Before Camp arrived on the scene, football was played with rugby style rules, and it should be noted that the first intercollegiate football game in the USA was played in this style two whole years before an official codified rugby game was played in England. This game took place on 6 November, 1869, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, between Rutgers College (now known as Rutgers University) and the College of New Jersey (now called Princeton University). The game took place on College Field, which is now the site of Rutgers University's College Avenue Gymnasium. Rutgers won this game 6-4. A week later, another game was held on the Princeton home grounds, and this time, Princeton won 8-0. In both these games, the field was considerably larger than it is today, each team was made up of 25 players, and there were no officials to referee the games.
Shortly thereafter, in 1870, a match was held between Columbia University and Rutgers College, and the sport soon spread to other colleges. A game between Tufts University and Harvard, played on 4 June, 1875, bore some resemblance to its modern-day counterpart, with each team having eleven players, the players being allowed to run carrying the ball and tackle each other, and the ball itself being egg-shaped rather than spherical.
Then of course, Mr. Camp came along and made the game more like it is now. The popularity of college football continued to grow, and was eclipsed only by the sheer brutality of the game. The early players were not armored-up like today―a uniform devised by the Princeton player L.P. Smock (yes, that was really his name), some padding and a thick head with a full hair thatch, was all the protection the players had in the rough and tumble of the game. Serious injuries and even deaths were not unknown, and this led to a public outcry against the game, with some colleges temporarily banning the game, and President Theodore Roosevelt threatening a more permanent ban.
In response to this, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was established, and they issued new rules intended to make the game less deadly. The forward pass was introduced, and mass momentum plays like the flying wedge tackle were banned. These games continued to thrive and retained a strong fan following even after the formation of the National Football League (NFL).
The games usually begin towards August end, a few weeks before the NFL games start, and continue through December to the beginning of February. Post-season games are known as college football bowls. The term 'bowl' came about from the shape of the Pasadena Stadium in California, where the first ever bowl game, the Rose Bowl, was played in 1902 between Michigan and Stanford. Michigan won 49-0, a lopsided score, which freaked out the organizers into thinking that fans wouldn't show up for another football match the following year. So, they held a chariot race instead, trying out amateurs first and then professionals, and failing miserably to please the audiences with both. So, it was back to football then. The idea of the Rose Bowl was adapted all around the country, and gave rise to other events like the Sugar Bowl, the Orange Bowl, and the Fiesta Bowl. These four bowls are the main staple of the BCS championship series, but there are also other bowl games like the Gator Bowl, the Florida Citrus Bowl, and the Alamo Bowl. There have also been many short-lived bowl games like the Oil Bowl, the Salad Bowl, the Cigar Bowl, the Delta Bowl, the Harbor Bowl, and the Raisin Bowl, to mention some.
College teams are ranked in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A) and the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as I-AA). The playing rules for all the divisions are decided by the NCAA. A team must win six games in the season to qualify for playing in a bowl game. The bowl game they then get to play in depends upon what their conference ranking is. Another NCAA rule is that the players don't receive salaries for playing; many, however, receive college scholarships and grants.
After playing a series of bowl games, the annual national champion is decided by a vote of non-playing sport authorities, like sports writers and commentators.