On the surface, the collegiate game and the NFL seem like the same thing. But there are a few important differences that set the two apart. Knowing the differences can give you a better understanding while watching either event.

Here are the key differences between the two games.

The Rules

In the NFL, receivers have to have both feet in bounds with full control over the ball to have it be considered a catch. In college, receivers need just one foot to achieve the same result.

In the NFL, the clock does not stop when a first down is reached. In college, it does. When a first down is achieved, the clock stops until the ball is set. The result means valuable seconds saved, especially during frantic last-minute comebacks.


In the NFL, overtime is as follows: both teams must get a possession unless one team scores a touchdown. So, if the first team kicks a field goal, the second team has a chance to match or score a touchdown. Beginning with the second possession, it moves to a sudden death format.

College is much different. In college, both teams get at least one possession, beginning at the 25-yard-line. If both teams continue to score back and forth, they then shift from kicking extra points to having to try for two-point conversions.


In the NFL, each division winner earns a playoff spot. There are then three “wild card” teams that qualify. The top seed gets a buy in the first round and plays the lowest seed left. In total, there are 14 teams out of 32 that make the playoffs.

College is far different. There are well over 100 teams in division 1 college football. But just four teams make the College Football Playoff. These are the top four voted teams in the country after the regular season has ended. Playoff teams in the NFL can have as many as seven or eight losses. In college, just two losses can be enough to derail an entire season.