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College Football: FBS vs FCS

If you are a fan of college football, you are probably aware of the FCS and FBS Division I subdivisions. While many know that these subdivisions exist, very few are able to distinguish between the two and often overlook some key differences. Let’s break down what these subdivisions offer and go over key similarities and differences.


The FBS, formally known as the Football Bowl Subdivision, is the most popular and competitive subdivision of DI college football. It consists of a total of 130 schools and 10 conferences, including the “Big 5” conferences: PAC-12, Big 10, Big 12, ACC, and SEC. Noteworthy schools such as University of Alabama, Ohio State University, University of Oregon, University of Notre Dame, and Clemson University have dominated the FBS in recent years and are some of the most popular teams in all of sports. 

Related School Ratings: University of Alabama, University of Oregon, University of Notre Dame, Clemson University

The FBS was established in 1978 and offered an alternative to the normal NCAA playoff format. Instead of the NCAA running a playoff tournament, committees of college football and media analysts rank teams throughout the year on the “AP Top 25” poll and determine the playoff structure. The top four teams based on the committee’s rankings compete in the National Championship Bowl, while the analysts choose the other top teams in their rankings to compete in various bowls around the country, such as the Rose Bowl and Peach Bowl. 

In addition to this unique playoff format, the FBS is characterized by attracting the most talented high school prospects around the country, due to being allowed to offer more scholarships (85) than FCS schools (63). As a result of these highly talented players and overall popularity, FBS schools tend to be more commercialized and make more money compared to colleges in other subdivisions.

Related: 6 Tips to Get Recruited for College Football


The FCS, formally known as the Football Championship Subdivision, is the more traditional DI college football subdivision. It consists of 14 conferences, highlighted by the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), Ivy League, Patriot League, and the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). There are several notable schools, such as North Dakota State University, Yale University, Dayton University, and James Madison University. 

Related school ratings: North Dakota State University, Yale University, University of Dayton, and James Madison University

The playoffs for the FCS include the top 24 teams as decided by the FCS Playoff Selection Committee. The teams compete in a traditional playoff bracket, therefore making it more extensive than the FBS playoff format. FCS schools tend to be less popular and commercialized because they do not attract the most talented prospects in the nation and they have less scholarships to offer. 

However, schools that fly under the radar, such as North Dakota State University, have dominated the FBS in recent years and have made a name for themselves because of their dynastic runs, therefore attracting more higher-level talent to their schools.

Related: Top 5 NCAA Football Players That Never Won the Heisman Trophy


One key similarity between the FBS and FCS is that all teams in both subdivisions play at the DI level. Despite the disparity in talent between the two subdivisions, all teams are playing at the most competitive level in collegiate football. In addition, both subdivisions are part of the NCAA and abide by their rules and regulations. Lastly, it is important to note that both the FBS and FCS have produced plenty of NFL players, which often goes overlooked.  


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