College Football Playoff 2020: Rankings, key dates, TV listings and analysis

The College Football Playoff debate is heated under normal circumstances, but the 2020 season has been anything but normal.

With staggered schedules, game cancellations and Notre Dame in the ACC, the members of the CFP selection committee have had their work cut out for them. So, which teams will lock up the four spots in the national semifinals? What will the committee take into account in making its decision?

Here is everything you need to know about the College Football Playoff, including schedule, TV listings, news and analysis.

Related links:

ESPN’s bowl projections | Allstate Playoff Predictor | Latest CFP rankings (through Dec. 8)

Important dates

  • Dec. 20: College Football Playoff selection show, Noon ET (ESPN/ESPN App)

  • Jan. 1: CFP Semifinal, Rose Bowl, 5 p.m. ET (ESPN/ESPN App)

  • Jan. 1: CFP Semifinal, Sugar Bowl, 8:45 p.m. ET (ESPN/ESPN App)

  • Jan. 11: National title game, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN/ESPN App)

  • Complete College Football Playoff coverage

Key questions

ESPN’s Heather Dinich breaks down a few important questions going into the College Football Playoff Selection Show on Dec. 20:

How does the committee select its four teams?

The protocol for ranking the teams has not changed. As it is written in the protocol, “the committee’s task will be to select the best teams.” The committee watches games, assesses every team, and has every relevant statistic at its disposal. The group will continue to use factors such as wins against top-25 teams, wins against teams with winning records, and what they have seen on film. If teams are comparable, the selection committee uses several factors as tiebreakers: championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head results if they occurred, and comparative outcomes of common opponents.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the the process?

There is no minimum game requirement to be eligible for the CFP, but the number of games will ultimately be a factor in the discussion. According to the CFP, “Wins by each team is certainly important in weighing its ranking, but it is not the only factor.” The more games played, the more chances a team has to prove itself to the committee. Because there are so many unbalanced résumés, committee chair Gary Barta has said that the eye test will play a bigger role than ever this year.

The committee will also take into consideration players and coaches who have missed games because of isolation or quarantine, but it will be handled the same way availability has been addressed in the past. If a key player misses a game, the committee will know and consider whether the absence affected the on-field performance.

Which games will decide the playoff?

ACC championship (Dec. 19, 4 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App): If Notre Dame beats Clemson in the ACC title game for its second win of the season against the Tigers, Clemson likely falls out of the top four. If Clemson wins and the Tigers and Irish finish with one loss apiece, it’s possible they both land within the top four — but that depends on what happens in the SEC and Big Ten title games. Without an ACC title, Notre Dame will find itself in the same spot it usually is as an independent: hoping its résumé and team is good enough to compensate for the lack of a conference championship.

Big Ten championship (Dec. 19, noon ET, FOX): At 5-0, Ohio State had not played enough games to reach the six-game eligibility benchmark after three of its games were canceled, including its regular-season finale against Michigan. But, on Wednesday, the Big Ten athletic directors and senior women administrators voted to change the rule and put the Buckeyes in the conference championship game against Northwestern. With the rule eliminated, Ohio State has a chance to punctuate its résumé with a Big Ten title and hang on to a semifinal spot. A win against a talented, disciplined NU team isn’t a guarantee, though. The Buckeyes have little to no margin for error.

CFP committee members

The committee members of this year’s College Football Playoff. Bill Hancock still serves as executive director.

  • Gary Barta (chair), Iowa athletic director

  • Paola Boivin, former Arizona Republic reporter, current ASU faculty member

  • Tom Burman, Wyoming athletic director

  • Joe Castiglione, Oklahoma athletic director

  • Rick George, Colorado athletic director

  • Ken Hatfield, former Rice, Air Force, Arkansas and Clemson head coach

  • Ronnie Lott, former USC defensive back

  • Terry Mohajir, Arkansas State athletic director

  • Ray Odierno, former Army Chief of Staff

  • R.C. Slocum, former Texas A&M coach and interim athletic director

  • Todd Stansbury, Georgia Tech athletic director

  • Scott Stricklin, Florida athletic director

  • John Urschel, former Penn State offensive tackle

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