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How does the college football playoff ranking system work?
Kieran Lockhart

Kieran Lockhart

Understanding the College Football Playoff System

As a college football fan, you may have some questions about how the playoff ranking system works. In this article, I will explain the ins and outs of this system and try to clarify any confusion. The college football playoff ranking system is a fascinating, yet sometimes complicated process that determines which teams will compete in the playoffs and ultimately for the national championship. So, let's dive into the details and learn more about this exciting aspect of college football.

Origins of the College Football Playoff System

The College Football Playoff (CFP) was established in 2014 as a way to determine a true national champion in the sport. Prior to the implementation of the CFP, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was used to decide which teams would play in the national championship game. However, the BCS system received a lot of criticism for its reliance on computer rankings and its exclusion of smaller conferences. As a result, the CFP was created to provide a more transparent and fair way to select the top four teams that would compete in the playoffs.

Selection Committee and Criteria

The CFP relies on a selection committee to determine the playoff rankings. This committee is made up of 13 members, including former coaches, athletic directors, and even former players. The committee members are chosen for their expertise and knowledge of college football, and they serve staggered terms to ensure continuity and consistency in the selection process.

When evaluating teams for the playoff rankings, the committee takes into account a variety of factors, such as win-loss records, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and conference championships. Additionally, the committee considers subjective factors, like injuries and the eye test (how a team looks when they play), to make their decisions.

Weekly Rankings and Process

Starting in early November, the CFP selection committee releases a weekly ranking of the top 25 college football teams. These weekly rankings are closely watched and debated by fans and analysts alike. The weekly rankings serve as a snapshot of how the committee views the teams at that particular point in time and do not guarantee a final position in the playoff rankings.

The committee meets in-person each week to discuss and compile the rankings. They use a series of ballots to rank the teams, with each member listing their top 30 teams in order. Through this iterative process, the committee eventually agrees on the top 25 teams.

The Final Rankings

After the conference championship games have been played, the selection committee meets one final time to determine the top four teams that will advance to the playoffs. This meeting takes place on Selection Sunday, which usually occurs in early December. The committee's final rankings are then revealed, along with the matchups for the two playoff games.

The top four teams are seeded, with the No. 1 seed playing the No. 4 seed and the No. 2 seed playing the No. 3 seed. The winners of these two playoff games advance to the national championship game, which takes place in early January.

New Year's Six Bowl Games

In addition to the playoff games, the CFP system also determines the matchups for the New Year's Six bowl games, which are some of the most prestigious and highly anticipated games in college football. These games are the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Peach Bowl.

The committee uses the final CFP rankings to decide which teams will play in these bowl games, ensuring exciting and competitive matchups. The highest-ranked team from a Group of Five conference (American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, Mountain West Conference, and Sun Belt Conference) is guaranteed a spot in one of these bowl games, further increasing the importance of the final CFP rankings.

Controversy and Debate

Like any sports ranking system, the CFP is not without its controversy and debate. Some critics argue that the committee's choices can be subjective and that the four-team playoff format excludes deserving teams from the opportunity to compete for a national championship. Others believe that the committee is biased towards Power Five conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC), making it more difficult for teams from smaller conferences to compete on a national stage.

While the CFP system may not be perfect, it has undoubtedly provided some thrilling and unforgettable moments in college football history. And as a fan, it's hard not to get caught up in the excitement and debate surrounding the playoff rankings each season.

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