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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

CFP format change: 5 conference champions and 7 at large selections

The College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy is displayed in 2023 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Tribune News Service)
By Tom Moore Tribune News Service

The field for the 12-team College Football Playoff will comprise five conference champions and seven at-large selections after the university presidents who oversee the CFP voted unanimously Tuesday to tweak the format.

The move to decrease the number of spots reserved for conference champions from six to five was prompted by realignment and the disassembling of the Pac-12, and has been anticipated for several months. An expected vote last month was delayed at the Pac-12’s request.

In an ESPN report, Washington State President Kirk Schulz, who represents the conference on the CFP executive board, said he preferred the seven at-large bids to six since neither WSU nor Oregon State will be able to qualify for an automatic bid as Pac-12 champions.

“For our two schools in the Pac-12 as it’s currently configured, there is no question that five-seven, with seven at-larges, is better than six at-larges,” Schulz said. “… There’s no question our football coaches are going to want to compete for one of those seven slots, and seven is going to be better than six.”

The original plan for the 12-team format was to have the six highest-ranked conference champions, with the top four receiving first-round byes, and six at-large selections. But with one fewer power conference after the Pac-12’s demise, the commissioners who manage the CFP recommended to make the change from a 6-6 format to a 5-7.

No conference will have automatic access. Those five slots will go to the highest-ranked conference champs as determined by the CFP selection committee, ensuring at least one team from outside the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference will make the 12-team field.

The selection committee’s rankings also will determine the seven at-large bids. There will be no limit to how many teams can come from the same conference.

“This is a very logical adjustment for the College Football Playoff based on the evolution of our conference structures since the board first adopted this new format in September 2022,” said Mark Keenum, president of Mississippi State University and chair of the CFP Board of Managers. “I know this change will also be well received by student-athletes, coaches and fans. We all will be pleased to see this new format come to life on the field this postseason.”