NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Southern California

Change is coming to the College Football Playoff in a big way next season. The postseason tournament will grow from four teams to 12, though the format may undergo some changes before kickoff of the 2023-24 campaign.

As of now, the 12 teams in the bracket will include the six highest-rated conference champions, according to the CFP Rankings, and the next six highest-ranked programs. The top four conference champions will get byes into the quarterfinals.

There is a legitimate chance that format will be adjusted to account for the demise of the Pac-12, though it may not be until a new media rights contract is signed ahead of the 2026 season. That could result in something as simple as guaranteeing playoff spots for only the top five conference champions (with seven at-large bids) or something more drastic, such as doing away with automatic qualifiers entirely.

The first round of the expanded playoff will be played at the home sites of the higher-ranked team in each matchup (or a site of the higher-ranked team's choosing). For example, if Purdue was to host a first-round game (a guy can dream, right?), the Boilermakers could choose to host at Ross-Ade Stadium or perhaps Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

In the spirit of looking ahead -- continuing this week through the conclusion of the season -- I will also be projecting the 12-team CFP bracket based on my projected conference champions and the current rankings for at-large teams. As the CFP Rankings will not be released until Halloween, the AP Top 25 will serve as the barometer for at-large teams at this juncture.

Despite a loaded slate in Week 4 that featured six matchups pitting AP Top 25 teams against one another, the same 12 appear in this projection again this week -- albeit in a different order. Ohio State moved up to No. 4 on the strength of its last-second win at Notre Dame, but since the Buckeyes are not projected conference champions, they cannot be seeded higher than fifth. USC, meanwhile, is seeded sixth to match my bowl projections.  

This week's projection will bring about plenty of déjà vu. Two of the four Pac-12 teams featured will be paired together in a quarterfinal game, Notre Dame vs. USC will also serve as a regular-season rematch, while Penn State and Utah will run it back after meeting in the 2023 Rose Bowl.

Let's take a look at how the 12-team playoff would look through four full weeks of the 2023 season.

(9) Oregon at (8) Washington
Winner advances to play (1) Georgia*

(12) Tulane* at (5) Ohio State
Winner advances to play (4) Texas*

(11) Notre Dame at (6) USC*
Winner advances to play (3) Florida State*

(10) Utah at (7) Penn State
Winner advances to play (2) Michigan*

* Projected conference champions