UsefulNotes/AmericanFootball is enjoyed on more than one tier. While fans of the pros have the UsefulNotes/NationalFootballLeague, fans of college football have their own leagues. Most schools of any size will at least have one sport; football is a popular one because a successful football team, particularly in the southern states, is a huge boon on prestige and enrollment. In some schools, it's the ''only'' men's sport[[note]](though not in the UsefulNotes/{{NCAA}}; provided that a school enrolls men [which almost all NCAA schools do, including every Division I member], Division I member schools are required to field at least 6 men's sports, with 5 required in Divisions II and III)[[/note]] - the federal Title IX requires equal amounts be spent on men's and women's athletics based on ''gross'' expenditure so a top-tier football program is a major resource hog by that standard even if ''the whole point'' of running it at that level is that it's a profit center for the school and the black from football makes up for the red most if not all of the other sports operate in. A collegiate football player's career begins in high school, with National Signing Day. Prospects, rated on a scale from one to five stars, are selected by the colleges of their choice and are given scholarships.

College football players are not allowed to be directly paid, and schools face harsh punishment if they are found to have paid their players, directly or indirectly. The University of Southern California was found guilty of providing "improper benefits" to football player Reggie Bush in 2004 and 2005, and as a consequence USC was required to forfeit all the games in which Bush appeared after receiving the gifts, including the 2005 national championship game[[note]]The governing body hasn't yet decided whether to strip USC of its championship, but according to official records, nobody won that game. If they do, the 2005 championship will remain vacant[[/note]]. The player himself was [[{{Unperson}} scrubbed from team records and university promotional materials]]. Many other schools have suffered similar fates, most infamously Southern Methodist, which is the only football program to have received the NCAA "death penalty", for over a decade of widespread payments to players. The combination of penalties (including two canceled seasons and 55 scholarships lost) and stigma (few players ''wanted'' to play for SMU after the scandal) was so damaging that it took 22 years before SMU, a former powerhouse, had its first winning season since the scandal (by which point none of the current players had even been born when the scandal broke), and the school ''still'' hasn't come anywhere near its former prominence.[[note]] After the scandal, SMU also significantly increased its academic standards for incoming athletes, which effectively took it out of the running for most of the types of players it had recruited in the past.[[/note]]

College football is played mostly on Saturdays, but there is at least one game every week on Thursday and Friday and often also Tuesday and/or Wednesday, and the opening week of the season sees the remaining two days of the week represented as well.[[note]]This is because the NFL, which traditionally carries those days, generally starts the week after Labor Day weekend, whereas the college football season usually starts the week leading up to it.[[/note]] As with high school football, the playing season is basically the same as the fall semester, but some schools will play a defense vs. offense team scrimmage in the spring to make sure the players are keeping themselves in shape. There is a "bye-week" for most teams to give them some mid-season rest, although some teams use a Thursday for this purpose instead, while others, such as Penn State, play the entire season through without a break. Virtually all college football games are sanctioned by the [[UsefulNotes/{{NCAA}} National Collegiate Athletic Association.]]

NCAA football is divided into four divisions: Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly I-A), Division I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA), Division II, and Division III. Each division, in turn, is divided into conferences of about a dozen teams who play most games amongst themselves. A handful of teams (most notably Notre Dame) are independent of any conference.

Division I FBS is the highest level of play and garners the most national attention. There is no officially sanctioned (by the NCAA) national football champion at this level. For most of the FBS's history, national champions were chosen in polls of sportswriters or coaches, with a sole "national champion" being unofficially crowned if both polls agreed and a split national championship resulting if they didn't. (Originally the sport was primarily played in a number of regional conferences that no one particularly bothered to organize into a coherent whole; the AP didn't start crowning a "national champion" until the 30s.) Only one split national championship has occurred since the 1998 introduction of a postseason system that gives the top teams (two since 1998, four since 2014) an opportunity to compete against each other for the title.

The rules of collegiate football are very similar to those detailed on the [[UsefulNotes/AmericanFootball page about American football]], so we won't go into them here save for the most basic explanation: 11 guys on offense, 11 guys on defense. Scoring is almost the same as in the professional leagues as well--the defending team has long been able to score a point on a blocked PAT (a rule that the NFL didn't adopt until 2015) and college overtime rules are '''complicated'''[[note]]Each team starts a possession on the opposing team's 25 yard line. The first team posts a score (which can include 0 points), then the other team has to match it to continue OT or beat it to win; otherwise, the first team wins. After the 2nd possession for both teams, the PAT kick on a touchdown is banned; teams must go for two if they score a touchdown.[[/note]]. There are a few different rule changes[[note]]The most obvious ones being that the game clock temporarily stops to move the chain on each first down, the NFL's iconic two-minute warning is not utilized (unless the stadium's clock is malfunctioning), the ball carrier is down the moment his knee or body touches the ground instead of needing to be touched by a defender, receivers only need to get one foot in-bounds rather than two, and in a recently implemented change, a touchback puts the ball on the 25 yard line for kickoffs (but a touchback on punts is still the 20 yard line).[[/note]], but nothing enough to disrupt the basic flow of the game.

While professional football players can ostensibly play as long as they like (10-15 year runs are not uncommon and 20 years is not unheard of, especially for kickers and punters since they tend not to get hit very often), a college football player's eligibility is more or less limited to four years. We say "more or less" because there is the option of ''redshirting'', where a coach is allowed to stretch a player's eligibility to five years instead of four, with the stipulation that one of those years (most commonly the first, as many freshman are felt to be not quite ready for the collegiate level) will be spent sitting on the bench, and that the player not participate in any games (but can participate in practices, which is the origin of the name; such players traditionally wore a red jersey in practice). Extra redshirt seasons are occasionally granted in extreme cases of injury where a player is sidelined for multiple seasons. Finally, a college player has the option after he is three years out of high school, if he so decides, to forgo the rest of his collegiate eligibility and enter the NFL Draft early. Also, a player forfeits his eligibility in a sport if he accepts a salary to play the same sport (but not a different sport - mostly notably a few high-profile college footballers have played minor league baseball[[note]]In the past, accepting pay for ''any'' sport would invalidate college eligibility for ''all'' sports, but that rule has since been discarded because it was a stupid rule.[[/note]]), accepts endorsements or signs with a sports agent. A player who leaves early for the NFL Draft but pulls out of the draft before it's held can apply for reinstatement of college eligibility, and the NCAA normally grants it. But once the draft has been held, it's too late even if he isn't drafted.

The Football Bowl Subdivision has quite a few teams, separated, as stated earlier, split among number of conferences. There are a total of 10 conferences in FBS, not including the various independents - such as Notre Dame. While you can find a list of these conferences further down the page, we also have [[UsefulNotes/CollegiateAmericanFootballConferences a separate page]] with more information, including each league's current membership.

!The Bowl Games
A number of "bowl games" are played between high-ranked teams at fixed sites in late December and early January, but they don't form any sort of organized tournament[[note]]with the exception of the two semifinals of the College Football Playoff - see below[[/note]]. (Originally the bowls were exhibitions; there wasn't even any polls taken after the bowls until the 60s.) Today, a team must have at least as many wins as losses (at least six wins for a typical twelve-game schedule) in order to participate in a bowl game, although the NCAA can make exceptions.

The term "bowl game" comes from the earliest bowl, the Rose Bowl Game, which was named after the bowl-shaped stadium where it's played (which in turn got its name from Yale University's stadium, the Yale Bowl; the Rose Bowl was designed as simply a bigger version of the Yale Bowl... and in the better wintertime climate of Pasadena, California).

The lower divisions of the NCAA actually have NCAA-operated national championship tournaments, and have for decades, but these divisions get little interest except from students and alumni of the participating schools themselves (along with NFL scouts, as many successful pro players have come from the lower-division schools), and sometimes not even then (although in recent years, FCS teams such as Eastern Washington, Youngstown State and most notably, North Dakota State have been getting some national attention).

There have been a few systems that have attempted to pair up #1 and #2 ranked teams in a championship bowl game; complaining about the systems is in some circles as cherished a pastime as football itself. The current system is the College Football Playoff (CFP), launched in 2014, with the survivor being recognized as national champions.[[note]]While the NCAA does not operate an FBS national championship, its record books list national champions crowned by various outside parties, including polls, computer rankings, historians, the BCS, and now the CFP.[[/note]] The season ends with numerous ''bowl games'' that are played between schools. The "New Year's Six" games associated with the CFP are:
* Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl – The four games that were part of the BCS.
* Cotton Bowl, Peach Bowl – Added to the mix when the CFP began.

In the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) era from 1998 through 2013, the #1 and #2 ranked teams were placed in the BCS National Championship Game, which was played about a week after the other major bowl games. The NCG rotated between the stadiums of the four major bowls of that era.[[note]]For the first 8 years of the BCS, one of the four BCS bowls ''was'' the championship game (rotating in the order listed above), but the 5th game was added in 2007.[[/note]]

These games had (and still have) conference tie-ins, giving certain conference champions automatic invitations. The Rose Bowl invited the Pac-12 and Big Ten champions, the Orange Bowl invited the ACC champion, the Sugar Bowl invited the SEC champion and the Fiesta Bowl invited the Big 12 champion. All of these tie-ins still exist in the CFP era except for the Fiesta Bowl, whose Big 12 tie-in shifted to the Sugar Bowl. When a conference champion was unavailable due to playing in the national championship game, the runner-up traditionally took their place in the bowl game, although this was at the individual bowl's discretion and they were not strictly mandated to take the runner-up[[note]]At one point the Rose Bowl was actually ''obligated'' to take the champion of a non-AQ conference that had guaranteed its spot the next time it lost one of its auto bids to the championship game; this agreement resulted in Big Ten champion Wisconsin facing Mountain West champion TCU in the 2011 game after Pac-12 (then Pac-10) champion Oregon was selected to the Championship Game[[/note]].

In addition to the conferences with tie-ins, during the BCS system, the Big East champion was guaranteed a spot in a BCS bowl, but not in any specific one. Together, the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10/Pac-12 and SEC were the "Automatic Qualifying" conferences. The champion of a non-AQ conference (an FBS conference other than those six) could be guaranteed a spot if they were in the top 12 in the year's final BCS ranking, or in the top 16 ''and'' ranked higher than the champion of at least one AQ conference (in practice, usually the Big East). If more than one non-AQ champion met those criteria, only the highest-ranking one was guaranteed a BCS bowl selection. Non-AQ teams who met these qualifications were referred to as "BCS busters".

If Notre Dame was in the top 8 of the final BCS ranking, they were guaranteed a BCS bowl. No conference could have more than two teams playing in BCS bowls, unless the two teams selected to the championship game were from the same conference and neither was the conference champion[[note]]Because then three teams from one conference would have auto bids--two as the top two teams and one as the conference champion. The only way this is even remotely possible would be if there was only one team still undefeated entering the week of conference championship games, and one of the other teams in the same ''division'' of the same conference was ranked #2 with their only loss coming against that lone undefeated team, and then the #1 team got upset in the conference championship game--and even then it was unlikely. This scenario never happened; the closest it came to occurring was in 2011, ultimately avoided by the #1 team not getting upset[[/note]].

[[LongList If there were any berths remaining after these criteria are dealt with, and the team ranked third in the final BCS ranking was from one of the AQ conferences and was eligible]][[note]]that is to say, there weren't already two teams from their conference who had bids to BCS games[[/note]][[LongList , they got a bid, and if this didn't fill the last bid and the #4 team in the final BCS rankings met those same criteria, they were given a bid. If there were still any berths in BCS games left, any remaining eligible teams in the top 14 of the final BCS rankings could be given at-large bids to fill them, at the individual bowl game's discretion, though if somehow there weren't enough eligible teams in the top 14, this could be extended to the top 18, then the top 22, and so on in increments of four until the bids were filled.]]

Things finally came to a head at the end of the 2011 season, when the BCS selected LSU and Alabama, two teams from the SEC West (the same ''division'' of the same conference, meaning that officially one of them was the ''third place'' team of the conference), as the #1 and #2 participants in the championship game, thus effectively snubbing every other conference in the entire FBS. After this, discussion of implementing a playoff system accelerated greatly and, after numerous negotiations between the "power" conferences, a brand new "College Football Playoff" model was formally drawn up and was adopted beginning in the 2014 season to replace the BCS.

The new four-team playoff model features the teams being chosen by a selection committee (as in the NCAA basketball tournament) instead of by polls. The sites for the first two semifinal games are played at existing bowl sites (to be rotated between the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, and Peach Bowls), and the Championship game is awarded to a city based on a bid, much in the same way that the Super Bowl location is decided. Things are still not entirely rosy however. Almost immediately after its announcement, the new system was met with [[UnpleasableFanbase various criticisms from fans]], ranging from concerns that the new selection committee would be no more unbiased in selecting teams as the old BCS formula (which mixed human polls with a set of complicated computer algorithms that nobody outside the programmers actually understands) to complaints that having only 4 teams compete is nowhere near enough to fairly decide a true champion in the 129-team FBS[[note]]FCS has s 24-team playoff, while Divisions II and III respectively have 28- and 32-team playoffs, significantly more than anyone has seriously suggested for FBS. NAIA has a 16-team playoff. Thus, it's been demonstrated that leagues with considerably less resources than FBS can handle a larger playoff[[/note]]. The TV deals for this new system extend through the 2025 season, so any hope of expanding the playoff to 8 or 16 teams is a ways down the road.

The second tier of games consists of lower profile bowls such as the Camping World Bowl[[note]]Formerly the Tangerine Bowl, Florida Citrus Bowl, Capital One Bowl, and Russell Athletic Bowl[[/note]], Outback Bowl[[note]]Formerly the Hall of Fame Bowl[[/note]], Sun Bowl[[note]]Briefly renamed the John Hancock Bowl, but reverted to its original name five years later, now with the US subsidiary of Korean automaker Hyundai as a name sponsor[[/note]], [=TaxSlayer=] Bowl[[note]]Historically the Gator Bowl[[/note]], and Alamo Bowl[[note]]now with a name sponsorship by San Antonio-based oil refiner Valero[[/note]] which are treated with some respect, but usually feature matchups among the teams in the middle of the pack of their conferences, with mid-major conference champions and major-conference runners-up making the occasional appearance.

For many years prior to the implementation of the BCS, the Cotton Bowl was one of the top four bowl games, but was surpassed by the Fiesta Bowl and demoted to second-tier status by the time the BCS came around, mainly because of the condition of the Cotton Bowl stadium and heavy campaigning by the Fiesta Bowl contingent to up their game's reputation (and the fact that when the Big Eight became the Big 12, they switched their affiliation from the Cotton Bowl to the Fiesta Bowl). It long sought to regain its former status and become the fifth major bowl, and is now played in the showplace Cowboys Stadium (the world's largest domed stadium) to demonstrate this. The Cotton Bowl succeeded in this quest when it became one of the "New Year's Six" bowls of the College Football Playoff system. The Cotton Bowl stadium itself remains in use by the decidedly less tradition-filled Heart of Dallas Bowl[[note]]now with chicken fast-casual chain Zaxby's as name sponsor[[/note]].

Like the BCS and CFP bowls, these second-tier bowls also have conference tie-ins, but for second place, third place (and so on) teams in the conferences in question. Most of the tie-ins are to the major conferences, making it rare for a mid-major team to play in one of these bowls.[[note]]Another reason this is rare is because mid-major teams often play, and lose to, power conference teams near the beginning of the season, making it more likely that they won't have enough wins to be eligible to play in a bowl game.[[/note]] Which of these games is the most prestigious is debatable. While the Cotton Bowl has strongest tradition and retains its famous name, the Camping World Bowl has the largest cash payout of any non-CFP bowl; the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which reverted to its historic name of Peach Bowl when it became part of the New Year's Six (though retaining Chick-fil-A as name sponsor), usually had the best attendance among non-BCS bowls in the BCS era.

The lower tier of bowl games exists solely as cash grabs and {{Padding}} for Creator/{{ESPN}} during the traditionally quiet holiday week in sports, and the stadiums and cities the games are played in (until ESPN grabbed a monopoly on most bowl games in the 1990's, most of these games were still few and far between, aired on syndicated broadcast television and were special. In fact, ESPN actually runs many of these bowls ''themselves'' nowadays). If there was a playoff in college football, the teams in these bowls would be blown out of the first round of the playoffs by the top teams or not even make it, as they usually have records which are only one game above .500 (if that)[[note]]However, since most bowls have a lot of discretion in who they invite, and how much money the bowl thinks they'll make is often the deciding factor rather than trying to get the best team, sometimes actual good teams will get screwed over by the higher-tier bowls and get forced to settle for beating the hell out a scrub team in a bottom-tier bowl. Common victims of this are schools like Boise State, which usually wins its bowl games but is considered a less attractive choice because, being from tiny Idaho, they have a relatively small fanbase.[[/note]]. These games are usually sponsored by NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast, such as the [[OverlyLongName San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl]] (now defunct), Quick Lane Bowl[[note]]Successor to the Motor City Bowl, later known as the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl[[/note]], Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl [[note]]Originally just the Texas Bowl, then the [[OverlyLongName Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas]] and [=AdvoCare V100=] Texas Bowl[[/note]], the Foster Farms Bowl[[note]]Formerly the Diamond Walnut Bowl; then the Emerald Bowl, which sounds innocuous but was actually named for Emerald Nuts; and still later the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl[[/note]], the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl[[note]]Formerly the [] Bowl and the Humanitarian Bowl[[/note]], the Belk Bowl[[note]]Formerly the Queen City Bowl, Continental Tire Bowl and Meineke Car Care Bowl[[/note]], the [[OverlyLongName Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl]][[note]]A new bowl game in Tucson that debuted in 2015, held at the original site of the Copper[=/=]Cactus Bowl before its move to Phoenix[[/note]], the Walk-On's Independence Bowl[[note]]Historically just the Independence Bowl, notable only because the 1982 edition was the first college football game ever broadcast by Creator/{{ESPN}}.[[/note]] or the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl[[note]]Historically the St. Petersburg Bowl; "Gasparilla" is the name of an annual pirate festival in the Tampa Bay Area. This game spent a couple of years as the [[OverlyLongName Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg]].[[/note]]. Many of these bowls ''used'' to have less embarrassing names, before the trend of sponsors using their own name as the ''sole'' name of the bowl instead of just tagging their name in front of the bowl name (something near-universally loathed by football fans) came about[[note]]This also means that when a sponsorship expires, the bowl will pick up an entirely new name. Which means that in addition to all their other shortcomings, these bowls also don't even have a consistent ''identity''[[/note]]. These games are solely of interest to the universities playing only (or will be a future OldShame if your team is invited to the not-very-prestigious-at-all Dollar General Bowl[[note]][[RunningGag formerly the GMAC Bowl and GoDaddy Bowl]][[/note]]), and about the only accomplishment to be earned by the players outside of a free unwanted trip to Detroit, Boise, Shreveport, Louisiana or Birmingham, Alabama is a CosmeticAward which [[VictoryIsBoring means nothing]]. Unless the team lucks out and gets invited to a bowl in a nice vacation spot, such as the [[HulaAndLuaus Hawaii Bowl]] or Bahamas Bowl, of course.

There now so many lower tier bowl games that ''a majority of FBS teams'' will play in a bowl game every year, a fact widely ridiculed by fans. In the 2010–11 season, there was even some worry that there wouldn't be enough bowl eligible teams[[note]]A team must win at least half of its game to be bowl eligible.[[/note]] to play all the bowl games, which would have required teams with losing records to be invited to fill the remaining slots; two years later, this worry resurfaced when four separate teams ended up on postseason bans at once and all four would've otherwise been bowl eligible including one that went undefeated. While ultimately this didn't happen, it illustrates what a meager accomplishment being invited to a minor bowl has become. In fact, the proliferation of bowls got so ridiculous that the NCAA called time on it in 2016, imposing a three-year freeze on certification of new bowl games. Once again, there are conference tie-ins for these bowls, but they tend to be a lot less strictly enforced than in higher-tier bowls (especially since a conference might not have enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all its tie-ins, but also because a major conference probably doesn't care all that much about the tie-in for its 6th place team and a minor conference lacks the influence to do anything about it if their tie-in is ignored). Since non-AQ conferences' tie-ins are exclusively with the bottom-tier bowls, non-AQ champions are almost always stuck in these bowls, but with exceptional seasons they can become BCS busters and jump all the way to the top four bowls.[[note]]Utah in 2004 (beat Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl), Boise State in 2006 (beat Oklahoma in an epic Fiesta Bowl), Hawaii in 2007 (curbstomped by Georgia in the Sugar Bowl), Utah in 2008 (beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl), Boise State and TCU in 2009 (controversially matched against one another in the Fiesta Bowl, which BCS critics declared the "[[UsefulNotes/CivilRightsMovement Separate But Equal]] Bowl", with Boise State winning), TCU again in 2010 (beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl), and Northern Illinois in 2012 (thrashed by Florida State in the Orange Bowl). Two of these schools later joined AQ conferences—Utah joined what would become the Pac-12 in 2011, and TCU joined the Big 12 in 2012.[[/note]]

Obviously, as stated above, it's far from perfect, but it's also difficult for fans to agree on what exactly would constitute a fair playoff system. (Not to mention the difficulty in untangling the tens of millions of dollars in contracts made between the power conferences and the bowls themselves.) Oh, and the discussion is SeriousBusiness. Even the United States Congress has gotten involved in recent years, in college football's own version of ExecutiveMeddling [[note]]In the Congress' defense, ''trainloads'' of money are involved, which can have a huge effect on local and state economies. There's also some definite examples of corruption among the bowls, and the executives of the ostensibly non-profit organizations that run them get ''ludicrously'' huge salaries.[[/note]], with some members proposing a law that would ban the BCS from being advertised as a "national championship" unless it were converted to a playoff system. To the surprise of very few, the most vocal proponents of this idea were Congressmen whose local schools were perceived as having been "screwed" by the BCS. There are [[BrokenBase pro-BCS and anti-BCS parties]], and while the sheer fatigue from injuries might make an elaborate playoff difficult (though lower-division schools manage it), most feel something has to happen.

!Different Levels
Not all American universities, that sponsor varsity football, play within the bowl system. The NCAA has three divisions and Divisions II and III actually have a normal football playoff system. Likewise, Division I has a special subdivision called the "Football Championship Subdivision,"[[note]]Previously, the "Football Bowl Subdivision" and "Football Championship Subdivision" were called Division I-A and Division I-AA. These names are still often used unofficially, as many fans find the new names clunky and stupid. The abbreviations "FBS" and "FCS" are also used more often than the full names due to not sounding quite as lame.[[/note]] where Division I schools, that don't want to put as much emphasis on football as their larger cousins, can play. The current all-divisions record holder for most consecutive winning seasons is Division III's Linfield College, currently at 62. Each of these have their own playoff system to determine a national champion. While most regular season games are done within a division, several teams will play one or two games outside of their division. Teams in the NCAA's Divisions II and III sometimes even play non-NCAA teams. Playing lower-division teams isn't without its risks; when a highly regarded FBS team loses to an FCS team (such as the infamous defeat of then #5 ranked UsefulNotes/UniversityOfMichigan by FCS opponent Appalachian State in 2007, quite possibly the biggest upset in college football history), they become a national laughing stock.[[note]]Amazingly, Michigan scheduled Appalachian State (a traditional FCS powerhouse that won three consecutive playoff championships in 2005-2007) again for the 2014 season; however, Appalachian State had become a transitional FBS member by then. Michigan won easily this time around.[[/note]] Also, only one FCS win can count toward bowl eligibility for an FBS team, meaning that if a team schedules two such games they'll need to have at least a 7-5 record instead of 6-6 to qualify for a bowl. By design, this usually discourages FBS teams from playing against more than one FCS team per year. Despite the great majority of these games resulting in a win for the higher-division team, the lower division schools are happy to play them because the higher-division team invariably [[MoneyDearBoy pays them a lot of money to do it]].

There are also smaller college sports organizations outside of the NCAA, including the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and the National Junior College Athletic Association.[[note]]A "junior college" is a 2-year school attended mostly by people who can't attend a 4-year school due to either poor academic performance in high school or inability to afford the more expensive tuition of a 4-year college. The latter is generally not an issue for football players, who usually have tuition paid by scholarship. Upon graduation, junior college students can transfer to a 4-year college to complete their degree, and usually do.[[/note]] While these organizations are greatly overshadowed by the NCAA, several NAIA and NJCAA football players have gone on to play in the NCAA and/or the NFL.

As in most American college sports, college football teams are divided into regional athletic conferences. These conferences determine most of a team's schedule, and winning a conference is an easy way to get into a major bowl game.

Within the FBS, there are ten conferences, but not all conferences are created equal. The NCAA officially divides the conferences into two tiers: the '''Power Five''' (or "Big Five") and the '''Group of Five'''. Power Five conferences are bigger and more competitive, and the winners of these conferences are guaranteed qualification to one of the six top-level bowl games. Depending on their conference, this will be the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, or Orange Bowl, unless that bowl is hosting a national semifinal game. Group of Five conferences are considered more like mid-major conferences; they're smaller, not as well known, and not as likely to win championships. Only one Group of Five conference winner is automatically given a shot at a major bowl game, either the Cotton Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, or the Peach Bowl. The other five teams to play in those bowls are selected by committee.

The Power Five conferences are...
* The '''Atlantic Coast Conference''', which started out as a conference covering the Carolinas and Virginia, but has since extended out to cover teams from all over the East Coast as far north as Boston College and as far south as [=UMiami=]. It now has spread well beyond the East Coast to include Louisville for all sports and Notre Dame[[note]]in Indiana[[/note]] for most sports apart from football. Notre Dame isn't officially part of any football conference, but it is considered connected to the ACC due to that school's full but non-football membership.[[note]]Notre Dame has committed to play five games each season against other ACC members, and to play each other ACC school at least once every three years. Also, it was written into Notre Dame's ACC membership agreement that Notre Dame football can't join any conference other than the ACC before 2026, later extended to 2036.[[/note]] The ACC champion is guaranteed a spot in the Orange Bowl, and Notre Dame also has a chance to get in the Orange Bowl, depending on the year. Home to 2016 national champion Clemson, plus traditional powers Florida State and Miami.
* The '''Big Ten''' (sometimes called "[=B1G=]", from its logo), which originally just covered the Great Lakes region but recently expanded in both directions to include members in Nebraska, Maryland and New Jersey. It's the oldest conference of the NCAA, dating back all the way to the 1890s. Confusingly, it has fourteen member teams. The Big Ten champion is guaranteed a spot in the Rose Bowl. While the conference has many storied schools, the best-known are arguably (as of 2018) [[TheRival eternal rivals]] [[UsefulNotes/UniversityOfMichigan Michigan]] and Ohio State.
* The '''Big 12''' consists of teams from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and West Virginia (which is nowhere near any of the other states with Big 12 teams). It's the newest of the major conferences, having been formed when two other conferences merged into one. The Big 12 champion is guaranteed a spot in the Sugar Bowl, with the second team potentially going to the Orange Bowl. Just to make things confusing, the Big 12 has ten teams. Yes, the Big Ten has 14 teams (12 from 2011 to 2014) and the Big 12 has ten (it seriously considered expanding to 12 or 14 in the 2016 offseason, but decided against it). No, that doesn't make any sense. [[MST3KMantra Don't think about it too hard.]] Because they only have ten members, they lack the two-divisional format that the other Power Five conferences have and play a full round-robin, but they've held a championship game anyway since 2017.
* The '''Pac-12''' covers the entire West Coast, as well as Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. For most of TheNewTens, it was considered the second-strongest conference in the NCAA, though the ACC and Big Ten are now pushing the SEC for supremacy, and the Pac-12 champion plays the Big Ten champion in the Rose Bowl. USC has historically been the flagship team of the conference, but Oregon, known for its flashy offense and flashier uniforms, pushed them strongly in the first part of this century, and then Stanford rose to prominence in the current decade behind a decidedly non-flashy, smashmouth style.
* The '''Southeastern Conference''', better known as the '''SEC''', has long been considered far and away the strongest college football conference (and the only one where a chant for the '''conference''' [which consists of "SEC! SEC!"] exists among the schools within it). As with all the other conferences, its name isn't 100% geographically accurate, since it has teams from Missouri and eastern Texas. The SEC is home to some of the biggest rivalries, coaches, and players in all of college football right now, especially the SEC West division, to the point that from 2007, the year the BCS National Championship Game was established as separate from any other bowl game, to the end of the BCS system, there was at least one SEC team playing every year, and it wasn't until the last of those that a non-SEC team won. In fact, the reason the BCS finally collapsed was that the 2012 championship paired two SEC West teams against each other, which caused chaos with scheduling other bowl matchups and demonstrated how poorly designed the BCS really was. As it turned out, it only took four seasons for the CFP to produce an all-SEC title game, with Alabama (which didn't even win the SEC West) defeating Georgia for the 2017 title. While the league has many traditional football powers (plus [[ButtMonkey academic ringer Vanderbilt]][[note]]There's a practical reason for keeping them in the league. Since Vandy is a private school, it allows the SEC to keep its books private.[[/note]] and [[MyFriendsAndZoidberg basketball superpower Kentucky]]), the biggest name in recent years is Alabama, with five national titles since current head coach Nick Saban arrived in 2007. Around November it becomes a RunningGag that the SEC champion should be promoted to the NFL, with that league's worst team relegated; that's how strong the SEC is.

The Group of Five conferences are...
* The '''American Athletic Conference''' is considered the successor to the Big East, which collapsed due to instability between the basketball and football sides of that conference, but unlike the Big East, it isn't considered a power conference. Geographically, its members are all over the place; most are from the old Big East, but it also includes teams from Texas and Oklahoma. [[MilitaryAcademy Navy]], located in the old Big East footprint, joined for football only in 2015. It's usually considered the strongest of the Group of Five.
* '''Conference USA''', which includes teams from all over the South and whose geographical center has been the most flexible since its 1995 formation. Its membership has shifted more towards the Sun Belt as conference realignments changed up its membership. Right now, its most notable teams are Florida Atlantic, thanks to its media-hound head coach Lane Kiffin, and UAB (Alabama–Birmingham), whose football team returned in 2017 after a two-season hiatus. The latter school had dropped the sport after the 2014 season, citing financial concerns, but the move was heavily criticized as being more about Alabama politics than money; see [[ this story]] for a quick overview.
* The '''Mid-American Conference''', which covers the Great Lakes area. For a few years, it had an outlier for football only in [=UMass=] (Massachusetts), but the Minutemen were effectively kicked out after the 2015 season due to incredible futility. Also home to one of the three FBS schools with a non-traditionally colored football field; Eastern Michigan's is gray. See immediately below for the first and most famous example.
* The '''Mountain West Conference''', which includes teams from the Mountain West, a few California teams, and even a team in Hawaii (though that team is only a member in football). It's the youngest of the conferences, having started up in 1999. Its most notable member at the moment is Boise State, which earned a reputation in the late 2000's for performing on par with power conference teams and getting into major bowls. The Broncos, however, may be even more famous for their blue football field.
* The '''Sun Belt Conference''', like the SEC and Conference USA, is mostly located in the South. From 2013 through 2017, it included Idaho (very much ''non''-Southern) and UsefulNotes/NewMexico State (more Southwestern but still "Sun Belt") for football only. However, these teams were bounced from the football league after the 2017 season; Idaho is now set to return to FCS football in the 2018 season. Coastal Carolina[[note]]in South Carolina[[/note]] joined Sun Belt football in 2017, the second year of its transition to FBS; it had already joined the Sun Belt as a full but non-football member in 2016. Incidentally, Coastal also has a non-traditional field color, in this case teal.

Additionally, the 2018 season will have six independent football programs in Division I FBS that do not belong to a conference (all have home conferences for most, if not all, of their other sports).

* The '''University of Notre Dame''' has a legendary place in the history of college football (they're the only team, collegiate or otherwise, who have a national television contract for all home games, and still have more national championships than any other team, despite none since 1988). They are also the traditional flagship team of American Catholicism (as Notre Dame is a Catholic school). Notre Dame is thought of as a "Power 5" school and has special arrangements to appear in the Orange Bowl as a potential opponent for an ACC team. It can also appear in lower-profile bowls instead of an ACC team and plays at least 5 ACC opponents a year, as part of a deal made when Notre Dame's other sports teams joined the ACC in 2013.
* '''Army''' (the United States Military Academy), one of the service academy teams. Navy's football team was also independent until it joined the American Athletic Conference in 2015, while Air Force has been in conferences since 1980, first in the Western Athletic Conference and since 1999 in the the Mountain West Conference. Like Navy and Air Force, Army is considered on par with the "Group of 5" teams. However, two of the Power Five leagues (the Big Ten and SEC) have included Army as a surrogate Power Five opponent for purposes of non-conference scheduling.[[note]]All of the Power Five leagues except the Pac-12 are phasing in requirements that each conference member play at least one non-conference game against another Power Five team.[[/note]] The Army-Navy game serves as the traditional last game of the season, and it is still televised nationally despite both service academies having been out of title contention for decades; the service academies have very strict academic and physical requirements (specifically weight limits) that preclude the ability to compete with more forgiving civilian schools.
* '''Brigham Young University''' (BYU) has been independent in football since 2011. BYU's football team has been successful in recent years. It is the traditional flagship team of American Mormonism (BYU being a Mormon university). BYU also owns their own television network, which is grouped with the religious channels on most cable systems but also shows the occasional sporting event. The ACC, Big Ten, and SEC count BYU as a surrogate Power Five team for non-conference scheduling purposes.
* A more recent entry to the independent ranks is '''[=UMass=]''', more properly the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The Minutemen had been a fairly decent team at the FCS level, even winning a national championship in 1998, but decided to move up to FBS, gaining football-only membership in the MAC starting with the 2012 season. [=UMass=] enjoyed little success at its new level, yet decided to turn down an offer of full MAC membership; the MAC responded by not renewing their football-only membership contract after it ended with the 2015 season.[[note]]Unlike most FBS schools, football isn't the biggest sport at [=UMass=]. It's at best second behind men's basketball, and possibly behind men's ice hockey as well. [=UMass=]' main conference, the Atlantic 10, is ''far'' better in basketball than the MAC—in fact, not far from the level of the Power Five leagues in that sport. Additionally, the school was a geographic outlier in the Great Lakes-based MAC.[[/note]] It remains to be seen whether [=UMass=] will stay at FBS level or return to FCS... watch this space.
* The aforementioned '''New Mexico State''' will stay in FBS as an independent after being bounced from Sun Belt football. The Aggies have been largely in the shadow of cross-state rival New Mexico in football, and went from 1960 through 2016 without a bowl appearance. They did make their final season in Sun Belt football an eventful one, going to and winning a bowl game.
* The other new independent for 2018 will be '''Liberty''', a former StrawmanU (of the "Jim Jones U" variety) from Virginia that has become far less legalistic (though still conservative) since the passing of its founder, televangelist Jerry Falwell. The Flames began a transition from FCS in the 2017 season, with the NCAA giving them a waiver from its normal rules requiring that a school have an invite from an FBS conference to begin the transition. Liberty has been heavily lobbying for an invite from the Sun Belt in the last few years, so it may not be an independent for too long.

While all sports have bitter rivalries, college football tends to have the most pronounced ones in American sports. Some of the more notable have been mentioned above. Rivalries will most commonly feature two teams within a state (like Auburn vs. Alabama), teams whose states border one another (like Texas vs. Oklahoma), and ones with historical significance (like Army vs. Navy).

The following are all notable rivalries. Most feature teams that are frequently in the top 25, and therefore, more likely to put up a good game.

* Harvard vs. Yale (The UrExample, though no longer of much importance except to students at the respective schools. Formerly known as "The Game"[[note]]still known as such by Harvard and Yale students[[/note]] until the more relevant Ohio State vs. Michigan rivalry usurped that name.)
* [[InterserviceRivalry Army vs. Navy]] [[MyFriendsAndZoidberg vs. Air Force]] (For the [[OurPresidentsAreDifferent Commander-in-Chief's]] Trophy; Another one of the oldest rivalries, and still going strong. The Army-Navy Game is traditionally the last regular-season game of the year and also a focal point for the oldest and strongest InterserviceRivalry in the American military, making it a big draw even when, as is usually the case in the modern era, neither team is nationally relevant.)
* Auburn vs. Alabama ("The Iron Bowl"[[note]]It used to be played in Birmingham, a city known as a major hub of the steel industry.[[/note]])
* Texas vs. Oklahoma ("The Red River Rivalry"[[note]]Formerly the "Red River Shootout", with the old name still frequently used by fans. The Red River forms much of the border between the two states.[[/note]]) - played at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, which is almost exactly halfway between the two campuses. Was a non-conference game for decades until becoming a conference rivalry starting in 1996.
* Ohio State vs. Michigan ("The Game" - voted the #1 rivalry in North American sports by ESPN in 2000.) The final game of their regular season since 1935, and before the expansion of the conference and advent of divisional play it was usually the de facto Big Ten championship game. Like many big rivalries, this one grew out of existing animosity between the bordering states.[[note]]Specifically, the "[[UsefulNotes/ToledoOhio Toledo War]]", a dispute over ownership of the economically vital Great Lakes port of Toledo. Ohio got Toledo, but Michigan's had the upper hand in the football rivalry.[[/note]]
-->Oh, we don't give a damn for the whole state of Michigan\\
The whole state of Michigan, the whole state of Michigan\\
We don't give a damn for the whole state of Michigan\\
We're from O-hi-o!
* Wisconsin vs. Minnesota ("Myth/PaulBunyan's Axe") and [[ the ]] oldest annual rivalry in FBS football -- these teams have played every year since ''1907''.
* Florida vs. Georgia ("The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party"[[note]]Officially the "Florida vs. Georgia Football Classic" or "Georgia vs. Florida Football Classic" on a rotating basis depending on who the designated home team is (except for two years since 1933, it's always been played at a neutral site, so there's no true home team; however, the series was played at the teams' home stadiums in 1994 and 1995 while [=EverBank=] Field was being constructed on the footprint of the former Gator Bowl Stadium). The schools, the SEC, the NCAA and sportscasters have all tried and failed to remove "Cocktail" from the nickname, seeing it as promoting underage drinking of alcohol.[[/note]]) - Played on a theoretically neutral field in Jacksonville, Florida.
* The Pac-12 divides neatly into six regional groupings, providing for many natural rivalries.
** UCLA vs. USC ("The Battle for the Victory Bell"/"[[Music/RageAgainstTheMachine The Battle of Los Angeles]]")
** California (Berkeley) vs. Stanford ("The Big Game"; see also "The Play," which refers to the downright surreal [[DownToTheLastPlay ending]] to the 1982 edition of The Big Game.) Often considered the modern version of Harvard vs. Yale, being played between a pair of very academically prestigious schools... but unlike Harvard and Yale, they still frequently play good football.)
** Oregon vs. Oregon State ("The Civil War")
** Washington vs. Washington State (The Apple Cup) [[note]]Washington is of course famous for its apples. The Cascade Mountains keep everything civil during most of the year, with UW fans to the west and WSU fans to the east. Many Washington fans consider Oregon to be their true rival, similarly to how Michigan treats the Michigan State rivalry but not as acute.[[/note]]
** Arizona vs. Arizona State ("The Duel in the Desert," notable for being played for the Territorial Cup[[note]]So named because when it was instituted, the schools were in the Arizona Territory, which wouldn't become a state for another 13 years. Arizona State was at the time called Tempe Normal School ("normal school" meaning a college for the training of teachers), as being located in a territory it by definition couldn't be a "state university."[[/note]], which has been certified as the oldest rivalry trophy in college football, having first been awarded in 1889.[[note]]Back in 1889 Arizona State was the Arizona Territorial Normal School football team and were awarded the first Territorial Cup after winning the Arizona Territorial Football League Championship after defeating the Phoenix Union High School, the Phoenix Indian School and the University of Arizona. The first game in its modern incarnation, played solely between UA and what would later become ASU, was played in 1899.[[/note]])
** Colorado vs. Utah (The "Rumble in the Rockies") – Had been one of the hottest rivalries in the West for the first half of the 20th century, but stopped after 1962. Revived in 2011 when Colorado and Utah joined the Pac-12 and were placed in the same football division.
* BYU vs. Utah ("The Holy War"[[note]][[DontExplainTheJoke BYU is a Mormon university, while Utah is a secular public university.]][[/note]])
* Boston College vs. Notre Dame (also "The Holy War"[[note]][[DontExplainTheJoke Both universities are Catholic; in fact, B.C. and Notre Dame are the only two Catholic schools in FBS]].[[/note]])
* West Virginia vs. Pittsburgh ("The Backyard Brawl", although after WVU left to join the Big 12 Conference in 2012, this series did not continue) [[note]]The two campuses are less than a two-hour drive away from each other. WVU also draws a significant number of students from the Pittsburgh area. They did play again in men's basketball in 2017–18.[[/note]]
* Kansas vs. Missouri ("The Border War"/"Border Showdown"[[note]]Refers to the conflict between the states over slavery before and during the UsefulNotes/TheAmericanCivilWar, a history that even in recent years has been directly referenced by the schools' students. Some Missouri students infamously had T-shirts made in 2007 that depicted the burning of Lawrence, Kansas with the text "Scoreboard" underneath, with a quote by pro-slavery militant William Quantrill (who carried out the burning) on the back. Kansas students responded by making their own T-shirts featuring an image of abolitionist leader John Brown with the text "Kansas: Keeping America Safe From Missouri Since 1854." The tamer "Border Showdown" name was introduced in the wake of the [[TheWarOnTerror 9/11 attacks]], on the premise that it was inappropriate to refer to a sporting event as a "war" when the nation was actually at war... despite the old name having been used through every other war the United States fought in the past century. Like most attempts to rename rivalries, it never caught on. Former Kansas coach Don Fambrough responded to the attempted renaming by saying "It's a goddamn war. And they started it!"[[/note]]) - Dates back to 1891, and grew out of the considerable animosity that already existed between the states. Though it had been played for 120 years, interrupted only by the 1918 flu pandemic, the annual rivalry ended when Missouri left the Big 12 for the [=SEC=]. Inevitably, fans of each school accused the other of having "surrendered".
* Illinois vs. Missouri ("The [[JustForPun Arch]] Rivalry"[[note]][[DontExplainTheJoke It's played in St. Louis.]][[/note]]) – An offshoot of "Braggin' Rights", a longer-standing men's basketball rivalry between the two schools, with those games also being played in UsefulNotes/StLouis.
* Michigan vs. Michigan State ("The Battle for the Mitten"[[note]][[DontExplainTheJoke Michiganders frequently call the Lower Peninsula, home to both schools and the vast majority of the state's population, "The Mitten", from its appearance on a map.]][[/note]]/"Paul Bunyan--Governor of Michigan Trophy". Taken more seriously by MSU than UM--as UM has OSU to deal with--with the result that MSU takes it even ''[[UpToEleven more]]'' seriously, in a "what are we, chopped liver?" kind of way. The OSU thing leads to a lot of conflicted emotions for MSU fans, since on the one hand Michigan is the great rival but on the other hand OSU is from Ohio and most MSU fans are Michiganders, leading one to recall Henry Kissinger's comment about the UsefulNotes/IranIraqWar: "It's a shame they can't both lose.")
* USC vs. Notre Dame ("The Battle for the Jewelled [[ Shillelagh"]])
* Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss ("The Battle For The Golden Egg"/"The Egg Bowl") [[note]]The "Golden Egg" is the official name of the trophy, first awarded in 1927, consisting of a football-shaped brass piece attached to a wood base. The "Egg" name came about years later—footballs in the 1920s had a much more ovoid and blunt shape than those used today, which means that to more modern eyes, the trophy resembles a large egg.[[/note]]
* Miami [[note]]the University of Miami in Florida, not Miami University, which is in Oxford, Ohio and also has a popular but usually less powerful FBS team[[/note]] vs. Florida State - in addition to being a cross-state rivalry, both teams often vie for the ACC championship.
* Florida vs. Florida State - Traditionally the last game of their regular season every year.
* Georgia vs. Georgia Tech ("Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate") – Played every year since 1925.
* University of Virginia vs. Virginia Tech (Battle for the Commonwealth Cup) [[note]]Virginia is legally known as the "Commonwealth of Virginia."[[/note]]
* Colorado vs. Colorado State ("The Rocky Mountain Showdown")
* Tennessee vs. Alabama ("The Third Saturday in October"[[note]]An ArtifactTitle, as in the last decade it's usually been played on the fourth Saturday in October.[[/note]]) – Notable for having long winning streaks by whichever team is ascendant in a given decade.
* Tennessee vs. Florida – One of the newer rivalries, but for most of the 1990s it was the de facto SEC championship game. With both teams having declined since then, it's become lower-profile nationally but remains bitterly contested.
* Clemson vs. South Carolina – [[ The second oldest uninterrupted FBS rivalry by just two years, dating back to 1909.]] The rivalry between the schools predates their even having football teams, and indeed traces back to before Clemson actually existed, having originally been fueled by post-Civil War state politics.
* Southern Methodist and Texas Christian – [[UsefulNotes/DFWMetroplex Both are in the same metro area]] and both are affiliated with different Protestant denominations (SMU with the United Methodist Church and TCU with the Disciples of Christ). The prize is the Iron Skillet. TCU (Fort Worth) has been more victorious since 1987, since [=SMU's=] (Dallas) infamous Death Penalty judgment.
* Auburn vs. Georgia ("The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry") – First played in 1892 and became an annual game in 1898. But interruptions for UsefulNotes/WorldWarI and UsefulNotes/WorldWarII prevented it from being the oldest annual rivalry in FBS.
* LSU vs. Auburn ("The Tiger Bowl"[[note]][[DontExplainTheJoke Both teams are nicknamed "Tigers".]][[/note]])
* LSU vs. Arkansas ("The Battle for the Golden Boot"[[note]]The winner brings home the "Golden Boot", a massive solid-gold trophy shaped like a map of Arkansas and Louisiana, thus roughly resembling a boot.[[/note]])
* Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State ("Bedlam Series"[[note]]Actually originated as a rivalry between the schools' ''wrestling'' teams, with the name derived from raucous home crowds at OSU's arena. But between football being a much higher-profile sport and OSU's utter domination in wrestling, the football rivalry has become the main attraction.[[/note]])
* Texas vs. Texas A&M ("Lone Star Showdown"[[note]]They're the two largest schools in Texas, the Lone Star State.[[/note]]) – Dates back to 1894 and was a long-standing traditional UsefulNotes/ThanksgivingDay game, but like the Border War it ended because of conference realignment. With A&M leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, Texas has said they have no room on their schedule for the game until 2018 at the earliest. Both fanbases seem to simultaneously blame the other school for the ending of the game as if this is a bad thing, [[SourGrapes and then claim they didn't really want to play it that much anyway.]] A significantly less tradition-filled game between Texas and either Baylor or Texas Tech (or TCU since their joining the Big 12) has for the time being stood in for Thanksgiving.
* Arkansas vs. Texas A&M – An old Southwest Conference rivalry that was recently revived as a non-conference game played in Arlington, and is now entrenched annually as Texas A&M joined the SEC and was placed in the same football division as Arkansas.
* TCU vs. Baylor ("The Revivalry"[[note]]so named not only because Baylor is Baptist and TCU is Disciples of Christ, "revival" being an important idea of Christianity, but also because the rivalry was "revived" upon TCU joining the Big 12[[/note]]) - another old Southwest Conference rivalry with the added enmity that Baylor allegedly played politics to keep TCU out of the Big 12.[[note]]Then-Texas Governor Ann Richards was a Baylor alum and had allegedly lobbied heavily to allow Baylor to join the new conference over other potential schools from the SWC.[[/note]] With TCU joining the Big 12, this rivalry has now come full circle. The series has been closely fought throughout its history, with TCU leading (as of 2017) by a mere 54–52–7.
* Iowa State vs. Kansas State ("[[{{Pun}} Farmageddon]]")
* Kentucky vs. Louisville ("The Governor's Cup") – Although hard-fought on the football field, this matchup is much better known as a men's basketball rivalry. This is a relatively recent rivalry—after the first half of the 1920s, UK steadfastly refused to schedule U of L in either sport for decades. The modern basketball rivalry began in 1983 (after no regular-season games for ''over 60 years''), but the modern football rivalry had to wait until 1994, after a ''70-year absence''.[[note]]Perhaps not coincidentally, U of L's head coach when the football rivalry resumed, Howard Schnellenberger, had played at UK.[[/note]]
* North Carolina vs. Virginia ("The South's Oldest Rivalry", which has been played since 1892, continuously since 1919)
* Florida State vs. Virginia (awarding the "Jefferson-Eppes Trophy"[[note]]Named after UsefulNotes/ThomasJefferson, founder of UVA, and Francis Eppes, his grandson and founder of FSU.[[/note]])
* Nebraska vs. Oklahoma, which ran from 1912 to 2010, when Nebraska left the Big 12 - because the Big 12 wouldn't schedule the game every season. [[note]][[MoneyDearBoy There were other reasons, too.]][[/note]] The highlight was the 1971 [[ "Game of the Century"]], with #1-ranked Nebraska narrowly beating out #2-ranked Oklahoma. The rivalry will return in 2021 and 2022 with two specially-scheduled games.
* Cincinnati vs. Miami[[note]]the one in Ohio this time[[/note]] - The longest-running current non-conference rivalry in the United States (though they were briefly in the same conference in the late 1940s and early 1950s), the most-played currently active FBS rivalry between teams from the same state (see immediately below for an even more frequently-played intrastate rivalry), and the oldest rivalry west of the Allegheny Mountains. They play for the Victory Bell. Since Cincinnati moved to the Big East in 2005, however, the rivalry has been rather one-sided, with Miami's last victory coming in 2005.
* Lafayette vs. Lehigh ("The Rivalry") – A matchup between two lower-level FCS teams, both members of the Patriot League and located in the Lehigh Valley of eastern UsefulNotes/{{Pennsylvania}}. It's notable here as the most-played matchup in college football history (the 2017 game was the 153rd) and the longest uninterrupted rivalry (since 1897) in all of college football. The Leopards and Mountain Hawks first played in 1884; the large number of games is because the teams played twice each season from 1884 to 1901 (except 1896, when they didn't play at all, and 1891, when they played ''three times''), as well as in the war years of 1943 and 1944. The game is so old that it predates rivalry trophies—the winning team just gets to keep the game ball.

!College Football Individual Awards

A list of the major awards for college football players presented annually. There are several governing bodies in charge of selecting the various award winners, so some of the awards may seem a little repetitive in terms of what the award stands for. (Ex. the Heisman, Maxwell, and Walter Camp awards all being practically the same.) The "most recent winners" listed are from the 2017 season, with repeat winners from prior seasons also noted. Positions are also supplied for winners of awards that aren't position-specific.

* '''Heisman Memorial Trophy Award (aka "The Heisman")''': The top award a college football player can hope to receive. It is given out annually to the "most outstanding" player in college football. It is also the oldest award on the list, with the first being presented in 1935. While any player at any position is eligible to win the award, it has historically been awarded to Quarterbacks and Running Backs by a wide margin. The winner is chosen by voters consisting of "informed, competent, and impartial" sports writers along with every living recipient of the award also getting a vote. ''Most recent winner:'' Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
* '''Archie Griffin Award''': While the Heisman is given to the "most outstanding" player, the Archie Griffin award is given to the "most ''valuable''" player in college football. You might think that this award would largely overlap with the Heisman, but you'd be wrong. The award has been presented since 1999, but only four of the 19 Griffin Awards presented so far have gone to that season's Heisman winner. See the Chic Harley Award below for why. ''Most recent winner:'' [=McKenzie=] Milton, QB, UCF
* '''Bronko Nagurski Trophy''': Award given to the best defensive player in college football. ''Most recent winner:'' Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
* '''Buck Buchanan Award''': Award given to the best defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) of college football. ''Most recent winner:'' Darius Jackson, DE, Jacksonville State
* '''Burlsworth Trophy''': One of the newer awards (first presented in 2010), which is given to the most outstanding player who began his college career as a "walk-on" (not offered a scholarship). ''Most recent winner:'' Luke Falk, QB, Washington State[[note]]Which was a major head-scratcher to many around college football, seeing that 2017 Heisman winner Baker Mayfield had won this award the previous two seasons. To make the award to Falk even more inexplicable, Mayfield was a Burlsworth finalist in 2017—and also had noticeably better stats than Falk that season![[/note]]
* '''Butkus Award''': Award traditionally given to the top linebacker in college football. Starting in 2008, the award has expanded to include a professional and high school player each year as well. ''Most recent winner:'' Roquan Smith, Georgia
* '''Campbell Trophy''': Presented to the top scholar-athlete in all of college football—not only the FBS, but also including the FCS, NCAA Divisions II and III, and the NAIA. The list of finalists is required to include at least one player from each level. Uniquely among nominal all-divisions awards, the Campbell Trophy has actually been won once by a D-III player. ''Most recent winner:'' Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia
* '''Chic Harley Award''': Also known as the "College Football Player of the Year" award. Presented by the same body responsible for the Archie Griffin Award, namely the Touchdown Club of Columbus. Like many of these awards, it is not uncommon for the winner of the Heisman to win this award as well. ''Most recent winner:'' Mayfield
* '''Chuck Bednarik Award''': Award given to the defensive "player of the year" in college football. The Nagurski Trophy recipient frequently gets this award as well. ''Most recent winner:'' Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
* '''Davey O'Brien Award''': Award given to the best quarterback in college football. Whenever a quarterback wins the Heisman, there is a good chance that he will win this award as well. ''Most recent winner:'' Mayfield
* '''Doak Walker Award''': Award given to the best running back in college football. Whenever a running back wins the Heisman, there is a good chance that he will win this award as well. ''Most recent winner:'' Bryce Love, Stanford
* '''Fred Biletnikoff Award''': Award given to the best receiver in college football. Although the award rules state that anyone who catches the ball on offense is eligible, every winner to date has been a wide receiver. (Which [[ItMakesSenseInContext makes sense]], given that the award's namesake played that position.) ''Most recent winner:'' James Washington, Oklahoma State
* '''Gagliardi Trophy''': Award given to the "most outstanding" player in Division III football. ''Most recent winner:'' Brett Kasper, QB, Wisconsin–Oshkosh
* '''Gene Upshaw Award''': Award given to the best lineman, offensive or defensive, in Division II football. ''Most recent winner:'' Marcus Martin, DE, Slippery Rock
* '''Harlon Hill Trophy''': Award given to the "most valuable" player in Division II football. ''Most recent winner:'' Luis Perez, QB, Texas A&M–Commerce
* '''Jerry Rice Award''': Along with the Jet Award (immediately below), the newest major award (first presented in 2011). Presented to the top freshman player in FCS football, making it the only recognized national award for first-year players in any division. ''Most recent winner:'' Bryson Armstrong, LB, Kennesaw State
* '''Jet Award''': Along with the Rice Award, the newest major award (first presented in 2011[[note]]While the award was created in 2011, winners for each season from 1959 through 2010 are being retroactively chosen, one year at a time.[[/note]]), which is given to the top return specialist in college football. "Jet" comes from the nickname of legendary 1970s Nebraska receiver/return man Johnny Rodgers. ''Most recent winner:'' Dante Pettis, Washington
* '''Jim Thorpe Award''': Award given to the top defensive back in college football. ''Most recent winner:'' Fitzpatrick
* '''John Mackey Award''': Award given to the "most outstanding" tight end in college football. ''Most recent winner:'' Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
* '''Johnny Unitas Award''': Award given to the best quarterback who has spent at least four seasons in college football (i.e., either a senior or a redshirt junior). Originally, only seniors were eligible, but redshirt juniors have been added, probably because many top [=QBs=] now leave for the NFL before their fourth season. ''Most recent winner:'' Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
* '''Manning Award''': Another award given to the best quarterback in college football; named after the Manning quarterbacking family.[[note]]Archie and his sons Peyton and Eli[[/note]] Whenever a QB wins the Heisman, there is a good chance that he will win this award as well. Unlike most college football awards, it's not awarded until ''after'' the bowl games. ''Most recent winner:'' Mayfield
* '''Lou Groza Award''': Award given to the top placekicker in college football. ''Most recent winner:'' Matt Gay, Utah
* '''Maxwell Award''': Award given to the "best football player in the United States." Predictably, the winner of this award is also frequently the Heisman winner as well. ''Most recent winner:'' Mayfield
* '''Outland Trophy''': Award given to the best "interior lineman" in college football. This includes any offensive linemen, as well as defensive tackles. ''Most recent winner:'' Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
* '''Paul Hornung Award''': Another relatively new award (first given in 2010), presented to the most versatile player in college football. ''Most recent winner:'' Saquon Barkley, RB/RS, Penn State
* '''Ray Guy Award''': Award given to the top punter in college football. ''Most recent winner:'' Michael Dickson, Texas
* '''Walter Camp Award''': Award given to the college football "player of the year". Predictably, the winner of this award is also frequently the Heisman winner as well. ''Most recent winner:'' Mayfield
* '''Walter Payton Award''': Award given to the "most outstanding" offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) of college football. Originally given to the most outstanding player on either side of the ball, but restricted to offensive players since the Buchanan Award was established in 1995. ''Most recent winner:'' Jeremiah Briscoe, QB, Sam Houston State (2016 and 2017)
* '''Wuerffel Trophy''': Presented for outstanding community service by an FBS player; named after 1996 Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel. ''Most recent winner:'' Courtney Love (no, not ''[[Music/CourtneyLove that one]]''), LB, Kentucky

!Names to know in College Football (alphabetical in category, by last name)

Many of these players also went on to noteworthy NFL careers. Details can found on the UsefulNotes/NationalFootballLeague page.


[[folder: Coaches and Administrators]]
* '''Bobby Bowden''': While he had early-career gigs at Samford and West Virginia, he's most famous for his long tenure at Florida State (1976–2009), building the school into a national powerhouse. He won two national titles at FSU, and also had ''14 consecutive 10-win seasons'' (1987–2000). Broke Bear Bryant's record for most wins as an FBS head coach., ending with 377 (not counting 12 wins vacated by the NCAA).
* '''Paul "Bear" Bryant''': Was the legendary head coach of Alabama for 25 years in the 60s and 70s. He won 6 national titles in his time as coach, while also serving as the school's athletic director. His 323 wins were the most ever by a Division I head coach when he retired. One of the many awards for the National Coach of the Year bears his name.
* '''John Gagliardi''':[[note]]pronounced "guh-LAHR-dee"[[/note]] The winningest coach in college football history by wins, regardless of division. Began his head coaching career in 1949 at NAIA school Carroll College in Montana. He then went to Saint John's of Minnesota, an NCAA D-III school, in 1953, and stayed there for ''[[LongRunners 60 seasons]]'', finally retiring in 2012 with 489 total wins. The award for the top D-III player bears his name.
* '''Larry Kehres''':[[note]]pronounced "CARE-us"[[/note]] The winningest coach in college football history by percentage, regardless of division. Coached at D-III Mount Union in Ohio from 1986 to 2012, also serving as AD in his final years on the sidelines. Holds all-division records for winning percentage (.929), national titles (11), unbeaten regular seasons (21), and conference titles (23, with the last 21 of them being ''in succession'').
* '''Joe Paterno''': An institution at Penn State for over 60 years, arriving as an assistant in 1950 and becoming head coach in 1966, [=JoePa=] won two national titles, had five unbeaten seasons, won 24 bowl games, and amassed an FBS record of 409 career wins. However, his once-pristine image was badly tarnished in 2011 with the revelation that the school had covered up the sex crimes of former assistant Jerry Sandusky for more than a decade. He was fired during the season, died only two months later, and had all 111 wins between 1998 and his firing stricken from the record books by the NCAA, giving Bowden the record for most FBS wins. The wins were restored in January 2015, once again making him the winningest FBS coach, after it came out that the NCAA had, shall we say, bent its own rules to the breaking point in the Sandusky investigation.
* '''Eddie Robinson''': Was the legendary head coach at Grambling, a historically black school in Louisiana, from World War II until the 1990s. Won 17 conference titles and nine black college national titles, and ended his career with 408 wins, at the time the most in college history at any level (now third behind Gagliardi and Paterno).
* '''Knute Rockne''': A Norwegian immigrant raised in Chicago, Rockne was the main builder of Notre Dame's football tradition, leading the Fighting Irish to three national titles in his 13 seasons (1918–1930) and also relentlessly publicizing Notre Dame football throughout the country. He also popularized the forward pass, and is also famous for the "Win one for the Gipper" locker-room speech. His winning percentage of .881 is the highest in major-college history, and second only to Kehres among those with at least 10 seasons as a head coach at any level. Rockne's death in a plane crash during the 1931 offseason led to an outpouring of national grief comparable to the death of a U.S. president, with his funeral drawing tens of thousands and being broadcast on radio worldwide. The public reaction to his death was also credited with launching a safety revolution in commercial aviation.
* '''Nick Saban''': Currently the colossus of college coaching, with five national titles at Alabama since his 2007 arrival (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017). Also coached LSU to a national title in 2003, and before that enjoyed great success at Toledo and Michigan State. We will not mention his [[DorkAge two seasons with the Miami Dolphins]] between LSU and Bama.

[[folder: Quarterbacks]]
* '''Eric Crouch''': A record holding QB for Nebraska who won the 2001 Heisman Trophy (in one of the closest votes ever, narrowly beating out Rex Grossman and Ken Dorsey), as well as being one of the last great "option" quarterbacks in major college football.
* '''Ty Detmer''': Was a record-shattering passer for BYU and winner of the 1990 Heisman Trophy. Was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
* '''Doug Flutie''': Won the 1984 Heisman Trophy playing for Boston College. Is probably best remembered for his "Hail Mary" touchdown pass to defeat Miami, which is frequently rated as one of the greatest plays in college football history. Went on to have a successful professional career as well in the CFL and NFL.
* '''Matt Leinart''': Won a National Championship with USC as well as the 2004 Heisman Trophy. Had an incredibly successful career at USC as part of what is widely considered one of the most talented football teams ever from 2003-2005. Was an NFL first round pick but failed to live up to his college career, being considered one of the bigger NFL Draft "busts" of all time.
* '''Archie Manning''': College Football Hall of Famer who had a legendary career at Ole Miss. Was a Heisman finalist twice, falling just short both times. Went on to have a moderately successful pro career and is better known nowadays as the father of Creator/{{Peyton|Manning}} and Eli Manning. He was one of the first members of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, but took a health-related leave in the fall of 2014 and resigned from the committee the next spring, never having participated in any voting.
* '''Kellen Moore''': Was the quarterback of the perennial "BCS Buster" Boise State Broncos of the late 2000s. Though significantly undersized compared to most high level NCAA [=QBs=], he ended his college career as one of the winningest [=QBs=] in history, and ''the'' winningest at the FBS level.
* '''Davey O'Brien''': A legendary QB for TCU, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1939. He set a number of records during his college career, a few of which still stand to this day (such as fewest interceptions per passes thrown). The award given annually to the best quarterback in college football bears his name.
* '''Keenan Reynolds''': The triggerman for Navy's option offense from 2012 to 2015, Reynolds is notable for a couple of reasons. First, he is arguably one of the greatest running [=QBs=] in NCAA history, notably setting an all-time FBS record for most career rushing touchdowns (88), and also holding the all-time FBS record for career scoring at 530 points (88 [=TDs=] and one two-point conversion). Second, despite holding two of the NCAA's highest-profile records, he will ''never'' be in the College Football Hall of Fame (at least under current rules). The Hall currently requires that inductees have received first-team All-America honors before being considered. In the modern game, [=QBs=] are evaluated mostly as passers, with running being a secondary factor. However, Navy's offense is heavily run-oriented (being more similar to the types of option offenses seen in the last third of the 20th century), which means that Reynolds was never able to put up the type of passing numbers that would have given him All-American notice.
* '''Tim Tebow''': Two-time BCS Championship winning QB for Florida and winner of the 2007 Heisman Trophy. Another candidate for greatest running QB in NCAA history, with a unique style of preferring to plow through defenders like a fullback (most running quarterbacks are more agile and try to avoid hits). Went on to a brief, somewhat controversial NFL career. Returned to college football as an analyst for the SEC Network; gave the NFL another try in 2015 with the Philadelphia Eagles, but was one of the last roster cuts, and is now playing minor league baseball.
* '''Vince Young''': Won the 2005 BCS National Championship with Texas and was runner-up in Heisman voting to Reggie Bush (who was later stripped of the award). Is considered one of the greatest players in Texas' storied history, as well as one of the greatest ever in NCAA history. He was drafted 3rd overall into the NFL but after some initial success, is considered a borderline draft bust.

[[folder: Running Backs and Fullbacks]]
* '''Jay Berwanger''': Halfback for the University of Chicago, and winner of the first ever Heisman Trophy. He was also selected as the first ever draft pick in the NFL, but didn't play a single down professionally as he was unable to agree on a salary.
* '''Felix "Doc" Blanchard''' & '''Glenn Davis''': One of the most famous running duos in the sport's history, "Mr. Inside" (Blanchard) and "Mr. Outside" (Davis) played at Army from 1944 to 1946, helping the Cadets[[note]]now known as Black Knights[[/note]] to a 27–0–1 record, with the only blemish being a famous scoreless tie against Notre Dame in 1946. They set a record for most touchdowns by a pair of teammates that lasted for over 50 years, and Davis set a record for yards per carry in a career (8.3) that stands to this day.[[note]]Speaking of long-standing records, the officially recognized FBS record for yards per carry in a season dates to 1939, when UCLA's Jackie Robinson averaged 12.2 yards per carry. Yes, ''that UsefulNotes/JackieRobinson''.[[/note]] Each won a Heisman Trophy, Blanchard in 1945 (the first junior to win) and Davis in 1946, and both are in the College Football Hall of Fame.
* '''Tony Dorsett''': A legendary three-time All-American running back for the University of Pittsburgh, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1976. Is a member of both the College and Pro Halls of Fame.
* '''Harold Edward "Red" Grange''': Was a legendary halfback for Illinois, earning the nickname "the Galloping Ghost." He was one of the first star players in college football and helped to popularize the sport, even appearing on the cover of ''TIME'' magazine in 1925. He is a member of the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. ESPN named him as the greatest college football player of all time in 2008.
* '''Archie Griffin''': Star running back for Ohio State and, to date, the only two-time winner of the Heisman trophy. He is also the only player to ever start in four Rose Bowl games. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986. Also known for being rather undersized for the position, even by today's standards. (5'9", 182)
* '''Bronislaw "Bronko" Nagurski''': Was a legendary, [[CanadaEh Canadian born]] fullback for Minnesota, who also played tackle on defense. Legend has it that he was virtually impossible to tackle with the ball in his hands. He is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. He also made a career as a [[ProfessionalWrestling pro wrestler]] when his football career was over. The award given annually to the best defensive player in college football is named after him.
* '''Herschel Walker''': Legendary running back for Georgia in the early 1980s. He was named an All-American in each of the three years he played, winning the Heisman Trophy in 1982. Went on to have a moderately successful NFL career as well. Expect any analysis of a great college football running back to make at least one comparison to Walker.

[[folder: Wide Receivers]]
* '''Fred Biletnikoff''': Was an All-American wide receiver for pre-Bowden Florida State and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. The award for the best receiver in college football is named for him. Also had a Hall of Fame professional career with the Oakland Raiders.
* '''Michael Crabtree''': Was a prolific receiver for Texas Tech. He set 7 NCAA receiving records for freshmen in his first season and would become the first two-time Biletnikoff Award winner.
* '''Larry Fitzgerald''': Was an All-American wide receiver for Pittsburgh and had one of the greatest seasons by any college WR in 2003. He won the Walter Camp, Chic Harley, and Biletnikoff awards and was the runner up in Heisman voting, losing to Oklahoma's Jason White by only a slim margin. It was the highest finish in Heisman voting by a sophomore up to that point. In addition to holding nearly every major school record, he also still holds the NCAA record for most consecutive games with a TD catch at 18. Went on to have an extremely successful pro career as well.

[[folder: Offensive Linemen and Tight Ends]]
* '''Mark May''': Was an All-American offensive tackle for Pittsburgh and won the Outland Trophy in 1980. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and famously serves alongside Lou Holtz as an ESPN college football analyst.
* '''UsefulNotes/GeraldFord''': Was a center and linebacker (he switched, as happened more often back then) for the Michigan Wolverines in the early 1930s. He was recruited by the Lions and Packers, but decided to go to law school instead, and ended up [[UsefulNotes/ThePresidents President of the United States]].

[[folder: Defensive Players]]
* '''Dick Butkus''': Legendary All-American linebacker for Illinois, who also played center on offense, making him one of the last great two-way players in major college football. The annual award for the nation's best linebacker is named after him. Is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
* '''Pat Fitzgerald''': All-American linebacker for Northwestern in the mid-1990s, and to date, only player to win the Dick Butkus Award twice. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008. He is the current head coach for his Alma Mater.
* '''Charles Woodson''': The only defensive player to date to receive the Heisman Trophy (winning out over Peyton Manning). This was likely due to the fact that he was occasionally inserted into the offense as a wide receiver/running back, as well as being the most dominant cornerback of his time (not to mention being the team's primary kick/punt returner). The man was essentially the Swiss Army Knife of football.

[[folder: Special Teams]]
* '''Ray Guy''': Was an All-American punter for Southern Miss, and is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. The award given out annually to the nation's top punter is named after him.