Everything to know about the College Football Playoff

Welcome to Year 4 of the College Football Playoff.

It’s like the senior season for this system, but many college football fans still aren’t quite ready for a final exam on it.

Where are the semifinals? Who’s on the committee? How many rankings are there and when do they start?

Study up, everyone. Here’s your CFP 101 for 2017:

THE GAMES

The semifinals this season are: The College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual (5 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN App) and the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl (8:45 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN App), both Jan. 1.

College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T: Jan. 8 (8 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN App) in Atlanta.

THE PEOPLE

The selection committee consists of 13 people. They are: former Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, former Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower, former Central Michigan coach Herb Deromedi, Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt (chair), Robert Morris University president Chris Howard, former NCAA executive Tom Jernstedt, former Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson, Arkansas AD Jeff Long, Oregon AD Rob Mullens, Clemson AD Dan Radakovich, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, retired sports reporter Steve Wieberg and former coach Tyrone Willingham.

Their duties include:

• Six weekly top 25 rankings, beginning Oct. 31 and ending on Dec. 3.
• Selecting the top four teams for the playoff, and ranking and assigning them to semifinal sites.
• Selecting the highest-ranked conference champion from the Group of 5 (MAC, Mountain West, American, Sun Belt, Conference USA) for a New Year’s Six bowl.

THE PROCESS

The selection committee meets at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas, every Monday and Tuesday, starting Oct. 30 this year. The committee members each vote on a computer and, in groups of six or eight, they debate and rank the teams through seven rounds of voting. They each come prepared with their own preliminary top 30, but rank only 25. They are guided by the following non-weighted criteria “to decide among teams that are comparable:”

• Championships won
• Strength of schedule
• Head-to-head competition
• Comparative outcomes of common opponents (without incentivizing margin of victory)

THE BOWLS

The committee doesn’t try to avoid regular-season rematches in the semifinals. It’s No. 1 vs. No. 4, and No. 2 vs. No. 3. The committee will, however, try to avoid rematches in the other New Year’s Six bowls.

The highest-ranked team from the Group of 5 (MAC, Mountain West, American, Sun Belt, Conference USA) is guaranteed a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl.

Both teams for the Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls are contracted outside the playoff arrangement (Big Ten and Pac-12 to Rose; SEC and Big 12 to Sugar; ACC to Orange against the highest-ranked available team from the SEC, Big Ten and Notre Dame). If a conference champion qualifies for the playoff, the bowl losing that team chooses a replacement from that conference. When those bowls host the semis, and their contracted conference champs do not qualify, the displaced champion(s) will play in the other New Year’s bowls.

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