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How did we end up with these four College Football Playoff teams?

Here’s the guide for anyone who didn’t tune into college football until December.

2023 Big 12 Championship - Oklahoma State v Texas Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Have you been tuning out college football all season, only to be bombarded by the news cycle come December? Are you confused how the reigning champion isn’t included in the top four, but how a Texas team that went 5-7 two years ago is included? We have all the answers for you right here. This is how the top four teams were decided, and a few other things you might want to know:

How did these four teams make the College Football Playoff?

The College Football Playoff is decided by a selection committee that ranks the four top teams in the sport after conference championship weekend wraps up. The top four are more often than not made up of four conference champs, though on occasion, a one-loss team without a conference title can get in (see: TCU last season).

Michigan went undefeated and won the Big Ten, and Washington went undefeated and won the Pac-12, giving them the top two spots. The Texas Longhorns won the Big XII Championship, but had one loss earlier this season against Oklahoma. However, one-loss teams can still get in, and Texas had a win over SEC champion Alabama on their 2023 resume that gave them a big boost.

The fourth spot was quite contentious. Does one-loss Georgia get in after losing to Alabama in the SEC title game? Does Alabama get in as the SEC champ despite having an earlier loss to Texas? Or do the undefeated Florida State Seminoles get in after winning the ACC Championship?

The committee decides the field based on various factors, and while all three of these teams were likely considered, they ultimately chose to add Alabama as the fourth team.

Why was Florida State left out?

The exclusion of Florida State was a highly controversial decision that could have far-reaching effects across the sport. It is a completely unprecedented move to leave an undefeated conference champion out of the top four.

The committee’s argument for leaving Florida State out was that the Noles are a different team now than they were for much of the season. Quarterback Jordan Travis broke his leg in late November, and the team finished the last few games of the season with a backup. Without Travis, per the committee, the Seminoles are not a playoff-caliber team.

You can read head coach Mike Norvell’s statement here.

When will the 12-team playoff start?

The 12-team playoff will begin in 2024, meaning that this is the final four-team playoff for the foreseeable future. In the 12-team format, the five highest-ranked conference champions will get an automatic bid, and the other seven spots will be considered at-large bids.