College football is one of the most popular sports in the United States. But how many games do college football teams play?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: College football teams typically play 12 regular season games per year.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the college football schedule and explore the factors that determine how many games teams play each year.

The College Football Schedule

The college football season typically lasts for about 15 weeks, starting in late August or early September and ending in December. During this time, teams play a combination of regular season games, conference championships, and bowl games.

The Regular Season

During the regular season, each team typically plays 12 games. This includes a mix of non-conference games against teams from other conferences, as well as games against teams in their own conference.

The length of the regular season can vary slightly depending on the team and the conference they belong to. For example, some conferences have a championship game that takes place after the regular season, while others do not.

Conference Championships

At the end of the regular season, teams that have performed well in their conferences will have a chance to compete for the conference championship. This usually involves a single game between the top two teams in the conference.

The winner of the conference championship game will often go on to play in a major bowl game, such as the Rose Bowl or the Sugar Bowl.

Conference championships can be a great way for teams to showcase their talent and compete for a shot at the national championship.

Bowl Games

After the conference championships have been decided, teams will have the opportunity to play in bowl games. These games are typically held in late December or early January and involve a matchup between two teams from different conferences.

There are a variety of different bowl games that teams can play in, ranging from the famous Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl to lesser-known games like the Bahamas Bowl or the Frisco Bowl.

Bowl games are not only a chance for teams to compete against new opponents, but they are also a chance for players to showcase their skills to NFL scouts and potentially improve their draft stock.

Factors Affecting the Number of Games

College football teams play a varying number of games each season depending on a few factors. These factors include conference affiliation, NCAA rules and regulations, and team scheduling.

Conference Affiliation

One of the biggest factors affecting the number of games a college football team plays is its conference affiliation. Different conferences have different schedules and rules regarding how many games teams within the conference play each season. For example, the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences play nine conference games each season, while the SEC and ACC play eight conference games. The number of non-conference games each team plays can also vary based on conference affiliation.

NCAA Rules and Regulations

The NCAA sets rules and regulations regarding how many games college football teams can play each season. According to NCAA rules, teams can play a maximum of 12 regular-season games each year, with one bye week. Teams can also play in a conference championship game and bowl games, which can add additional games to their schedule. However, the number of bowl games a team can play in is limited based on their win-loss record and other factors.

Team Scheduling

Finally, individual teams have some control over how many games they play each season through their scheduling decisions. Teams can choose to schedule non-conference games against other teams in addition to their conference schedule, which can increase the number of games they play. However, scheduling too many games can lead to a more difficult schedule and potentially hurt a team’s chances of making it to a conference championship or bowl game.

Exceptions to the Rule

College football is a popular sport in the United States, and fans are always excited to watch their favorite teams play. However, the number of games that college football teams play can vary depending on certain exceptions to the rule.

COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on college football in recent years. In 2020, many football conferences had to adjust their schedules due to the pandemic. Some teams played fewer games than they were originally scheduled to play, while others played more. For example, the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences initially postponed their seasons, but eventually resumed play in October with a shortened schedule of eight games. On the other hand, the SEC played a full 10-game schedule, with teams only playing conference opponents.

The 2021 season is still being affected by the pandemic, with some teams having to cancel or postpone games due to COVID-19 outbreaks. As a result, the number of games played by certain teams may be lower than initially planned.

Historical Changes to the Schedule

The number of games played by college football teams has also changed over time due to historical reasons. For example, in the early 20th century, teams would often play fewer than ten games a season. However, as the popularity of college football grew, so did the number of games played. Today, most teams play a 12-game regular season schedule, with some teams playing up to 13 games if they qualify for a bowl game.

Furthermore, changes to the structure of college football conferences have also impacted the number of games played by teams. For instance, when the Big Ten expanded to 14 teams in 2014, it created two divisions and a championship game, giving teams the opportunity to play an additional game each season. Other conferences, such as the SEC and ACC, also have championship games, which can increase the number of games played by certain teams.


In conclusion, college football teams typically play 12 regular season games per year, followed by conference championships and bowl games. The number of games each team plays can be influenced by a variety of factors, including conference affiliation, NCAA rules, and team scheduling. While there may be exceptions to the rule, such as changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the standard schedule remains an important part of college football culture.

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