Expanded College Football Playoff Will Begin With 1St-Round Game On Dec. 20 In Prime Time

FILE - The College Football Playoff logo is shown on the field at AT&T Stadium before the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game between Notre Dame and Alabama in Arlington, Texas, Jan. 1, 2021. TNT Sports will begin airing College Football Playoff games this upcoming season through a sublicense with ESPN. The five-year agreement gives TNT two first-round games the first two years. Beginning in 2026, it expands to two first-round and two quarterfinals.(AP Photo/Roger Steinman, File)
FILE - The College Football Playoff logo is shown on the field at AT&T Stadium before the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game between Notre Dame and Alabama in Arlington, Texas, Jan. 1, 2021. TNT Sports will begin airing College Football Playoff games this upcoming season through a sublicense with ESPN. The five-year agreement gives TNT two first-round games the first two years. Beginning in 2026, it expands to two first-round and two quarterfinals.(AP Photo/Roger Steinman, File)

The first year of the 12-team College Football Playoff will kick off with a first-round game on Dec. 20 and conclude with the title game one month later in Atlanta.

The CFP announced its entire schedule on Wednesday. The four first-round games will be on Dec. 20 and 21. ABC and ESPN will televise games on Friday and Saturday night with an 8 p.m. EST kickoff, while TNT will have the Dec. 21 afternoon games at 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. The afternoon games will go up against a pair of NFL games with Houston-Kansas City at 1 p.m. and Baltimore-Pittsburgh at 4:30 p.m.

Mike Mulvihill, Fox president for insights and analytics, thinks there will be room to accommodate both audiences. Fox has the Ravens-Steelers game as it goes up against a CFP late afternoon matchups.

“I think it will be fine for the NFL and college football to coexist on that date. I think both events will rate just fine,” he said.

The four first-round games, which will be played on college campuses, will be announced on Dec. 8. TNT has a pair of games through a sublicense with ESPN.

ESPN’s $7.8 billion deal with the CFP, which was announced in March, allowed it to sublicense games to other networks. Financial terms of the sublicense were not announced.

The quarterfinals, semifinals and championship will air on ESPN.

The top four conference champions will receive first-round byes. The quarterfinals will begin on Dec. 31 with the Fiesta Bowl at 7:30 p.m. New Year's Day will kickoff with the Peach Bowl at 1 p.m. followed by the Rose Bowl in its traditional 5 p.m. spot and the Sugar Bowl at 8:45 p.m.

The semifinals are the Orange Bowl on Jan. 9 and Cotton Bowl on Jan. 10. Both have 7:30 p.m. start times before the championship game takes place on Jan. 20 in Atlanta.

ESPN will announce its schedule for most of the bowl games on Thursday.

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