Football season means weekends are filled with nearly non-stop games. Whether you're watching college ball or the NFL, football is football. Surely the way it's played is the same?
Not quite. There are some variations in the game that can make NCAA football very different from the pro game.
Every fan is their own living room referee, but let's review some important rule differences, so you know when you should or shouldn't be outraged about a call, depending on whether it's Saturday or Sunday.
The clock runs, unless it doesn't
College football does not have a two-minute warning. Instead, when a team gets a first down, the clock stops.
This is definitely helpful for late game-winning drives. Thanks to those stoppages, USC Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold was able to go 52 yards in 45 seconds to tie the game, one first down after another. You're welcome, Sam.
Is the player down when he's down?
Is the player down when they're down, or do they need to be touched when they're down? By the way, this has nothing to do with touchdowns. I can kinda see why new fans sometimes feel like learning football rules is like learning a new language.
How many times have we seen NFL plays where defenders assume a wide receiver is down once his knee hits the ground, only for the ball carrier to get up and keep running because they weren't touched and the ref hadn't blown the whistle?
Well, in college football, once the player's knee or elbow hits the turf, they are down and the play is over. No need for a defender to touch them because, y'know, germs.
Catch with your feet
The rules for receivers are more forgiving in the college game, too. Instead of needing to pull in a pass with both feet in bounds like you see in the NFL, college receivers only need to have one foot in bounds.
Each rule is just one simple variation on it's own, but put them together, and the college and pro versions of football can be very different versions of the same game. Just think of all the games that might have gone differently if the NCAA and NFL switched rule books.