This season’s first College Football Playoff rankings will be released Tuesday night on ESPN between games of the State Farm Champions Classic men’s basketball doubleheader (about 8 p.m.). It will be the starting point in a late-season sprint culminating with CFP Selection Sunday on Dec. 8, deciding the four teams that will make the national semifinals.

How does the process work? Who decides? How are the teams assigned to the semifinal bowls? Here’s a primer on the system that will crown a national champion Jan. 13 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome:

CFP rankings schedule

• Tuesday, approximately 8 p.m.

• Tuesday, Nov. 12, 6 p.m.

• Tuesday, Nov. 19, 6 p.m.

• Tuesday, Nov. 26 , 6 p.m.

• Tuesday, Dec. 3, 6 p.m.

• Sunday, Dec. 8 (Selection Day), 11 a.m.

All rankings will be announced on ESPN

Who is on the CFP selection committee?

• Rob Mullens, Oregon athletic director, CFP selection committee chairman (term expires Feb. 2020)

• Gary Barta, Iowa athletic director (2022)

• Frank Beamer, former Virginia Tech coach (2020)

• Paola Boivin, professor, Arizona State (2021)

• Joe Castiglione, Oklahoma athletic director (2021)

• Ken Hatfield, former coach, Air Force, Arkansas, Clemson, Rice (2021)

• Chris Howard, Robert Morris president (2020)

• Ronnie Lott, former USC All-American (2021)

• Terry Mohajir, Arkansas State athletic director (2022)

• Gen. Ray Odierno, former U.S. Army Chief of Staff (2022)

• R.C. Slocum, former Texas A&M coach (2022)

• Todd Stansbury, Georgia Tech athletic director (2021)

• Scott Stricklin, Florida athletic director (2021)


Can't see video below? Click here.


How are the rankings compiled?

The CFP selection committee meets each week in Grapevine, Texas, to compile the new top 25 rankings. The rankings are compiled in rounds, with voting on a list of teams to be considered in each round. Teams are then ranked in the next step. Teams Nos. 1, 2 and 3 are ranked in the first round, Nos. 4, 5 and 6 in the second, Nos. 7, 8 and 9 in the third, then groups of four teams are ranked in rounds 4-7. The selection committee uses statistical data and game video to help comprise its rankings, but ultimately the rankings are determined by the collective opinion of the 13 committee members.

Can a conference have more than one team in the CFP?

Yes, though in the first five years of the CFP it only happened in 2017. That year, SEC champion Georgia and 11-1 Alabama — which lost to Auburn in the regular-season finale and didn’t play for the SEC title — made it. The CFP stated preference is for conference champions (Notre Dame also made it last year), but the selection committee did set that important precedent two years ago.

How are the CFP semifinal and final sites determined?

The CFP semifinals rotate among six bowls — the Sugar, Rose, Orange, Cotton, Peach and Fiesta — known as the New Year’s Six. That means each bowl will get to host a semifinal once every three years. CFP championship game sites are determined on a bid basis like the Super Bowl and Final Four.

CFP semifinals and finals schedule

• 2019-20: Semifinals — Peach and Fiesta, Dec. 28; Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Jan. 13

• 2020-21: Semifinals — Sugar and Rose, Jan. 1; Miami, Jan. 11

• 2021-22: Semifinals — Cotton and Orange, Dec. 31; Indianapolis, Jan. 10

• 2022-23: Semifinals — Peach and Fiesta, Dec. 31; Inglewood, California, Jan. 9

• 2023-24: Semifinals — Sugar and Rose, Jan. 1; Houston, Jan. 8

Seeding the semifinals

Once the final top 25 is determined, the CFP selection committee assigns teams to that year’s semifinals and remaining New Year’s Six bowls. The committee aims to place the No. 1 seed in the semifinal bowl closest geographically to its campus, though this can change through other factors.

Using this week’s Associated Press poll, here is how the semifinals would be determined:

• No. 1-ranked LSU would be assigned to play No. 4 Clemson in the Peach Bowl

• No. 2-ranked Alabama would be assigned to play No. 3 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl

Where does LSU wind up?

If LSU wins out it is a lock for the CFP. Its resume would be unmatched. If the Tigers lose Saturday they could still make it as the best one-loss team. But LSU could also be aced out by four conference champions. Or, if Georgia were to beat Alabama in the SEC title game, it could be the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide as in 2017.

Either way, if LSU is 11-1 (the Tigers are big favorites in their other three games) they would likely be placed in the Sugar Bowl as the top available SEC team. This would be against the champion or highest-ranked team from the Big 12, which right now looks like Oklahoma or Baylor.

Email Scott Rabalais at srabalais@theadvocate.com