Still trying to figure out exactly how the College Football Playoff is going to work, or how the big bowls will figure out which teams are playing where? Here is a simple explanation for how the College Football Playoff will work.
The top four teams from college football will be selected by a selection committee in order to determine a true, undisputed national champion in major college football. The two semifinal games will be played in existing bowl games and the winners of those semifinal games will play in a national championship game in a city that is determined through a bidding process similar to the Super Bowl selection process.
Bowls not serving as semifinal hosts will continue to use traditional bowl tie-in agreements with conferences where available to determine the bowl participants, after the four playoff teams have been determined. The Rose Bowl will welcome champions from the Big Ten and Pac-12, as it traditionally has, and may select the next best available option from either conference if that conference champion is involved in the playoff. The Sugar Bowl has a similar deal in place with the Big 12 and SEC. The Orange Bowl has a similar arrangement with the ACC.
The highest ranked team from the Group of Five (American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference, Sun Belt Conference) will be guaranteed a spot in the big bowl field, with remaining spots to be fielded by at-large teams as determined by the selection committee. At-large teams to fill remaining bowl spots are determined by the selection committee’s rankings.
Here is how the selection process looks when bowls are not serving as semifinal host sites;
Rose Bowl: Big Ten No. 1 vs. Pac-12 No. 1
Sugar Bowl: SEC No. 1 vs. Big 12 No. 1
Orange Bowl: ACC No. 1 vs. SEC No. 2/Big Ten No. 2 or Notre Dame
Cotton Bowl: At-large or Group of Five
Fiesta Bowl: At-large or Group of Five
Peach Bowl: At-large or Group of Five
College Football Playoff Rotation
The responsibility of hosting a national semifinal will be rotated on an annual basis. Bowls selected to host as semifinal sites include the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Peach Bowl. This is a breakdown of the semifinal sites by year through the 2025 season;
2014-2015: Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl
2015-2016: Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl
2016-2017: Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl
2017-2018: Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl
2018-2019: Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl
2019-2020: Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl
2020-2021: Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl
2021-2022: Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl
2022-2023: Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl
2023-2024: Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl
2024-2025: Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl
2025-2026: Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl
College Football Playoff National Championship Sites
The site of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game will be determined through a bidding process. Potential host cities will place bids similar to the selection process for the Super Bowl or the Olympics. The highest bidder and most attractive host city will be announced years in advance. As of this update, the first three championship sites have been determined.
2014-2015: Arlington, Texas (AT&T Stadium)
2015-2016: Glendale, Arizona (University of Phoenix Stadium)
2016-2017: Tampa, Florida (Raymond James Stadium)