College Football Playoff releases schedule for first 12-team playoff

The schedule for the first 12-team College Football Playoff is official.

The CFP released the dates and times for all 11 games of the expanded playoff format on Wednesday. The first game will take place on Friday, Dec. 20, a month before the national championship game on Monday, Jan. 20.

The four first-round games will be played on Dec. 20 and Dec. 21. The first game kicks off at 8 p.m. ET on Friday, while the three other games are on Saturday. TNT Sports will broadcast the first two games on Saturday at Noon and 4 p.m. ET, while ABC will have the prime-time game at 8 p.m. ET along with Friday’s game.

The rest of the games will be on ESPN. The first quarterfinal will be the Fiesta Bowl at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Dec. 31. Three quarterfinal games will be played on New Year’s Day. The first game is the Peach Bowl at 1 p.m. followed by the Rose Bowl in its traditional 5 p.m. slot and the Sugar Bowl at 8:45 p.m. ET.

The Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl are the semifinal sites this year. The Orange Bowl is at 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Jan. 9. The Cotton Bowl is the next day at the same time.

The two early first-round games on Saturday will go against two NFL games. The Kansas City Chiefs play the Houston Texans (1 p.m. ET), and the Baltimore Ravens play the Pittsburgh Steelers (4:30 p.m. ET) on Dec. 21 as all four teams are playing on Wednesday, Dec. 25 this season.

After a decade of a four-team playoff, college football leaders voted to expand the playoff to 12 teams for the 2024 season. The top five conference champions in the CFP rankings will automatically qualify for the playoff, while the remaining seven teams will be chosen via the rankings.

The top four conference champions will receive the top four seeds and get byes into the quarterfinals, while the teams ranked at Nos. 5-8 will host quarterfinal games at their home stadiums. The conference champions will be assigned to the quarterfinals via longtime conference affiliation if possible, meaning it’s likely the SEC champion will play in the Sugar Bowl and the Big Ten champion will likely play in the Rose Bowl.

The Jan. 20 national championship game is 12 days later than the national title game after the 2023 season. Michigan beat Washington 34-13 to win the final four-team playoff on Jan. 8, 2024, after the semifinals were played on Jan. 1.