College Football Season Explained: How Are NCAA Football Schedules Determined?

In any given season, a college football team could play as few as eight or as many as 12 games. Each team plays an equal number of home and road games, but the specific date, opponent, and location are what make every team’s schedule unique. A school might have one or a few weeks where they have multiple games scheduled on the same day. 

It’s up to individual conferences to determine their conference schedule, which means teams from the same conference could have completely different schedules from one another based on their conference affiliation.

Who Decides What a Team’s Schedule Will Be?

The NCAA doesn’t control when teams play, but it does oversee the system that determines which teams will play each other. Every year, the NCAA publishes a list of approved schedules that schools can choose from to construct their seasons. The approved schedules list which teams will play on the road and which ones will play at home, but they don’t set the dates.

For example, a schedule might have a team playing at home against a specific opponent on September 15 and another home game against the same team on September 22. The school decides which dates are best based on how the rest of the season’s schedule looks.

Conferences Determine Schedules

Since every team plays an equal number of games, some conferences will play eight games while others 10. Some conferences also play a championship game while others don’t.

Once the conference schedules are finalized, they are sent to the NCAA and are published online. The NCAA publishes the conference schedules early in the season so fans can start planning their team’s schedule around when their team plays specific opponents.

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Bowl Game Participants are Determined Based on Record

The NCAA uses a selection committee to determine which teams will play in the College Football Playoff, the only postseason bowl game entirely controlled by the NCAA. A separate bowl selection committee determines which teams will play in the other 35 bowl games. 

These bowl committees are made up of several people, but the main difference between the two groups is that the bowl selection committee bases its decisions on team records. The College Football Playoff selection committee considers factors like strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and conference championships.

When is the NCAA Football Schedule Released?

The NCAA football schedule is released at the beginning of the season. When we say the NCAA football schedule, we’re talking about the slate of games that are scheduled to be played. 

As the season progresses, the NCAA football schedule changes if a game gets canceled or rescheduled. 

Playing Games at the Same Time

The NCAA keeps track of the average temperatures in college football stadiums to make sure that no two games play at the same average temperature. If two games are scheduled in the same stadium on the same day but at different times, the NCAA will manually adjust the temperature. 

The NCAA keeps track of this information to make sure that no team is unfairly disadvantaged because of the climate in which they play their home games.

Bye Weeks

Each team has one bye week during the season where they don’t play a game, but even in the bye week, they will have one game scheduled. The bye week is meant to give the team extra time to prepare for the next opponent, but it also ensures that every team has at least one game every day of the week.

For example, if a team were to play every Saturday and a Saturday game was canceled for weather or another reason, that team wouldn’t have any games scheduled for the upcoming weekend. If all teams played on the same days, there would be certain weekends where one team would have two games set while others would have nothing to do. 

Having one team get two games while others get one would be unfair, so the bye week ensures that each team still has something to do even when the weather cancels one of their games.


The NCAA football schedule is released at the beginning of every season. In general, three main factors go into creating a team’s schedule – potential non-conference opponents, possible home/away games, and the specific date of each game.