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Choosing a football college

Football colleges explained by college football recruiting experts at NCSA

College football is one of the world's most popular sports. A football college plays in eight of the world's nine largest stadiums, and several of them garne average attendances of 100,000 or more fans per game. Additionally, hundreds of football colleges of various sizes located throughout the country are cheered on by thousands of alumni, current students, and fans on Saturdays every fall

Almost eveny DI and DII football college offers football scholarships, but note that many other colleges do not. The majority of football colleges that compete in Division I football, and Division II football and can offer scholarships. None of those that that comprise the membership of Division III football can. However, keep in mind that D III football colleges don't offer any scholarships but often provide a considerable amount of financial aid to players.

How many college football teams are there? Here's a list of how many plays at each level of the sport:

  • NCAA Division I – Football Bowl Subdivision: 120 colleges
  • NCAA Division I – Football Championship Subdivision: 118 colleges
  • NCAA Division II: 157 colleges
  • NCAA Division III: 239 colleges
  • NAIA: 91 colleges
  • Junior College: 69 colleges

How many scholarships per division in college football? Here's a list of the maximum that is allowed per squad at each of the levels. Some of these schools offer fewer than the peak.

  • NCAA Division I – Football Bowl Subdivision: 85 scholarships
  • NCAA Division I – Football Championship Subdivision: 63 scholarships
  • NCAA Division II: 36 scholarships
  • NCAA Division III: 0 scholarships
  • NAIA: 24 scholarships
  • Junior College: 85 scholarships

NCAA football

The NCAA became officially established in 1906 in response to a need to organize and oversee the sport. It was not until 1973 that it divided into Division I football, Division II football and Division III football. Five years later, it further divided into I-A and I-AA, which were renamed FBS and FCS in 2006.

Those that compete in college football recruiting at the highest level are generally FBS schools, but there are exceptions. For example, North Dakota State, an FCS university, has defeated FBS opposition multiple times over the years, including a famous win over No. 13 Iowa in 2016, and there are numerous other examples of schools playing better or not as well than what would otherwise be expected for their level.

Other than skill level, the main difference amongst universities that are in Division I football is that FBS schools compete for bowl games or a spot in the four-school national playoff while FCS universities generally focus on its 24-team national championship tournament although one FCS bowl game, the Celebration Bowl, is played too. The Division II football season and the Division III football campaign both end in national tournaments.

Also note that college football recruiting is competitive in the Division II and III ranks as well and that, should you play, for example, Division III football, you should generally expect a considerable step up from high school football.

NAIA football

NAIA football is competitive as well with most placing the skill levels of these football colleges at between NCAA Division II and III. NAIA football gets played nationally. Although many of the NAIA football universities are in the country's Heartland, others situate in places as varied as Florida, Texas, and Oregon.

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Even though the NAIA does subdivide into Division I and II for the sport of basketball, it does not do so in any other sport, including football. Moreover, at the end of every NAIA football season, a national tournament is held with the championship game, like those in the NCAA ranks, played at a predetermined neutral site.

NAIA football is organized differently than NCAA football in several ways. One difference is that schools and conferences enjoy more flexibility, as far as things like rules and budgets go. As a result of this flexibility, they can more easily do what works for them as opposed to needing to conform to NCAA football rules, which may not fit their needs as well. Football recruiting is also different.

Of course, football college recruiting rules must still be followed, but NAIA football schools tend to need to adhere to regulations that are not quite as intricate and that allow for more pleasant experiences with the coaching staffs than is possible in the NCAA ranks.

Junior colleges

Junior colleges are two-year schools, and these are perfect places to play for many. Some may need to improve their academic credentials while others want to focus on improving physically. In both cases, the goal is often to move on to a four-year university for their final two seasons.

Two separate organizations, the NJCAA, and the CCCAA, oversee junior college ball, and they sponsor different postseason competitions for their best squads while bowl games are played by some schools as well. NJCAA schools are located across the country with many in Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi and New York while every CCCAA school is California-based.

Football college team rankings

There are a variety of college football rankings with the most significant college football top 25 being the College Football Playoff rankings. This ranking is what is used to determine which four schools will compete for an FBS national title. Note that the NCAA's website also publishes a variety of other NCAA rankings for schools at every level.

Throughout history, including before the formation of a national championship game in 1998, Alabama has claimed the most national titles while a list of powerhouse teams also includes:

  • Notre Dame
  • Oklahoma
  • USC
  • Ohio State
  • Miami
  • Nebraska

When do college football rankings come out? The preseason ones are released a week or so before the schools starting their college football schedules. When does college football start? A week or two before Labor Day weekend. Throughout the season, updated college football rankings are usually released on Mondays.

Several other types of rankings exist too. One that ESPN regularly updates that ranks every FBS football college is its Football Power Index (FPI).

College football playoffs

At the FBS level, the College Football Playoff committee decides on the four national semifinal teams. Winning a conference championship doesn't guarantee a spot as committee members select the four best football colleges that season based on the information that they have available to them.

The other NCAA levels of football as well as the NAIA guarantee spots for the champions of most of their conferences and then select at-large college football teams to round out their tournament selections. Football playoff fields range in size from the four-team FBS playoff system to the 32 college football teams that play in the Division III college football playoffs.

Read about Football colleges explained by college football recruiting experts at NCSA.

When is the college football championship? The FBS college football championship contest takes place on a Monday in the first half of January. The FSC college football championship game is generally played a couple of days before then. The rest of the college football championship tilts are played in December.

Football college playoffs always consist of single-elimination formats in that football college teams must win to advance to the next round or, in the case of the final round, claim the national title. A loss ends their season.

College football scores and schedules

Several sources exist for checking out a team's schedule and results. One is ESPN while the best source is that school's official athletics website as this is more regularly updated and is the official one. The NCAA website is an excellent resource for scores. Another option is Sports-Reference, which is also a useful resource for looking over college football stats for a variety of teams and players.

College football news

Fortunately, with this sport being so popular, a significant number of resources provide regular news on it. In addition to ESPN and the NCAA's website, this list also includes but is not limited to:

Football college recruits

The interest in college football recruiting is significant too, and, as a result, several resources report on it in depth throughout the year. A couple of the best ones are Rivals.com and 247Sports.com.

Football college recruiting

What can you do to present yourself as one of the better football college recruits about others that these coaching staffs are considering? There are several factors. Of course, you want to perform at a high level relative to players and teams that you're competing with. Also, note that every university, as well as every football college coaching staff, places a high emphasis on academic skills so that you can also fit in well as far as the academic side of your time at the school goes.

However, that is not all. In nearly all cases, you need to also be proactive in the college football recruiting process. Some of the things that you should do are introduce yourself to the coaching staff – the recruiting coordinator if you can determine who that is – with an email and, later, a call. Include information about yourself – athletically and academically – and things like highlight videos and stats. Also, make sure to respond to correspondence that has been sent by members of that coaching staff.

Being proactive will also show the coaches that you're self-driven, a skill that they like to see on the field too.

What does it take to play at a good football college? It depends on a variety of factors such as what level the football college represents at and the position that you play. Here is a helpful resource on football recruiting guidelines.

As you go through the football recruiting process, keep in mind the recruiting rules, which can be significant for NCAA football colleges. For example, if a football university coach seems not to be involved with the football recruiting process as you're not receiving any calls or emails, that might be because they are not allowed to contact you at that time but can do so later.

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You should also envision yourself playing college ball and work towards that. One thing to consider is the answer to the question, "How long is a college football game?" as they're 60 minutes in length, a bit longer than 48-minute high school games. As a result, you will want to mentally and physically prepare yourself for longer games.

How can NCSA help?

NCSA (Next College Student Athlete) has focused on helping high school student-athletes navigate the football university recruiting process for decades. It can be a confusing, overwhelming time in the lives of those looking to head to a football college to play, but NCSA provides information and assistance to help it all make sense and help football university recruits place themselves in the most favorable light possible.

A number of those who have moved on to compete for football college teams have shared their positive experiences. For example, a class of 2016 player who headed to the University of Indianapolis said, "NCSA prepared me so that I would be ready to interact with coaches. ... I knew what to expect, and I knew what to ask."

Gaining exposure is so important in finding a good football college fit, and NCSA does just that, helped by the 35,000 coaches who are part of the NCSA network. As time passes, more and more coaches realize just how many benefits we provide them. The recruiting experience is a time-consuming one for them, and they welcome anything that makes that aspect of their busy jobs more efficient.

As far as student-athletes go, we helped nearly 25,000 of them play a sport for a university over the past year and would be glad to include you in that growing number. We will help you find a place that fits you, which might end up being one that you had not considered at the start but that you end up seeing yourself feeling entirely at home at. Get started today by filling out your free profile. If you have any questions, give us a call at 866 495-5172.

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