The Difference In The Details

We have reached the end of the college football regular season.  I have had to restrain myself from commenting too much on this season, because I am (against my better judgment) incredibly superstitious and frankly, I was scared I had cursed my beloved Florida State Seminoles.  However, I feel I would be remiss in failing to acknowledge it.  So, we are going to take a look at something some of you football newbies may have been scratching your head about all season:  how do the rules in the NFL differ from NCAA football regulations?!  Well, I must be clairvoyant, but this post is all about some of those key differences!!

-Ties:  If you are playing college ball, then ties do not exist. Overtimes continue until someone wins.  Not so in the NFL.  During the regular season there is a single sudden death overtime quarter, however if no one scores a tie is declared.  Of course this only applies to regular season games, as post-season games require repeated overtimes until someone wins.

-Completed Passes Along The Sideline:  NCAA receivers must plant only one foot inbounds at the time of a catch in order for it to be ruled complete.  NFL players have to land both feet inside.  I guess this is a skill you are expected to develop in your post-collegiate career.  (With a rookie league minimum of $325,000 I say, get both your feet down!)

-Stopping The Clock:  While both NFL and NCAA football games are sixty minutes broken into four quarters (15 minutes a piece) the way the clock operates is not the same.  In college after a first down is achieved the clock stops and is started again when the ball is snapped.  In the NFL the clock keeps ticking even after a first down is achieved.  There are exceptions to the NFL rule, for example the clock will stop for injuries, penalties and of course time outs.  Also, the clock will stop if the play ends with a player being forced out of bounds.

-Downing a Player:  I find this difference interesting.  It seems to cut college defenses a break, but it also seems a bit tough on offensive players.  According to the rule, if a college player touches the ground with anything but his feet or his hands then he is considered down.  Even if no one touched him or was even in the vicinity of him.  The NFL offensive player isn’t burdened by potentially wet grass.  Instead, he is only ruled down if he is tackled/forced down.  This is known as “down by contact.”

-The Two-Minute Warning:  If you are playing/watching college ball, this means absolutely nothing to you, because, well, it doesn’t exist in the NCAA.  However in the NFL, the two-minute warning can be a key strategic element of the game.  As the name suggests, it is a warning that is given when there are two minutes remaining at the end of the first and second half of play.  The event actually stops the clock, acting as a time out.  This is especially key if a team is making a final scoring drive effort in a close game.

November 29, 2008: Florida safety Major Wright Photo via Newscom


Okay, hopefully some of your confusion about the differences between NFL and NCAA football games has been cleared up!  This weekend is a BIG pride game for my beloved Florida State Seminoles, as they will be taking on the University of Florida Gators.  IF the ‘Noles pull it out they become the KINGS OF FLORIDA for the year (having beaten the University of Miami earlier in the season).  LET’S GO ‘NOLES!!!!!!

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