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How the CFP selection committee decides on the four playoff teams

The College Football Playoff selection committee will announce the four semifinalists for the 2021-22 playoff on Sunday, December 5. We break down how they are determined.

A general view of the National Championship Trophy during media day for the College Football Playoff National Championshipon January 11, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The 2021 college football regular season is all but a wrap, with only the Army-Navy game left before bowl season gets underway. On Sunday, December 5, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee will announce the four teams that will play in the CFP semifinals on December 31. The winners of those two games will then meet on January 10 in the national championship game.

In previous iterations, the national title game was decided using rankings that involved various specific polls. Now, college football has moved toward the college basketball model of a selection committee that decides on the four teams. The committee has announced projected rankings each of the past five weeks and on Sunday will announce the final, official rankings.

Below is how the CFP’s official website describes the process of the committee in selecting the four semifinalists:

The selection committee ranks the teams based on the members’ evaluation of the teams’ performance on the field, using conference championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head results and comparison of results against common opponents to decide among teams that are comparable. The selection committee is comprised of experts in college football, and they use their expertise in the deliberations.

Selection committee members examine statistical data, and they also review a significant amount of game video. The CFP retains SportSource Analytics to provide the statistical information for the committee’s use. This platform allows the selection committee members to compare teams on every possible level. Each member evaluates the data at hand, and then the individuals produce a group decision through the seven rounds of voting.

This is not an exhaustive list of criteria. The committee acknowledged earlier this week that an impactful player or coach not being available for the CFP would be considered in the evaluation. This came up specifically because of Brian Kelly’s decision to depart Notre Dame before the CFP field was announced.

Oklahoma State jumped Notre Dame last week, and there is some thought that Kelly’s absence cost them. Had Oklahoma State beaten Baylor, we might be talking about that impact for the next month. However, with Baylor ending the Cowboys’ CFP chances and Alabama securing a spot with a win over Georgia, Kelly might be breathing a sigh of relief — not that he actually cares about it.

The 2021-22 CFP field will be announced at noon ET on Sunday. It is expected to include Alabama, Michigan, Georgia, and Cincinnati. Alabama crushed Georgia and Michigan rolled Iowa. They’ll be 1-2 in some order, and then it will likely be Georgia 3 and Cincinnati 4.