For the first time in the history of college football, a playoff will determine the national champion, instead of a computerized algorithm picking the “best two teams” to play in the national championship. Since the 2015-2015 season will be the inaugural year for the College Football Playoff, there’s been a bit of confusion as to how it works. Here’s College Football Playoff 101:
To understand how the College Football Playoff system is going to work, having a basic understanding of how the Bowl Championship Series played out. Over the past 16 years, there were four/five games that were played each season. However, only the BCS National Championship Game had anything to do with actually winning anything.
The other games, consisting of the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl, were essentially just the “better bowl games” to be in. Making it to one of those bowl games was a statement that the team was good, but not good enough in the eyes of the BCS to participate in the National Championship Game. Six conferences had automatic qualification status. The Rose Bowl pitted the Big Ten champion against the Pac-12 champion against each other. The Fiesta Bowl hosted the Big 12 champion. The Orange Bowl always had the ACC Champion. The Sugar Bowl held a game with the SEC Champion. The AAC champion would go to one of the remaining spots. The BCS Championship Game had the best two teams against each other. At-large teams would fill their spots in the games they were otherwise automatically qualified for.
Enough about the BCS. Instead of a computerized system determining the teams who make it to what bowl game, it’s now up to a 13-member selection committee to determine the playoff matchups.
The committee members—
–Archie Manning, former Mississippi quarterback (1968-1970)
–Barry Alvarez, former Wisconsin football coach (1990-2005), current Wisconsin Athletic Director
–Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state and current Stanford professor
–Dan Radakovich, current Clemson Athletic Director
–Jeff Long, current Arkansas Athletic Director
–Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, former Air Force defensive back (1972-1975), former superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy
–Mike Tranghese, former commissioner of the Big East
–Oliver Luck, former West Virginia quarterback (1978-1981), current West Virginia Athletic Director
–Pat Haden, former Southern California quarterback (1971-1974), current Southern California Athletic Director
–Steve Wieberg, former college football reporter
–Tom Jernstedt, former Oregon quarterback (1964-1966), former NCAA executive vice president
–Tom Osborne, former Nebraska head coach (1973-1997), former Nebraska Athletic Director (2007-2013)
–Tyrone Willingham, former Michigan State quarterback (1975-1977), former head coach of Stanford (1995-2001), Notre Dame (2002-2004) and Washington (2005-2008)
The committee will be releasing a weekly top 25 poll, just like the BCS did, starting on Oct. 21. The matchups for the College Football Playoff will be released on Dec. 7.
How does this all work? Well, the semifinals for the playoff will rotate between six bowl games: the Rose, Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, Cotton and Peach. In the years that those bowls don’t host a College Playoff Semifinal game, a different bowl game will be played in the venue.
The championship game will be just like the Super Bowl in regards that it will be moved all over the country. The first College Football Playoff Championship Game will be hosted in AT&T Stadium (otherwise known as “Jerry World”), home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Three games will be played on New Year’s Eve (don’t worry, football fans, it’s a tripleheader, you won’t have to choose which game to watch) and another three games will be played on New Year’s Day. If Dec. 31 or Jan. 1 falls on a Sunday, the games will be moved in order to not conflict with the NFL.
The championship game will always kick off on a Monday, at least a week after the semifinals take place.
ESPN has full coverage of the College Football Playoff. Reportedly, the company paid roughly $7.2 billion for the rights to cover the series for the next 12 years.
Surely as the season pans out, how it all works will be more clear.