Projecting the 2024-2025 College Football Playoff: SEC, Big Ten Dominate the Field, Non-Conference Champion Wins It All

    The new College Football Playoff will bring plenty of surprises. Will the SEC and Big 10 dominate and could a team outside the top four win it all?

    The new 12-team College Football Playoff format comes into effect this season, and with the 5+7 model confirmed, it’s time to look at how the 2024-2025 College Football Playoff could play out.

    Projecting the 2024-2025 College Football Playoff Field

    The new playoff format will feature 12 teams, the five highest-ranked conference champions, and the seven highest-ranked at-large teams. The top four conference champions will earn a first-round bye, while the other eight teams will play the first-round games at the venue of the higher-ranked seed’s choice (presumably their home stadium).

    The quarterfinals and semifinals will rotate among New Year’s Six bowl games — the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, Capital One Orange Bowl, Vrbo Fiesta Bowl, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the Allstate Sugar Bowl, and the Rose Bowl Game presented by Prudential. The 2024-2025 National Championship Game will be contested at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.

    Projecting the College Football Playoff Seeds

    12) Appalachian State Mountaineers

    Alright, here we go! Many hardcore college football fans are excited for the new playoff format partially due to the race for the final automatic bid. While the Power Four will lock down the top four spots, the final conference champion will likely need to impress the committee throughout the season.

    In what could come down to a popularity contest, I’m not sure Memphis — who might be the best non-Power Four team in the country — will have the résumé. The Mountaineers host Liberty at what will be a sold-out Kidd-Brewer Stadium on September 28. They’re in they can win that game and run the table against a down Sun Belt conference.

    11) Penn State Nittany Lions

    Penn State is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the new College Football Playoff format. They’ve often played third-fiddle to Ohio State and Michigan, but this year, the Nittany Lions avoid both juggernauts and even if they slip up in conference play (which is likely), the strength of the Big Ten is likely enough to sneak them in.

    The rushing attack should be excellent this year, and we should see the coaching staff open up the offense to allow Drew Allar to make full use of his arm. The Oregon Ducks are the other team in this tier, and I certainly wouldn’t count Dan Lanning out, but for now, we’ll go with Penn State.

    10) Missouri Tigers

    I was very wrong about Missouri last season, and maybe this is an overcorrection, but the schedule might actually be easier in 2024. The Tigers dodge Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, and Tennessee while getting every difficult SEC game at home aside from a trip to Tuscaloosa.

    The Missouri defense is one of the best in the country, and the Tigers did well to retain their talent while adding in the transfer portal. Brady Cook could be a very sneaky dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate.

    9) Ole Miss Rebels

    It’s Lane Kiffin’s time. The Ole Miss Rebels’ defense is stronger than it’s ever been, and Kiffin and company put together the country’s best transfer class in the portal era.

    We know the offense will score points, and the Rebels will be able to win just about every game. It feels like they’ll need to beat either Georgia or LSU to get here, but they have the talent to do that.

    8) Michigan Wolverines

    It might be somewhat of a rebuilding year for the reigning National Champions, but there’s wiggle room here. A two-loss Michigan team could make the playoff, given the schedule, as the Wolverines play Texas, Oregon, and Ohio State this year.

    That early November game against Oregon could have huge College Football Playoff implications.

    7) Notre Dame Fighting Irish

    Notre Dame is another team that will complain about the new College Football Playoff format while simultaneously benefitting from it. It will be impossible to earn a bye in the playoff, with the Fighting Irish getting a defacto bye on conference championship weekend.

    The Fighting Irish play their traditional powers, most of whom are expected to have down years. They’ll have a chance to claim a victory over one of the top-seeded teams, one that isn’t likely to be one of the top three teams in the country in terms of performance and overall ranking. It’s a great schedule for the Fighting Irish this season.

    6) Alabama Crimson Tide

    Don’t believe what you hear about the Alabama Crimson Tide this offseason. Kalen DeBoer will clean up in the post-spring portal window, and Alabama will remain a top contender. It’s a difficult schedule, but the Crimson Tide should make the College Football Playoff as long as they avoid complete disaster.

    Also, the defense is going to be very good. Don’t worry about the Tide missing out; it’s not going to happen.

    5) Texas Longhorns

    2023 College Football Playoff Team? Check. Returning quarterback? Check. Strong portal class? Check.

    Steve Sarkisian might have Texas “back” with a dynamic offense and solid defense. A move to the SEC may have looked like a terrible idea three years ago. Now, it looks like the Longhorns can be a real contender.

    4) Kansas State Wildcats

    There’s not much overthinking here. It’ll be a down year for the Big 12, so anyone who makes a Playoff Predictor will have their choice of four or five teams in the conference for the fourth seed in the playoff.

    Quarterback Avery Johnson is the real deal for the Wildcats, who get their three toughest games at home. The Big 12 Championship Game is likely an elimination game, but Chris Klieman will have his team ready.

    3) Florida State Seminoles

    There’s a possibility the Florida State Seminoles get the third seed while being ranked outside the top 10, as the ACC just isn’t very good this season.

    Florida State’s non-conference schedule is brutal, but that holds no bearing on their seeding here — if the Seminoles win the conference, they’re in.

    2) Georgia Bulldogs

    Our old friends, the Georgia Bulldogs, were the real losers of the old College Football Playoff system last season, getting kicked out for their first loss in two years. This year, that won’t be an issue.

    MORE: College Football Transfer Portal Tracker 

    The schedule is brutal, but the Bulldogs are talented enough to avoid major catastrophe. A one-loss Georgia team that wins the SEC would likely have an argument for the top overall seed, but here, the Buckeyes take it. Speaking of which…

    1) Ohio State Buckeyes

    I’m all in on Ohio State this year, which is one of the most experienced teams in the country. Even if they can’t break the slide against Michigan (and I believe they will win that one) the Buckeyes will make the College Football Playoff. An undefeated Ohio State team rightfully earns the top seed in our projection.

    Projecting the 2024-2025 Playoff Bracket

    First Round: Dec. 20-21

    No. 12 Appalachian State @ No. 5 Texas

    The run ends for Appalachian State as the Mountaineers run into an unfavorable matchup here. Appalachian State is not a typical “throw it all over the park and win with speed” Group of Five (Six?) team. The Mountaineers want to pound the rock and hit you with shot plays.

    Texas’s defensive line will control the line of scrimmage, and Quinn Ewers will have a huge game.

    Prediction: Texas 45, Appalachian State 21

    No. 11 Penn State @ No. 6 Alabama

    Kalen DeBoer is one of the best regular-season coaches in college football history, but he has run into issues before in the playoffs. Here, I don’t think that becomes an issue, as I don’t trust James Franklin in big games either.

    Penn State will have to let Allar carry the offense against a stingy Alabama defense. Jalen Milroe’s legs might be the difference maker.

    Prediction: Alabama 31, Penn State 14

    No. 10 Missouri @ No. 7 Notre Dame

    The new College Football Playoff format gives us the potential for many quality matchups. Here, we have another one, with two talented teams with a flaw or two.

    Notre Dame will want to use some combination of its 12 (only a slight exaggeration) starting-caliber running backs to wear Missouri down. However, the Tigers might have the best receiving corps in college football, and Luther Burden III could go off.

    Prediction: Missouri 28, Notre Dame 24

    No. 9 Ole Miss @ No. 8 Michigan

    The biggest question is whether Ole Miss can go to Ann Arbor in December and win a road playoff game. This matchup shows the importance of being ranked eighth versus ninth, as the Rebels would be huge favorites at home.

    Still, I think Kiffin and company can get it done in a “grind-it-out, don’t make mistakes” game.

    Prediction: Ole Miss 27, Michigan 21

    Quarterfinals: Dec. 31-Jan. 1

    Rose Bowl: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Ole Miss

    Ole Miss rolls into a semifinal game with the top overall seeded Buckeyes in what looks like a great matchup on paper. Fatigue will certainly factor in these games, especially for teams that played and lost on Conference Championship Weekend.

    Here, Ohio State shows it can win a shootout, edging out an incredibly deep and talented Rebels team.

    Prediction: Ohio State 45, Ole Miss 38

    Peach Bowl: No. 2 Georgia vs. No. 10 Missouri

    Missouri always plays Georgia close, and I see this one playing out in a similar fashion. The Bulldogs have had trouble in recent years being explosive against the Tigers, but if Carson Beck has time to work down the field, the Missouri secondary is a bit less talented than last season.

    Prediction: Georgia 24, Missouri 13

    Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 6 Alabama

    Florida State gets the opportunity to avenge itself after being stonewalled from the 2023-2024 College Football Playoff by the Crimson Tide. Ironically, this team will be far inferior to the team that missed the playoffs last year.

    MORE: 2024 Heisman Trophy Odds and Favorites

    By this time, Alabama should be clicking, and the Crimson Tide love a good opportunity to put all theories and rumors to rest by winning on the field. The x-factor here is DJ Uiagalelei, who could make this game closer with a big game.

    Prediction: Alabama 31, Florida State 20

    Fiesta Bowl: No. 4 Kansas State vs. No. 5 Texas

    The interesting thing about this format is the fourth seed is theoretically the worst of the Power Four champions, while the fifth seed is the best of the rest. Still, Kansas State gets a bye heading into this game.

    In an old Big 12 rematch, the Longhorns flex their muscles and punch their ticket to the Semifinals behind a huge game from Quinn Ewers.

    Prediction: Texas 51, Kansas State 27

    Semifinals: Jan. 9-10

    Orange Bowl: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 5 Texas

    It isn’t yet clear how the bowl ties will work. If the highest-remaining seed gets first choice, the Buckeyes would pick the Orange Bowl simply to avoid playing Texas in Dallas.

    In what could be the game of the year, I have the Longhorns squeaking out a victory over the Buckeyes. Again, if Ewers plays like the best returning quarterback in college football, the Longhorns will be very difficult to beat.

    Prediction: Texas 41, Ohio State 38

    Cotton Bowl: No. 2 Georgia vs. No. 6 Alabama

    This could be Part III of a trilogy of games between the SEC juggernauts. The two meet in the regular season and could meet in the SEC Championship (The Bulldogs, in this scenario, would have won that game, earning a first-round bye in the playoff).

    Here, the Crimson Tide’s run in Kalen DeBoer’s first year ends, as Kirby Smart erases all doubt that he’s the guy to beat in the SEC.

    Prediction: Georgia 27, Alabama 23

    2025 College Football National Championship Game

    No. 2 Georgia vs. No. 5 Texas

    The SEC’s newest contender against the SEC’s reigning “team to beat,” the first College Football National Championship under the new format features a team that would have made the championship under any other format and a team that would have never had a chance without the expanded playoff.

    KEEP READING: EA Sports College Football 25: Potential Cover Athlete From Every FBS Program 

    The last time the postseason format changed, we had a team who would have previously been left out win the championship in the first year. Here, I’ll predict the same as Ewers cements his draft status as the top quarterback and wins one for the Longhorns. Is Texas back? You bet it is.

    Prediction: Texas 30, Georgia 28

    Miss any action from the top college QB Rankings during the 2023 football season? Want to track all the movement with the college football transfer portal? College Football Network has you covered with that and more!

    College Football Transfer Portal Tracker

    Never miss a beat with the CFN-exclusive College Football Transfer Portal Tracker, listing the student-athletes entering and exiting the transfer portal.

    Related Articles