Biggest Differences Between College Football and the NFL

The start of a new football season is the most exciting time of year for any fan, be it a fan of College Football or the NFL. But when it comes to the latter in particular, fans of top franchises cannot wait to see just how their new draftees fare in their maiden campaign at the highest level. Will they go on to become modern-day greats or will they fall by the wayside? 

In recent years, we have seen some top stars emerge in the NFL draft. The Cincinnati Bengals made Joe Burrow the first overall pick back in 2020, and he has led the Ohio-based outfit to a first playoff victory in 30 years, their first Super Bowl in 33 years, and back-to-back AFC Championship games for the first time in franchise history. But for every Joe Burrow, there is a Baker Mayfield. 

The former Oklahoma Sooner is also a Heisman winner, and much was expected of him when he too was drafted first overall back in 2018. However, the 28-year-old has been unable to impress with the Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, or as a stand-in with the Los Angeles Rams. He now finds himself battling it out with Kyle Trask in the hopes of claiming the role of starting quarterback with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following Tom Brady announcing his retirement. 

As well as the aforementioned Mayfield, we have seen the two top stars in the NCAA last season struggle to make the step up to the NFL this term. The Panthers made University of Alabama standout Bryce Young the number one overall pick in the most recent draft however, he has struggled to hit the ground running, throwing for just under 300 yards in his first two games, both of which were defeats. The Houston Texans then selected Ohio State standout C. J. Stroud as the second overall pick, and he too has lost his first two games with his new franchise, although his passing yardage has been somewhat more impressive. 

With two of the league’s biggest stars leaving prior to the new campaign getting underway, Georgia Bulldogs are the +240 favorite for glory this season, according to the college football season odds. Compare that to the aforementioned Alabama and Ohio State, who are priced at +3000 and +1200 respectively, and it’s clear to see just how much Young and Stroud are going to be missed. 

However, with both quarterbacks struggling to make the step up this season, which got us thinking. What are the biggest differences between the NFL and college ball?

Rules and Gameplay

While both leagues follow a relatively similar set of rules, there are some key differences that can turn things in their head. In college, players are required to have just one-foot inbound to make a catch, while in the big league, players must have both feet inbound. Additionally in the NCAA, the clock is stopped after every first down to move the chains whereas the clock only stops if the player goes out of bounds, if there is an incomplete pass, or if a team calls a timeout in the NFL. 

Size and Speed

Players are required to be in peak physical condition, no matter which stage they’re performing on. However, as the saying goes, there’s no substitute for experience. As we all know, college players are much younger than their professional counterparts, and naturally, they have less developed muscles. The NFL’s top stars meanwhile are vastly more experienced and have spent years developing their strength and speed. This means that while college players may be faster than their NFL counterparts, they may not have the same level of physical power or endurance, which may well explain the struggles of Stroud and Young so far this term. 

Fan Culture and Atmosphere:

One of the most visible differences between the two levels of modern-day football is the fan culture and atmosphere surrounding each league. College teams often have huge, passionate followings of alumni, students, and local supporters who show up in droves to cheer on their local side. The electric atmosphere created is almost impossible for the NFL to replicate. However, they don’t help themselves with the ridiculous prices it costs to attend a game. College football fans are much more connected to their team, while the games in the big league are traditionally more flashy events, with a penchant for media attention and marketing promotions. 

Professional Opportunities

For college players, the goal is often to get drafted by an NFL team and begin a professional career. However, many college players don’t make it to the pro level and as such, college ball is the bee-all-end-all for them. They may very well go on to pursue non-football careers or shift their focus to other interests once their college careers are over. In the NFL, meanwhile, players have the chance to earn enormous salaries which will change the outlook of their family tree forever.

Leave a Comment