Piecing together the CFP puzzle
The GIST: There are four more weeks of regular-season play left, but momentum’s already building toward the (final) four-team College Football Playoff (CFP) this winter — so let’s dig into everything you need to know as the postseason puzzle pieces fall into place.
The format: The CFP pits the nation’s top four FBS teams (as selected by a 13-member committee) against each other to determine who wins college football’s ultimate prize: the CFP National Championship Trophy. Think March Madness, but if they started with the Final Four.
- Those four teams play in two New Year’s Day semifinals, which are hosted on a rotating basis by the New Year’s Six (NY6) bowl games — the most elite of the FBS’ 42 bowls.
- This year, the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl are the CFP semis, and their winners will contend for natty glory on January 8th, 2024.
The rankings: The gold standard in college football rankings is the Associated Press (AP) — the poll used in this newsletter. But starting tomorrow, the CFP selection committee will drop their own weekly, often remixed Top 25 — basically a sneak peek into who the committee is seriously considering for one of those top four spots.
- For that reason, those CFP ranks are a BFD to teams, but until they lock in their choices on December 3rd (Selection Sunday), they’re not entirely useful — so, the name of our game will be the AP’s poll until then.
The standards: With only four available spots, there's no room for error. Elite teams can blow their CFP chance with a single loss — which is why then–No. 6 Oklahoma’s 38–33 fall to then-unranked Kansas on Saturday was a bigger disaster for the Sooners’ playoff hopes than it was for Kansas’ goalposts. If a team suffers two losses? Forget about it.
What’s next: The next four weeks of regular-season football plus conference championships will have a big impact on the committee’s decisions, but this year’s CFP countdown clock officially begins tomorrow.
- Next year, everything changes again — the CFP will expand to 12 teams, so every NY6 game will have championship potential. Can’t freaking wait.