College football, while thrilling to watch, can be a tad confusing with the alphabet soup of teams and conferences. So we’ll break it all down for you.
While there are hundreds of football programs across the country, the lion’s share of attention goes toward the 128 teams in the FBS, or the Football Bowl Subdivision. These 128 teams are split up into 11 different conferences.
You may see that some teams have a ranking listed next to their name, which will change as the season goes on. All 128 teams are ranked, but the most referenced are the top 25 teams.
There are five conferences in particular that are commonly known as the Power Five conferences: the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference. They stand out because they consistently produce many of the top college football programs in the country.
Throughout the past few decades, a football program from one of these Power Five conferences has won the College Football National Championship, or the BCS National Championship.
For quite some time, the championship game was between the two highest ranked teams in the FBS; however, a playoff system was recently added into the FBS structure.
The College Football Playoff system is what currently runs the national championship. The four highest-rated teams compete in a playoff series. The winners from the first two games square off in the National Championship Game.
Four other bowl games stand out as being historic and the toughest to play in. These are the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl.
Beyond the National Championship Game and the four historic bowl games, there are multiple other bowl games that universities and colleges get invited to play in. More than 40 licensed college bowl games invite FBS teams to play.
Florida is frequently in the news for college football, and the state is a breeding ground for some of the strongest high school recruits that go on to play college football.
The University of Florida belongs in the SEC, while Florida State University belongs to the ACC. The University of Central Florida and the University of South Florida belong to the American Athletics Conference. Both schools are in the midst of attempting to join a Power Five conference.
UF and FSU have won a combined three national championships in the past decade. UF won the BCS Championship in 2006 and 2008, while FSU has been one of the most dominant teams in FBS in the past few years, winning the national championship in 2013.
UCF had its best season with quarterback Blake Bortles and made national headlines for winning the 2014 Fiesta Bowl against the University of Baylor. Many people called this game one of the biggest upsets in bowl history.
The college football season runs August through December. This season’s National Championship game will be played in Tampa on Jan. 9, 2017, at Raymond James Stadium.