The College Football Playoff committee wants fans to ring in the New Year with an explosive semifinal doubleheader, rather than watching the ball drop in New York’s Times Square. Bucking the sport’s longstanding New Year’s Day bowl tradition, the CFP committee decided the first two matchups of the playoff will take place Thursday, Dec. 31., even though cable broadcasting partner ESPN preferred Saturday, Jan. 2.

“The College Football Playoff will change the paradigm of New Year’s Eve in this country,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said according to the New York Times.

ESPN, locked in a 12-year, $7.3 billion deal to air the playoffs in their entirety, didn’t seem thrilled by the choice.

Though they could switch around after this weekend’s conference title games, as the CFP rankings currently stand the playoffs will have fan bases from most of the country’s top conferences tuning in. The ACC’s No. 1 Clemson Tigers may square off against the Big Ten’s No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes in one of the semifinals, and the SEC’s No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide could also clash with the Big 12’s No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners in the other.

Last year the CFP committee was just as fortunate with such elite program as Florida State, Ohio State, Oregon, and Alabama earning spots in the playoff, but those games were played on New Years Day and didn’t ask fans to alter their holiday plans at all.

Yet ESPN began reminding fans and advertising the unusual start time earlier last month, employing Disney sister-station ABC’s late night host Jimmy Kimmel and a number of top athletes from all sports to put the semifinals in the long-term memory of fans.

Nevertheless, while the date might seem strange to most, the dates are locked in. This year the Cotton and Orange Bowls will act as semifinal hosts, and depending on which teams are involved and time zones, the first game will begin at 4 p.m. ET and the second 8 p.m.

For those hoping to attend one of the games, tickets are still available. According to, the price for Cotton Bowl tickets run from $88.88 for standing room only to as high as a whopping $55,000 for a suite. An actual seat is available for the Orange Bowl but at a much higher premium. A ticket for an upper end zone section is currently going for $229.95 to $54,445 for a suite.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, Semifinal No. 1

Date: Thursday, Dec. 31

Time: Either 4 or 8 p.m. ET

Stadium: AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas

Capital One Orange Bowl, Semifinal No. 2

Date: Thursday, Dec. 31

Time: Either 4 or 8 p.m. ET

Stadium: Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida