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Old 10.12.2010, 12:50 PM
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mde203 mde203 is offline
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There's a hell of a lot to know! I'll give it a go, get things started and then people can add to it as they see fit...

College football is split into the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) and FCS (Football Conference Subdivision) mainly (as well as Division II and Division III), with the FBS the area that most people pay attention to as that is the highest standard. In the FBS there are 120 colleges, who play in 11 conferences:

The Big 10 (which will have 12 teams from next year!)
The Big 12 (which will have 10 teams fro next year)
The Pac-10 (which will become the Pac-12)
The Big East
The South-Eastern Conference
The Atlantic Coast Conference

Those are the main 6, which all have automatic BCS (Bowl Championship Series) bids- more on that later, and there are also five other, smaller conferences:

The Mountain West Conference
The Western Athletic Conference
The Sun-Belt Conference
The Mid-American Conference
Conference-USA

The number of teams in each varies, but 10 to 12 is the norm. There are also teams such as Army, Navy and Notre Dame who are not a part of any conference.

The Bowl Championship Series is the system for determining a national champion, as well as for putting teams into other prestigious bowls. The BCS bowls are:

The Rose Bowl
The Fiesta Bowl
The Sugar Bowl
The Orange Bowl
The National Championship Game

Which teams get into these Bowl games are determined by which teams win the 6 BCS conferences, who each get a bowl berth, as well as 6 other teams, with a maximum of two per conference. The other determinant is the BCS ranking of each team. The BCS rankings are determined by a poll of coaches as well as computer rankings and another poll.

The top two teams in the BCS rankings go into the National Championship Game, and the other bowls select their participants from the rest of the teams who are eligible. Some bowls have ties to certain conferences, so the winner of a conference will go to a certain bowl game. Teams from non-BCS conferences can qualify if they win their conference and finish in the top 12 in the BCS rankings. For one of these see TCU going into the Rose Bowl this year.

The rest of the bowl games are traditional end of season games, which have ties to certain conferences or teams, and provide teams who finish with a record better than .500 a big day out.

Before the BCS came in in the 1990s, the national champion was the team who finished top of the polls- with the Associated Press poll tending to carry the most weight. The AP poll is no longer a part of the BCS rankings as they refuse to name the BCS national champion as their number one automatically.

There's a lot to learn, but you'll get there in the end. I've probably just confused you even more, so if you have any more questions then stick them down here and I or others will answer them for you. There are a lot of knowledgeable people on this part of the forum, and all of them tend to be friendly and welcoming, so people will always try to answer any questions you have.

Also, as a niner fan, you might want to check out Stanford as your team if you want to stick in the area.
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