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If the Expanded College Football Playoffs Began Today

#2 Alabama and #4 Michigan would have a longer path to a National Championship.

Alabama V North Carolina State
Alabama would host a pesky North Carolina State.

Three weeks ago, it was announced that college football playoff would expand to 12 teams starting in 2026. The format is as outlined by ESPN:

The four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded one through four with each receiving a first-round bye. Teams seeded five through 12 will play each other in the first round on either the second or third weekend of December. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be played in bowl games on a rotating basis, and the championship game will be at a neutral site, as under the current four-team format.

To clarify, this means that Notre Dame - or any other independent - will never have the chance at a first-round bye, because they will never play in a conference championship game.


If this format had been in place in 2021, the below bracket is how the CFP would have looked. The seeding is based on the final CFP rankings released on December 5, 2021.

  1. Alabama (12-1) SECCG Champ - 1 seed
  2. Michigan (12-1) B1GCG Champ - 2 seed
  3. Georgia (12-1) - 5 seed
  4. Cincinnati (13-0) AACCG Champ - 3 seed
  5. Notre Dame (11-1) - 6 seed
  6. Ohio State (10-2)
  7. Baylor (11-2) B12CG Champ - 4 seed
  8. Ole Miss (10-2)
  9. Oklahoma State (11-2)
  10. Michigan State (10-2)
  11. Utah Utes (10-3) PACCG Champ
  12. Pitt (11-2) ACCCG Champ

Don’t you love it? Baylor gets the 4-seed for winning their weak conference.


If the expanded model of the College Football Playoffs began today, two of the top four teams would have to play an extra game. Obviously, no conference championship games have been played as of yet this season and the CFP rankings do not start until November. Just for kicks, we will seed a hypothetical bracket according to current AP rankings. However, no two teams from the same conference can be in the top four.


  1. Georgia (3-0) SEC - 1 seed
  2. Alabama (3-0) SEC - 5 seed
  3. Ohio State (3-0) B1G - 2 seed
  4. Michigan (3-0) B1G - 6 seed
  5. Clemson (3-0) ACC - 3 seed
  6. Oklahoma (3-0) B12 - 4 seed
  7. Southern Cal (3-0) PAC
  8. Kentucky (3-0) SEC
  9. Oklahoma State (3-0) B12
  10. Arkansas (3-0) SEC
  11. Tennessee (3-0) SEC
  12. NC State (3-0) ACC

In this model, Alabama and Michigan have to play an additional game while Oklahoma and Clemson get a longer time to rest up and prepare for their opponents.