As explained in our American Football post, football is immensely popular in the United States, so naturally college football has an enormous audience as well. College football is the sport of American Football played with student athletes from colleges and universities across the United States. Some student athletes get scholarships from their schools to play sports, but they are not allowed to make money from competing. Student athletes and their coaches play to bring notability and pride to their schools.
The rules are generally consistent with the National Football League (NFL), the major U.S. professional football league, but there are notable differences. For example, in college football, a pass is completed when a receiver catches the ball and one foot lands within the bounds of the field. In the NFL, both of the receivers' feet must land inbounds. If a college football player falls on the ground without being touched, he is considered down and the play is over. In the NFL, the player must be touched while on the ground or he can always get back up and continue to advance the ball. The extra point in college football is tried from the three-yard line. In the NFL, the extra points after a touchdown are tried from the two-yard line.
College Football teams are divided into divisions. The Division I schools are the most prominent and get the most money and airtime from television broadcasts. In order to be eligible for Division I status, a school is required provide equal access for both men's and women's sports. For example, schools are required to have seven sports for men and seven for women or six for men and eight for women, with at least two team sports for each gender. They must also give out a certain number of scholarships for each sport that they provide.
Division II schools are considered the intermediate level. These schools are generally smaller universities or private colleges who choose not to fund sports in the same manner that the Division I schools do. Division II teams do give out sports scholarships but are only allowed to give about half as many scholarships as the Division I schools.
Division III schools may field teams but do not offer athletic scholarships so they do not attract athletes who are as talented.
At each level, whether it is Division I, II, or III, the teams are separated into regional conferences. For example, teams in the Southeastern United States, play in what is called the Southeast Conference (SEC). The top teams in the South East will play their own championship game and then play a Conference Championship. Conference Championship games are called Bowl games, most likely called Bowl games because the stadiums where they play are bowl shaped.
Bowl Championship Series - A collection of football championship games for Division I schools. One of these games is chosen to be the national championship game for the entire nation. The National Championship is not played in the same stadium every year. The game alternates between the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona and the Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Florida.
The competitors for bowl games are selected through a combination of polls by sports writers and computer selection based on a team's record and the record of the other teams that were played. Starting with the 2014 season, however, college football will move into a playoff tournament to determine its national champion. A committee will select which teams get to participate in the playoffs and each Bowl Game is considered a semifinal. The top teams will then go play for the National Championship.
Apart from the Championship games, fans show up in huge numbers to see teams play their major rivals. For example, Notre Dame, a major school in Indiana, and the University of Michigan have a tense, long-standing rivalry. When those teams meet, thousands of fans travel from across the country and millions more tune in at home to watch, even if they are only playing a regular season game. Miami University and the University of Florida in Gainesville have a similar rivalry.
Attending sporting events is a great way to get involved with the local culture in your town. College Football in particular is special because of how enthusiastic the games can become. Students, school alumni, and locals make up the milieu of fans for college football teams across the country. In some cities, the professional football teams are even dwarfed in popularity by the college teams!