College Football Playoff Rules
The College Football Playoff is the postseason tournament that crowns the champion of the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Series (FBS) subdivision. In a semifinal round followed by a championship game, the top-four ranked college football teams compete for the championship. Keep reading for all the rules you need to know about the College Football Playoff.
What is the Format of the College Football Playoff?
The College Football Playoff follows a four-team knockout bracket format. The four top-ranked teams are slotted into the playoff bracket, with the No. 1 and No. 4 teams facing off in one semifinal game and the No. 2 and No. 3 teams meeting in the other semifinal game. The semifinal games are always hosted at one of the New Year’s Six bowl games.
The following week, the winners of both semifinal games play each other in the final, the CFP National Championship Game. The winner of the championship game is awarded the College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy and recognized as the College Football Playoff National Champion.
How are Teams Selected for the College Football Playoff?
The teams are selected for the College Football Playoff in a vote by the College Football Playoff selection committee. The 13-member selection committee is made up of former college football players, coaches, and athletic directors who serve three-year terms. Every week during the regular season, the selection committee meets (virtually or in person) to vote on the top-ranked Division I FBS teams. They release the rankings of the top 25 teams every Tuesday. At the end of the season, the rankings of the top four teams are used to seed those teams in the College Football Playoff.
College Football Playoff Overtime Rules
The College Football Playoff follows the standard overtime rules for NCAA football. If the score is tied at the end of regulation, an overtime period is played with no game clock. A coin toss determines opening possession, with the visiting captain calling the toss. That captain can choose to start on offense or defense, or they may pick the side of the field to defend. The opposing team takes the remaining option.
In an overtime period, each team gets an opportunity to score, starting at their opponent’s 25-yard line. There are no kickoffs. The offense can place the ball anywhere on or between the hash marks. Play continues until a score or a turnover occurs. Each team gets one timeout that does not carry over to the next period. In the second overtime, teams are required to run a two-point conversion after a touchdown. Starting in the third overtime period, teams alternate attempting two-point conversions until one team fails to equalize the score.
- Teams are selected in a vote by the CFP selection committee.
- The selection committee meets weekly during the season to rank the top 25 D-1 FBS teams.
- All games in the College Football Playoffs follow standard NCAA football rules.
- Semifinal games pit the #1 and #4 ranked teams and the #2 and #3 ranked teams against each other.
- The two semifinal games are always played on the same day (usually around New Year’s Day).
- The CFP National Championship Game is played on the first Monday which is at least six days after the date of the semifinal games.
- The winner of each semifinal game advances to the CFP National Championship Game.
- The winner of the championship game is crowned the CFP National Champion and awarded the CFP National Championship Trophy.
When are College Football Playoff games played?
The College Football Playoff games are played around the beginning of the year, on or around New Year’s Day. The exact dates will vary by year, but are typically December 31st, January 1st, or January 2nd. The two semifinal games are part of the New Year’s Six bowl games. The CFP National Championship Game is played a week later, on the first Monday which is at least six days after the semifinal games.
What bowl games make up the College Football Playoff?
Two semifinal bowl games and the CFP National Championship games make up the College Football Playoff. The semifinal games rotate among the New Year’s Six bowl games, using a three-year rotation. These bowl games include the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Peach Bowl.
How many teams are in the College Football Playoff?
Four teams are in the College Football Playoff. The CFP selection committee votes to rank the top 25 Division I FBS teams during the regular season. The top four teams in their final ranking compete in the College Football Playoff, and the rankings are used to seed those teams. However, this format will soon be expanded, as the CFP Board of Managers voted to expand the CFP to 12 teams for the 2024-2025 season.