Biggest Differences Between College Football and NFL
To a sports novice, college football games may look exactly the same as professional ones. The uniforms, the yard lines on the field, and the screaming fans all appear to be the same in both. However, there are a handful of contrasts between the football played at the collegiate level and the game performed on the professional stage. Here’s a look at the 15 biggest differences between college football and the NFL. (You should definitely keep the difference on page 10 in mind the next time you watch a football game.)
1. The marching band
The school band covering “Seven Nation Army” and leading the crowd in the team’s fight song is a staple at college football games. But once the game jumps to the pro level, the band is no more. NFL stadiums skip the quaint in-house band and blare pre-recorded music through the speakers.
Next: Something else that gets left behind when the players leave college …
2. The walk through campus
Many college football teams engage in the tradition of walking through campus to the football stadium on Saturday mornings as fans line up and cheer them on. You won’t see anything like that on the NFL level, where players show up to play in swanky team buses or expensive automobiles.
Next: A more obvious difference …
3. The ‘school factor’ in general
This difference is probably obvious, but it needs to be addressed nonetheless. One of the things that makes college football so different from the pros is that NFL players are only expected to worry about playing football. College football players, commonly referred to as “student-athletes”, are expected to attend classes and maintain a certain GPA in order to play. And even after that, they have to play at an exceedingly high level.
Next: One of the most controvesial topics surrounding college sports …
4. Money isn’t supposed to be involved in college ball
Professional football is, of course, a full-time job. And like all other jobs, it comes with a paycheck. The student-athletes playing on the collegiate level, on the other hand, are not supposed to be making money off of their play. This is why some of the biggest scandals in college football history involve players trying to make money.
Next: Here’s where things may interesting …
5. Having an agent
This one is pretty self-explanatory: The NCAA forbids college football players from having agents in an effort to separate collegiate sports from professional sports. Interestingly enough, however, the NCAA recently ruled that college basketball players can have agents if they follow certain criteria. So whether this rule could encompass football as well remains to be seen.
Next: Now that’s a lot of potential opponents …
6. Number of competitors
The NFL has 32 teams, all of which the general football-viewing public is familiar with. In college ball, however, there are a whopping 129 NCAA Division I teams. This makes things particularly interesting around Bowl season when less well-known teams have the opportunity to play on the national stage.
Next: Speaking of which …
7. Bowl season vs. the Super Bowl
Even though the college football bowl game schedule ends with a national championship game, the long list of games — which typically takes place around the holidays — still pails in comparison to the Super Bowl. College football bowl games may garner huge crowds, but they don’t draw in fans and viewers like the Super Bowl does.
Next: College football certainly has its characters …
8. Coaches personas
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a group of characters more animated than college football coaches. Coaches at the professional level are typically not as openly emotional as their brethren on the collegiate level. And some of the most animated coaches in the NFL previously coached NCAA teams. (Former San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is a prime example.)
Next: Something to consider …
9. Career prep vs. career longevity
For student-athletes, it’s all about improving on their football abilities so they can prepare to play in the NFL. While players in the pros also work constantly to play to the best of their abilities, they also have to start conditioning themselves in ways that will keep them in the league for as long as possible.
Next: Perhaps the biggest difference of all …
10. Defenses are much better in the pros
One of the biggest differences between college football and the NFL is the defense. College defenses only work together for a few years — at least. Some of the most successful d-corpse in the pros, however, get to play together for multiple seasons and create a chemistry that makes them unstoppable.
Next: Regular football watchers know this difference quite well …
11. Pace of play
Sure, college and professional football run on the same clock. But if you watch a college and pro game back-to-back, you may notice the NFL tilt seems to move faster. Due to the higher level of play — and in some cases, the higher level of coaching — pro games develope at a much quicker pace.
Next: This difference is extra noticable at the NFL level …
12. Number of years of experience
This kind of goes along the same lines as why NFL defenses are better than collegiate ones. College football players typically have a couple years of high school football experience under their belts. Pro players have more than that, especially if they stay healthy and remain in the league for multiple seasons.
Next: You may have noticed this difference before …
13. Coach involvement
When it comes to college football, coaches are much more involved in the college players’ lives. (This is due to the fact college players are still students and therefore are under more supervision.) At the NFL level, coaches don’t usually intervene in players’ lives unless said player is causing trouble.
Next: Which brings us to …
14. The level of tolerance for screwing up
Because of the scrutiny and surveillance student-athletes are subject to under the NCAA, college football players also appear to be on a much shorter leash than professional players are. This is something the NFL has come under scrutiny for quite a few times over the last several years, as select players have seemingly received lax punishment for off-field issues.
Next: Last but not least …
15. Not all college stars make it in the NFL
Likewise, there are some so-so college players who end up having successful NFL careers. (Just look at Tom Brady!) The differences between college football and NFL pigskin make it so players who excel at one level may not have the same success at another level.
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