College Football Playoff announces national title could be decided by forfeit if a team is hit by COVID-19

The College Football Playoff publicly outlined its cancellation policies and procedures Wednesday as COVID-19 cases spike across the country because of the Omicron variant.

The playoff said in a statement that the title game could be moved from Jan. 10 to as late as Jan. 14 if one or both of the semifinal-winning teams were unable to field a team on the scheduled game date.

No. 1 Alabama plays No. 4 Cincinnati and No. 2 Michigan plays No. 3 Georgia on Dec. 31.

If a team is unable to play in a semifinal because of COVID-19 cases, that game will be forfeited. If two teams from the same semifinal are unable to play because of COVID-19 cases, the winner of the other semifinal will be declared the national champion. If three teams can't play, the team that is available to play on Dec. 31 is the champion.

The playoff's announcement came minutes after Texas A&M said it would be unable to play Wake Forest in the Gator Bowl due to COVID-19 cases. The Aggies are the first team to back out of a bowl game this season because of the virus.

Alabama also announced earlier Wednesday that offensive assistants Bill O'Brien and Doug Marrone had tested positive for COVID-19. The school said that it anticipated both coaches to be available for the Cotton Bowl against Cincinnati.

In addition to the forfeiture procedures, the CFP also said that all media availabilities would be held virtually before the game and that teams don't have to travel to the games as early as scheduled. Teams can now travel to their playoff games two days before the game instead of five and athletes will not be mandated to participate in pre-bowl events.