What is the College Football Playoff?
The College Football Playoff (CFP) is an annual postseason tournament to determine the national champion of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The four-team playoff system began with the 2014 season and is a successor to the prior Bowl Championship Series (BCS). A 13-member committee selects the CFP’s participants. This committee ranks the teams based on criteria that include the strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and comparative outcomes of common opponents.
The first-ever College Football Playoff game was held on January 1, 2015, at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California. The Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Oregon Ducks 42-20 to become the first-ever NCAA Division I FBS national champions under the new playoff system.
The CFP is overseen by a board of managers that includes one representative from each of the 10 FBS conferences and three additional at-large appointees. They contract with six bowl games to host playoff matches: The Cotton Bowl Classic, Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl Game, and Sugar Bowl. Two semi-final matches are rotated among these sites annually—except in 2020 due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic—and each selected site hosts one semi-final match every three years. A host city for each year’s championship game is selected eight months in advance.
How Does the College Football Playoff Work?
The CFP was created on August 8, 2013, by a unanimous vote of the NCAA’s 12-member schools. It makes up the football bowl subdivision. The inaugural tournament was held during the 2014 season. It featured Ohio State as the nation’s number one seed playing against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, with Oregon meeting Florida State in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State, 42–20, won the championship game.
The current format contracts six major conference champions as well as four “at-large” teams to participate in the semi-final games. These are rotated among six different bowl games:
- The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
- Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
- Fiesta Bowl
- Orange Bowl
- Capital One Orange Bowl
- Allstate Sugar Bowl
These bowls are referred to as “New Year’s Six” bowls. Two of these bowls (“semi-final” bowls) host each year’s semi-finals: currently, the Rose Bowl Game and Sugar Bowl.
To be selected for the playoffs, teams must first win their conference championship game or be chosen.
What Happens if Several Teams Have the Same Number of Wins or Losses at the End of the Season?
If several teams have the same number of wins or losses at the end of the season, the College Football Playoff selection committee will rank the teams based on their overall record, the strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and other factors. The top four teams in the final rankings will be selected for the College Football Playoff.
How Many Teams are in the College Football Playoff?
The College Football Playoff (CFP) is an annual postseason tournament to determine the national champion of the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The four-team playoff system is a bracketed single-elimination tournament featuring two semi-final games, played on December 28 or 29, and a national championship game on January 13 or 14.
The CFP replaced the previous Bowl Championship Series (BCS), which used a two-team playoff system to determine the national champion. The BCS was criticized for its lack of transparency and for not always selecting the two best teams in the country to play in its title game. The CFP was created to ensure that the best teams in college football would be selected to participate in a fair and transparent postseason tournament.
Each year, a 13-member committee meets to select the four teams competing in the CFP. The committee ranks all FBS teams based on various criteria, including wins and losses, the strength of schedule, and conference championships. The top four teams in the final ranking are seeded 1-4 and invited to compete in the playoff.
The semi-final games are typically played at pre-determined bowl games, while the location of the national championship game rotates each year. This year’s semi-final games will be played at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, while the national championship game will be held at Levi’s.
Who is selected to Participate in the College Football Playoff?
To be selected for the college football playoff, a team must first win its conference championship. If they are not in a conference, they must be ranked in the top four of the college football playoff rankings. The committee looks at a team’s strength of schedule, record, head-to-head matchups, and other factors in determining who should be selected for the playoff.
When does Selection for a Team’s Spot in the College Football Playoff Begin?
Selection for a team’s spot in the College Football Playoff (CFP) begins with the release of the first CFP Rankings on Tuesday, November 5, 2019. The rankings are compiled by a 13-member committee that meets weekly beginning in October and ending after the final conference championship games are played on Saturday, December 7, 2019. The committee ranks the top 25 teams in the nation based on their performance to date, the strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and comparative outcomes against common opponents.
The selection process culminates with announcing the four teams competing in the playoff semi-finals on Sunday, December 8, 2019. The No. 1 seed will play the No. 4 seed, and the No. 2 seed will play the No. 3 seed at pre-selected neutral sites TBD on either Saturday, December 28, or Sunday, December 29, 2019. The winners of those games advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship game scheduled for Monday, January 13, at a pre-selected site TBD.
What is a Qualifying Victory?
A qualifying victory is a win that meets the criteria set by the College Football Playoff (CFP) committee. To be considered a qualifying victory, a team must:
- Win one of the power five conferences or be the highest-ranked team from a non-power five conference
- Be ranked in the top 25 of the CFP Rankings
- Have at least ten wins
If a team meets all of these criteria, they will be in consideration for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The CFP committee will then choose the four teams that will compete in the playoff based on several factors, including the strength of the schedule, head-to-head results, and common opponents.
In short, a 13-member committee picks the four teams competing in the College Football Playoff. The committee comprises “a diverse group of college football experts” tasked with selecting the best teams in the country – regardless of conference affiliation – to compete for the national title.
The committee members are selected by the CFP Board of Managers, consisting of university presidents, chancellors, and athletic directors from each of the 10 Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and Notre Dame. The Board appoints three members and designates two alternates from each conference. Additionally, it appoints one independent director and designates two alternates.
The current members of the College Football Playoff selection committee are:
- Rob Mullens (Chairman), University of Oregon Director of Athletics
- Gary Barta, University of Iowa Director of Athletics
- Ken Carter, Athletic Director, Jackson State University
- Paola Boivin, Sports Columnist, Arizona Republic & azcentral.com
- Joe Castiglione, University of Oklahoma Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Programs & Director of Athletics
- Condoleezza Rice, Former U.S. Secretary of State & Professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business
- Mike Tranghese, Former Big East Conference Commissioner & Storrs Center Associate Fellow in Law & Sport Policy at UConn School Of Law
- Todd Stansbury,
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