On Thursday, the College Football Playoff announced the dates of its four first round games for the expanded 12-team edition of the Playoff in 2024.
Per ESPN, one of the four first round games will take place on Friday, December 20th, and the other three will take place on Saturday, December 21st.
While the NFL hasn’t announced its schedule for the 2024 (or even the 2023) season yet, the league has been scheduling Saturday games later in the season, following the end of the college football regular season. The College Football Playoff airing three games on December 21st would set the stage for a head to head battle with the league, possibly throughout the entire day depending on start times.
The quarterfinals will not go head to head with the NFL, but will air midweek. Three of the four at that stage will likely air on Wednesday, January 1st, with the fourth either airing on Tuesday, December 31st or Thursday, January 2nd. The Playoff has not officially confirmed those dates quite yet.
This scenario was rumored back in October, which included a conference commissioner complaining that “the NFL is squashing us.”
If there’s a positive side to this for the Playoff, it’s that the the Saturday tripleheader on NFL Network isn’t as strong a viewership draw as the traditional Sunday afternoon games. Last season, the three Week 15 games averaged 9.028 million viewers on NFL Network. That’s on the lower end of the NFL’s standard viewership for non-Sunday games, but it’s also a bar that just 13 college football games cleared last season (eight of which were either bowl, Playoff, or conference championship games). It’s not as if these first round games will be going up against some of the NFL’s most-watched games of the season, but the audiences will likely cannibalize each other to varying extents.