The route to winning a national championship isn’t straightforward when 130 teams play across 10 conferences in the top tier of college football.
Historically, the national champion was voted for via the AP (Associated Press) poll which threw up a huge amount of controversy and debate. Teams were judged on their performance against other ranked opponents, whether the conference they played in had a higher calibre of team than others and also the strength of their overall schedule - games against teams within their conference and also outside of it.
Confusing, isn’t it?
Thankfully, the advent of the CFP (College Football Playoff) in 2014 gave a long overdue and much needed structure to the end of the season, and finally, the opportunity to celebrate a worthy national champion. A 13-member selection committee made up typically of former players, coaches and university athletic directors will select and seed the four teams who take part in the CFP. The AP Top 25 poll plays a big part in this selection. The four teams then play a classic semi-final format – No 1 plays No 4 and No 2 plays No 3, both at neutral venues. The winners meet to decide the national championship.
The AP poll rankings are decided by 65 sporting journalists – writers and broadcasters – who will provide their own top 25 ranking, giving the top team 25 points down to one point for the 25th team. The results are then combined to produce a national ranking, produced every Sunday during the season, prior to which they will release a preseason ranking list.
AP (Associated Press) recently released their Preseason Top 25:
1. Clemson next game Sept 12th @ Wake Forest
2. Ohio State postponed (Big 10 conference season tbc)
3. Alabama Sept 26th @ Missouri
4. Georgia Sept 26th @ Arkansas
5. Oklahoma Sept 12th vs. Missouri State
6. LSU Sept 26th vs. Mississippi State
7. Penn State postponed (Big 10 conference tbc)
8. Florida Sept 26th @ Mississippi (Ole Miss)
9. Oregon postponed (Pac-12 season tbc)
10. Notre Dame Sept 12th vs. Duke
11. Auburn Sept 26th vs. Kentucky
12. Wisconsin postponed (Big 10 conference tbc)
13. Texas A&M Sept 26th vs. Vanderbilt
14. Texas Sept 12th vs. UTEP
15.Oklahoma State Sept 12th vs. Tulsa
16. Michigan postponed (Big 10 conference tbc)
17. USC postponed (Pac-12 season tbc)
18. North Carolina Sept 12th vs. Syracuse
19. Minnesota postponed (Big 10 conference tbc)
20. Cincinnati Sept 19th vs. Austin Peay
21. UCF Sept 19th @ Georgia Tech
22. Utah postponed (Pac-12 season tbc)
23. Iowa State Sept 12th vs. Louisiana
24. Iowa postponed (Big 10 conference tbc)
25. Tennessee Sept 26th vs. South Carolina
The first Power 5 conference to play will be the ACC. Teams in this conference will have 10 conference games and one non-conference matchup (against a team outside the conference). The University of Miami kick off as the first team in action as they host UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham) on Thursday 10th September. No 1 Clemson, the preseason favourites and QB Trevor Lawrence, the outstanding favourite to lift the Heisman trophy as college football’s best player, travel to Wake Forest on 12th September.
The Big 12 are due to start the same weekend. All Big 12 teams kick off with games against a non-conference opponent. No 5 Oklahoma host Missouri State while No 14 Texas host UTEP (University of Texas El Paso) and the other all Texas showdown sees TCU (Texas Christian University) host Southern Methodist University.
The SEC, arguably the strongest conference, start two weeks later, on 26th September. SEC teams will have conference only matches and a bye week in their revamped season. Perennial national championship contenders Alabama host Missouri in their opening game and defending champions LSU travel to Mississippi State where new Head Coach Mike Leach marshals his first game since joining from Washington State. Mississippi’s other new Head Coach, the colourful Lane Kiffin, heads back to the Sunshine State as Ole Miss face a tricky opener at No 8 Florida. One of the favourites to make the College Football Playoff, No 4 Georgia, host Arkansas.
Of the two other Power 5 conferences, the Big 10 are rumoured to be looking at a late fall start which may see them play some games in domed stadiums if the season extends into the bitter January and February months. The Pac-12 are in talks about holding a shorter season, starting in January but nothing confirmed at time of writing.
In the next couple of weeks, Saturdays Feed My Soul will be posting season previews for each of the three Power 5 conferences kicking off in September. First up, the ACC…