College football is the United States’ most sprawling sport.
There are 130 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision and another 124 in the Championship Subdivision. There are another 169 in Division II and 249 in D-III, plus a bunch of junior and two-year colleges that operate on different levels. There’s also the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. The total number of college football teams in America is pushing 1,000, all strewn out across different levels and conferences. And I’m not even counting all the intramural and flag teams out there.
So, when does college football start? There are many answers.
Let’s define it in as many ways as possible. All times are Eastern.
The first college football game
Already happened. Navarro College beat Georgia Military College on Aug. 24, along with some other JUCO games.
The first non-JUCO game
A bunch of NAIA games also happened Aug. 24.
The first NCAA game, the first Division I game, and the first nationally televised game
Florida A&M beat Texas Southern on Aug. 26.
The first FBS game
Colorado State beat Oregon State on Aug. 26.
The first game involving a ranked team
No. 19 USF beat San Jose State on Aug. 26. A handful of other games happened, too.
The first game between two Power 5 teams
Aug. 31, 8 p.m.: Ohio State at Indiana, ESPN
The first really big game
Sept. 2, 8 p.m.: Alabama vs. Florida State, ABC
The first really big game not involving an SEC team
Sept. 9, 7:30 p.m.: Oklahoma at Ohio State, ABC
The first time a 2017 Sun Belt team wins in an SEC stadium
Sept. 2, some time in the evening
The first Division II game
Aug. 31, 6 p.m.: Saint Anselm at Wagner
The first Division III game
Aug. 31, 7 p.m.: Methodist at Campbell.
I think. There’s no centralized schedule out yet, but that’s the earliest I can find.
A cool thing about this sport: You get what you make of it.
There are so many tiers and teams that there’s something for everyone who’s willing to look for one. The majority of the viewing public will treat Sept. 2, a Saturday, as the opening day of college football. That’s when most FBS teams get started.
But if you wanna ignore that and start earlier, more power to you. Maybe you’ll get as much out that Saint Anselm-Wagner game as others will from Alabama-Florida State.
Another cool thing: The opening week runs forever.
Those games on Saturday, the 26th, were basically “Week 0.” After five FBS games that day, there are 15 involving FBS teams on Thursday and eight more Friday. The bulk of the country plays on Saturday. But then there are two FBS Sunday games and even a Monday game on Labor Day Night, between Georgia Tech and Tennessee.
That’s five more consecutive days of major football, before the NFL’s even cooking.