College Football Playoff expansion: Here's how the new format works

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh raises the championship trophy after defeating Washington 34-13 during the national championship NCAA College Football Playoff game at NRG Stadium, Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in Houston. (Brett Coomer/Houston Ch

University presidents who oversee the College Football Playoff voted unanimously Tuesday to tweak the format for the 12-team postseason tournament. 

This move to change the number of spots reserved for conference champions from six to five was prompted by realignment and the dismantling of the Pac-12 Conference. 

Here’s how the new College Football Playoff format will look this season. 

How many teams will be in the College Football Playoff?

The 12-team College Football Playoff will include the five highest-ranked conference champions, plus the next seven highest-ranked teams determined by the CFP Selection Committee. 

Under the 5-7 postseason format starting this fall, the four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded one through four, and each team will get a first-round bye. 

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For teams seeded five through 12, they will play each other in the round on the home field of the higher-ranked team, according to the CFP website

These are the matchups for the CFP this season.

  • No.5 seed vs. No.12 seed
  • No. 6 seed vs. No. 11 seed
  • No.7 seed vs. No. 10 seed
  • No. 8 seed vs. No. 9 seed

Moreover, no conference will qualify automatically, and there is no limit on the number of teams from a conference. 

This year's CFP quarterfinals will occur on Dec. 31, 2024 and January 1, 2025, while the semifinals will be January 9-10, 2025.

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The CFP National Championship game will be played at a neutral site. This season, the game is on Monday, Jan. 20, 2025, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Why was an adjustment made to the CFP playoff format?

The original plan for the 12-team format was to have the six highest-ranked conference champions, with the top four receiving first-round byes and six at-large selections.

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However, when the Pac-12 shut its conference down, it left one fewer power conference, and the commissioners managing the CFP wanted to make the change from a 6-6 format to a 5-7, the Associated Press reported. 

What is the College Football Playoff?

The College Football Playoff (CFP) is a postseason tournament crowning a national champion in college football. Every year, the CFP Selection Committee ranks the top 25 teams at the end of the season, with 12 playoff teams competing for the title. 

Separately, the 2024 college football season will be the first with a 12-team playoff after 10 years of the event being a four-team tournament. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Washington, D.C.