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If you ever wondered how a college football schedule gets established, why certain TV channels show specific conferences and how the schedule impacts college football betting, here is everything you need to know.
NCAAF TV Schedule
Unlike the NFL, where only a few providers show games, the college football TV schedule spans a plethora of channels that air games ever week. Most games are played on Saturday starting at noon ET, but college football has expanded over the last few years, with games now on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. Here is a breakdown of which national networks show which conference games:
ABC: ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC and multiple bowl games
CBS: SEC, Mountain West, and multiple bowl games
FOX: Big 12, Big Ten, Mountain West, Pac-12 and multiple bowl games
NBC: Notre Dame
ESPN: ACC, American, Big 12, BYU, MAC, PAC-12, SEC, SunBelt and multiple bowl games
Several other stations will carry scheduled games, such as the ACC Network, Big Ten Network, CBS Sports, FOX Sports 1, Pac-12 Network, SEC Network and so many more regional networks.
ABC typically has the “primetime” game of the week that starts sometime between 7:30-8:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. That game usually features two “ranked” teams or the most intriguing game of the week. In 2020, that included SEC games if they were broadcast on ESPN rather than ABC.
The Mid-American Conference threw a wrinkle into the traditional fall Saturday schedule by adopting a mid-week slate over the last few years, which meant broadcast games frequently on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. While games are still played on Saturdays later in the fall, nothing beats college football during the middle of the week when there is little other betting action to be had those days.
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When Do Bowl Games Start to Air?
Typically, bowl games begin in mid December and run through the national title game in early January. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, bowl games for the 2020 season will begin on Dec. 19, 2020, and run through the National Championship game on Jan. 11, 2021. However, these dates are always subject to change.
When Does the College Football Playoff Begin?
The College Football Playoff begins with the semifinals in two of the New Year’s Six bowls (they rotate) and culminate a little more than a week later with the national title game. The final four teams for the 2020-21 College Football Playoff will be announced on Dec. 20, 2020. The semifinals will be played on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2021, and feature games at the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. The title game is on Jan. 11.
Why College Football Scheduling Matters
Unlike every other sport, who does and doesn't make the playoffs is up to a group of voters and that means every game is vital as a single loss early in the fall can eliminate a team from contention. Even an undefeated team doesn't automatically make the playoffs as voters will ding a school if its schedule is deemed too "soft."
Scheduling in college football matters for non playoff contenders as well as strength of victories and losses can determine what bowl game a team gets invited to at the end of the season – or if it gets invited at all.
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How College Football Schedules are Created
In the NFL, a set schedule is made each year and 14 of the 16 opponents are already decided years in advance. That’s not the case in college football as teams have a lot of say over their own schedule. In most seasons, teams play eight (or even nine) conference games with the number of home and road games usually split down the middle.
The other three to four non-conference games are set by the school. Often, schools have a set schedule for non-conference games, such as Iowa vs. Iowa State or Notre Dame vs. USC. Teams are allowed to schedule these games far in advance, and it's up to the school to decide how tough of an opponent they want to schedule for the upcoming season.
NCAAF Schedule FAQs
When are College Football Schedules typically released?
Most of the time, college football schedules are released a year in advance, with games changing and added a few months before the first game kicks off. Game times and the college football TV schedule can change by the week.
How many games does each college football team typically play?
Most teams play between 13-14 games each season, but that can vary from conference to conference and by team to team. Teams generally will play a minimum of 12 games.
How many conference games does each team typically play?
The Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 play nine conference games per year, while the SEC and ACC play eight. These games can vary by season and can change due to unforeseen circumstances.
How long does the regular season last?
The College Football season typically starts in late August or early September and runs to the end of November and sometimes into December with conference title games. Bowl games are often played from mid December until the end of December and the final game of the season usually is played a couple of weeks into January.
What are the Top College Football Bowl Games?
- Rose Bowl (Pasadena, California)
- Orange Bowl (Miami Gardens, Florida)
- Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, Louisiana)
- Cotton Bowl (Arlington, Texas)
- Peach Bowl (Atlanta, Georgia)
- Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, Arizona)
These six bowl games rotate every year as two will host the CFP semifinal games. Other notable bowl games include the Sun Bowl, Gator Bowl, Citrus Bowl, Liberty Bowl and Outback Bowl.