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How the College Football Playoff works (slightly) differently in 2015

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The four-team tournament's second year of rankings is underway. Some things change!

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Year one of the College Football Playoff was a rousing success for just about everybody except Baylor and TCU, as virtually everyone expected. Guess what? They're going to do it all again, and you get to watch, again!

While most of the important things (the four-team setup, the dates of the games, the weekly committee meetings) are remaining the same, there are some notable changes that will change how the playoff operates in its second year.

Last year, the semifinals were the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day, with the championship game in Arlington. That changes every year, right?

Good memory, college football fan! This season, the two semifinals will take place New Year's Eve at the Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl (the Rose and Sugar won't give up their January 1 spots), meaning the main events go right in the middle of New Year's.

The championship game will be played in Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 11.

Which games get which teams?

Last year's setup meant a lot of New Year's teams going all over. The Rose and Sugar have ties with conferences, but those were overridden by Playoff berths.

This year, the top non-Playoff teams in four of five power conferences already have their spots reserved, meaning a traditional Rose and a traditional-ish Sugar, while the top non-power champ's autobid is either going in the Playoff, Peach, or Fiesta.

Full bowl schedule here, but here's the New Year's Six.

  • Rose: Top-ranked non-Playoff Big Ten vs. Top-ranked non-Playoff Pac-12
  • Sugar: Top-ranked non-Playoff SEC  vs. Top-ranked non-Playoff Big 12
  • Peach: Non-Playoff at-large vs. Non-Playoff at-large
  • Fiesta: Non-Playoff at-large vs. Non-Playoff at-large
  • Orange: Playoff semifinalist vs. Playoff semifinalist
  • Cotton: Playoff semifinalist vs. Playoff semifinalist

Is it the same committee as last year?

Nope! Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt replaced former West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, who left for a position with the NCAA. The increased Texas representation should make Art Briles happy. Also in is former Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson, replacing former Ole Miss and NFL quarterback Archie Manning. USC athletic director Pat Haden also stepped down from the committee for health reasons in October.

Due to current professional and family ties, here's the updated list of teams certain members can't weigh in on (and here's how those recusals work):

  • Air Force: Mike Gould
  • Arkansas: Jeff Long
  • Clemson: Dan Radakovich
  • Duke: Ty Willingham
  • Nebraska: Tom Osborne
  • Stanford: Condoleezza Rice and Ty Willingham
  • Texas Tech: Kirby Hocutt
  • Wisconsin: Barry Alvarez

When will the rankings be released?

Every Tuesday, starting Nov. 3 and ending Dec. 6, when the four teams will be announced.

  • Tuesday, Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Tuesday, Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Tuesday, Nov. 17, 9:30 p.m. ET
  • Tuesday, Nov. 24, 7 p.m. ET
  • Tuesday, Dec. 1, 7 p.m. ET
  • Sunday, Dec. 6, Noon ET

What did we learn from 2014's rankings?

Mostly, not to make too much of them until the end. Eventual champions Ohio State seemed firmly on the outside looking in after an early loss, but a strong Big Ten Championship performance against Wisconsin vaulted them up the standings and got them into the field.

What we do know is in order to make the Playoff, you should probably A) Be in a power conference, B) Have a near-perfect record, and C) Bring some serious momentum into the end of the season, and ideally, have a 13th game on the schedule. All four semifinalists from last year won conference championship games, while Baylor and TCU waited at home without a Big 12 title game for which to play.

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