Differences Between College Football vs Professional Football

Football Player Catching Football During Game

College football and professional football have plenty of similarities, but what sets them apart? From the number of teams to playoffs, each football league has its own approach that affects viewing, betting, and more. No matter which you prefer, both are exciting in their own rite. As both pro and college games continue on, learn more about the differences between college and pro football, how the differences might affect the way you watch them, and how to place your bets.




The basics of the game are similar in professional football and in college, but there are a few major rules that set the two apart.  Some of the differences in rules between college football vs NFL are:

  • College football cannot end in a tie, whereas an NFL game can tie unless it is a playoff game
  • Contact is necessary to be ruled down in the NFL, but not in college football 
  • In college football, there only needs to be one foot down for it to be considered a completed pass while the NFL requires two feet down
  • In college football, the clock stops after the first down while it continues to run in the NFL
  • A defensive holding penalty is 10 yards in college football, but only 5 yards in the NFL 
  • All plays are subject to review in college but only scoring plays, turnovers, and plays during the final two minutes are reviewable in the NFL


Football Players on Different Teams Playing Game


Number of Teams


College football is a large league made up of 130 teams fielded by colleges, universities, and academies. These teams are split into 10 different conferences. The NFL has 32 teams, categorized evenly into eight divisions. This difference between professional and college football determines the ease to follow seasons and make accurate predictions – a larger number of teams for college football makes it more difficult, while a smaller number of teams in the NFL creates a clearer formula for deciding the postseason.


Number of Players


In the NFL, teams have 53 players, with 46 of those players active each Sunday. In college, the rosters can stretch into triple digits. Some don’t even have unique uniform numbers. College football relies on a large number of players to take the field when needed, unlike professional teams where highly-trained players are carefully selected to play their position. While players on college teams are also highly skilled, it comes down to quality over quantity when it comes to player rosters.


Jersey Numbers


In the NFL, numbers on jerseys have a meaning. For example, players in the 20s, 30s, and 40s are running backs on offense and defensive backs on defense, and those in the teens and 80s are wide receivers. This allows you to see the field and quickly surmise what’s happening. For coaches and signal-callers, this streamlines the vital process of identifying what is happening on the field and leaves more time for strategizing. In college, the jersey numbers are random. A player in any position can wear any number, and some overlap numbers as mentioned above.


Football on Field for Football Playoff Game




There are the NFL playoffs – multiple. Then, there is the College Football Playoff – just one. With college football, if you are a bad team, you don’t get a shot at the playoff. Only having one playoff in college football makes it easier to predict the winners of the big tournaments. On the other hand, in the NFL, you can be a 7-9 team and make the playoffs if they win their division. Each has its own level of predictability, which might be a pro or a con depending on your football viewing (and football sports betting) style.


Career Length


In college, it’s 1-4 years – the length of a college education. This gives them the time to develop their skills and hopefully make their way to a longer-term NFL contract. In professional football, a quality starter’s career goes 8-10 years. Pro football allows you to know the strengths and weaknesses of the players over time, which aids in placing bets and knowing what to predict for future games. These long-term contracts are what get such big followings for iconic players such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Brett Favre, and Tim Tebow.


How to Bet on Football in Las Vegas


Now that you know more about the differences between college football vs NFL, it’s time to place your bets. Circa | Sports is the ultimate sportsbook in Las Vegas for betting on football, whether you choose to bet on professional football or college football. Stop by Circa Resort, Golden Gate, the D, or one of the other Circa | Sports locations in Las Vegas to place your bets in person. Can’t make it into the sportsbook? Download the Circa | Sports app on iOS or Android to have your bookie right in your pocket.

Whether in person or on the app, join Circa | Sports for your premier place to bet on football in Vegas.