In just a few weeks, the 2017 College Football season will get underway with five games taking place on Saturday August 26th (including Stanford vs Rice in Sydney) before the first full weekend of action a week later.
As in recent seasons, I'll be doing a series of blogs for OLBG, looking at providing some winning bets throughout the season and plenty of insight into the National Championship contenders and those players who'll be lighting up your television screens on Sunday night in the NFL over future seasons.
Before I get into my preview blogs, I wanted to give a quick preview as to the makeup of College Football and how they navigate the minefield to get to a National Champion come January.
College Football is split into divisions with the top level, and the one which gets almost all the coverage, is the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision). Below that, is the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision).
The FCS contains much smaller colleges than the FBS and betting is usually only available on FCS matches during their end of season playoffs. One thing to notice is that a lot of FBS teams schedule a game against an FCS team during the regular season, often referred to as a ‘cupcake' (a game which the FBS school are expected to win comfortably) where spreads as high as 40 points are not uncommon.
It can be worth doing your homework on these FCS schools (a bit of digging is usually required) as these games can often provide a lot of value, for example, North Dakota State have won six straight games against FBS schools, although they've got the FBS running scared as they don't have another game scheduled until 2020.
There are 130 schools in the FBS, split into ten conferences with four schools who have no conference affiliation and are classed as Independents.
The conferences are commonly known as the Power Five and the Group of Five. The Power Five are the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and the SEC whilst the Group of Five are the AAC, Conference USA, MAC, MWC and Sun Belt.
All the conferences bar the Big 12 and Sun Belt are split into two divisions with the division winners playing a conference championship game at the beginning of December. Despite not being split into divisions, the Big 12 will also host a conference championship game between the top two teams in the conference in the hopes that it will boost the conference's chances to have a team win the National title.
Teams play a twelve game regular season schedule, with conferences varying between either eight or nine conference games, with the rest non-conference.
The AP Poll
The AP (Associated Press) Poll is a national institution, and is a yardstick for the public to see who the best teams in college football are. It's released on Sunday evening each week during the season and is compiled by 65 sportswriters and broadcasters.
Each one gives their top 25 teams, with 25 points awarded to the 1st placed team, 24 to the 2nd etc. The points are then totalled and an overall AP poll is produced.
The Playoff Committee
Since 2014, College Football has had a playoff to help determine the National Champion. The playoff sees the top four teams compete in two of the New Year's Six bowl games, with the winners moving onto the National Championship.
Whilst the AP Poll still has relevance during the season, the playoff rankings are what it's all about, and these are determined by a 13 strong committee who get together in a room, watch a bunch of football, and then from the halfway point of the season onwards, let everyone know their top 25, with the final playoff rankings, after the conference championship games have been played, determining the top four teams who move onto the playoffs.
The first committee rankings of 2017 are released on October 31st, with the end of season rankings coming on Selection Sunday which is December 3rd.
The ultimate goal for the FBS schools is to win the National Championship, but for a lot of teams, just getting to a Bowl game at the end of the season can represent success, and is often the best they can hope for.
There are 40 Bowl games in total, including the National Championship, meaning that 78 of the 130 FBS schools will get to play an end of season finale with a chance to win a trophy.
Generally speaking, a team will get to play in a bowl game if they win six games, but with 41 bowl games in 2016, two teams who won just five games got to play a bowl game, and a record 20 teams without a winning record got a chance to play.
The bowl games have tie-ins with various conferences, for example the New Orleans Bowl is played between the Sun Belt and Conference USA and the Boca Raton Bowl is played between the AAC and Conference USA.
Amongst the bowl games, we have the New Year's Six. These are the biggest bowl games, and play host to the playoff semi-finals on a rotational basis.
The six bowl games are the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Peach Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.
In 2017, the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl will act as the playoff semi-finals and the top four teams as determined by the playoff committee will play in these two Bowls, with the winners facing off in Atlanta on January 8th 2018 for the National Championship.
2017 Season Key Dates
August 26th: Start of the season
October 31st: First playoff committee rankings are released
December 1st �" December 2nd: Conference Title Games
December 3rd: Selection Sunday (Bowl games and Playoff semi-finals are announced)
December 9th: 118th Army-Navy game
December 16th: First Bowl game
January 1st: Playoff Semi-Finals
January 8th: National Championship
Check out the American Football forum for more discussion and picks