The College Football Playoff: How It Works
College Football has a playoff.
Here’s your complete guide to how it will work beginning with the 2014 college football season.
Four teams. Two semifinals played in bowl games on New Years Eve or Day. A championship game played in a different city each year.
The four teams are selected by a 13 member selection committee. Criteria to be used includes strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents, championships won and more.
The Selection Committee
No longer will the college football postseason be determined by a computer driven formula. Rather, the four playoff teams (along with the participating teams of four additional premier bowls) will be seeded by the 13-member panel.
The selection committee members are:
- Jeff Long (chair)
- Barry Alvarez
- Mike Gould
- Pat Haden
- Tom Jernstedt
- Oliver Luck
- Archie Manning – No longer participating this year due to health reasons
- Tom Osborne
- Dan Radakovich
- Condoleezza Rice
- Mike Tranghese
- Steve Wieberg
- Tyrone Willingham
Read more about each individual member by browsing our overview on the selection committee.
The official responsibilities of the committee are as follows:
- Select the top four teams for the playoff, rank them and assign them to semifinal sites.
- Rank the next group of teams to play in other New Year’s bowls if berth are available.
- Select the highest-ranked champion from the five conferences without New Year’s bowl contracts.
- Assign teams to New Year’s bowls
- Create competitive matchups
- Attempt to avoid rematches of regular-season games and repeat appearances
- Consider geography
Similar to the BCS era, the Selection Committee will release a weekly top 25 rankings each Tuesday evening beginning on October 28th, 2014 and concluding with the final seedings on Sunday, December 7, 2014.
The poll will be released each Tuesday evening live on ESPN.
The Bowls & The Venues
Each year, the selection committee will select teams to fill six bowls – two semifinal games and four additional premier bowls.
The six bowls that will be utilized for the six games include the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Peach Bowl.
The semifinal games will rotate each year between the six bowls using a three year cycle and the following pairings: Rose/Sugar, Orange/Cotton, and Fiesta/Peach. The initial semifinal games for the 2014/2015 season will be played at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.
All six games will be played on consecutive days that will include New Year’s Day – three games per day. The exception to the rule is when New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday as it does during the 2016/2017 season. During this season, three games will be played on December 31, 2016 and three on January 2, 2017.
The championship game will always be played on a Monday night following the semifinal games. The venue for the championship game will be selected on a year by year basis and can include destinations outside the rotation of six bowls.
The first playoff championship game will be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The dates (and locations) for the championship games are as follows:
- January 12, 2015 – Arlington, TX
- January 11, 2016 – Glendale, AZ
- January 9, 2017 – Tampa, FL
- January 8, 2018
- January 7, 2019
- January 13, 2020
- January 11, 2021
- January 10, 2022
- January 9, 2023
- January 8, 2024
- January 13, 2025
- January 12, 2026
Shouldn’t the playoff have 8 teams?
The debate over a four-team field versus 8 team field is and will likely continue to be a very hot topic. Proponents of the a more pure postseason often support expanding the field to 8 teams. College football fans who emphasize a strong regular season typically oppose expanding the field.
The debate will likely rage on during the lifespan of the current system, and most pundits believe it will be expanded at some point in the future.
Can teams automatically qualify for the four-team playoff?
No. There are no automatic ways to quality. The Selection Committee will consider teams according to the published criteria and decide the four teams they feel should be in the playoff.
Does a team have to win its conference?
No. A team winning a conference championship will be one of criteria considered in the Selection Committee’s evaluation, but it is not a requirement.
Who runs the playoff?
Like the BCS, the college football postseason is not managed by the NCAA. Rather, it is managed by the 10 FBS conferences. While the 10 conferences have a seat at the table, it is widely believed that the 5 power conferences (SEC, Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC) have the majority of decision making power.
Does ESPN have a stake in the playoff?
ESPN has purchased the rights to televise the College Football Playoff for the duration of the agreement which lasts through the 2025 season.
How can I get on the Selection Committee?
Does your resume look like the resumes of the committee members?
Did the Alabama vs LSU BCS Championship Game cause the move to the playoff?
The All-SEC BCS Championship Game certainly didn’t sit well with the national media and caused the media’s anti-BCS campaign to kick in to overdrive. With that said, the anti-BCS movement was firmly in place for years beforehand.
Is the playoff good or bad for the SEC? Can the SEC get in multiple teams?
It remains to be seen whether the playoff is “good” or “bad” for the SEC, though it’s certainly difficult to see how it would be bad for the conference. If the SEC can produce top teams like it has over the last decade, it should be a consistent player for the national championship.
Conferences can have multiple teams in the four-team playoff if the Selection Committee selects them. One might assume it’s easier to place two teams into a four-team field rather than placing two teams into a two-team field (the BCS), however, some speculate that the Committee will attempt to prevent a situation where multiple conferences are left out of the playoff as a result of a conference such as the SEC landing two of the four teams.