College Football Playoff bracket, predictions: Early picks as format expands to 12 teams in 2024 season

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The four-team College Football Playoff era came to an end Monday night when No. 1 Michigan polished off its undefeated season with a 34-13 win over No. 2 Washington in the College Football Playoff National Championship in Houston. The win bookended the era with Big Ten teams winning national titles; Ohio State won the first edition of the four-team event following the 2014 season. Now, though, we look ahead to the future. 

The recent wave of conference realignment included the destruction of the Pac-12, which has thrown the format of the 12-team playoff into flux. The current idea is for the top six conference champions to get in along with six at-large teams. The top four teams in the final CFP Rankings, all of which will receive first-round byes, must consist of conference champions.

However, that format might go the way of the dinosaur in the coming weeks as there has been a push to eliminate one of those automatic bids for a conference champion since Washington State and Oregon State are the only two teams left in the Pac-12. 

All that in mind, let’s predict the teams that will comprise the inaugural 12-team CFP under the current 6-6 format. And be sure to check out the CBS Sports HQ analysis in the video player above. 

Predicted 2024 CFP matchups

(9) Utah at (8) Notre DameWinner advances to play (1) Georgia

(12) Boise State at (5) TexasWinner advances to play (4) Oklahoma State

(11) Tulane at (6) AlabamaWinner advances to play (3) Clemson

(10) Ole Miss at (7) WashingtonWinner advances to play (2) Michigan

Breaking down predicted 12-team CFP field

1. Georgia (SEC champion): Quarterback Carson Beck returns along with multiple offensive linemen and a desperation to get back on top and build upon the dynasty coach Kirby Smart has built at Georgia. There’s no need to worry about departures. Smart has built this program to a point where superstars are littered across the two-deep depth chart, so finding replacements for players who’ve departed won’t be difficult.

2. Michigan (Big Ten champion): The coming days will be very interesting in Michigan as a slew of players have decisions to make about the future, while coach Jim Harbaugh’s eyes could turn toward the NFL. However, the culture within the program is top-notch and they learned how to win without Harbaugh six times during this national title run. An undefeated or one-loss Big Ten champion — especially in the new era with Washington, Oregon, USC and UCLA in the mix — will almost certainly be in one of the top two spots.

3. Clemson (ACC champion): The ACC is going to be wide open in 2024, so I’ll put my chips in coach Dabo Swinney’s basket. The offense should be more consistent with an offseason to tweak things under quarterback Cade Klubnik, running back Phil Mafah and experience at the wide receiver spot. Will Clemson actually be the third-best team in the country? Probably not. However, it will be the third-best conference champion, and that’s what matters.

4. Oklahoma State (Big 12 champion): OK, now this one might seem like it’s coming out of left field. It’s not. The top four teams in the new system must be conference champions, and the Cowboys will ride running back Ollie Gordon II to the Big 12 title. Could there be speed bumps along the way? Sure. In fact, there probably will be plenty. However, the Cowboys will be the fourth-best conference champion ahead of the rest of the Group of Five champs. 

5. Texas (at-large): The Longhorns are set up perfectly for a run at the SEC crown in their first year in the league. Quarterback Quinn Ewers is one of the best in the country, and coach Steve Sarkisian has built this team from the inside out on both sides of the ball. They’ll lose to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, but that won’t prevent them from hosting a first-round CFP game.

6. Alabama (at-large): Much like Texas, Alabama is set up for another CFP run. Quarterback Jalen Milroe became a star in 2023 after some early season struggles, and coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees now have an entire offseason to focus on building an offense around his particular skill set. Even if the Crimson Tide don’t make the SEC Championship Game, they will be in line to earn one of the higher at-large bids.

7. Washington (at-large): The Huskies are losing a ton of stars, but there’s one thing that’s certain about this program: winners win. That’s exactly what coach Kalen DeBoer has been throughout his career, and that won’t change in the new era of Huskies football in the Big Ten. I’m not sold on Will Rogers being a star, but he’s smart enough to keep the Huskies in contention for the conference crown — especially considering they don’t play Ohio State in 2024. 

8. Notre Dame (at-large): The Fighting Irish lured former Duke star quarterback Riley Leonard to South Bend, Indiana, and he will continue to show why he is one of the best signal-callers in the game. The kicker is that he will do it with a much better supporting cast. Translation: He will be a Heisman Trophy-caliber player next season. Plus, the schedule isn’t very daunting at all. The CFP Selection Committee will think very highly of this team even if it has two losses, which will be good enough to nab the No. 8 seed.

9: Utah (at-large): The return of quarterback Cameron Rising is huge, and even if he isn’t back to 100%, he’s still good enough to lead the hard-nosed Utes into the field. They are consistently tough along the lines of scrimmage, and the slate of teams on the docket should give them the inside track to claim one of the top two spots in the conference and play in the Big 12 Championship Game. A loss in that one won’t knock them out of the event.

10: Ole Miss (at-large): I can’t wait to see what Ole Miss does in 2024 with quarterback Jaxson Dart back along with a receiving corps that should be one of the best in the SEC. Don’t worry about the loss of running back Quinshon Judkins because Ulysses Bentley IV announced his return last week. Coach Lane Kiffin’s squad won 11 games for the first time in program history in 2023, and the best is yet to come for the Rebels.

11. Tulane (AAC champion): The Green Wave have established themselves as one of the top Group of Five teams in the country, and that won’t change under first-year coach Jon Sumrall. He has been wildly successful at Troy, and stepping up a notch to the AAC — the top Group of Five team in the country — shouldn’t change that. Sumrall lured former hot-shot prospect Ty Thompson away from Oregon, and if he reaches the potential that followed him to Oregon from high school, he should emerge as a star in 2024.

12. Boise State (Mountain West champion): There has to be a sixth conference champion in the field under the current format, so it’s fair to say that the Mountain West champ has the inside track as long as the format doesn’t change to a 7-5 model (which it will). Coach Spencer Danielson led his team to the MWC title following the midseason dismissal of Andy Avalos, and that momentum will carry over to another conference title in 2024. However, once the powers-that-be change the format, the Broncos will be on the outside looking in.

 

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