College Football Playoff adopts new ‘5+7’ format to allow for more at-large bids

The College Football Playoff will look very different next season. (Robin Alam/Getty Images)

The College Football Playoff officially has a new format.

CFP leaders on Tuesday adopted a change to the 12-team expanded playoff model, moving to a “5+7” system that incorporates five automatic qualifying spots for the highest-ranked conference champions and seven at-large spots for the next highest-ranked teams. Officials scrapped the original proposal — 6+6 — after the latest realignment wave left the Pac-12 at two members, decreasing the AQ spots and increasing the at-large selections. The proposal received the necessary unanimous 11-0 support, ending a drama-filled last few weeks of pushback from the Pac-12.

For at least two more years, the Pac-12 retains a voting spot on the 11-member CFP Board of Managers, made up of a university president from the 10 FBS leagues and Notre Dame. Washington State president Kirk Schulz, the conference’s representative on the board, delayed a vote on the 5+7 move last month while WSU and Oregon State officials organized a proposal that he presented to board members Tuesday. The Pac-12 is seeking to be considered a power league, with P5 voting rights and revenue distribution, for years beyond 2025, the final year of the CFP’s contract with ESPN.

It’s unclear if a decision has been made on the proposal, but Schulz did not block the format change.

In an interview last week, Schulz acknowledged that the 5+7 change benefits the Pac-12’s remaining schools as it increases at-large spots. The league is not eligible for an automatic berth in the playoff because it falls short of the membership minimum needed for such (eight schools) — a change that commissioners adopted in November.

The expanded playoff begins next season. In the approved format, the four highest-ranked conference champions earn a bye into the quarterfinals, which, like the semifinals, are played at a rotation of six bowl sites. In the 2024 playoff, the first-round games — played at the home site of the better seed — will kick off the third week of December. One game will be played on Friday night, Dec. 20, and three games on Saturday, Dec. 21, which pits college football against the NFL. The NFL begins playing Saturday regular season games that weekend.

“This is a very logical adjustment for the College Football Playoff based on the evolution of our conference structures since the board first adopted this new format in September 2022,” said Mark Keenum, Mississippi State president and chair of the CFP Board of Managers. “I know this change will also be well received by student-athletes, coaches and fans. We all will be pleased to see this new format come to life on the field this postseason.”

Three of the four quarterfinals are slated for New Year’s Day (Peach, Rose, Sugar), with one quarterfinal (Fiesta) scheduled on New Year’s Eve. The semifinals are scheduled to be played on a midweek day, Jan. 9-10 (Thursday and Friday) in an effort to avoid the NFL’s wild-card weekend, which begins that Saturday.

The 2024 championship game will be held Jan. 20, 2025.

The move to the 5+7 model was long expected. In November, the CFP Management Committee, made up of the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, approved the measure in a recommendation to the CFP Board of Managers, the committee’s presidential counterparts who held a video call Tuesday.

The switch to a 5+7 format became a likely and, some felt, necessary step after the implosion of the Pac-12. The 12-team, 6+6 playoff was designed to give one spot to the best Group of Five champion. Given the Pac-12’s situation, in a 6+6 format, the best two Group of Five champions would have received a bid, likely leaping over potentially more worthy Power Five teams.

Any hurdles in pushing through the 5+7 model were cleared, including an early pushback from the American Athletic Conference. Commissioner Mike Aresco and his league were against the switch before agreeing to the matter, potentially part of a more long-term guarantee for the Group of Five to retain automatic access beyond 2025.

However, there is no playoff beyond the 2025 edition as the CFP has not yet agreed to a long-term television contract, something in which officials are in active negotiations over. Leaders of the Big Ten and SEC have expressed doubt in their long-term commitment to the CFP if certain concepts — such as a new revenue-distribution model — are not finalized to their liking. The commitment is to “get right” these matters, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey told Yahoo Sports earlier this month.

Along with a revenue model, Big Ten and SEC leaders have both expressed their desire to re-examine the 12-team format as well. For the next two years, at least, the format is set: 5+7.

Applying a 5+7 model over the previous decade produces interesting results. The SEC and Big Ten dominate the field. Between them, they would have accounted for 73 of the 120 spots (61%) in a 5+7, 12-team playoff. However, that logic has its flaws. Those calculations were made assuming there was no Pac-12. Pac-12 teams were counted as part of their new leagues.

Here's how many teams from each conference would've made the College Football Playoff over the last 10 years with the new format. (Yahoo Sports illustration)

Here’s how many teams from each conference would’ve made the College Football Playoff over the last 10 years with the new format. (Yahoo Sports illustration)

Source link