Skip to main content

ESPN projects 12-team College Football Playoff field after penultimate CFP rankings reveal

NS_headshot_clearbackgroundby:Nick Schultz11/29/23


Playoff Scenarios: Alabama, Oregon, or Texas? | What If Top 4 ALL Lose? | Ohio State's CFP Path?

Tuesday night, the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings came out ahead of conference championship weekend. That means there’s only one more four-team top 25 left before the 12-team College Football Playoff debuts next year, although this would’ve been a fun year to have the expanded field.

This season has seen plenty of parity and debate as the year went along. The top four teams are all undefeated — although there’s been some discussion about whether they all deserve to make the field. Under the 12-team format, though, each team would make the CFP and even create some interesting matchups, according to ESPN’s updated projection.

With the final rankings set to come out on Sunday, here’s how ESPN projects a possible 12-team College Football Playoff ahead of the conference title games.

No. 1 Georgia — Bye

Georgia HC Kirby Smart
(Brett Davis | USA TODAY Sports)

Georgia looked like it was going to have a close call in last week’s rivalry game against Georgia Tech, but the Bulldogs prevailed to extend their record winning streak. Now, they turn their attention to Atlanta for this week’s SEC Championship and continue their quest for a three-peat.

Georgia and Alabama last squared off in the conference championship in 2021 — a game the Crimson Tide won 41-24. The rematch will see Nick Saban’s group fight for its College Football Playoff life while Kirby Smart and Co. will try to maintain its top ranking.

No. 2 Michigan — Bye

Sherrone Moore
(Matthew O’Haren | USA TODAY Sports)

Michigan not only got a big win over its biggest rival last week, but the Wolverines punched their ticket to a third straight Big Ten Championship. That moved them up to No. 2 — and a victory over Iowa would get them back to the CFP once again.

Michigan will get its head coach back after a three-game suspension when Jim Harbaugh returns to the sidelines at Lucas Oil Stadium. Sherrone Moore served as the acting head coach for the last three games, and the Wolverines have plenty of momentum entering Saturday’s game.

No. 3 Washington — Bye

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. vs. Utah
© Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Washington has had some close calls as of late, but the Huskies are still undefeated and heading into the Pac-12 Championship. A rematch against Oregon awaits — and although UW is an underdog, ESPN has the Huskies in the top four for its projections.

Michael Penix Jr. has seen his numbers drop a bit, but he’s still playing at a high level and has Washington in position to clinch a second-ever bid in the College Football Playoff. Since the Pac-12 Championship is a standalone game on Friday, the eyes of the college football world will turn to Las Vegas.

No. 4 Florida State — Bye

Florida State HC Mike Norvell
Ken Lanese | Florida State Athletics

Florida State faces more questions than answers at the moment without Jordan Travis, but the undefeated Seminoles remain in the top four of the CFP rankings. With the ACC Championship awaiting, some have wondered if FSU still “deserves” to be in the four-team field after Travis’ season-ending injury.

Under the 12-team College Football Playoff, Florida State would likely be in regardless of what happens against Louisville. As it stands now, though, a win on Saturday would make things really interesting for the CFP committee.

No. 12 Tulane at No. 5 Oregon — Winner plays Florida State

Oregon QB Bo Nix
(Troy Wayrynen | USA TODAY Sports)

Oregon is riding high entering Friday’s Pac-12 Championship, winning six straight games — all but one by double digits — after the loss to Washington. The Ducks have been on the outside looking in throughout the CFP process, and a victory over the Huskies could be their ticket to the Playoff.

Under the 12-team College Football Playoff format, if things held as they stand now, Oregon would take on Tulane as the highest-ranked Group of 5 conference champion. The Green Wave are gearing up to take on SMU in the American Athletic Conference championship this weekend, and they could find themselves in a New Year’s Six bowl once again.

No. 11 Ole Miss at No. 6 Ohio State — Winner plays Washington

Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr. vs. Michigan
© Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State is still a top-six team after last week’s loss to Michigan, but the Buckeyes’ path to the CFP isn’t as easy as last year. They’ll need plenty of help considering they missed out on the Big Ten Championship, but if the 12-team model was in place, OSU would be in the field as an at-large team.

Ole Miss also doesn’t have much of a chance, if any, of making the four-team field. But the Rebels would be in position to snag an at-large bid after the College Football Playoff expands, and a matchup with Ohio State would surely be interesting.

No. 10 Penn State at No. 7 Texas — Winner plays Michigan

Steve Sarkisian
© Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

Texas came in at No. 7 in the penultimate CFP rankings, and the Longhorns could find themselves in conversation for the top four if they can take care of business against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship. It could make Selection Sunday really interesting, depending on what happens around college football, but Texas would be in the 12-team CFP field as the conference champion.

Penn State, on the other hand, saw its CFP hopes diminish after losses to Michigan and Ohio State over the last month. The Nittany Lions are still a top-10 team, though, and that could be significant when it comes time for bowl assignments.

No. 9 Missouri at No. 8 Alabama — Winner plays Georgia

Alabama QB Jalen Milroe
(John David Mercer | USA TODAY Sports)

Alabama is another team that will need some help to get to the CFP this year — especially considering Texas won the head-to-head matchup. The Crimson Tide’s only loss came to the Longhorns in Week 2, and this week’s SEC championship game against Georgia could be make-or-break for a Playoff return.

As for Missouri, the Tigers were one of the surprise teams in the game this year with Cody Schrader leading the charge on offense. Eli Drinkwitz has something good going in Columbia, and Mizzou could be in the mix this time next year after the CFP expands.

For the time being, all eyes will be on the top four of the rankings Sunday afternoon when the final College Football Playoff Top 25 come out. Next year, the committee will have some interesting decisions to make farther down the rankings with 12 teams eligible for the field.