College football has it’s own cult-like following. Sure the rules and basics are pretty much the same as the NFL but the atmosphere and fanaticism surrounding the game is completely different. These fans are straight up CRAZY. Check out any game on a Saturday in the fall and you will be shocked to see the stadium. Ohio State’s stadium holds well over 100,000 people and they are sold out almost every game. And the fans are all dressed head to toe in red.
The strange thing is that even though they really are the same game, most football fans like one or the other; not both college and professional football.
For all intents and purposes, there are 7 major differences in college vs. NFL. (There are other minor ones but seriously, no one cares.)
I once read, “The biggest difference between college football games and NFL football is that NFL players are considered professionals and are paid more. “
Pardon my French, but, no shit. That quote came from an actual website, but to protect the moronic writer that actually put that on paper, er, blog, I won’t say where. The other difference that they listed was “NFL players are bigger than college players because they work out more since they have paid personal trainers.” Bloody brilliant.
While yes, both of those are true, they are not real distinguishing characteristics between professional and college football. Those are:
- There is No Two-Minute Warning in college football: This is key factor close games when time is running down. At the two-minute mark in the NFL, there is a mandatory time-out—or pause in the game—that is not attributed to either team. Gives the team time to regroup and plan. But at the college level, there is no stop of game.
- The Two-Point Conversion Starts on the 3rd yard line. In the NFL, it starts from the second yard line. (In other words, in college they try from farther away then in the pros)
- Knee-Down: The most important difference between college football and the NFL is that in college, if you are carrying/catching the ball and one of your knees hits the grass, you are done. The play is over. It doesn’t matter if you were tackled or you just tripped over your own two feet; the play is done. In the NFL, you have to be forced down., meaning if you slip and fall and the other team doesn’t touch you, you can get up and keep on running.
- The Game Clock: In college football, the game clock stops whenever a first down is achieved, but in the NFL the clock continues to run after a first down (unless the player goes out of bounds or a time out is called). Why is this important? If a team is losing and the clock stops after every first down, it gives the losing college team more time to make a comeback.
- The Almost-Out-of-Bounds Catch/Pass Reception: In college football, the receiver must have control of the ball and get one foot down in-bounds for it to be considered a catch. In the NFL, the receiver must have control of the ball and get both feet down. As college players mature, you’ll see them getting both feet down in bounds to show that they have the awareness to play in the NFL.
- Overtime: In college, when a game goes to overtime, each team is given equal opportunity to try and score. They each get a turn (possession) from the opponent’s 25 yard line. There is a coin toss and the winner chooses to kick first (defense) or to receive first (offense). The team winning after both teams get a chance to score is declared the winner. In this case, being the defense first is actually a good thing because you get the last shot to score.
- Also, in college football, there is no such thing as a tie. Overtime continues until someone wins.
- In the NFL, when a game goes to overtime, the teams play a sudden-death quarter. They also do a coin toss to determine who will kick and receive. But in the NFL, the first team to score by any means, wins the game. In this case you always want to be the offense first because if the other team scores first, the game is over and you don’t even get to try to score.
- In the regular season, if no one scores after the first OT, the game is declared a tie. In the post season, however, the game goes until there is a clear winner.
Hash Marks. Ah, the hash marks. I had to read 6 different websites, ask on Twitter and annoy my roommate before I finally understood the hash marks. That’s how abstract the definitions were.
Here is my best translation: It may appear like every play takes place in the dead center of the field. It actually does not. If you look, there are two “dashed” lines running down the field that mimic the markers on the sidelines that show what yard the players are on. These dashed lines, or hash marks, are used for ball placement prior to most offensive plays. By having those dashes in the middle, it actually makes the field and area for game play, more wide open.
Ok got that part? Go ahead, read it again. I actually recommend looking at the field or a game while reading it; that’s what helped me.
So in the NFL, each of those hashes are about 70ft away from the sideline, meaning the space between them is 18’6” wide . In college, those lines are only 60 ft away from the sideline, meaning the playing space in between is about 40 feet (or 20 feet greater than in the NFL). Remember this, it will be important in a few minutes.
Still with me? I promise we are getting to the point.
If the dead ball (player was tackled, etc) occurred in between those hash marks, the next play starts exactly where the ball went down. However….. if the dead ball happened outside the hash marks, that is not the case. Let’s say a player ran the ball out of bounds at the 20 yard line. The next play would not start on the out of bounds line on the 20 yard line nor would it be returned to the dead center of the field. The ball gets placed on the closest 20 yard hash mark.
Um. Ok. Why?
Well, if the ball was placed where it went out of bounds, the offense would be completely restricted. Think about it. They couldn’t pass or run to the right (or left depending on the play) because they would be immediately out of bounds. So instead, the ball is moved to the hash mark to give the offense the opportunity to go right or left. It opens up the field.
Go ahead, read it again. I had to.
Okay so remember like 10 minutes ago when I said that 20 foot difference from college to NFL would be important later? Since the college lines are closer to the sidelines, their field of play is actually 20 feet larger than the NFL’s.
One final note on this. Hash marks/ball placement play a big role for the kicker too. It always seems like they are kicking from dead center but they are not. For field goals, sometimes they are right or left….justified….and that changes the entire angle of their kick.
Ok, now go take a break. Get some chocolate. Watch something ubergirly. you so deserve it!