The 12-team playoff arrives a year too late to prevent a whole lot of anger from certain quarters of college football fandom – sorry, Seminoles. But let’s try and lighten the mood a little and pretend, just for fun, that the powers that be in the sport had gotten their act together and delivered a 12-team format for this season.
It wouldn’t have prevented all the shrieking, of course. Someone is going to be the first team out no matter how large the field is, and fans of the fifth team would be grousing about having to play an extra game. But that’s better than being left out entirely, right?
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So again, just for fun, here’s what the pairings would look like based on the final CFP committee top 25. Keep in mind the potential matchups won’t necessarily line up with the New Year’s Six bowl assignments for this season, as those are dictated by conference tie-ins. But if we seed the field according to the rankings, with the top-rated group-of-five champion slotted in with an automatic berth, the first round would go like this.
First-round playoff games
The first round next year will be held on-campus with the highest four seeds getting home games. Those games in 2024 will be held Dec. 20-21.
No. 12 Liberty at No. 5 Florida State
We’d get a battle of unbeatens right out of the gate with the Flames set to test their mettle against the ACC champion Seminoles. Liberty didn’t face any Power Five competition this season, but the Flames do own transitive wins against Georgia Tech and Auburn via Bowling Green and New Mexico State, respectively. The Flames’ high-octane offense directed by QB Kaidon Salter that puts up over 40 points a game would have its hands full against Jared Verse and the Seminoles’ defense that powered it through when the offense was depleted.
No., 11 Mississippi at No. 6 Georgia
This wasn’t much of a game just a few weeks ago on Nov. 11 when the then-No. 1 Bulldogs raced to a 52-17 thumping of the Rebels. Again, since this is purely an intellectual exercise, it might be more fun to contemplate how the Georgia attack would fare against the more accomplished Penn State defense.
But again as these seeds stand, we’d then see a future SEC showdown in the quarterfinals as either the Bulldogs or the Rebels would meet No. 3 Texas.
No. 10 Penn State at No. 7 Ohio State
It seems likely that in the interest of avoiding rematches the committee might tweak its final rankings and flip Ole Miss and Penn State. As it is, we’ve seen this movie before as the Buckeyes won a defensive slog with the Nittany Lions back on Oct. 21. If the pairings were adjusted, it would be somewhat more interesting to see what Jaxson Dart and the Rebels’ more experienced ball-handling talent could do against Tommy Eichenberg and Co. in Columbus.
No. 9 Missouri at No. 8 Oregon
Now this one would be all kinds of fun. The Ducks handled every team on their schedule not named Washington, but the Tigers are constructed in similar fashion to the Huskies, able to move the ball in a multitude of ways.
The winner of this potential shootout would be slotted against top-seeded Michigan, and either could potentially have the firepower to make that quarterfinal contest entertaining as well.
Playoff quarterfinals schedule
The bowl games will play host the final eight teams. The 2024 season schedule has the Fiesta Bowl being played on Dec. 31. The Peach Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl will be held on Jan. 1.
Oregon-Missouri winner vs. No. 1 Michigan
Ohio State-Penn State winner vs. No. 2 Washington
Georgia-Mississippi winner vs. No. 3 Texas
Florida State-Liberty winner vs. No. 4 Alabama
Playoff semifinals schedule
The semifinals will be held at the Orange Bowl on Jan. 9 and Cotton Bowl on Jan. 10.
Oregon or Missouri or Michigan vs. Florida State or Liberty or Alabama
Ohio State or Penn State or Washington vs. Georgia or Mississippi or Texas
Playoff championship game.
The national championship game will be held Jan. 20 in Atlanta and feature the semifinal winners.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College Football Playoff with 12 teams would have looked like this