When Does College Football Expand to a 12-Team Playoff?

    After 10 years with four teams in its playoffs, college football is set to expand to a 12-team playoff with both automatic and at-large bids.

    No other sport changes its postseason structure or reworks the rules around crowning a champion more often than college football. Throughout the sport’s history, there have been numerous postseason formats. After a decade-long experiment with a four-team playoff, college football will expand to a 12-team playoff bracket.

    But when will this change occur?

    When Does College Football Expand to a 12-Team Playoff?

    It was announced on Sept. 2, 2022, that college football would expand its playoff, then again on Dec. 1 of that year that the new format would include 12 teams.

    That change will take place beginning with the 2024-2025 college football season that begins in August, making Jan. 8’s MichiganWashington matchup the final in the four-team playoff era.

    The reasoning behind the expansion is to attempt to cut down on controversy and give enough teams with a reasonable chance to win a championship an opportunity to play for one.

    The four-team playoff was no stranger to controversy. Just this season, an undefeated Power Five conference champion was left excluded from the playoff, a decision that seemed to be justified in hindsight.

    How Will the 12-Team Playoff Work?

    Though the playoff has expanded, there is still a distinct advantage to being a top-four seed. They will receive a bye, while the teams ranked 5-12 will play a first-round game on the campus of the higher-ranked team.

    From there, the quarterfinals, semifinals, and National Championship will be played in subsequent weeks.

    MORE: 2025 CFB National Championship Odds

    The six highest-ranked conference winners will automatically make the playoff while the remainder of the field will be made up of at-large bids. Those at-large bids will go to the six highest-ranked teams remaining.

    With the expanded playoffs comes a new postseason schedule. For the 2024 season, the first round will be played on Dec. 20-21 and the quarterfinals will be played on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, typically when the semifinals had been played in previous years. The new semifinals will be on Jan. 9-10 and the National Championship will move back to Jan. 20.

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