College Football Playoff to be played as scheduled; no plans for spring 2021

The Big Ten and Pac-12 may need to explore other options if they hope to play for more than league titles

College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock chuckled at Monday’s redefinition of the CFP’s promotional tagline: Who’s In? Who, indeed.

Apparently, not the Big Ten and Pac-12. For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic put the entire 2020 college football season in question, the CFP seems to moving toward some basic conclusions. On Monday, it announced the dates of its CFP Rankings shows set for this fall.

If there is a season, the College Football Playoff will take place as scheduled. The CFP Selection Committee will consider only the 76 teams set to play this fall, Hancock said. Those include teams from the ACC, BIg 12, SEC, American, Conference USA and Sun Belt, along with a few independents.

The CFP more than hinted as much in a tweet that used the hashtag #2021Miami. Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, is the site of the CFP National Championship set for January 11, 2021.  

Not just the title game but the dates and hosts for the CFP semifinals and New Year’s Six bowls remain in place. The Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl will serve as the semifinal sites both with games on Jan. 1, 2021.

There is likely to be only one playoff despite the Big Ten and Pac-12 attempting to play in spring 2021. It’s unclear how it would even work if a second playoff was added this spring. That committee source was asked about two playoffs, one each after fall 2020 and spring 2021.

“We made the decision,” a member of the CFP College Football Management Committee told CBS Sports. “We’re moving forward with the plan as originally scheduled [to play this fall].”

Another member of the committee suggested no such decision had been made. Neither committee member wished to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation.

“These are unusual times. There could be unusual outcomes,” the first committee member said. “But right now, we’re on the path that has been laid out previously.”

The committee is comprised of commissioners from the 10 FBS conference plus Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. It “manages the day-to-day operations of the company,” according to the CFP website.

“Whoever [the first committee source] is, that’s his opinion,” said Hancock, who added, “it’s way too early to speculate.”

It’s clear momentum is trending toward a single playoff after the fall season. While the exclusion of the Big Ten and Pac-12 (plus the Mountain West and MAC) is to be expected considering they won’t be taking the field this fall, the CFP lent some definition to an uncertain season Monday.

The CFP Rankings shows start on Nov. 17 and culminate with the Dec. 20 announcement of the seventh CFP bracket. That Dec. 20 date has already been pushed back two weeks to accommodate delayed conference championship games, which will take place as late as Dec. 19.

One source told CBS Sports those dates were mere “placeholders” in case the season had to be altered because of the virus.

There is no drop-dead date for cancelling the playoff, Hancock said.

“Like so much else about COVID, it’s wise to wait as long as possible to make decisions,” he said. “I suspect we could wait as late as — I don’t want to put a date on it — wait a long time, see what happens.”