The season’s first College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings were unveiled Tuesday night, marking the official start of the stretch run that determines the four-team bracket.
Next year, the 12-team CFP will make its debut. Each week for the rest of the season, The Athletic will illustrate how the new format is going to work, using the CFP committee’s latest rankings.
Here’s how the bracket would be seeded and the site locations determined using the committee’s Oct. 31 rankings and the CFP’s previously announced 2024-25 game dates. Note: The Orange and Cotton bowls are scheduled to host the two semifinals, and the national championship game will be in Atlanta.
Top four seeds (first-round byes)
1. Ohio State (Big Ten champion)
2. Georgia (SEC champion)
3. Florida State (ACC champion)
4. Washington (Pac-12 champion)
In the new format, the top four seeds will be reserved for the four highest-ranked conference champions. For our purposes, we’re designating each conference’s top-ranked team as its champion. That means No. 1 Ohio State (Big Ten), No. 2 Georgia (SEC), No. 4 Florida State (ACC) and No. 5 Washington (Pac-12) would get a bye into the quarterfinals.
Obviously, Washington will not be in the Pac-12 next year, but it would be far too complicated to throw conference realignment into this hypothetical exercise.
Nos. 5-12 seeds
5. Michigan (at-large)
6. Oregon (at-large)
7. Texas (Big 12 champion)
8. Alabama (at-large)
9. Oklahoma (at-large)
10. Ole Miss (at-large)
11. Penn State (at-large)
12. Tulane (American champion)
As of now, the plan is still to pick the six highest-ranked conference champions along with the six highest-ranked at-large teams. Were the season to end today, the fifth- and sixth-highest-ranked conference champions would be No. 7 Texas (Big 12) and No. 24 Tulane (AAC).
Joining them in the field would be the six highest-ranked remaining teams: No. 3 Michigan, No. 6 Oregon, No. 8 Alabama, No. 9 Oklahoma, No. 10 Ole Miss and No. 11 Penn State.
The CFP schedule
All times Eastern.
Friday, Dec. 19
- No. 10 Ole Miss at No. 7 Texas, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 20
- No. 12 Tulane at No. 5 Michigan, noon
- No. 11 Penn State at No. 6 Oregon, 4 p.m.
- No. 9 Oklahoma at No. 8 Alabama, 8 p.m.
The four first-round games will be played on the campuses of the No. 5-8 seeds over the third weekend in December. Which games get placed in which slots would likely be determined by TV, with Oklahoma-Alabama as the obvious Saturday prime-time selection.
Tuesday, Dec. 31
- Fiesta Bowl: No. 4 Washington vs. Michigan-Tulane winner, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan 1
- Peach Bowl: No. 3 Florida State vs. Oregon-Penn State winner, 1 p.m.
- Rose Bowl: No. 1 Ohio State vs. Alabama-Oklahoma winner, 5 p.m.
- Sugar Bowl: No. 2 Georgia vs. Texas-Ole Miss winner, 8:45 p.m.
The CFP has already announced the dates and sites for the four quarterfinal bowl games. It has also stated that the top four teams will be assigned to their sites in order and “in consideration of current contract bowl relationships if those bowls are selected for the rotation.” In other words: Big Ten champion Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, SEC champion Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
Thursday, Jan. 9
- Orange Bowl: No. 2 Georgia/No. 7 Texas/No. 10 Ole Miss vs. No. 3 Florida State/No. 6 Oregon/No. 11 Penn State.
Friday, Jan. 10
- Cotton Bowl: No. 1 Ohio State/No. 8 Alabama/No. 9 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Washington/No. 5 Michigan/No. 12 Tulane, 7:30 p.m.
The semifinals will be played on a Thursday and Friday night at least a week after the quarterfinals to avoid going head-to-head with the NFL’s Wild Card weekend. In the CFP board’s announcement, it said “the higher seeds would receive preferential placement in the Playoff semifinal games.” That would depend on which teams win their quarterfinals, but if No. 1 Ohio State advanced, Arlington is slightly closer to Columbus than Miami.
Monday, Jan. 20
- National championship game in Atlanta, 7:30 p.m.
The title game will remain on Monday night, as the NFL’s Divisional Round owns the weekend, but two weeks later than it is currently. The CFP had already selected Atlanta as its site for the 2024-2025 national championship game, with ignore>Miami taking its turn in 2025-26.
(Top photos of Carson Beck, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Blake Corum: Todd Kirkland, Michael Reaves and Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)