Guest writer Paul Knight offers us an introduction to NCAA Football.
We are less than a week away from the razzamatazz of the NFL Draft where around 230 of the best college football players will have their dreams of playing on a Sunday realised. Some will defy expectation and be drafted higher than expected and some will be disappointed and fall lower than expected and for some they will not be drafted at all and will hope to be selected as a free agent after the draft. Or they will try to continue a path to the NFL via the CFL or Arena leagues. This three day event will have wall to wall TV, news and internet coverage and will make some of us older NFL fans remember when this used to be a 12 round event with little fanfare over this side of the pond, and you had to wait for the weekly First Down paper to be published to see who your team had drafted. My how times have changed. We will all be hoping our favourite team selects the right player and unearths a late round gem. And hoping and praying we don’t draft a 1st round bust. Yes I’m looking at you Cleveland.
If you have ever wondered where all of these players come from and why there is such hype and hysteria surrounding them, I encourage you to watch NCAA College Football this season. Every Saturday you can watch at least 3 live games on ESPN if you have BT sport or via their website and you can discover next season’s top draft picks and future NFL stars. There will also be midweek games and review shows and you also get the best sports show on TV the College Gameday Live show which is on every Saturday afternoon before the first live game.
If you are new to college football or wonder what all the fuss is about, below is my guide to help you newbie’s understand and hopefully watch and appreciate College Football.
NCAA College Football is made up of 4 divisions. The main Division I-A is split into 10 conferences consisting of 124 teams and there are also 4 Independent teams (Notre Dame, BYU, Army and UMASS) who are not affiliated with any conference. These 10 conferences are split into two main camps. The Power 5 conferences consisting of the SEC, ACC, Big 10, Pac 12 and Big 12 where all the bigger colleges play and where the National title contenders usually come from. The other conferences otherwise referred to as The Group Of 5 consist of the AAC, MAC, Mountain West, Conference USA and Sun Belt. The top ranking conference champion from these 5 will get to play in one of The New Year’s Six Bowls. Notre Dame from the Independent colleges and maybe BYU if they go through the season unbeaten would have a chance to play in one of these New Year’s Six bowl games or the National title game.
The regular season is played from September to November and will consist of 12 regular season games and then most conferences will have a championship game to decide their conference champions. Then from December to the beginning of January they have their bowl season, where around 35 bowl games are played. Teams have to have won 6 games to qualify for a bowl game. To decide which teams will compete for the National Championship a playoff committee was formed and they rank the teams week to week and the top 4 ranked teams at the end of the season will play a semi final in one of the New Year’s Six bowls where the No 1 will play No 4 and No 2 will play No 3 and then the 2 winners will play in the National Championship game. The last two National Championship games have been played by Alabama and Clemson, each team having won one apiece with Clemson winning this year. Their star quarterback DeShaun Watson played incredibly well in both games, so will he be the 1st qb taken in this year’s draft?
To give you an idea of how big and popular college football is in the USA at least 20 of the stadiums hold over 80,000 fans which is more than any Premiership stadium and most of the NFL stadiums. Eight teams have stadiums that hold over 100,000 people and usually sell out. They are in order of size – Texas, Alabama, LSU, Tennessee, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Penn State and the biggest stadium seating 109,901 fans is Michigan and not surprisingly is nicknamed The Big House.
The other 3 Divisions, I,II & III are also split into conferences and they like the NFL and unlike Division I-A have playoffs after the regular season and knock out games leading up to the championship games. These championship games are also usually shown on ESPN and the quality especially the Division I standard is very good. The players from these 3 Divisions also have the chance of being drafted, though in this case it’s a small chance, but some do end in mini camps competing for roster spots. There have been some notable players, and even some who have ended up Hall of Famers from these divisions. Players like Kurt Warner, Phil Simms, Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, Andre Reed, Jimmy Smith, Terrell Owens, Brian Westbrook, Larry Allen, Michael Strahan and Rodney Harrison.
I hope you will be tempted to watch this upcoming season and hopefully enjoy the games and atmosphere that makes college football in my opinion a lot more fun than the No Fun League.