Everything You Need to Know About College Football Playoff Rules for 2024

Ashley Hopkinson

College Football Playoff Rules

College football has seen significant changes with the introduction of the College Football Playoff (CFP) system. This new approach replaced the controversial Bowl Championship Series, aiming to create a more transparent and competitive landscape.

The inaugural CFP games in January 2015 drew massive attention, with the National Championship game achieving an 18.9 Nielsen rating and captivating 33.4 million viewers, marking a historic moment on American cable television.

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) responded to the CFP by considering adjustments to its schedule. While some advocated for a nine-game conference slate, others believed the existing eight-game format was challenging enough.

Ultimately, the SEC mandated that all teams play at least one Power Five opponent in their non-conference schedule starting in 2016. This rule aimed to enhance the strength of schedule, ensuring teams are better evaluated by the playoff committee.

Overview of College Football Playoff Rules

The College Football Playoff (CFP) rules set the framework for determining the national champion in college football. The CFP uses a selection committee to rank teams and determine matchups.

Decisions are based on performance during the season, considering strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and championships won.

Selection Committee

Comprising 13 members including former coaches, athletic directors, and executives, the selection committee ranks teams each week starting mid-season. These rankings help set the field for the four-team playoff.


Reviewed weekly, the rankings are announced every Tuesday from mid-season until the final selection. Factors like strength of schedule, head-to-head competition, and championships impact the rankings.

Bowl Games

The top four teams enter the national semifinals held at two of six rotating bowl games: Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Fiesta, and Peach. These bowl games, part of the New Year’s Six, change annually.

National Championship

The winners of the semifinal games advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship. This game concludes the college football season and determines the national champion.

Schedule Requirements

Teams aiming for the CFP must play strong schedules. Conferences like the SEC mandate the inclusion of at least one Power Five opponent in non-conference schedules.


When necessary, the committee uses head-to-head results, conference championships, and comparative outcomes against common opponents to break ties in the rankings.

Viewer Impact

The CFP has seen higher viewership numbers compared to its predecessor, the Bowl Championship Series. The 2015 championship game set a record with a 18.9 Nielsen rating and 33.4 million viewers.

These guidelines create a transparent and competitive environment, optimizing the process to crown the top team in college football.

Format and Structure of the Playoffs

College football’s postseason now undergoes significant changes to create a competitive and transparent championship system.

Current Playoff Format

The College Football Playoff (CFP) expands from four to 12 teams starting in the 2024 season. The new format includes the six highest-ranked conference champions, who receive automatic bids, and the six highest-ranked remaining teams.

The top four conference champions get a first-round bye, advancing directly to the quarterfinals. The remaining eight teams compete in the first round, with higher-seeded teams hosting lower-seeded ones.

Historical Changes and Their Impact

The CFP originally had a four-team format since its inception in the 2014 season, with the top four teams selected by the CFP Committee competing in semifinal games at rotating bowl sites.

Due to evolving conference structures, including the reduction of the Power Five conferences to four, significant modifications were made to enhance competitive balance and provide deserving teams opportunities to compete for the national title.

These changes, developed collaboratively by major college football conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, ensure the CFP remains dynamic, competitive, and transparent.

Selection Process

The College Football Playoff (CFP) selection process involves a committee that ranks teams based on a structured method. This section delves into the role of the selection committee and the criteria used for ranking teams.

Role of the Selection Committee

The CFP selection committee is made up of 13 members, including an athletic director from each Power Five conference (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC), former coaches, players, athletic directors, administrators, and a media member.

The committee uses secret ballots to rank teams weekly, without revealing the votes. Rankings are created fresh each week without considering previous standings.

The group meets to discuss, debate, and vote on team tiers, ensuring balanced representation from various stakeholders while excluding current conference commissioners, coaches, and media members.

Criteria Used for Ranking Teams

The committee assesses teams using various criteria to ensure fair rankings. Factors include strength of schedule, head-to-head results, championships won, and comparative outcomes of common opponents.

Teams’ overall performance, including wins, losses, and the quality of their victories, also play a key role. Discussions during selection meetings allow for detailed evaluation of each team’s merits, ensuring a comprehensive review.

The objective methodology helps maintain transparency and competitiveness in the CFP system.

Playoff Schedule and Venues

The College Football Playoff (CFP) system incorporates a well-defined schedule and designated venues to enhance organization and fan engagement. Here’s a closer look at the key dates and locations for the playoff rounds.

Key Dates for Playoff Games

The quarterfinals and semifinals adhere to a consistent timeline each year. The quarterfinals typically occur around New Year’s Day, taking advantage of traditional bowl game slots. The semifinals take place shortly after, allowing for a brief rest period for teams.

The CFP National Championship Game follows approximately a week later, ensuring ample preparation time. Specific dates for each season are announced well in advance to facilitate fan planning and team logistics.

Locations for Playoff Rounds

The playoff games rotate among six historic bowl sites, incorporating each venue’s tradition and prestige. The top four teams are placed in advantageous locations based on seeding, balancing fairness and fan convenience.

Quarterfinal and semifinal games use these bowl sites, while the National Championship Game occurs at a predetermined neutral site, varying annually.

Notable sites include the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, and Cotton Bowl, keeping the playoff atmosphere fresh and exciting each season.

Critical Analysis of Playoff Rules

The College Football Playoff (CFP) system represents a significant evolution in determining the national champion in college football, but it is not without its criticisms and controversies. Here’s a critical analysis of the playoff rules:

Advantages of the Current System

The College Football Playoff (CFP) system provides significant benefits by fostering competitiveness and transparency in college football. Unlike the previous Bowl Championship Series (BCS), the CFP ensures the top four teams compete based on merit.

The selection committee, a 13-member panel, applies various criteria to rank teams, including strength of schedule, head-to-head results, championships won, and overall performance. This structured approach promotes fairness.

The rotating semifinals at historic bowl sites and the National Championship Game’s neutral location offer fresh excitement each season.

Criticisms and Controversies

The CFP system faces criticisms and controversies, notably the subjectivity in team selection, which can lead to disputes over perceived biases, especially for the fourth spot.

n 2015, scheduling semifinal games on New Year’s Eve resulted in lower ratings and spurred debates about optimal game times. Conferences are also concerned about fixed financial rewards for semifinal placements.

While expanding the playoffs aims to enhance inclusivity, it raises issues related to student-athlete welfare, travel logistics, and the academic calendar.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the CFP playoff expansion?

The CFP will expand to 12 teams in 2024, featuring automatic bids for conference champions and at-large bids for high-ranking teams. This expansion aims to enhance competitiveness and ensure a fair selection process.

How does the College Football Playoff work?

In the 12-team format, four highest-ranked conference champions receive byes, while the other eight compete in the first round. Winners advance to semifinals hosted by rotating bowls, culminating in a national championship game at a neutral site.

Where is the 2026 national championship game?

The location for the 2026 national championship game has yet to be announced. The site selection typically depends on bids from cities and venues aiming to host.

How many teams are in the 2025 college football playoffs?

The 2025 college football playoffs will feature 12 teams, marking the first year of the expanded format. This includes conference champions and high-ranking at-large teams.

How do the football playoffs work?

Teams qualify based on rankings determined by a selection committee considering criteria like schedule strength and performance. Top-ranked teams receive byes, while others compete in early rounds. Winners progress through semifinals to the national championship game.


The evolving landscape of college football continues to shape the playoff system, aiming for greater fairness and excitement. The expansion to 12 teams in 2024 promises more opportunities for deserving teams and enhances the competitive spirit.

While the CFP system has its challenges, including selection biases and logistical concerns, it remains a pivotal component of college football’s growth.

As the sport adapts to new structures and demands, the commitment to transparency and competitiveness ensures that the College Football Playoff remains a thrilling and integral part of the college football experience.

Fans can look forward to more intense matchups and a broader representation of conferences, ultimately leading to a more inclusive and exhilarating postseason.

With each season, adjustments and improvements are anticipated, solidifying the College Football Playoff’s role as a centerpiece of the sport.

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Ashley Hopkinson

Ashley Hopkinson is an esteemed American Football coach at South Gloucestershire and Stroud College. With a passion for the game and a dedication to mentoring young athletes, Ashley has played a pivotal role in developing the college's football program. His expertise and motivational skills have not only enhanced players' performances on the field but also fostered a strong team spirit and work ethic. Under his guidance, the team has achieved significant success, reflecting his commitment to excellence and sportsmanship. LinkedIn

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