How Does NCAA Football Work? All of Your Questions Answered

With more than 1,200 schools, colleges, and educational facilities listed as part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), it takes a lot of organization and admin to ensure that the sports teams and athletes from each get a chance to maximize their potential.

But they do, thanks to the NCAA system, which pits the finest against one another first on a geographical basis and then based upon their performances during the season.

College football remains one of the most popular sports in North America, and without a grassroots or minor league system, the best players from across the United States and Canada can walk out of college and straight into an NFL contract if selected in the Draft.

It’s not only popular in North America. Fans tune in all over the world, and sportsbooks in many countries produce sports betting odds for college football games and its bowl and playoff system, so you can wager on who you think will win and many other betting lines as well. To find the most favorable betting odds, you should search for professional reviews of the many betting sites out there, such as at PointsBet review. The reviews are a helpful tool to point you toward the most informative sites that also offer the most attractive odds.  

But let’s rewind a little, and first consider how the NCAA football leagues are structured, how the rankings are decided, and how the postseason playoff contenders are determined.

How is the NCAA structured?

Based upon historical ability, teams are placed into one of four tiers of college football – the Football Bowl Subdivision, which is considered to be the most lucrative of the leagues, followed by the Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, and Division III.

Each of these subdivisions is then split into conferences – the Football Bowl, for instance, has eleven different conferences – the likes of the Southeastern, the Big 12, the Pac-12, and so on. The determination of the teams in each conference is typically based on geography, although some other organizational factors are used.

The teams in each conference play one another and earn points for winning, etc. At the end of the season, the team with the most points is crowned conference champion.

How are the college football rankings determined?

Before a ball has even been thrown or kicked, several individuals involved in the Football Bowl Subdivision – including coaches, journalists, and even computer software – are asked to rank the teams in the FBS.

These rankings are all subjective, of course, but they are based on how the team performed last season, how many of their key players are returning for another year at school, who the new players are, and so on.

The rankings are fluid and changeable week to week, with lower-ranked teams – if they can beat a higher-ranked opponent – typically climbing the standings with those ‘underperforming’ their rank dropping down.

The idea is that, by the end of the regular season, the rankings are a fair and accurate system by which to judge each team.

How are the bowl game teams decided?

At the end of the season, the ‘bowl eligible’ teams – i.e., those with a winning record, or the best losing record where applicable – are invited to contest the various bowl games.

These are largely just a celebration of the best teams in college football, however, for the very best FBS teams, there’s a chance to feature in the National Championship Game – the pinnacle of amateur football in North America.

What are the college football playoffs?

At the culmination of the regular football season, four teams are invited to compete in the College Football Playoffs.

These are split into two brackets, known as the semi-finals, and the winner of each game then progresses to contest the National Championship Game.

Those four teams are selected by a 13-strong committee, who also seed the competing teams one to four – the number 1 seed takes on number 4, and numbers 2 and 3 collide in those semi-finals.

The committee is made up of big cheeses from the main football conferences, as well as former coaches, administrators, and key figures within college sport. 

Who are the current NCAA college football champions?

Heading into the 2021/22 season, the defending NCAA college football champions will be Alabama Crimson Tide.

They defeated Notre Dame 31-14 in the semi-finals during the last campaign, before they proceeded to beat Ohio State 52-24 in the National Championship Game at the Hard Rock Stadium in Florida.

Since the College Football Playoff National Championship game was founded in 2014, nobody has made more appearances than Alabama (five). They have also won more editions than any other team, with their three victories outdoing Clemson’s two wins.

NCAA college football FAQ

For the uninitiated, the NCAA college football system seems confusing and slightly convoluted at times, but once you have a general idea of how the system works you can follow the season closely and understand what’s going on!

Here are some quick FAQs about college football and their answers.

What is Championship Monday?

The National Championship Game always takes place on a Monday night – hence the name! This remains one of the most eagerly-anticipated and hard-to-predict football fixtures in North America, with up to 75,000 spectators in the stands and as many as 25 million people watching on TV.

Are college footballers paid?

Even though they are playing incredibly high stakes sport, college footballers are amateurs and thus they don’t get a single cent for their efforts.

However, the NCAA system is an excellent pathway to professional contracts, and indeed each of the last seven offensive MVP players in the Championship Game – and most of the defensive standouts too – have gone on to secure pro contracts in the NFL.

The NFL Draft is also stacked with college footballers looking for their shot at the big time.

What are the Big Five conferences?

Typically, the most competitive and high-quality college football action can be found in the so-called ‘Big Five’ conferences – these are the Big Ten, the Big 12, Southeastern, Pacific-12, and the Atlantic Coast.

It is from these competitions that the best players generally emerge, and where much of the press and media is focused.

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