How Are College Football Schedules Determined?
College football is a beloved sport in the United States, with millions of fans tuning in each week to watch their favorite teams compete. But have you ever stopped to wonder how the schedules for these games are determined? It turns out that there is a complex process involved in deciding which teams will play each other and when.
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At the heart of the college football scheduling process are the conferences that teams belong to. Each conference has its own set of rules and guidelines for scheduling games, which can make things complicated when trying to create a cohesive national schedule. Additionally, certain conferences have more power and influence than others, which can impact which teams get to play in high-profile games.
Despite these challenges, college football schedules are determined well in advance of the actual season. Athletic directors and conference officials work together to create a fair and balanced schedule, with each team playing a roughly equal number of home and away games.
The end result is a schedule that is meant to be both exciting for fans and fair for the teams involved.
How are College Football Schedules Determined?
College football schedules are determined by a complex process that involves various factors, including conference scheduling, non-conference scheduling, and TV broadcasting. Here is a breakdown of how college football schedules are determined.
Each conference has its own unique way of scheduling games. The Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC) typically play a nine or ten-game conference schedule, with each team playing all the other teams in its conference, as well as a few cross-divisional opponents.
The non-Power 5 conferences, such as the American Athletic Conference (AAC), Conference USA (C-USA), Mid-American Conference (MAC), Mountain West Conference (MWC), and Sun Belt Conference, typically play an eight-game conference schedule, with each team playing all the other teams in its conference.
Non-conference scheduling refers to the games that teams play against opponents outside of their conference. Each team is responsible for scheduling its own non-conference games, which can be challenging, especially for the smaller schools.
Power 5 teams typically play one or two non-conference games against other Power 5 teams, as well as one or two games against non-Power 5 teams. Non-Power 5 teams, on the other hand, often play several non-conference games against Power 5 teams, as these games can provide a significant source of revenue.
TV broadcasting plays a significant role in college football scheduling, as networks such as ESPN, ABC, CBS, and FOX pay billions of dollars to broadcast college football games. Networks often have input into scheduling decisions, as they want to broadcast the most appealing games to maximize viewership.
A combination of conference scheduling, non-conference scheduling, and TV broadcasting determines college football schedules. The process can be complex and challenging, but ultimately results in a schedule that provides an exciting and competitive season for college football fans.
|Conference||Number of Games|
|SEC||8 or 9|
When it comes to scheduling college football games, there are two main categories of conferences: Power 5 and Group of 5. Each conference has its own method of scheduling games.
Power 5 Conferences
The Power 5 conferences include the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC. These conferences have the most resources and attract the most attention from fans and media. As a result, their scheduling is often more complex.
Each conference has its own scheduling format. For example, the Big Ten plays nine conference games and three non-conference games, while the SEC plays eight conference games and four non-conference games. In recent years, some conferences have considered moving to a nine-game conference schedule to increase the quality of matchups.
To determine the schedule, each conference has a scheduling committee that considers factors like competitive balance, television contracts, and regional rivalries. The committee also takes into account the number of home and away games each team plays.
Group of 5 Conferences
The Group of 5 conferences includes the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, Mountain West Conference, and Sun Belt Conference. These conferences have fewer resources and less media attention, so their scheduling is often simpler.
Most Group of 5 conferences play eight conference games and four non-conference games. The scheduling process is similar to the Power 5 conferences, with a committee considering factors like competitive balance and regional rivalries.
However, Group of 5 conferences face unique challenges when it comes to scheduling. For example, they may struggle to attract high-quality non-conference opponents, which can hurt their strength of schedule and playoff chances.
In conclusion, scheduling college football games is a complex process that varies by conference. While Power 5 conferences have more resources and attract more attention, Group of 5 conferences face their own challenges.
Power 5 Conferences
In college football, the Power 5 conferences are considered the most elite conferences within the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of NCAA Division I. These conferences have provided nearly all of the national champions of the College Football Playoff era. As of the 2022-23 football season, the conferences that make up the Power 5 are:
The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is a collegiate athletic conference located in the eastern United States. The conference consists of 14 member schools, including Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, and Virginia Tech. The ACC uses a divisional format for football, with two divisions of seven teams each. Each team plays all the other teams in its division, plus a few cross-divisional games.
The Big Ten Conference (B1G) is a collegiate athletic conference located in the midwestern United States. The conference consists of 14 member schools, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, and Wisconsin. The Big Ten uses a divisional format for football, with two divisions of seven teams each. Each team plays all the other teams in its division, plus a few cross-divisional games.
The Big 12 Conference is a collegiate athletic conference located in the central United States. The conference consists of 10 member schools, including Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, and West Virginia. The Big 12 uses a round-robin format for football, with each team playing all the other teams in the conference once.
The Pac-12 Conference is a collegiate athletic conference located in the western United States. The conference consists of 12 member schools, including Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, and Washington State. The Pac-12 uses a divisional format for football, with two divisions of six teams each. Each team plays all the other teams in its division, plus a few cross-divisional games.
The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is a collegiate athletic conference located in the southeastern United States. The conference consists of 14 member schools, including Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt. The SEC uses a divisional format for football, with two divisions of seven teams each. Each team plays all the other teams in its division, plus one permanent cross-divisional opponent and two rotating cross-divisional opponents.
In summary, the Power 5 conferences are the most elite conferences in college football, and each conference has its own unique format for determining its football schedule.
The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) has a 12-year rotation among conference opponents, which means that each team will play every other team in the conference at least once every 12 years. The rotation ensures that every team has an equal opportunity to compete against each other and helps to maintain a level playing field.
In addition to the rotation, the ACC also has a scheduling model that determines which teams play each other each year. Starting in 2023, the ACC will use a 3-5-5 structure, where each team will play three primary opponents annually and face the other 10 league teams twice during the four-year cycle, once at home and once on the road.
Here are the permanent opponents for each of the ACC’s 14 schools:
|Boston College||Miami, Pitt, Syracuse|
|Clemson||Florida State, Georgia Tech, NC State|
|Duke||North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest|
|Florida State||Clemson, Miami, Notre Dame|
|Georgia Tech||Clemson, Notre Dame, NC State|
|Louisville||Notre Dame, Pitt, Virginia|
|Miami||Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech|
|North Carolina||Duke, NC State, Wake Forest|
|NC State||Clemson, Duke, North Carolina|
|Notre Dame||Florida State, Louisville, Virginia Tech|
|Pitt||Boston College, Louisville, Syracuse|
|Syracuse||Boston College, Pitt, Wake Forest|
|Virginia||Louisville, Miami, Virginia Tech|
|Virginia Tech||Miami, Notre Dame, Virginia|
The ACC also takes into account other factors when scheduling games, such as TV contracts and stadium availability. For example, Boston College is able to host Friday night but not Thursday night games due to a Chestnut Hill policy perspective.
Overall, the ACC’s scheduling model ensures that each team has a fair and balanced schedule, while also taking into account various logistical and practical considerations.
The Big Ten is a major NCAA football conference consisting of 14 teams. The Big Ten conference schedule is determined by the conference administrators council, which includes the directors of athletics and senior women administrators from all 14 member institutions.
The Big Ten football schedule typically consists of nine conference games and three non-conference games. Each team plays the other six teams in its division, as well as two teams from the opposite division. The two teams from the opposite division are rotated every two years.
The Big Ten conference has recently made changes to its scheduling model. In 2022, the conference approved a 9-game conference schedule, with select games from Saturday being adjusted to either Thursday or Friday, as in past seasons. In 2023, the conference will kick off its new media rights agreements with CBS, FOX/FS1, Big Ten Network, NBC, and NBCUniversal’s Peacock.
The Big Ten conference is known for its competitive football teams and passionate fan base. The conference has produced many successful NFL players and has a rich history of football tradition. Below is a table highlighting the Big Ten conference’s 2023 football schedule:
|Date||Home Team||Away Team|
|Sept. 2||Michigan||Penn State|
|Sept. 2||Michigan State||Rutgers|
|Sept. 2||Ohio State||Purdue|
|Sept. 9||Maryland||Michigan State|
|Sept. 9||Minnesota||Ohio State|
|Sept. 9||Penn State||Northwestern|
|Sept. 10||Wisconsin||Notre Dame|
As you can see, the Big Ten conference schedule is carefully crafted to provide a balance of conference and non-conference games, as well as a rotating schedule of opponents. The conference’s commitment to providing a competitive football schedule has made it one of the most respected and successful conferences in NCAA football.
The Big 12 is a conference that includes ten teams, each of which plays nine conference games and one non-conference game during the regular season. The conference schedule is determined by a rotating system that ensures each team plays all other conference teams at least once every two years.
In addition to the conference schedule, each team is responsible for scheduling its own non-conference games. These games can be against teams from other conferences or against lower-division opponents. However, the Big 12 has a policy that prohibits its teams from scheduling games against other Power Five conference teams in the same season as the conference schedule.
The Big 12 also has a championship game at the end of the regular season, which features the top two teams in the conference standings. The championship game is played at a neutral site and is determined by the conference’s tiebreaker rules.
Here is an example of how the Big 12 conference schedule might look like for the 2023 season:
|Week||Team 1||Team 2|
|4||Kansas State||Texas Tech|
|5||Oklahoma State||West Virginia|
|8||Texas Tech||Iowa State|
|9||West Virginia||Oklahoma State|
|11||Iowa State||Kansas State|
|13||Texas Tech||Oklahoma State|
Overall, the Big 12’s scheduling system ensures that each team plays a balanced schedule and that every conference game is meaningful.
The Pac-12 is a collegiate athletic conference that includes 12 universities located in the Western United States. The conference is known for its strong football programs, with several teams regularly appearing in national rankings.
The Pac-12 football schedule is determined through a complex process that involves multiple factors, including conference rules, television contracts, and the preferences of individual schools. In general, the conference aims to create a schedule that is balanced and fair, with each team playing nine conference games and three non-conference games.
One factor that can influence the Pac-12 football schedule is the conference’s divisional alignment. The conference is divided into two divisions, the North and the South, with six teams in each division. Each team plays all the other teams in its division, as well as four teams from the other division. This means that some teams will have easier schedules than others, depending on the strength of their division and the teams they are matched up against from the other division.
Another factor that can affect the Pac-12 football schedule is television contracts. The conference has agreements with several television networks, including ESPN, Fox, and Pac-12 Network, which give these networks the rights to broadcast certain games. These contracts can impact the scheduling of games, as networks may request certain matchups or time slots.
Overall, the Pac-12 football schedule is determined through a collaborative process involving conference officials, athletic directors, and individual schools. The goal is to create a schedule that is balanced, fair, and appealing to fans and television networks alike.
|North||California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington, Washington State|
|South||Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, UCLA, USC, Utah|
The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is one of the most popular conferences in college football, consisting of 14 teams. The conference is divided into two divisions: East and West. Each team plays eight conference games, six against division opponents and two against non-division opponents.
Determining the conference schedule has been a topic of discussion in recent years. In 2022, the SEC announced that it would stick with its current scheduling model of eight conference games per season. This means that each team has one permanent rival and seven rotating opponents.
The SEC has been considering a nine-game conference schedule, which would allow for more cross-divisional matchups. However, this model could potentially eliminate some traditional rivalries.
Here is an example of how a nine-game SEC conference schedule could look:
|Team||Permanent Rival||Rotating Opponents|
|Alabama||Auburn||Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt|
|Auburn||Alabama||Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss|
|Florida||Georgia||Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M|
|Georgia||Florida||Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee|
|Kentucky||Tennessee||Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M|
|LSU||Texas A&M||Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State, Ole Miss|
|Mississippi State||Ole Miss||Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M|
|Missouri||Arkansas||Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee|
|Ole Miss||Mississippi State||Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M|
|South Carolina||Clemson||Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee|
|Tennessee||Kentucky||Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt|
|Texas A&M||LSU||Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State, South Carolina|
|Vanderbilt||Tennessee||Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Ole Miss|
Overall, the SEC scheduling format is designed to preserve traditional rivalries while also allowing for some variation in opponents each year. The conference will continue to evaluate its scheduling model to ensure that it meets the needs of its teams and fans.
Group of 5 Conferences
The Group of Five (G5) conferences are a collection of five of the ten conferences in NCAA Division I FBS. The other five FBS conferences are informally known as the Power Five. In addition, a number of schools compete in FBS as independents in football. The terms Group of Five and Power Five are not formally defined by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), but are used as shorthand to distinguish between FBS conferences and schools.
The G5 conferences are the American Athletic Conference (AAC), Conference USA (C-USA), Mid-American Conference (MAC), Mountain West Conference (MWC), and Sun Belt Conference. These conferences are considered to be at a disadvantage compared to the Power Five conferences due to factors such as lower revenues, less media exposure, and fewer opportunities to play high-profile non-conference games.
One of the challenges that the G5 conferences face is scheduling. They often struggle to schedule games against high-profile opponents, which can hurt their chances of making it into major bowl games and the College Football Playoff. As a result, G5 teams often end up playing each other in conference play or scheduling games against lower-profile opponents.
To illustrate this point, let’s look at the 2022 preseason projections for Conference USA, based on the consensus preseason rankings and a 240,000 cycle Monte Carlo simulation of the full college football season. The projections indicate that the top teams in the conference are expected to have winning records, but they are not projected to be among the top teams in the country. This highlights the challenge that G5 teams face in trying to compete with the Power Five teams.
Despite these challenges, G5 teams have had success in recent years. In 2017, the University of Central Florida went undefeated and claimed a national championship, although it was not recognized by the College Football Playoff system. In 2020, the Cincinnati Bearcats finished the regular season undefeated and earned a spot in the Peach Bowl, where they narrowly lost to the University of Georgia. These successes demonstrate that G5 teams can compete at a high level, even if they face significant obstacles in doing so.
When it comes to non-conference scheduling, college football teams have a lot of factors to consider. They want to schedule games that will help them prepare for conference play, but also want to schedule games that will attract fans and generate revenue. In this section, we will look at the philosophy and process behind non-conference scheduling.
The philosophy behind non-conference scheduling varies from team to team. Some teams prefer to schedule weaker opponents to give their players an easier start to the season and build confidence. Other teams prefer to schedule tough opponents to prepare for the rigors of conference play. Additionally, teams may schedule games against local rivals or teams with large fan bases to generate revenue and excitement.
The process of non-conference scheduling typically begins several years in advance. Teams will reach out to potential opponents to gauge interest and availability. Once a matchup has been agreed upon, the teams will work together to determine the date, time, and location of the game.
One challenge with non-conference scheduling is that teams need to balance their schedules to ensure they have enough home games to generate revenue and keep their fans happy. Additionally, teams need to ensure they are not overloading their schedules with too many tough opponents, as this could hurt their chances of making it to a bowl game.
To help balance their schedules, some teams will use a scheduling model that alternates between tough and easy opponents each year. For example, a team may schedule one tough non-conference opponent one year, followed by two easier opponents the next year.
Overall, non-conference scheduling is a complex process that requires careful planning and consideration. Teams must balance their desire to prepare for conference play with their need to generate revenue and keep their fans happy. By using a strategic scheduling philosophy and process, teams can create schedules that set them up for success both on and off the field.
One of the most important aspects of college football scheduling is the philosophy behind it. Each program has its own approach to scheduling, and this can have a significant impact on the team’s success.
Some programs prefer to schedule tough non-conference opponents to prepare their team for conference play. Others opt for weaker opponents to boost their win-loss record and increase their chances of making it to a bowl game.
The decision to schedule tough or weak opponents can also depend on the team’s overall strength and the current state of the program. A weaker team may choose to schedule easier opponents to build confidence and morale, while a strong team may opt for tougher opponents to prove their dominance.
Another important factor in scheduling philosophy is the balance between home and away games. Teams typically aim for a balance between home and away games to ensure fair competition and to give their fans an equal chance to see their team play.
However, some programs may choose to schedule more home games to give their team an advantage, while others may opt for more away games to challenge their team and improve their performance on the road.
Ultimately, the scheduling philosophy of a program can have a significant impact on its success. A well-planned and balanced schedule can help a team prepare for conference play and increase its chances of making it to a bowl game, while a poorly planned schedule can lead to a disappointing season.
Here is an example table that highlights the scheduling philosophy of some major college football programs:
|Program||Non-Conference Opponents||Home/Away Balance|
|Alabama||Typically schedules tough opponents||Balances home and away games|
|Clemson||Mix of tough and weaker opponents||Schedules more home games|
|Ohio State||Typically schedules weaker opponents||Balances home and away games|
|Notre Dame||Mix of tough and weaker opponents||Schedules more away games|
The process of determining college football schedules is a complex one that involves many moving parts. Three factors play a significant role in the scheduling process: pre-existing contracts, open dates, and geographic considerations.
Pre-existing contracts are agreements between two schools to play each other on a specific date. These contracts can be signed years in advance and can be difficult to change. For example, the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators have a pre-existing contract to play each other in Jacksonville, Florida, every year until 2025. The game is known as the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” and is a highly anticipated matchup each year.
Open dates are dates on a team’s schedule that do not have a game scheduled. These open dates can be used to schedule non-conference opponents or to rest and recover from previous games. Coaches often try to schedule weaker opponents during open dates to give their team a chance to recover and prepare for tougher opponents.
Geographic considerations play a significant role in the scheduling process. Teams often try to schedule opponents that are geographically close to them to reduce travel costs and minimize time away from classes. For example, the University of Florida often schedules non-conference opponents from nearby states like Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama.
To illustrate the importance of geographic considerations, let’s take a look at the 2025 schedules for Georgia and Florida. Both teams have open dates on November 8th and November 22nd. Georgia has scheduled non-conference opponents for both dates, while Florida has scheduled an SEC opponent for November 8th and a non-conference opponent for November 22nd. This could be due to Florida’s desire to minimize travel costs by scheduling a nearby opponent for the SEC matchup.
|November 8th||Non-Conference Opponent||SEC Opponent|
|November 22nd||Non-Conference Opponent||Non-Conference Opponent|
In conclusion, the scheduling process for college football is a complex one that involves many factors. Pre-existing contracts, open dates, and geographic considerations all play a significant role in determining a team’s schedule. Coaches and athletic directors must carefully consider each factor to create a balanced and competitive schedule for their team.
In conclusion, college football schedules are determined by a variety of factors, including conference requirements, non-conference agreements, and television networks. The College Football Playoff rankings also play a significant role in determining which teams get featured in prime-time matchups.
The college football season typically runs from late August to early January, with teams playing anywhere from 8 to 12 games. Each team plays an equal number of home and road games, but the specific dates and opponents are determined by a complex scheduling process.
Television networks, such as ESPN and Fox, have a significant influence on college football schedules. They pay billions of dollars for the rights to broadcast games and have a say in which matchups get featured on their networks. This often leads to marquee matchups being scheduled for prime-time slots, such as Saturday night games on ABC or ESPN.
The College Football Playoff rankings have also changed the way schedules are determined. Teams now focus on strength of schedule, as a weak schedule can hurt a team’s chances of making the playoff. As a result, teams are more likely to schedule tough non-conference opponents to boost their resume.
Overall, the process of determining college football schedules is complex and involves many different entities. However, by understanding the factors that go into scheduling, fans can better appreciate the matchups they see on TV and the games they attend in person.
|Entity||Role in determining schedules|
|Conference requirements||Dictate number of conference games|
|Non-conference agreements||Determine non-conference opponents|
|Television networks||Have a say in which matchups get featured|
|College Football Playoff rankings||Teams focus on strength of schedule to boost playoff chances|