For college football fans, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, not because of the holidays, though those aren’t without their charms. Rather, a fall’s worth of Saturday games has built up to bowl-game season, culminating in the crowning of a national champion in the new year.
The rise of mobile apps and streaming services means you no longer have to stay glued to a TV set all though New Year’s Day just to see your favorite college football teams in action. And that means you can watch the college football playoffs, too — a pair of semifinal games plus the national championship game on Jan. 8 — provided you’ve got the right cable or streaming-service subscription.
If your interest begins and ends with the three college football playoff games, make sure you have access to ESPN. The self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports” is carrying both semifinal contests on New Year’s Day, as well as the January title game. So, ESPN is where you’ll find out if Clemson can defend its national title, if Oklahoma or Georgia will restore past glories, and if Alabama can win what feels like its umpteenth national championship.
College Football Semifinals
When and What Channel: Jan. 1, ESPN
Game 1: Georgia vs. Oklahoma, 5 p.m. ET
Game 2: Alabama vs. Clemson, 8:45 p.m. ET
How to Watch: The easiest way to catch either New Year’s Day playoff is to fire up the WatchESPN app, available for both Android and iOS.
ESPN’s streaming app also works with Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, PlayStation 4, Roku and Xbox One. There’s a catch, though, that even a top wide receiver would find daunting: You’ll need to sign in with the credentials from your cable provider to stream either game, so cord cutters will have to go a different route.
And that route is over-the-top streaming services. Fortunately, all the big players — DirecTV Now, Hulu Live, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV and YouTube TV — include ESPN in their packages. Prices start at $20 a month for Sling TV’s Orange package; if you want other channels, such as Fox, you’ll need to opt for the Orange + Blue combo package for $40. Elsewhere, you’ll pay $35 to $40 for a package that includes access to ESPN.
||Relevant Channels Included
|DirecTV Now||Live a Little||ESPN, ABC, Fox, CBS|
|Hulu Live||Hulu with Live TV||ESPN, ABC, Fox, CBS, CBSSN|
|PlayStation Vue||Access||ESPN, ABC, Fox, CBS|
|Sling TV||Sling Orange||ESPN|
|YouTube TV||YouTube TV||ESPN, ABC, Fox, CBS, CBSSN|
College Football Playoff National Championship
When and What Channel: Jan. 8, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
The winners of the two semifinal games meet a week later to see who goes back to campus with the national championship trophy. Since the game is again on ESPN, the same approaches outlined above apply here: the WatchESPN streaming app if you’re a cable subscriber and the streaming service of your choice if you’re not.
Four of the five streaming services listed above offer free seven-day trials (PlayStation Vue is the exception, at five days). So, you may be tempted to game the system by signing up for a service at kickoff for the first playoff game and canceling just as a champion is crowned. But the trial period isn’t long enough to squeeze in all three playoff games.
Other Bowl Games
There’s more to college football’s postseason than the playoffs. You’ve got 38 other bowl games to binge in December and January, with ESPN hosting the bulk of the action. A handful of games appear on over-the-air channels such as ABC, CBS and Fox, so you can either set up an HD antenna to pick up those games or make sure you subscribe to a streaming service that includes your local ABC, CBS or Fox affiliate. (Availability varies from market to market, but you can check at the service of your choice.)
Cable subscribers can watch Fox’s two bowl games on the Fox Sports Go app available on either Android or iOS as well as through connected devices, including Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and Xbox.
While the Hyundai Sun Bowl remains on CBS, two other games are viewable only through the CBS Sports Network (CBSSN) cable channel, complicating viewing options. Only YouTube and Hulu include CBSSN in their basic offerings.
For PlayStation Vue, you’ve got to opt for the $45-a-month Core tier, while DirecTV Now adds CBSSN only to the service’s $60-a-month package. The CBS Sports app (Android, iOS) streams games, but the app works with only eight cable providers, with Cox and Optimum being the two largest providers. That seems an awful lot of hassle just to bring the Arizona Bowl into your life.
Bowl Games on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC
All games are on ESPN unless noted.
- Celebration Bowl: Dec. 16, Noon ET, Grambling vs. North Carolina A&T (ABC)
- R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Dec. 16, 1 p.m. ET, Troy vs. North Texas
- Las Vegas Bowl: Dec. 16, 3:30 p.m. ET, Boise State vs. Oregon (ABC)
- Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Dec. 16, 4:30 p.m ET, Marshall vs. Colorado State
- Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Dec. 16, 8 p.m. ET, Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State
- Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl: Dec. 19, 7 p.m. ET, Akron vs. Florida Atlantic
- DXL Frisco Bowl: Dec. 20, 8 p.m. ET, Louisiana Tech vs. SMU
- Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: Dec. 21, 8 p.m. ET, Temple vs. Florida International
- Bahamas Bowl: Dec. 22, 12:30 p.m. ET, UAB vs. Ohio
- Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Dec. 22, 4 p.m. ET, Central Michigan vs. Wyoming
- Birmingham Bowl: Dec. 23, Noon ET, Texas Tech vs. South Florida
- Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Dec. 23, 3:30 p.m. ET, San Diego State vs. Army
- Dollar General Bowl: Dec. 23, 7 p.m. ET, Appalachian State vs. Toledo
- Hawaii Bowl: Dec. 24, 8:30 p.m. ET, Fresno State vs. Houston
- Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Dec. 26, 1:30 p.m. ET, Utah vs. West Virginia
- Quick Lane Bowl: Dec. 26, 5:15 p.m. ET, Duke vs. Northern Illinois
- Cactus Bowl: Dec. 26, 9 p.m. ET, Kansas State vs. UCLA
- Walk-On’s Independence Bowl: Dec. 27, 1:30 p.m. ET, Southern Miss vs. Florida State
- New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Dec. 27, 5:15 p.m. ET, Iowa vs. Boston College
- Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl: Dec. 27, 9 p.m., Texas vs. Missouri
- Military Bowl: Dec. 28, 1:30 p.m. PT, Virginia vs. Navy
- Camping World Bowl: Dec. 28, 5:15 p.m. ET, Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State
- Valero Alamo Bowl: Dec. 28, 9 p.m. ET, Stanford vs. TCU
- Belk Bowl: Dec. 29, 1 p.m. ET, Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M
- Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Dec. 29, 4:30 p.m. ET, Kentucky vs. Northwestern
- Goodyear Cotton Bowl: Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m. ET, USC vs. Ohio State
- TaxSlayer Bowl: Dec. 30, Noon ET, Louisville vs. Mississippi State
- AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Dec. 30, 12:30 p.m. ET, Iowa State vs. Memphis (ABC)
- PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: Dec. 30, 4 p.m. ET, Washington vs. Penn State
- Capital One Orange Bowl: Dec. 30, 8 p.m. ET, Miami vs. Wisconsin
- Outback Bowl: Jan. 1, Noon ET, Michigan vs. South Carolina (ESPN2)
- Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m. ET, UCF vs. Auburn
- Citrus Bowl: Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET, Notre Dame vs. LSU (ABC)
- Rose Bowl: Jan 1, 5 p.m. ET, Oklahoma vs. Georgia
Bowl Games on Fox
- Foster Farms Bowl: Dec. 27, 8:30 p.m. ET, Arizona vs. Purdue
- San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: Dec. 28. 9 p.m. ET, Washington State vs. Michigan State
Bowl Games on CBS and CBS Sports Network
- AutoNation Cure Bowl: Dec. 16, 2:30 p.m. ET, Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State (CBSSN)
- Hyundai Sun Bowl: Dec. 29, 3 p.m. ET, NC State vs. Arizona State (CBS)
- NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl: Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m ET, Utah State vs. New Mexico State (CBSSN)
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