College Football Playoffs History: Inception, Results, and More

Journey deep into the College Football Playoffs history with a detailed look at year-by-year results, the how, and why it's changed to a 12-team format in 2024.

Explaining the College Football Playoffs history is a journey through the ever-evolving landscape of postseason play to crown a national champion. The former BCS years are well behind us as the College Football Playoff ultimately crowns the best the sport has to offer.

PFN Mock Draft Simulator - Desktop

When Did the College Football Playoffs Start?

Seeking a way to curb the vitriol from fanbases that saw their favorite teams left out of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) National Championship, the College Football Playoff originated in 2014. That date stems from years of controversy during the BCS era and hard work across the map to get to a four-team playoff format that includes similar principles to that of the NCAA Final Four and the NFL’s Super Bowl.

The College Football Playoff originated during the 2014 CFB season and culminated with an Ohio State Buckeyes national championship victory in 2015.

College Football Playoffs Results by Year

2015

  • Rose Bowl – #2 Oregon 59, #3 Florida State 20
  • Sugar Bowl – #4 Ohio State 42, #1 Alabama 35
  • National Championship – #4 Ohio State 42, #2 Oregon 20

2016

  • Orange Bowl – #1 Clemson 37, #4 Oklahoma 17
  • Cotton Bowl – #2 Alabama 38, #3 Michigan State 0
  • National Championship – #2 Alabama 45, #1 Clemson 40

2017

  • Peach Bowl – #1 Alabama 24, #4 Washington 7
  • Fiesta Bowl – #2 Clemson 31, #3 Ohio State 0
  • National Championship – #2 Clemson 35, #1 Alabama 31

2018

  • Rose Bowl – #3 Georgia 54, #2 Oklahoma 48
  • Sugar Bowl – #4 Alabama 24, #1 Clemson 6
  • National Championship – #4 Alabama 26, #3 Georgia 23

2019

  • Cotton Bowl – #2 Clemson 30, #3 Notre Dame 3
  • Orange Bowl – #1 Alabama 45, #4 Oklahoma 34
  • National Championship – #2 Clemson 44, #1 Alabama 16

2020

  • Peach Bowl – #1 LSU 63, #4 Oklahoma 28
  • Fiesta Bowl – #3 Clemson 29, #2 Ohio State 23
  • National Championship – #1 LSU 42, #3 Clemson 25

2021

  • Rose Bowl – #1 Alabama 31, #4 Notre Dame 14
  • Sugar Bowl – #3 Ohio State 49, #2 Clemson 28
  • National Championship – #1 Alabama 52, #3 Ohio State 24

2022

  • Cotton Bowl – #1 Alabama 27, #4 Cincinnati 6
  • Orange Bowl – #3 Georgia 34, #2 Michigan 11
  • National Championship – #3 Georgia 33, #1 Alabama 18

Who Has Been in the College Football Playoffs the Most?

Though Ohio State won the first national championship through the College Football Playoff, the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers have dominated the field. Alabama has made the most appearances, while Clemson sits right behind them.

Alabama leads the nation with seven College Football Playoff appearances, failing to make just three of the nine College Football Playoffs since the event’s inception. Clemson has journeyed into the College Football Playoffs in six different seasons, while Ohio State has five appearances.

Alabama and Clemson have played the most head-to-head matchups, playing for the national championship three times (2016, 2017, 2019) and once in the semifinals (2018).

The Crimson Tide also has the most national championships during the College Football Playoff era, winning three while making it to five championship games altogether.

When Does the 12-Team College Football Playoff Format Begin?

As good as the four-team playoff structure has been to the casual viewer, there have certainly been teams and fanbases that have felt left out. With the NCAA basketball tournaments fielding brackets as large as 68 teams, the outstanding feeling of growing the number of teams in the College Football Playoff reached a fever pitch in the summer of 2022.

As such, meetings began, and the selection committee agreed to an expanded playoff format of 12 teams.

The 12-Team College Football Playoff will begin in 2024. The 12-team format will feature guaranteed bids for the top-six ranked conference champions and at-large bids for the six highest-ranked teams following the conference championship weekend.

MORE: College Football Playoff Expansion Timeline

The four highest-ranked conference champions are set to receive bye weeks while the remaining teams (ranked 5-12) will play each other in a first-round matchup featuring home-field advantage for the higher-ranked seeds (5 vs. 12, 6 vs. 11, 7 vs. 10, 8 vs. 9).

The Sugar Bowl, Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl, and Cotton Bowl will host the quarterfinal and semifinal matchups on a rotating basis while the championship games will be held at separate sites as picked by the NCAA selection committee on a bid-submittal process by the cities themselves.