The college football playoffs determine which team wins that season’s Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) national championship. The nation’s best college football teams play at that top level of 130 colleges while the rest of the NCAA football schools compete in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), Division 2 and Division 3 ranks.
In order to be selected to the college football playoffs, schools need to be in the top four of the college football playoff rankings. The college football playoff schedule starts with two semifinals on or around Jan. 1 while the championship game will be played between one and two weeks later, on a Monday evening.
The college football playoff bracket is a simple one. The top team in the college football playoff rankings plays the fourth in one semifinal while the other will feature the remaining two schools. The winners meet in the championship game. All three games are played at predetermined sites. Meanwhile, the semifinals double as bowl games. The Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl will take those honors in the 2020 season while that campaign’s national title contest will be played at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Alabama and Clemson have dominated the brief college football playoff history that exists. Those two schools have comprised eight of the 12 participants in the national championship game from 2014-19. Those powerhouse teams won two titles apiece in that six-year span; they were joined by Ohio State and LSU, who lifted the trophy once apiece in that period.
Football is the only sport that the NCAA subdivides Division 1 into two classifications: Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivision. One of the most interesting college football facts is that the former is home to eight of the 10 largest stadiums in the world, all of which are regularly sold out. Schools that play at this level are allowed to award up to 85 scholarships to football players. Conversely, FCS is comprised of the rest of the D1 football teams. These institutions can also provide at least partial scholarships to 85 players, but they may only split up to 63 scholarships amongst them.
FCS has its own college football playoff system. This college football playoff bracket is much more extensive. It involves 24 teams with play starting Thanksgiving weekend and continuing for three more weekends to narrow the field to two. Those squads will then take a few weeks off from competition before this college football championship game is played. All games are hosted by one of the two participating teams with the exception of the neutral-site title contest.
The college bowl system predates the college football playoff system by more than 100 years, and it still exists today and likely will for some time to come.
Each of the following six bowl games take turns playing host to college football playoff semifinal contests, hosting one every three seasons:
Here are some other bowl games of note:
The college football playoff committee releases the college football playoff rankings on a weekly basis from the 11th week of the season through the final ones. In 2019, the initial college football playoff rankings release took place on Nov. 5 while the last college football playoff rankings release occurred on Dec. 8. The college football playoff committee determines the four participants on a number of factors, including their records, strength of schedules and whether they won conference championships or not. The organization’s official website provides bios for each of the college football playoff committee members.
Note that these college football playoff rankings are dissimilar to the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches’ Polls, which are released every week throughout the season in addition to preseason and postseason ones for both. Those contain the opinions of members of the media and football coaches, respectively, and are not supposed to have any bearing on the college football playoff rankings.
In 2016, an Orlando Sentinel reporter explained what it’s like to make those decisions.
The college football playoff schedule used to always start on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1 with the two semifinals being played on one of those dates. However, that ended with the 2018 campaign. That year and in 2019, the college football playoff schedule started on the final Saturday of December. Following the 2020 campaign, the college football playoff schedule will get underway on Jan. 1, which is a Friday.
The championship game is always played on a Monday evening, generally the second Monday of January but sometimes the first Monday of that month. ESPN college football is responsible for broadcasting all three of these games.
The college football playoffs are scheduled the day after most of the conference championship games have been played. In 2020, this will be on Dec. 6. The only remaining regular-season game at that point is the Army-Navy rivalry game, which is played the next Saturday. Should one of those teams be in the mix for the college football playoffs, it’s believed that the committee would release two plans. One would be realized if Army wins that game, the other if the Midshipmen are victorious.
LSU completed a historic 15-0 season with a 42-25 win over Clemson in the college football playoff national championship game. The Tigers were able to celebrate this win just 80 miles from campus as the game was played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. LSU advanced to the college football championship game with a dominating 63-28 victory over Oklahoma in Atlanta. That was the team’s first contest in college football playoff history. Clemson outlasted Ohio State, 29-23, in the other semifinal, which was played in Glendale, Ariz.
The first time that this event was held, Ohio State prevailed over the four-team field. This surprised many as it entered the tournament ranked fourth in the college football rankings. However, those taking advantage of ESPN college football coverage of its two contests saw the Buckeyes topple top-seeded Alabama, 42-35, in the semifinals and Oregon, 42-20, in the championship game.
Of course, a list of the most exciting moments in the college football playoffs will not be agreed upon by all, but most would not disagree that the 2017-18 and 2018-19 national championship games would be high on that list. On Jan. 9, 2017, the Clemson Tigers completed a comeback from a two-touchdown deficit by scoring the winning touchdown with one second on the clock, defeating Alabama, 35-31. A year and a day later, the Crimson Tide took their turn to rally from two touchdowns down to win a dramatic contest. The winning play in that 26-23 game was a 41-yard touchdown reception in overtime.
Although numerous commentators have their own opinions of who will be selected to the college football playoffs, arguably the most accurate ones are courtesy of FiveThirtyEight. Its college football playoff predictions consider, in part, ESPN’s Football Power Index and the college football rankings as they are released throughout the season’s final weeks.
The NCAA is an organization that oversees 1,250 athletic departments, including the largest ones. It was founded more than 100 years ago with NCAA football being its first sport. That’s because the NCAA was deemed necessary to pass football rules that would make the sport safer than it had been. Today, it oversees 90 national championships. Those selecting the field for the college football playoffs are mostly directly associated with NCAA schools.
The college football playoffs for the nation’s top schools is the most limited national championship involving NCAA schools. Its field of four schools pales in comparison to the size of the FCS and Divisions 2 and 3 fields. Meanwhile, men’s and women’s college basketball fields number 68 and 64, respectively. Similar tournament sizes are also in place for sports such as soccer, volleyball, baseball and softball.
Although ESPN college football is responsible for coverage of the college football playoffs, the vast majority of bowl games and numerous regular-season games, it’s far from the only network that covers the sport. Other networks that show games throughout the season include:
Many of the top high school football players in the country are looking to get recruited by teams that may play in the college football playoffs. One of the resources that several use is NCSA College Recruiting. This organization helps football players get in contact with coaches and learn how to make the most of those experiences. This includes NCSA doing things like recommending which camps to attend and how to create a great recruiting video.
As a result of everything that NCSA has offered high school student-athletes since it was founded in 2000, it’s received top reviews, including a near-perfect score of 4.9 stars on Google Reviews. This includes it doing things like helping prospective players create highlight videos a year before YouTube was founded and sharing its recruit match system to help players narrow their lists of schools.
NCSA was founded by a former high school football player who had struggled through his own recruiting experience in the 1980s. Chris Krause wanted to ensure that others who followed him along that path didn’t have to feel as lost as he often did, and he was happy to see his vision be realized years later.
Not only have more than 150,000 high school athletes in a variety of sports made the move from high school athletics to college football teams thanks to the assistance of NCSA, but its network also includes more than 35,000 coaches. The latter group appreciates that NCSA is also looking to create great fits from their perspectives. It’s so important that both the athletes and the coaches are happy with who plays where. If you’re looking for your best overall fit, fill out your free NCSA profile today. Give 866 495-5172 a call if you have any questions.