CFP revamps new 12-team playoff structure, adds at-large bid

The College Football Playoff expanding to 12 teams for the upcoming season includes an altered format featuring the five highest-ranked conference champions and the next seven highest-ranked teams.

The CFP Board of Managers voted Tuesday to modify the original plan, which called for the six highest-ranked champions to earn an automatic entry into the field, plus six at-large berths. The switch was necessary with the Pac-12 down to just two teams in 2024 following the defection of 10 programs to other conferences.

“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,” said Dr. Mark Keenum, president of Mississippi State University and CFP board chair. “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.”

There is no limit on the number of teams that can qualify in each conference.

The shift was made with no objection from Washington State president Kirk Schulz, who represents the Pac-12 on the board. Oregon State will be the only other remaining Pac-12 team next season.

“For our two schools in the Pac-12 as it’s currently configured, there is no question that five-seven, with seven at-larges, is better than six at-larges,” Schulz told ESPN. “… There’s no question our football coaches are going to want to compete for one of those seven slots, and seven is going to be better than six.”

Under the 12-team playoff format that begins in the fall, the four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded one through four for the CFP tournament and will receive a first-round bye. Teams seeded five through 12 will play each other in the first round at the home of the higher ranked team.

Michigan is the defending CFP champion, defeating Washington in the title game on Jan. 8. Both schools will be members of the Big Ten next season as Washington departs the Pac-12.

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