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CFP Approves New College Football Playoff Format Ahead Of First Year Of 12-Team System

CFP Logo - College Football Playoff ESPN Logo

College football fans are eager for the new-look College Football Playoff set to debut after the 2024 regular season. The bracket is expanding from four programs to 12 teams, meaning many more high-stakes and exciting matchups.

However, the initial announcement featured each Power Five conference winner qualifying for a spot in the CFP. Following the collapse of the Pac-12, that system was no longer viable. On Tuesday, a new format was announced.

What is the new CFP bracket format? How will teams qualify? Let's dive in.

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New College Football Playoff Format

Under the new format, the five highest-ranked conference champions will earn a College Football Playoff berth. More likely than not, the winners of the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, and ACC will earn a bid every season. However, the fifth invited conference champion could vary from year to year.

After the five high-ranked conference champions are set, there will be seven "at-large" schools partaking in the race to the National Championship. The next seven highest-ranked teams (as determined by the CFP Selection Committee) will earn invites.

That said, the CFP won't simply be the top 12 teams in the final rankings. There could be a scenario where the No. 12 team is left out because the fifth-highest-ranked conference champion is outside the top 12. This will likely cause some controversy, but it will allow a Pac-12, American Conference, Mountain West, MAC, Sun Belt, or Conference USA team to qualify.

 

How Each Round Of The CFP Will Work

The top four seeds will earn a first-round bye, while the No. 5, 6, 7, and 8 seeds will host the No. 9, 10, 11, and 12 seeds on campus. After the initial round of games, the quarterfinals, semifinals, and National Championship games will be played at a neutral site.

The bowl schedule and locations for the CFP through the 2025-26 season are listed below.

 

Bowl Game Rotations

The bowl sites that host each round of the new-look CFP will vary from year to year. Here's a look at the 2024-25 and 2025-26 locations:

2024 Season

First Round (On-Campus)

      • Friday, December 20, 2024: One Game (evening)
      • Saturday, December 21, 2024: Three Games (early afternoon, late afternoon, and evening)

Quarterfinals

      • Tuesday, December 31, 2024: Vrbo Fiesta Bowl (evening)
      • Wednesday, January 1, 2025: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (early afternoon), Rose Bowl Game (late afternoon), and Allstate Sugar Bowl (evening)

Semifinals

      • Thursday, January 9, 2025: Capital One Orange Bowl (evening)
      • Friday, January 10, 2025: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (evening)

CFP National Championship

    • Monday, January 20, 2025: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia

 

2025 Season

First Round (On-Campus)

      • Friday, December 19, 2025: One Game (evening)
      • Saturday, December 20, 2025: Three Games (early afternoon, late afternoon, and evening)

Quarterfinals

      • Wednesday, December 31, 2025: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (evening)
      • Thursday, January 1, 2026: Capital One Orange Bowl (early afternoon), Rose Bowl Game (late afternoon), and Allstate Sugar Bowl (evening)

Semifinals

      • Thursday, January 8, 2026: Vrbo Fiesta Bowl (evening)
      • Friday, January 9, 2026: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (evening)

CFP National Championship

    • Monday, January 19, 2026: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida

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