- The first round of the playoff in 2024, featuring matchups between all but the top four seeds (No. 12 at No. 5, No. 11 at No. 6, No. 10 at No. 7, No. 9 at No. 8 ), will take place the weekend Saturday, Dec. 21, with games at either the home field of the higher-seeded team or at another site designated by the higher-seeded team.
- The four quarterfinal games and two semifinal games will be played in bowls on a rotating basis. The national championship games for the affected seasons will be played Jan. 20, 2025, in Atlanta, and Jan. 19, 2026, in Miami.
- In September, the presidents and chancellors who make up the CFP Board of Managers approved the 12-team model that had been initially proposed in June 2021 but was held up by disagreements among the commissioners. The board then called on those commissioners to re-open discussions about the possibility of implementing the 12-team model earlier than 2026, when the initial CFP contract expires.
The final hurdle to expand the CFP before the original contract ended was cleared Wednesday, when sources with knowledge of the contract negotiations confirmed to The Athletic that the Rose Bowl had agreed to amend its contract. The Rose Bowl wanted assurances from CFP leadership that its game would continue to be played at 5 pm ET on New Year’s Day in an exclusive broadcast window. It wanted that valuable time slot even in years in which the Rose Bowl was not a CFP quarterfinal game, which would throw a wrench into the calendar and the way the new postseason would work. That assurance would also represent special treatment that no other bowl receives.
The Rose Bowl’s refusal to break its current contract, which runs through the 2025-26 season, would have ended any hopes of expanding early.
What the new format will look like
The six highest-ranked FBS champions will be guaranteed access to the Playoff, and the remaining six spots will go to the best at-large teams. The top four seeds will receive first-round byes, and Nos. 5-8 will host on-campus games for the first round. The rest of the rounds will be played at bowl sites.
The Playoff announced the bowl sites for its 2024 and ’24 quarterfinal and semifinal games in conjunction with its announcement of early expansion: The 2024 quarterfinals will be hosted by the Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl; the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl will host the semifinals. The 2025 quarterfinals will take place in the Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, while the Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl will host the semifinals.
It is possible that the calendar will change for the new CFP contract beginning in 2026; if the whole season moves up to what is now referred to as Week 0, that alleviates some of the stress on the back-end of postseason scheduling. Issues tied to 2026 and beyond will be resolved in the future. — Auerbach
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