College Football Playoff

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Selection Criteria

CFP Winners

Playoff Expansion

The BCS National Championship

The College Football Playoff (CFP)

The College Football Playoff (CFP) is a 4-team tournament to determine the national champion. It began in the 2013-14 season, replacing the BCS National Championship Game. The College Football Playoff pits the #4 ranked team in the country versus the #1 ranked team, and the #2 ranked team versus the #3 ranked team in the CFP Semifinals. The winners of these two semifinal playoff games play in the National Championship game.

The College Football Playoff Semifinals typically take place on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day; the National Championship game is held approximately ten days later on the following Monday.

The four semi-finalists that compete in the CFP are chosen by a 13-person committee. The committee ranks the top 25 teams in the country, including the top 4. The semifinal games rotate each year between the “New Year’s Six” bowl games: the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Peach Bowl, and Orange Bowl. These are widely considered the most prestigious post-season games in college football.

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College Football Playoff Selection Criteria

CFP teams are chosen by a 13-person committee. The committee ranks teams based on the strength (or weakness) of their schedule, who they beat, whether they won their conference championship, and more. The committee emphasizes on-the-field performance in their selection criteria. However, the criteria that the selection committee uses is somewhat vague—leading to annual controversy over who is selected and who is left out.

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Winners of the College Football Playoff National Championship:

  • 2014: Ohio State
  • 2015: Alabama
  • 2016: Clemson
  • 2017: Alabama
  • 2018: Clemson
  • 2019: LSU
  • 2020: Alabama
  • 2021: Georgia

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College Football Playoff Expansion

College Football Playoff (CFP) expansion is imminent. While the structure of expansion has yet to be determined, it is likely that the playoff will grow to 8 or 12 teams. Supporters of CFP expansion argue that expanding the playoff will increase parity in college football—by giving more teams a chance to compete for it all. The CFP is often criticized for featuring the same teams every year. Detractors of playoff expansion argue that it will devalue the importance of the regular season—a key feature of college football that differentiates it from the NFL.

Despite this, College Football Playoff expansion is likely. The specific timeline for expansion is still unclear.

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What was the BCS National Championship?

Before the College Football Playoff, the national champion was determined by one game: the BCS National Championship. The two teams that played in the BCS National Championship were chosen by a computerized system. The BCS system began in 1998 and lasted until 2013, when the CFP began. The BCS system was criticized for selecting teams by rankings and computer models, leading to the development of the “selection committee” and modern day playoff.

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