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What if College Football Had a 12-Team Playoff in 2021?

Jim Harbaugh: Is it Time for Michigan to Make a Coaching Change?

Jim Harbaugh and Big Ten champion Michigan would have gotten a first-round bye if the proposed 12-team playoff format was in place this season

Expansion for the College Football Playoff is on the table after a 12-team format was proposed earlier this summer. Although the 12-team setup isn’t official and plenty of work remains before all of the details are finalized, expansion seems to be favored over remaining at four for the future.

If the 12-team format that was proposed earlier this offseason does pass, the actual implementation of that setup may not take place for a few years. However, what if college football had a 12-team format in place for the 2021 season? The 12-team format would feature six conference champions (highest-rated) locked into the field, with six selections from the at-large pool. The four highest-rated conference champions would receive a bye in the first round. Using the CFB Playoff Selection Committee's top 25, Alabama, Michigan, Cincinnati and Baylor would claim an off week as the highest-rated four champions, with Georgia, Notre Dame and Ohio State taking the first three spots in the at-large pool.

The announcement of the College Football Playoff and bowl matchups on Sunday provided insight into how the proposed 12-team format could look if it was in place for 2021. Here’s a look at how the postseason would look if this setup was used this year:

The Top Four
The proposed 12-team format indicated the top four teams that won a conference title would receive a bye into the second round. Based upon the top 25 release by the CFB Playoff Selection Committee on Sunday, the top four rankings would look like this:

1. Alabama
2. Michigan
3. Cincinnati
4. Baylor

The Next Eight Teams
The final eight selections would be filled by six at-large teams and the highest-rated of the remaining conference champions.

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5. Georgia (at-large)
6. Notre Dame (at-large)
7. Ohio State (at-large)
8. Ole Miss (at-large)
9. Oklahoma State (at-large)
10. Michigan State (at-large)
11. Utah (No. 5 conference champion)
12. Pitt (No. 6 conference champion)

First-Round Games

No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 12 Pitt (Athens, Ga.)
No. 6 Notre Dame vs. No. 11 Utah (South Bend, Ind.)
No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Michigan State (Columbus, Ohio)
No. 8 Ole Miss vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State (Oxford, Miss.)

Second-Round Games
(Projections and winners of matchups using highest-rated seeds)

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 8 Ole Miss (Sugar Bowl)
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 7 Ohio State (Rose Bowl)
No. 3 Cincinnati vs. No. 6 Notre Dame (Peach Bowl)
No. 4 Baylor vs. No. 5 Georgia (Fiesta Bowl)


No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor (Cotton Bowl)
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Cincinnati (Orange Bowl)

National Championship

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Michigan (Indianapolis, Ind.)

Podcast: Instant Reaction to the Top Four and Early CFB Playoff Predictions