-team playoff for 2026

With the ink not yet dry on the new 12-team playoff format that will begin in 2024, the College Football Playoff management committee discussed the idea of a 14-team playoff, multiple outlets reported Wednesday.

Any additional expansion wouldn’t happen until 2026, if at all. The idea was discussed during CFP meetings in the Dallas area on Wednesday.

“Fourteen teams is a possibility,” Mike Aresco, CFP committee member and outgoing commissioner of the American Athletic Conference, told some reporters.

The CFP on Tuesday just approved a 5+7 model for the upcoming season, featuring the five highest-ranked conference champions and the next seven highest-ranked teams.

Under the 12-team playoff format that begins in the fall, the four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded one through four for the CFP tournament and will receive a first-round bye. Teams seeded five through 12 will play each other in the first round at the home of the higher-ranked team.

It’s unclear what a 14-team format would look like, per the reports.

Aresco announced his retirement in December and will leave after May 31.

–Field Level Media

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) looks to pass the ball in the second half of the College Football Playoff national championship game against Washington at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas on Monday, January 8, 2024.

CFP revamps new 12-team playoff structure, adds at-large bid

The College Football Playoff expanding to 12 teams for the upcoming season includes an altered format featuring the five highest-ranked conference champions and the next seven highest-ranked teams.

The CFP Board of Managers voted Tuesday to modify the original plan, which called for the six highest-ranked champions to earn an automatic entry into the field, plus six at-large berths. The switch was necessary with the Pac-12 down to just two teams in 2024 following the defection of 10 programs to other conferences.

“This is a very logical adjustment for the College Football Playoff based on the evolution of our conference structures since the board first adopted this new format in September 2022,” said Dr. Mark Keenum, president of Mississippi State University and CFP board chair. “I know this change will also be well received by student-athletes, coaches and fans. We all will be pleased to see this new format come to life on the field this postseason.”

There is no limit on the number of teams that can qualify in each conference.

The shift was made with no objection from Washington State president Kirk Schulz, who represents the Pac-12 on the board. Oregon State will be the only other remaining Pac-12 team next season.

“For our two schools in the Pac-12 as it’s currently configured, there is no question that five-seven, with seven at-larges, is better than six at-larges,” Schulz told ESPN. “… There’s no question our football coaches are going to want to compete for one of those seven slots, and seven is going to be better than six.”

Under the 12-team playoff format that begins in the fall, the four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded one through four for the CFP tournament and will receive a first-round bye. Teams seeded five through 12 will play each other in the first round at the home of the higher ranked team.

Michigan is the defending CFP champion, defeating Washington in the title game on Jan. 8. Both schools will be members of the Big Ten next season as Washington departs the Pac-12.

–Field Level Media

Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; The 2024 CFP logo on the field before the 2024 College Football Playoff national championship game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Washington Huskies at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Report: College Football Playoff, ESPN reach $7.8B extension

The College Football Playoff agreed to a six-year extension of its broadcast deal with ESPN worth $7.8 billion, The Athletic reported on Monday.

The deal keeps all CFP games on ESPN’s family of networks through the 2031 season, concluding with the national title game in January 2032.

However, the contract won’t be ratified until CFP leadership irons out the format of the tournament going forward.

The playoff will expand from four to 12 teams for the first time next year, and the original agreement was to include the six highest-ranked conference champions and the six highest-ranked at-large teams — the so-called 6+6 model.

With the Pac-12 set to fold following the current season, the number of power conferences shrinks, and some league commissioners are pushing to modify the format to 5+7, which most likely would keep the field at one “Group of Five” conference champion.

The extension kicks in for the 2026 season, but for the next two years ESPN still controls the rights to all games, including the new first round and quarterfinals.

According to the report, ESPN will have the right to “sublicense” CFP games over the course of the contract to other media organizations or streamers.

–Field Level Media

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy kisses the championship trophy to celebrate the Wolverines' 34-13 win over Washington in the national championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.

Michigan-Washington title game draws big audience for ESPN

An average of just over 25 million viewers tuned into top-ranked Michigan’s victory over No. 2 Washington on Monday night, making it the most-watched College Football Playoff championship game since 2020, ESPN said Tuesday.

LSU beat Clemson in the 2020 title game before viewership later took a massive dip in 2023, when Georgia blasted TCU 65-7. The Bulldogs’ rout of the Horned Frogs ended up being the least-watched championship game since the Bowl Championship Series’ inception in 1999.

But fans returned to watch the Wolverines claim their first CFP title, as ESPN saw nearly 8 million more viewers tune in to Monday’s contest.

Monday’s game was the second-most watched game of the season, with only the Rose Bowl bringing in a larger audience. Michigan edged Alabama 27-20 on New Year’s Day in that contest.

The Wolverines’ 30-24 win over Ohio State on Nov. 25 drew the largest audience of any regular-season game, with over 19 million viewers.

–Field Level Media

Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh holds the National Championship Trophy as he celebrates after winning 2024 College Football Playoff national championship game against the Washington Huskies at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan, Jim Harbaugh wake up as champs: ‘This wasn’t a dream’

The day after winning the national championship, Michigan fully embraced the reality of donning college football’s crown.

“It’s good waking up this morning, this wasn’t a dream,” said head coach Jim Harbaugh on Tuesday morning, seated between running back Blake Corum and cornerback Will Johnson after the College Football Playoff title game win over Washington.

Michigan completed a 15-0 season and claimed its first national championship since 1997, but big changes are expected before the Wolverines start their delayed spring practices around Valentine’s Day. One of those could be Harbaugh leaving for the NFL, a possibility athletic director Warde Manuel and university president Santa Ono said they are trying to confront head-on.

Harbaugh indicated he’s willing to tackle a tough conversation with the NCAA if there was a need to further talk about the sign-stealing investigation that led to his second suspension during the 2023 regular season.

“Yeah, anybody. I think they know my number,” he said Tuesday.

Harbaugh was still embracing the spoils of his first national championship, giddy over the prospects of a parade in Ann Arbor and not yet ready to talk about his future. He repeated that he does plan to make good on his word from October and get a “15-0” tattoo to commemorate the season.

Johnson, a sophomore whose third-quarter interception shifted the momentum back to Michigan on Monday night, said he’s not sweating what’s next for his head coach with the NFL hovering.

“There’s a reason they’re so interested in him. He’s a great coach,” said Johnson, who was named the most valuable defensive player in the CFP championship game Monday. “He deserves to be looked at in that light. But I’m not too worried about it. I know whatever decision he makes is going to be the best decision for him and for the team”

With or without Harbaugh, Michigan expects quarterback J.J. McCarthy to enter the 2024 NFL Draft before the Jan. 15 deadline. Corum, named most valuable player on offense Monday night with 134 rushing yards and two touchdowns, is turning pro.

For those sticking around, Harbaugh again beat the drum of college football revenue sharing with on-field personnel as a fix the sport needs to make, starting by giving players a voice at the table.

“It’s long past time to let the student-athletes, the talent, share the ever-increasing revenues. We’re all robbing the same train. The ones in position to do the heavy lifting are the players,” Harbaugh said.

Johnson said he’ll be front and center as the Wolverines carry the season-ending No. 1 ranking into a new year.

“We’ve got a great group of guys that will be back next year,” Johnson said. “Guys that are super talented in my class … older guys that will come back.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 30, 2023; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Carson Beck (15) leads the team onto the field before the game against the Florida State Seminoles for the 2023 Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia opens as 2024-25 title favorite ahead of ‘Bama

Georgia was only a spectator as Michigan beat Washington on Monday night to win the 2023 national title, but the Bulldogs are already favored to be back atop the college football world next season.

The Bulldogs opened as +350 favorites at FanDuel and +450 at DraftKings to win the 2024 College Football Playoff, which will expand to 12 teams for the first time. The Bulldogs are favored ahead of SEC rival Alabama, with the Crimson Tide opening at +550 and +600, respectively.

The Bulldogs’ quest to win three consecutive titles was thwarted by the Tide in last month’s SEC championship. It was Alabama that went on to reach the CFP, losing 27-20 in overtime to Michigan in the semifinals. Georgia and Alabama have seen their 2024 rosters bolstered by the addition of transfers along with the top two recruiting classes in the country by 247Sports.

Ohio State, which landed one of the most coveted quarterbacks via the transfer portal in Will Howard, opened with the third-shortest odds at +800 at both books.

The Buckeyes are followed by the Texas Longhorns, who opened at +850 at FanDuel and +900 at DraftKings. The Longhorns’ furious rally against Washington in the other semifinal fell short in a 37-31 defeat.

Michigan is +1000 at both books, followed by Oregon at +1200 by FanDuel and +1000 by DraftKings.

Florida State, which controversially was left out of the CFP despite an undefeated season as the ACC champion, opened with the ninth-shortest odds at +1800 at both books.

Washington suffered a 34-13 defeat on Monday night, and the Huskies are +5000 longshots to win next season’s title as they prepare to join Michigan in the Big Ten.

2024-25 CFP Title Odds (DraftKings)
Georgia (+450)
Alabama (+600)
Ohio State (+800)
Texas (+900)
Michigan (+1000)
Oregon (+1100)
LSU (+1400)
Ole Miss (+1600)
Florida State (+1800)
Clemson (+2000)
Penn State (+2000)
Notre Dame (+2500)
Southern California (+3000)
Oklahoma (+3500)
Texas A&M (+4000)
Tennessee (+4500)
Washington (+5000)
Utah (+5000)
Missouri (+6000)
Miami (FL) (+6000)
Arizona (+7000)
Kansas State (+7000)
Wisconsin (+10000)
Auburn (+10000)
Louisville (+10000)

Colorado, whose first season under coach Deion Sanders started off 3-0 before the Buffaloes stumbled to a 4-8 season, opened as +20000 longshots at DraftKings and +30000 at FanDuel.

–Field Level Media

Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive lineman Kenneth Grant (78) sakes Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) during the second quarter in the 2024 College Football Playoff national championship game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 Michigan runs all over No. 2 Washington to win national title

Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards each rushed for two touchdowns and No. 1 Michigan completed an undefeated season with a punishing 34-13 victory over No. 2 Washington in the College Football Playoff national championship game on Monday night at Houston.

Corum had 134 yards on 21 rushes and Edwards added 104 on just six carries as Michigan (15-0) won its first national title since winning in split fashion in 1997. The Wolverines racked up 303 yards on the ground while limiting Washington to 46.

Mike Sainristil returned a key interception 81 yards to set up Michigan’s final touchdown and Will Johnson also had a pick.

Michael Penix Jr. completed 27 of 51 passes for 255 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for Washington (14-1). Jalen McMillan had a touchdown catch and Rome Odunze had five receptions for 87 yards for the Huskies.

Washington’s Dillon Johnson played despite injuries to his left knee and right foot. He had 33 yards on 11 carries and caught two passes for 24 yards.

J.J. McCarthy completed 10 of 18 passes for 140 yards for the Wolverines, who outgained the Huskies 443-301.

Michigan led by seven when it took over with 9:44 left in the game.

On the first play of the drive, McCarthy connected with Colston Loveland for a gain of 41 to the Huskies 30-yard line. Four plays later, Corum scored on a 12-yard run to give Michigan a 27-13 lead with 7:09 remaining.

Penix lofted a 44-yard pass to Odunze with 6:18 left to get Washington in scoring range. But the Huskies soon faced fourth-and-13 from the Wolverines 30, and Sainristil picked off the ball and raced the other way, setting up Corum’s 1-yard TD run with 3:37 remaining.

Michigan rushed for 174 yards in the opening quarter en route to taking a 17-10 lead into the break.

Edwards capped the game-opening drive with a 41-yard touchdown run on a play in which he faced inside congestion before bouncing to the left and easily sailing down the sideline for the score.

Grady Gross kicked a 25-yard field goal with 3:56 left for Washington. But Edwards was at it again 93 seconds later, scoring on a 46-yard burst through a huge hole to give the Wolverines a 14-3 advantage.

Corum delivered Michigan’s third long run on the final play of the first quarter when he exploded for 59 yards. That set up a 31-yard field goal by James Turner that gave the Wolverines a 14-point lead with 13:28 remaining in the first half.

The Huskies moved within seven with 42 seconds left in the half when Penix tossed a 3-yard scoring pass to McMillan.

Johnson intercepted Penix at the Huskies 32 on the first offensive play of the third quarter. That set up Turner’s 38-yard field goal to make it 20-10.

Washington trimmed its deficit back to seven when Gross booted a 45-yard field goal with 8:58 left in the third quarter.

–Field Level Media

Washington running back Dillon Johnson is helped off the field after an injury during the Huskies' final possession of a 37-31 win against Texas in the Sugar Bowl. Wednesday UW coach Kalen DeBoer said Johnson expects to play in the national championship against Michigan.

Washington RB Dillon Johnson proclaims he’s ready for Michigan

Washington star tailback Dillon Johnson remains banged up as the showdown with Michigan approaches, but insists he will play in Monday night’s College Football Playoff national championship game in Houston.

“I’ll be ready to rock and roll and give whatever my team needs,” Johnson said Saturday. “I’ll be ready to do it.”

Johnson injured his left knee and aggravated a right foot injury during the final minute of the 37-31 semifinal victory over Texas on Jan. 1.

Johnson initially hurt the foot in a 22-20 victory against Oregon State on Nov. 18.

In a normal week, Johnson might be standing in street clothes on the sideline. But that’s not a consideration with the national title on the line.

“I’m staying on top of my treatment and stuff like that, trying to stay fresh as possible,” Johnson said.

Johnson has rushed for 1,162 yards and 16 touchdowns this season to help highlight a dangerous Huskies’ offense that includes quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and receiver Rome Odunze.

Johnson announced his stardom with a career-best 246-yard, four-touchdown performance in a 52-42 road win over Southern California on Nov. 4. It was one of his four 100-yard outings on the season.

Against Texas, he scored two touchdowns but had just 49 rushing yards on 21 carries with a long of 7.

Washington coach Kalen DeBoer is unsure what Johnson’s workload will be Monday but he knows he will see No. 7 out on the field.

“We’re expecting him to play,” DeBoer said. “He’s been through this over the last couple of months, and he hasn’t missed any time there. He’s had a good week getting back healthy.”

Offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb isn’t expecting there to be any limitations per Johnson’s use.

“He’s done a great job the last couple days where really we were more worried about his foot initially, and now he’s really feeling good,” Grubb said Saturday. “Yesterday he was able get out there and move around. And so I think today he’ll take another step of practice.”

–Field Level Media