Change is coming to the College Football Playoff in a big way next season. The postseason tournament will grow from four teams to 12. As of now, the 12 teams in the bracket will include the six highest-rated conference champions, according to the CFP Rankings, and the next six highest-ranked programs. The top four conference champions will get byes into the quarterfinals.
There is a legitimate chance that format will be adjusted to account for the demise of the Pac-12. That could result in something as simple as guaranteeing playoff spots for only the top five conference champions (with seven at-large bids) or something more drastic, such as doing away with automatic qualifiers entirely.
When the College Football Playoff Selection Committee releases the first CFP Rankings of the season on Tuesday, Oct. 31, I will be using those to determine the conference champions and at-large teams. The conference champs will be the highest-rated team from each conference. Should fewer than six conferences be represented, I will project however many are needed to get to six. Until those initial rankings are released, I will use my unveiled on Tuesday.
Quite a bit has changed from last week’s bracket as the the projected rankings now help determine the field. Most notably, the Big 12 and Pac-12 have different champions. Texas and Oregon are my projected champions in those respective leagues, but we are using Oklahoma and Washington for these projections because they are the highest-rated teams in those conferences. Some of the seeds undergo significant changes as well. Georgia drops from No. 1 to No. 6 and will host a first-round game in this bracket. Michigan has overtaken the Bulldogs as the No. 1 seed.
Ohio State is second in the rankings, but because the Buckeyes aren’t projected to finish as conference champions, the highest they can be seeded in the bracket is fifth. That’s higher than their potential second-round opponent: No. 5 Oklahoma. The Sooners would not get home-field advantage, though, because games after the first round will be played at bowl sites.
Ole Miss makes its first appearance in the bracket, replacing North Carolina after the Tar Heels were upset at home by Virginia. The Rebels would play at Alabama in the first round; the Crimson Tide defeated Ole Miss 24-10 on Sept. 23.
Let’s take a look at how the 12-team playoff would look through eight full weeks of the 2023 season.
(9) Ole Miss at (8) Alabama
Winner advances to play (1) Michigan*
(12) Air Force* at (5) Ohio State
Winner advances to play (4) Oklahoma*
(11) Penn State at (6) Georgia*
Winner advances to play (3) Washington*
(10) Oregon at (7) Texas
Winner advances to play 2 Florida State*
* Projected conference champion