Ranking college football's 10 likely first-time Playoff teams in 2024

The expansion of the College Football Playoff opens the door for several potential first-time teams looking ahead to the 2024 season.
Ole Miss has the roster to earn in a spot in college football's expanded playoff in 2024.
Ole Miss has the roster to earn in a spot in college football's expanded playoff in 2024. / Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

College football embarks on a historic 2024 season not only with a major re-structuring around conference realignment, but looking ahead to an expanded playoff format, as well.

By tripling the size of the national championship race from four to 12 teams, many programs that have hovered just around playoff contention will have a far greater chance to play their way in.

Related: College football teams that benefit from 12-team playoff

Thanks to that realignment, the Big Ten and SEC figure to take the most advantage of the increased postseason bracket, but the Group of Five is guaranteed a spot for its champion, too.

Let's check in with our rankings for those 10 teams most likely to take advantage of the expanded playoff and make their first appearance in college football's new title chase in 2024.

Ranking College Football's 10 Likely First-Time Playoff Teams

10. Tulane

Tulane Green Wave running back Mekhi Hughes on a rushing attempt during a college football game.
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

While the reigning AAC champions lost their head coach and starting quarterback, Jon Sumrall comes in from Troy to lead the program, and he brings on Oregon transfer quarterback Ty Thompson to lead the offense. Other contenders in the Group of Five will challenge Tulane for the auto bid, but the Green Wave should stay in the AAC title race all year.

9. Liberty

Liberty Flames quarterback Kaidon Salter runs with the ball during a college football game.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The return of quarterback Kaidon Salter alone puts the Flames in the driver's seat for the Group of Five's spot in the expanded College Football Playoff. Salter scored 43 all-purpose touchdowns a year ago and had a better rushing output than many running backs, amassing 1,064 yards.

8. Memphis

Memphis Tigers wide receiver Roc Taylor scores a touchdown during a college football game.
Chris Day/The Commercial Appeal / USA

Head coach Ryan Silverfield won 10 games and the Liberty Bowl a year ago, and returns quarterback Seth Henigan and receivers Roc Taylor and DeMeer Blankumsee, a trio that can put on points while a transfer-rich defense imposes its will on opponents. Memphis is currently getting odds as the favorite to win the AAC title.

7. Boise State

Boise State Broncos running back Ashton Jeanty on a rushing attempt during a college football game.
Chris Day/The Commercial Appeal / USA

Malachi Nelson comes on board via the portal from USC as a potential game-changer at quarterback, and he'll get plenty of help from Ashton Jeanty, the Mountain West's best returning rusher, and arguably one of the best backs in the nation. He's one of an expected 18 returning starters for Spencer Danielson, who gets his first full year as head coach after helping lead the Broncos to an MWC title as interim last season.

6. Tennessee

Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Nico Iamaleava avoids a tackle during a college football game in the SEC.
Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports

Nico Iamaleava played as advertised in his first outing as QB1 in the bowl game, skirting around a very good Iowa defense in a big win. Now he takes the role full-time, aided by a cadre of top-flight receivers and a solid line protecting him. UT returns a strong front seven defensively led by edge rusher James Pearce, but has to replace a lot of lost production in the secondary.

5. Oklahoma State

Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Ollie Gordon returns to the backfield after stacking up over 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns a year ago, and the Cowboys' offense will be stabilized more so by the presence of 7th year quarterback Alan Bowman, an experienced line, and quality, experienced receiving threats. But to exploit the competitive, expanded Big 12 title hunt, OSU needs to get better rushing the quarterback on defense.

4. Miami

Andy Lewis-USA TODAY Sports

Miami's offense received a marked upgrade this offseason by adding two blue-chip transfers: dual-threat quarterback Cam Ward and tailback Damien Martinez. Both are immediate game-changers for an attack that boasts a credible line and has threats at receiver to work with. The ACC is more open this year, but first the Hurricanes need to ensure their defensive replacements work out and they can rush the QB.

3. Utah

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The loss of Jonah Elliss hurts the Utes, but the return of quarterback Cam Rising and tight end Brant Kuithe, combined with eight returning defensive starters and transfer wide receiver Dorian Singer, ensures that Utah will be very much in the mix for the title in an expanded Big 12 this year.

2. Penn State


Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton return as one of college football's best 1-2 fixtures at tailback, needed complements to quarterback Drew Allar, who still needs to develop his downfield passing game, now behind a line that undergoes some notable transition. But the Nittany Lions' defense should return to form in 2024 and build the foundation to put this team in the mix for the expanded playoff after spending years behind OSU and Michigan in the Big Ten pecking order.

1. Ole Miss

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Portal King Lane Kiffin brought on another dynamic transfer class, the No. 1 unit in our 2024 rankings, adding elite defensive prospects like Walter Nolen and Princely Umanmielen to the front line. While the Rebels lost Quinshon Judkins in the backfield, they gained Henry Parrish and wide receiver Juice Wells to pair with Jaxson Dart under center and wideout Tre Harris back.


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James Parks


James Parks is the founder and publisher of College Football HQ. He previously covered football for 247Sports and CBS Interactive. College Football HQ joined the Sports Illustrated Fannation Network in 2022.