What You Need to Know Before College Football Starts

Do you wish you knew more about college football? Then this post is for you. Starting next week, we will bring you a weekly roundup of the goings-on in the world of college footballthe biggest upsets, the craziest antics, the funniest quotes, and anything else we think you ought to know. We’ve even included a roundup of last season at the end of this article to help get you started. (You’re welcome.)

This weekly column comes to you from a place of sympathy because, frankly, we’ve all been there. As someone who gladly watches college football every week, even I sometimes have a difficult time when the season starts. I watch the games I want to watch, and then I move on, unlike my husband, who begins streaming sports commentary 24/7 and watches preseason high school games weeks before the college season even starts. (And, like most men, he’ll watch every game available to him from sunup Thursday to sundown Monday from the start of college football season until Christmas). Oh, and in case you didn’t know, the season starts tonight, so get ready.

Maybe you’re one of those people who does what she wants with their weekends, but I know from experience that even that is a double-edged sword. You miss things, which means you feel left out when everyone begins talking about all those games and moments of games you missed. They try to explain it to you, and when they fail, you hear those six, dreaded words: “You just had to be there.”

That’s where we come in. You don’t have to be there because we’ll be there for you. Please, do what you want with your weekend. We’ll watch the football.

We promise to be fresh, straightforward, and approachable. We’ll tell you what matters, why it matters, and how you can weave the week’s biggest moments into your everyday conversations.

Check back with us Sunday. We’ll be waiting for you.

College Football Roundup: Preseason


“I know I have to live up to the hype. If I’m even an inch below that standard, it’ll be chaos.” —Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston on his team being named preseason No. 1.


  • The Basics

Read up here.

  • The SEC Streak Ended

A team from Florida won the national championship last year. The winner, Florida State, is NOT a member of the famed Southeastern Conference (SEC) that has laid claim to the title for the last seven years.

Wait, back up. What’s this national championship thing?

Teams from all of college football’s major conferences (i.e., those schools with the most money going toward athletics) have competed for the nation’s top spot since 1998 by vying for the opportunity to play in an end-all, be-all game called the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) National Championship.

In a nutshell, a combination of sports nerds and computers pick the top two teams from whichever teams have the most wins and the least losses, and the top two teams compete for the No. 1 spot. Last year, Florida State, a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) won.

So what about the SEC?

They were there too, but they lost. Remember: The last time a non-SEC team won the national championship was 2005. Four teams, out of more than 120, won for seven years in a row until the streak was broken by Florida State last year.

Tell me about the runner-up.

Auburn, a member of the SEC, came in second, but that’s not the whole story. After finishing 3–9 the year before and losing all eight games against SEC opponents in 2012, Auburn experienced one of the biggest single-season turnarounds in college football history in 2013, winning the SEC Championship and earning a spot in the national title game against Florida State.

Auburn also left a mighty sour taste in the mouths of its two biggest rivals. In the second-to-last game of the season, Auburn’s quarterback threw a Hail Mary pass—a very long, desperate, and usually unsuccessful pass to a player in the end zone—for the winning touchdown with 25 seconds to go against Georgia, who led 38–37 before the throw. The very next week, it looked as though Auburn was headed to overtime against archrival Alabama when both teams were tied 28–28 with one second left in the fourth quarter. Alabama attempted a field goal, missed it, and watched as Auburn cornerback Chris Davis returned the ball 99 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Ouch.

  • The BSC National Championship Is Ending, Too

Computer rankings are out the window, and we’re trading more than 160 voters (the sports nerds) for a 13-person committee who will decide not just the top two, but the top four teams, in the country. These four teams will participate in the new College Football Playoff, two semifinals whose winners will play in the national championship game.

Why the sudden change?

In the past, as many as five teams finished the season undefeated, yet only two teams were given the chance to play in the national championship. Smaller conferences got the boot, and it just didn’t seem fair. College football fanatics across the country are hoping a four-team playoff will ensure that the best team wins. Let’s just hope five teams don’t finish with undefeated records.

Who gets to be on the committee?

A handful of people with outstanding resumes, like three-star generals, athletic directors, NFL all-stars, NCAA vice presidents, hall of fame coaches, secretaries of state, and more. Seriously, read about them here. Their credentials will blow you away. The questions that remain: Do they know anything about college football? Will they do a better job of selecting teams than computers and 160 some-odd sports nerds? Will half the country stew no matter what the committee decides? Only time will tell.


  • Do you worry about the safety of the young men who play football?

If you do, you’re not alone. Last season, the NCAA, the governing body of all collegiate athletics, implemented what has become known as the “targeting penalty,” which basically says that a player can’t hit another player with the top of his helmet, and a player can’t aim at another player’s neck or head. How exactly do you stop players from doing that? By threatening them with ejection and a 15-yard penalty.

The oddest part about last season was the fact that referees could use instant-replay to verify their decision, and if they reversed it and said the player in question had not committed a penalty, then the player stayed in the game, but so did the 15-yard penalty. Say what? You mean the NCAA declared a defendant not guilty and then sentenced him to prison anyway? WHAT? Thankfully, the NCAA has realized its mistake. The penalty still exists, but no teams will lose yards if their players are declared innocent. Whew.

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  • Do you want to be part of one of the most important conversations of our generation concerning women’s rights?

Football is at the center of it. Jameis Winston, Florida State’s quarterback who was voted the most outstanding college football player in 2013, spent much of last year in the midst of a rape investigation where he was the alleged attacker. No charges were filed, but the New York Times reported that police did very little to investigate the alleged rape, and the victim told the Guardian that police encouraged her not to press charges against such a high-profile player in a “football town.” The incident has since raised questions about how colleges handle sexual assault cases and the implications of placing athletes on pedestals. Stories abound, and nearly a year later, the media are still talking about these same issues. Stay tuned to see what happens next.

  • Do you perpetually cheer for underdogs and enjoy seeing them win?

You should have seen last season. First, let’s talk Duke, a school most known for academics but whose team played its best-ever season in 2013, winning 10 of its 12 games for the first time in school history. Better yet, let’s talk Southern Miss, who, despite losing every game in 2012 AND 2013, beat conference rival UAB 62–27 in the very last game of the season.

Ever powerhouse teams became underdogs. Texas, after losing two out-of-conference games to mediocre opponents and getting kicked out of the AP Top 25, beat their biggest rival, Oklahoma, who was ranked No. 10 at the time. Underdogs were winning everywhere. Missouri. Baylor. Washington State. Arizona. 2013 became known as the “year of the underdog,” but really, underdogs win every year. If you don’t have a favorite team, latch on to the underdogs. They won’t disappoint.

That’s all college football is. Let’s talk sheer numbers for a second. Last year’s biggest game grossed more than 14 million viewers on television, and the fifth most-watched game, Notre Dame at Michigan, broke the record for the most attended football game ever with more than 115,000 fans at the game. (That game also had more than 8.6 million viewers on television.) By keeping up with college football, you’re joining one of the craziest, most passionate fan bases in the country.


In case you’re still hesitant to join us, here’s a motivational quote to get you going:

“My daughter, Ragan, she keeps a ranking of the SEC coaches. If you’re at any of our games and viewing her an hour before game time, she’s at midfield trying to find the other head coach. That’s how into this football season she is.” —Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze on his daughter’s obsession with college football. Remember: If Ragan can do it, you can.

Take note that she also makes her own decisions despite what the men in her life say about the matter. Who is the No. 1 SEC coach in Ragan’s book? Her daddy? Nope. Step in motivational quote number two:

“No. 1 in her book is Coach Miles.” —Freeze again. Les Miles is the head coach at LSU, a rival of Ole Miss who they play every year.


  • What the hell is a conference, anyway?

A conference is a group of about a dozen teams that play each other regularly. For the most part, conferences are determined by geographic location, so teams play other teams that are nearby. Teams usually play eight games in-conference and four games out-of-conference each season. (Don’t get these confused with divisions, which are essentially halves of conferences, i.e. each conference has two.)

Besides the ACC and the SEC, other big conferences include the American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Pac-12, and Sun Belt conferences. There are also a handful of teams that belong to no conference and make their schedules independently. Why? Who knows. They are Notre Dame, BYU, Army, and Navy.


  • Clemson (#16) at Georgia (#12): ESPN, Saturday, Aug. 30, 5:30 p.m. EST

  • Wisconsin (#14) vs. LSU (#13): ESPN, Saturday, Aug. 30, 9 p.m. EST

Have questions? Teams you’d like us to follow? Comment below or tweet us @LitDarling or @burrowsouth.

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