Predicting The First 12 Team CFB Playoff

Goodbye to the four-team College Football Playoff and hello to the first 12-team playoff. It might be only the first of two twelve-team playoffs as it appears as if the format will change to 14 teams as early as 2026.

Now we’re going to predict the first 12 teams that will make the College Football Playoff next season. Seeding won’t be discussed as it’s way too early to predict. Suffice it to say that teams with three losses will qualify. Our breakdown will be by conference with the inclusion of teams not predicted to make the playoff but “have a chance “

Who is Going to be in the First 12-team CFP?


Memphis. Only one team from this conference (and the Group of 5 as a whole) is getting in and the pick is the Memphis Tigers. Quarterback Seth Henigan returns and he is one of the best in the country even though he doesn’t get a lot of fanfare. They do need to improve the defense if they want to avoid slipping up in conference and letting one of a couple of other teams steal the bid.

Teams that have a chance: SMU & Tulane.

Big 12

Utah. The return of quarterback Cam Rising will make all the difference in the world after the Utes had a subpar season for their standards in 2023. Head coach Kyle Whittingham preaches a tough brand of football and they come ready to play every week.

Arizona. This pick will surprise some people but the Wildcats made major strides last season and look ready to break through. Head coach Tedd Frisch has moved on however quarterback Noah Fifita returns and he really came on last season after not even being the starter at the beginning of the season. The defense is also underrated.

Teams that have a chance: TCU, Kansas State, and Kansas


Texas. Yes it looks weird calling them an SEC team but they are now. Quarterback Quinn Ewers is the unquestioned leader of this team. If running back CJ Baxter can build on his 659-yard, five-touchdown freshman season, the offense will be formidable even though their top two wideouts are off to the NFL. The Longhorns defense is always strong.

Georgia. The Bulldogs would make next year’s playoff even if there were still just four teams. Head coach Kirby Smart has them reloading every year where they were occasionally rebuilding before he got to Athens. Even though quarterback Carson Beck returns, it doesn’t matter anymore because players on the bench the year before are highly touted and coached up to be ready when it’s their turn.

Alabama. Yes, Nick Saban has retired. It’s not time to panic in Tuscaloosa. The new coach has won big everywhere he’s been. Quarterback Jalen Milroe is a Heisman favorite. We could say a lot about The Tide. Let’s just say they will be really good and in the playoff.

Ole Miss. Four teams from one conference may seem like a lot but it’s a new day in college football. Even with the loss of running back Quinshon Judkins to Ohio State, the Rebels were one of the big winners in the transfer portal. They improved their offensive line and defensive front. It’s Lane Kiffin’s time to crash the party.

Teams that have a chance: Tennessee, Missouri, and LSU (defense anyone?


Clemson. The Dabo Swinney critics have been having a field day the past couple of seasons. However, the Tigers finished strong last season after everyone left them for dead. It doesn’t hurt that the conference is weak when compared to the others. Expect the Tigers to be back in the playoff especially now that it’s expanded.

Teams that have a chance: Florida State

Big Ten

Ohio State. The Bucks are arguably the biggest winners of the transfer portal picking up quarterback Will Howard and running back Quinshon Judkins from Ole Miss. They also fortified the offensive line and Michigan, minus a lot from last season, travels to Columbus in what could be billed as Ryan Day’s last stand. Any way you slice it, they’re a top-12 team

Michigan. Hmm. Harbaugh gone. McCarthy gone. Corum gone. New coach Sherrone Moore takes over a still very talented squad that will want to prove they can win without Harbaugh (as much as they still love him). The Wolverines might end up with one of the lower seeds in the playoff but the conference schedule will get them in with nine wins.

USC. What? Oh yes. The honeymoon with Lincoln Riley is over. Caleb Williams is almost a Bear. A new defensive coordinator takes over after the defense was terrible last season; see 50-49 over Cal among other defensive disasters. Everyone and their brother picked Louisville to beat the Trojans in the bowl game because of opt-outs. Everyone forgot that USC doesn’t have bums sitting on the bench at the skill positions. An early-season road trip to Ann Arbor looms large for both teams.

Oregon. The world was ready to announce Dan Lanning as the new head coach at Alabama. Then it didn’t happen. What did happen is not only did he stay, but former Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel transferred to Oregon. He might be better than Bo Nix even if the folks in Eugene consider that blasphemy. The Ducks will be in the playoff.

Teams that have a chance: Penn State (it’s almost obligatory to mention them), Iowa, and Indiana. Read that again. Indiana. Head coach Curt Cignetti is a beast. We said a chance, not a lock.

There you have a way-too-early prediction for the first of probably two 12-team College Football Playoffs. Having college football with its own version of Bracketology is going to be awesome. It’s too bad we have to wait a little longer for the season.

Main Image: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

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