The College Football Playoff will expand to 12 teams in 2024.
The big winners under the new format this year would have been the SEC, Pac-12, and Tulane.
A 12-team playoff would have included two teams with three losses.
Happy days are coming for those who wanted the College Football Playoff to expand beyond four teams, but it will be too late for the eight schools that will be left out of the fun this year.
In a unanimous vote, the College Football Playoff's board of managers approved the expansion of the playoff to 12 teams, which was later approved to begin with the 2024 season.
The 12 teams that would have made an expanded playoff this year
The 12-team bracket will consist of six automatic qualifiers and six at-large bids chosen by the College Football Playoff committee. The six automatic entries will be the six highest-ranked conference champions.
College football's highest division, the Football Bowl Subdivision, consists of the "Power 5" conferences (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12) and the "Group of 5" conferences (American, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt). Including six conference champions guarantees the playoffs have at least one Group of 5 team each year.
Here are the six highest-ranked conference champions in the final College Football Playoff ranking this season (asterisks indicate teams in this year's four-team playoff):
Georgia* — SEC champion, ranked No. 1
Michigan* — Big Ten, 2
Clemson — ACC, 7
Utah — Pac-12, 8
Kansas State — Big 12, 9
Tulane — AAC, 16
Here are the six teams that would have been selected as at-large teams. They are the highest-ranked teams that did not win a conference championship:
TCU* — Big 12, 3
Ohio State* — Big Ten, 4
Alabama — SEC, 5
Tennessee — SEC, 6
USC — Pac-12, 10
Penn State — Big Ten, 11
One of the big winners would have been Tulane. Their win over UCF in the American Athletic Conference championship game left them as the highest-ranked Group of 5 conference champ.
The other big winners would have been the SEC and the Pac-12. An expanded playoff would have meant two SEC teams, Alabama and Tennessee, would join Georgia in the bracket. The Pac-12 has not had a playoff team since 2016 and would have had two this year (USC and Utah).
The Big Ten would also have three schools in the expanded playoff, with Penn State joining Michigan and Ohio State.
What the bracket would have looked like
The playoff will have four rounds. The four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded 1-4 and receive a first-round bye.
Here are the teams that would have received a first-round bye, including two teams that are not in this year's playoff:
Georgia — SEC champion, ranked No. 1
Michigan — Big Ten, 2
Clemson — ACC, 7
Utah — Pac-12, 8
The remaining eight teams will meet in the first round (No. 12 at No. 5, No. 11 at No. 6, No. 10 at No. 7, and No. 9 at No. 8). The winners of those four games will play the top four seeds in the second round.
In the first round, the games will be played at the home stadium of the higher seed. The home team may also choose another site if they desire.
Here is what the first round would have looked like:
9 Kansas State at 8 Tennessee (winner would have faced Georgia in the second round)
10 USC at 7 Alabama (winner would have faced Michigan)
11 Penn State at 6 Ohio State (winner would have faced Clemson)
12 Tulane at 5 TCU (winner would have faced Utah)
The second- and third-round games (i.e., quarterfinals and semifinals) will be played at bowl games. In the current format, the two semifinal games rotate each year among the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, the Orange Bowl in Miami, the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix.
The commissioners will decide which bowl games. However, with the second and third rounds totaling six games, it is expected that the same six bowls will now be used every year, with the different bowl games rotating as hosts of the semifinals.
The national championship game will continue to be played at a neutral site.
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