SDS’ Guide To The 2023 College Football Season

As the college football season kicks off with the promise of thrilling matchups, it’s important for both current college athletes and recruits to understand the intricate web of divisions, conferences, and recent realignments that shape the competitive landscape. 

The world of college football is a dynamic and evolving one, characterized by a tiered conference structure that influences team performance, opportunities for players, and the general excitement that fans enjoy every fall.

The Divisions: FBS and FCS

The realm of college football is defined by two pivotal subdivisions: the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Positioned at the summit of collegiate football, the FBS is where the nation’s premier conferences and iconic bowl games command the spotlight. The College Football Playoff is composed of teams in the FBS. 

For players, the FBS offers a chance to shine on the grand stage, elevating their prospects for professional careers. The division is a bustling arena of media exposure, striking TV deals, and substantial sponsorships, ultimately impacting the reputation and resources of participating universities.

The FBS National Championship Trophy at NRG Stadium - the 2024 site for the College Football Playoffs

The FBS National Championship Trophy at NRG Stadium – the 2024 site for the College Football Playoffs

In contrast, the FCS showcases a distinct landscape. While not as extensively televised as the FBS, the FCS platform provides an equally intense battleground for talented teams. Here, the camaraderie among players, coaches, and fans is palpable, fostering a sense of community that is often more intimate than the FBS. 

The recruitment strategy for FCS programs differs, targeting players who may not fit the FBS mold but possess incredible potential. These programs may operate with fewer resources and grand facilities, yet they offer a close-knit environment where athletes receive personalized attention and mentorship.

For aspiring college football players, the choice between FBS and FCS involves considering personal aspirations and the reality of opportunities. The FBS promises a high-octane path to national recognition and potential professional careers, while the FCS provides a dynamic alternative that values both competition and community. 

Whether playing on the grand stages of FBS or fostering a deep connection with teammates in the FCS, college football in both divisions shapes young athletes into resilient competitors and offers a journey filled with invaluable experiences.

The Power 5 and Group of 5 FBS Conferences

Within the FBS, there are five prominent conferences known as the Power 5: the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC. These conferences often dominate the national spotlight and compete for a spot in the coveted College Football Playoff. The Power 5 conferences boast storied rivalries, iconic stadiums, and a history of producing top-tier talent that excels at the collegiate level and beyond.

Outside the Power 5, there’s the Group of 5, which includes conferences such as the American Athletic Conference (AAC), Conference USA (C-USA), Mid-American Conference (MAC), Mountain West Conference (MWC), and Sun Belt Conference (SBC). While these conferences may not always garner the same media attention as the Power 5, they offer exceptional football programs and provide players with a platform to showcase their skills on a national stage.

A common mistake is the assertion that the Group of 5 conferences are considered FCS. This is not the case. Remember that the Power 5 and Group of 5 conferences are all considered FBS programs. 

Conferences and Realignment

Conference realignment has been a defining aspect of college football in recent years, causing shifts in team alignments and reshaping competitive dynamics. Schools often make decisions to switch conferences in pursuit of better financial opportunities, improved competition, and geographical alignment. This has the potential to impact recruitment strategies and a player’s decision-making process when choosing a college.

Realignment decisions can also ripple through the college football landscape, affecting both FBS and FCS teams. It’s important for recruits to stay informed about such changes, as they could influence their playing opportunities, the level of competition they face, and the exposure they receive on a national scale.

Navigating the Landscape as Athletes and Recruits

For college football athletes, the choice of division and conference can shape their collegiate experience. FBS athletes contend for spots in prestigious bowl games and have the chance to compete on the grandest stages. Meanwhile, FCS athletes vie for conference championships and the honor of playing for the FCS National Championship.

For high school recruits, understanding the distinctions between divisions and conferences is crucial. Players aspiring to play at the FBS level should aim to showcase their skills and secure the attention of recruiters from Power 5 schools. Meanwhile, recruits eyeing FCS programs should target conferences that align with their strengths and goals.

The Excitement of College Football

As the college football season unfolds, fans, athletes, and recruits alike are treated to a spectacle of talent, dedication, and passion. The rivalries, upsets, and triumphs that unfold on the field captivate the hearts of millions and forge lasting memories. Whether it’s the roar of the crowd in an FBS stadium or the camaraderie of an FCS playoff run, college football offers a unique and exhilarating experience for everyone involved.

As the college football season kicks off, fans and athletes alike are entering a realm of uncertainty now more than ever before. This college football season carries an air of potential finality to its well-known structure. The ongoing realignment swirls uncertainties about the sport’s future, from conference landscapes to the balance between FBS and FCS. So, let’s revel in the games, savor the rivalries, and celebrate the traditions, for the road ahead might reshape college football in ways we can only speculate.

(Top Photo: Michael Ainsworth/AP)

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