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Daniel Wilco | NCAA.com | December 26, 2018

How college football bowl games work.

bowl games meaning

Here is how college football bowl games work, including how to quality, how teams can become eligible to compete and an explanation of the College Football Playoff system.

What is a bowl game?

Compared to other NCAA sports, FBS football has a relatively small playoff system. Only four teams compete for the national championship. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a postseason.

If a team is eligible for a bowl game (more on that later), it will earn the chance to play in a bowl game: A one-off matchup against a team of similar skill that it would not usually face in the regular season. The winners of bowl games receive trophies and bragging rights, but do not advance to any other games.

There are currently 40 bowl games in addition to the National Championship. You can view the schedule, location and TV listings for each 2018-19 bowl here.

How to qualify for bowl eligibility

Here's the official rule from the NCAA:

"An eligible team is defined as one that has won a number of games against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponents that is equal to or greater than the number of its overall losses (e.g., a record of 6-6, or better). Ties or forfeited games do not count in determining won-lost record."

There are a few exceptions. For example, a loss in your conference championship game does not count against your record.

If there are not enough teams that are eligible under those rules, the eligibility requirements change, but the minimum record for a team to become bowl eligible is set at 5-7. Teams with winning records always receive priority.

You can read the full rules and all exceptions for bowl eligibility here .

College Football Playoff

In 2014, a new championship system went into place. The College Football Playoff consists of a selection committee that ranks teams throughout the year. The top four teams compete in two semifinal games in late December or early January, with the winners advancing to the national championship a week later.

New Year’s Six and Semifinals

With the advent of the College Football Playoff system, the six biggest bowl games got a little bit bigger. Both CFP national semifinal games rotate among the New Year’s Six — six historic bowl games played on our around New Year’s Day.

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bowl 1 (def. 8) .

Origin of bowl game

Words nearby bowl game.

  • bowling alley
  • bowling bag
  • bowling ball

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use bowl game in a sentence

The rankings also help determine matchups for other major bowl games.

In fact, with top-seeded Alabama favored by nearly 20 points in their College Football Playoff semifinal game, the fourth-seeded Fighting Irish are one of the biggest on-paper underdogs in any bowl game in recent memory.

Some teams have opted out of playing in bowl games because of the mental strain this season has placed on players.

I share the disappointment of our student-athletes who will not be able to compete this season in a bowl game .

Each game is critical in their development, but the Terps now have only two matchups — and a possible bowl game — remaining on the schedule.

During his second bowl game , his grandfather had a heart attack, and he left to help care for him.

There are three more games left in the season and then a bowl game .

When a bowl game was at stake, even they were willing to abandon the moral high ground.

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Definition of bowl game noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

Definitions on the go

Look up any word in the dictionary offline, anytime, anywhere with the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary app.

bowl games meaning


  1. bowl_1 noun

    bowl games meaning

  2. Marking a bowls game

    bowl games meaning

  3. How to Play

    bowl games meaning

  4. An introduction to the game of bowls

    bowl games meaning

  5. Games

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  6. What Is The CP Bowls Game? Rules And Eligibilities

    bowl games meaning


  1. Bowl game

    In North America, a bowl game, or simply bowl, is one of a number of postseason college football games that are primarily played by teams belonging to the NCAA's Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

  2. How college football bowl games work

    What are the 5 biggest non-CFP bowl games this season? Share. Here is how college football bowl games work, including how to quality, how teams can become eligible to compete and an explanation of...

  3. Bowl game Definition & Meaning

    Top Definitions Examples bowl game See synonyms for bowl game on Thesaurus.com noun bowl 1 (def. 8). Origin of bowl game 1 First recorded in 1915–20 Words Nearby bowl game bowleg bow legs bowler Bowles bowlful bowl game bowline bowling bowling alley bowling bag bowling ball

  4. bowl-game noun

    bowl game. a US college football game played in December or January at the end of the football season. The best teams meet in several bowl games (so called because the stadiums in which they are played are like bowls in shape). The most famous are the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, the Orange Bowl in Miami and ...

  5. What Are Bowl Games in College Football?

    So what are bowl games? They are 42 end-of-the-year college football games played largely for pride and money (for the schools, not the players), with two such games transcending mere fulfillment and cash and doubling as the semifinals. The teams in these latter two games may or may not have a better record than the teams in the other bowl games.