The College Football Playoff will be perhaps the most discussed topic in sports between now and the end of the year. The purpose of this Primer is to give an overview of the Playoff and how teams are selected.
College Football Playoff (CFP) overview
The College Football Playoff is a system in its second year, designed to determine the NCAA Champion. The Playoff features the top four teams playing in national semifinal games on Dec 31 or Jan 1 (depending on the year, Dec 31 this year), followed by the championship game a week later.
Team selection process
The top 4 teams are selected by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. The committee is a group of 12 esteemed members of the sports and academic worlds serving two-year terms, including Archie Manning and Condoleeza Rice. Committee members are expected to watch every game played by relevant teams, and they meet for two days a week each fall to rank the nation’s top 25 teams. The first rankings of the year are released in November, and the committee will update its rankings weekly until the final selection is made on Sunday, December 6th.
Semifinal location and Bowl games.
Interestingly, the semifinals rotate among six bowl games, as shown below. The Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Peach and Fiesta bowls will all be played on December 31 and January 1st each year, giving rise to the term ‘New Years Six’ to describe the bowls. In a year where a bowl is not the semifinal game, it will still host top-ranked teams that don’t qualify for the four-team playoff.
|Year||Semifinal 1||Semifinal 2|
(New Orleans, LA)
Does this mean no more big bowl games with random teams like Boise State?
Not quite – each year, the highest-ranked team from the ‘Group of 5’ (the conferences outside of ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, Pac 12) will get to play in a New Year’s 6 bowl if they don’t qualify for the playoff. This year, you can expect to see Memphis, Houston, or Temple in one of the New Years games.
Potential for controversy
The four-team selection process will never please the teams that feel they were unfairly left out. A popular argument is to expand the playoff format to 8 teams, something we’re not in favor of because it diminishes both the importance of every regular season game and the drama of the playoff selection.
What happened last year
Florida State, Oregon, and Alabama were basically sure things for the CFP. Three one-loss teams were in a virtual dead-heat to be chosen for the fourth and final spot: Ohio State, Baylor, and TCU. Baylor beat TCU 61-58 in the regular season but had a loss of their own, and the Big 12 lacks a deciding championship game. In the end, Ohio State was selected and went on to win the title. This scenario could play out again this year for the Big 12 if Baylor-TCU-Oklahoma St.-Oklahoma beat each other in the remaining games.
We’ll have more coverage of the CFP race as it unfolds, and as always don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions.