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College Football Bowl Central

Most sports culminate in a big game. There’s the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup Finals, and the NBA Finals. The College Football Playoff National Championship is the big game of the NCAA football world.

The College Football Playoff National Championship

The college football post-season consists of bowl games played by teams in the NCAA’s Division I. The winners of the two semi-final games advance to the National Championship game. The College Football Playoff committee, primarily made up of athletic directors from each major conference, former players, coaches and administrators, meets in early December and ranks the Top 25 along with selecting the top four teams and seeding them into semi-final games.

Once the committee ranks the teams, they place the top-seeded team at the closest site to their home field to prevent a road-game environment. Cities can bid to host the championship game years in advance. The 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship will be played at Levi’s Stadium – where the 49ers play, also the makers of jeans – in Santa Clara, California on January 7th.

The semi-finals are assigned to a different pairing of the six major bowl games each year:

Fiesta Bowl & Peach Bowl201620192022
Rose Bowl & Sugar Bowl201720202023
Orange Bowl & Cotton Bowl201820212024

In the years that the bowl games aren’t host to the semi-finals, they host their bowl’s affiliated conferences or committee selections. The Rose Bowl usually hosts the Big Ten champions against Pac-12 champions. The Orange Bowl plays host to the ACC champion and either the second-place SEC team, second place Big Ten team or Independent Notre Dame. The Cotton, Fiesta and Peach Bowls are all decided by committee selection.

A Brief History of the College Football Bowl System

While bowl games have been around for over a century, the current College Football Playoff system has only been in effect since 2014. College football teams have been battling each other in front of a live audience before there were television crews to document it, but it wasn’t until bowl games became a staple of our New Year’s Day TV viewing habits that people realized they could bet on them.

Everything’s Coming up Rose Bowls

The year was 1901. New York became the first state to require automobiles to have license plates, Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as President of the United States, and a Michigan schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor went over Niagara Falls in a barrel (she survived). It was also the year that the president of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses decided to stage a sporting event other than the traditional porcupine wrangling experience to promote the village’s floral festival.

Instead of watching people tussle with a spiky beast, the citizens of Pasadena were treated to the first incarnation of a college football bowl.

With the two best teams from the East and West taking the field, January 1st, 1902 marked the inaugural Rose Bowl. Featuring Michigan and Stanford, the game lasted only eight minutes with Stanford begging for mercy after trailing by 49 points. In other words, Stanford quit the game.

Due to the short Michigan/Stanford game, it took 14 years for another college football championship game between East and West to return to Pasadena. It’s unclear if porcupine wrangling was brought back but hopefully for those prickly creatures and the people that tussle with them, it was not.

Television, Naming Rights, and the Death of the BCS

After a 14-year hiatus, bowl games came back with a vengeance. Here’s how things went from 1916 until present day:

  • In 1916 the Tournament of Roses featured a match between Washington State and Brown. Washington State won.
  • In 1923 the tournament was moved to a new stadium called the Rose Bowl where the New Year’s Day game would be played from then on.
  • After the success of the Rose Bowl game, other warm-weather regions decided to get in on the New Year’s Day bowl game action.
  • The Festival of Palms Bowl was played in 1933 between Manhattan College and the University of Miami.
  • The Sugar Bowl started in 1935 in New Orleans, and the Sun Bowl started in El Paso a year later.
  • 1937 saw the launch of The Cotton Bowl in Dallas and the Bacardi Bowl was played in Havana, Cuba.
  • Bowl games continued to crop up after World War ll with creative names like the Great Lakes Bowl (Cleveland), the Raisin Bowl (Fresno), the Salad Bowl (Phoenix), the Cigar Bowl (Tampa), and the Camellia Bowl (Lafayette, LA).
  • Fast forward to 1965 when the magic of television was able to capture the majority of the bowl games on a national level. Bowl directors realized they could make more money with marquee teams playing the games.
  • By the 1980s, bowl games were a sponsorship haven where sponsors from all walks of life could pay to have their name plastered everywhere, even in the name of the bowl (Sunkist Fiesta Bowl, FedEx Orange Bowl, Outback Bowl, and the Scrambled Eggs Bowl – Okay, we made the last one up but give it time and Big Egg will eventually sponsor their own game).
  • In the 90s, amidst the grunge sounds coming from Seattle, a movie of talking toys, pagers and Dolly the cloned sheep, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was born.
  • From 1998 until 2013, the BCS system resulted in five bowl game matchups of the 10 top ranked College Football Division I teams. But first there was the Bowl Coalition (92-94) and the Bowl Alliance (95-97) and like the “Rachel” haircut, they fell out of favor for a more modern system.
  • The BCS saw its demise after the 2013 season and was replaced by the current system, the College Football Playoff. Four teams play in two semi-final games with the winner of each advancing to the College Football Playoff National Championship game.
  • The College Football Playoff is one of the top sports betting events of the year. There’s plenty of action throughout the playoffs, so be sure to keep an eye on our NCAA football section for odds, picks, betting trends and enough content to keep you busier than former LSU head coach Les Miles in a field of grass. Below you’ll find info one the New Year’s Six. Click on each one to learn more.

The New Year’s Six

Rose Bowl

The “Granddaddy of them all” is entering its 103rd year, with Georgia and Oklahoma facing off for a chance to play in the national championship game. 
Visit the Rose Bowl page

Sugar Bowl

As if the College Football Playoff wasn’t sweet enough, they added a Sugar Bowl. For the third straight year, fans will be treated to a Clemson vs Alabama playoff game.
Visit the Sugar Bowl page

Orange Bowl

The Orange Bowl takes place on December 30 and will see the Miami Hurricanes taking on the Wisconsin Badgers at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
Visit the Orange Bowl page

Cotton Bowl

Ohio State missed out on a chance to compete for the national championship but will look to end its season on a winning note vs No. 8-ranked USC.
Visit the Cotton Bowl page

Fiesta Bowl

Lots of fireworks are expected in this year’s Fiesta Bowl with the high-scoring Penn State Nittany Lions squaring off with the equally explosive Washington Huskies.
Visit the Fiesta Bowl page

Peach Bowl

The UCF Knights will put their perfect record on the line vs the No. 7-ranked Auburn Tigers who had wins over both Alabama and Georgia this season.
Visit the Peach Bowl page