Breaking Down the New College Football Playoff 5+7, 12-Team Model

Last Updated on February 25, 2024

The five highest-ranked conference champions and seven highest-ranked teams, as determined by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, will make up the new 12-team playoff format for the next two seasons, as decided by the CFP Board of Managers in a unanimous decision Tuesday.

The decision follows the implosion of the Pac-12 Conference over the last two years. The conference, whose only current members are Oregon State and Washington State, does not meet the 8-team requirement for automatic bid eligibility decided upon by the CFP Management Committee in November. The original plan for the expanded CFP included the six highest-ranked conference champions plus the next six highest-ranked teams.

How the College Football Playoff’s 5+7 Model Works

  • The five highest-ranked conference champions will receive automatic bids. There will be seven at-large bids for the next seven highest-ranked teams.
  • The four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded as the top four teams, even if there are at-large ranked ahead of some of those conference champions. Those top four will receive a first-round bye.
  • Beyond the top four, teams will be seeded according to ranking.
  • The higher seed in the first-round matchups will host, which can be at their home stadium or another location of their choosing.
  • Quarterfinals and semifinals will be hosted by the New Year’s Six bowls (Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Peach Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl).
  • The National Championship will remain at a neutral site selected by the College Football Playoff.

An interesting note here regarding Notre Dame: the Fighting Irish are not eligible to be in the top four because they aren’t a member of a conference. Therefore, the highest they can ever be ranked in this format is No. 5, and they could never receive a first-round bye.

“This is a very logical adjustment for the College Football Playoff based on the evolution of our conference structures since the board first adopted this new format in September 2022,” Dr. Mark Keenum, President of Mississippi State University and Chair of the CFP Board of Managers, said in a statement. “I know this change will also be well received by student-athletes, coaches and fans. We all will be pleased to see this new format come to life on the field this postseason.”

No conferences will automatically qualify for the CFP, and there are no limits on the number of participants from each conference. Though this format is only for the next two seasons, there is a possibility that it will change yet again after the 2026 carousel.

2024 and 2025 College Football Playoff Game Dates

2024 Season

First Round (On-Campus)

  • Friday, December 20, 2024: One Game (evening)
  • Saturday, December 21, 2024: Three Games (early afternoon, late afternoon and evening)

Quarterfinals

  • Tuesday, December 31, 2024: Vrbo Fiesta Bowl (evening)
  • Wednesday, January 1, 2025: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (early afternoon), Rose Bowl Game (late afternoon) and Allstate Sugar Bowl (evening)

Semifinals

  • Thursday, January 9, 2025: Capital One Orange Bowl (evening)
  • Friday, January 10, 2025: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (evening)

CFP National Championship

  • Monday, January 20, 2025: Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia

2025 Season

First Round (On-Campus)

  • Friday, December 19, 2025: One Game (evening)
  • Saturday, December 20, 2025: Three Games (early afternoon, late afternoon and evening)

Quarterfinals

  • Wednesday, December 31, 2025: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (evening)
  • Thursday, January 1, 2026: Capital One Orange Bowl (early afternoon), Rose Bowl Game (late afternoon) and Allstate Sugar Bowl (evening)

Semifinals

  • Thursday, January 8, 2026: Vrbo Fiesta Bowl (evening)
  • Friday, January 9, 2026: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (evening)

CFP National Championship

  • Monday, January 19, 2026: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida

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