NCAAF vs. NFL: What Is the Difference Between Them?

The National College Athletic Association Football (NCAAF) and National Football League (NFL) have a lot in common. However, they also have significant differences, which made them distinct from each other. Still, they present different levels of excitement that are unique to their own approach.

Alabama offensive lineman Evan Neal (73) tosses confetti after the Cotton Bowl NCAA College Football Playoff semifinal game against Cincinnati, Friday, Dec. 31, 2021, in Arlington, Texas. Alabama won 27-6. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

As such, you need to understand how the differences affect the game and eventually influence the odds. That is why to bet effectively and decide what football game to bet on, you must learn and recognize the difference between NCAAF and NFL.


The draft is where all the players start. It is called the NFL Draft and is officially called the Player Selection Meeting. It is an annual event where every team in the NFL improves their roster by trading and selecting players for other draft positions. It is also the time when NFL teams reach college football players who have proven themselves eligible for the NFL draft.

On the other hand, the NCAAF does not have this event. Unlike the NFL draft, college football usually recruits new members of their team fresh out of high school. The college will appeal to these student athletes to try recruit them to play for their team. Depending on their offers, they can even try to get the best student athlete from another part of the US.

Being part of the NCAAF in college gives you more opportunities to make it to the NFL Draft. However, unlike college football recruitment, you are against several football players around the US if you are attempting to be part of the draft.


For NFL and college football betting, the roster is one of the most critical elements you must look forward to. The roster in football determines which players will play for the team. In other words, it is an official list of players. Not only that, but it also consists of their information, stats, and jersey number. However, if you are planning to follow and watch or bet for your favorite teams, you must understand that the way the NFL roster works is different from college football.

The roster of NFL and college football in terms of sizes differ significantly. The NFL only requires 53 players for every team, and at least 46 players should be active in every game. Meanwhile, college football limits its teams to up to 105 players.

As aforementioned, the roster also contains the jersey numbers of the players. In college football’s case, some players don’t have unique number uniforms but rely on available players to play on the field when needed.

Ranking vs. Standing

Concerning what was discussed above, betting for pro football vs. college football significantly differs. If you are a bettor, you must know rankings and standings. For college football, the rankings are crucial in determining how the season will end.

A loss would have a huge impact on their ranking. They consider several factors, such as head-to-head and comparison results. So, when a second-ranked team loses against a twentieth-ranked squad, they could go down significantly, and the winning team will jump higher from its rank.

Whereas professional football, the NFL, doesn’t have such a thing. Instead, the NFL has standings. The margin of victory can’t significantly affect their current standing. The higher the ratio of wins relative to their losses, the better standings. A win would help determine which teams will continue to the playoffs and who will be eliminated.

Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) tries to block a pass by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) during the second half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio


To start, the rules of the NFL and NCAAF differ despite having both football leagues. Still, the basics are similar, but there are major rules that are adopted by each of them that makes the two apart.

  • The tie rule is the first and the most significant one on this list that sets the two apart. College football can’t end a tie, but the NFL tolerates it except during the playoffs.
  • For pass reception, the receiver of the NFL team must catch the ball with both their feet on the ground. While the college football teams can receive the ball even with only a foot on the ground.
  • The NCAAF holds ten yards for defensive holding penalties and five yards in NFL games.
  • Additionally, the NCAAF accepts that the game ends when a player touches the ground with any part of their body that isn’t their feet or hands. Meanwhile, NFL players must first be put down.

Career Length

Before anything else, you must first understand that college football players consist of enrolled college students. It means they are studying young adults that are trying to earn a degree while playing football. After they complete their college, then their college football career ends as well.

If they choose to go pro, they certainly have a big chance to make it in the NFL, especially if they were excellent collegiate players. Rookies are offered four-year contracts by the team that drafts them. Doing great lines up rookies up for more lucrative contracts than usual.

FILE – This is a general overall interior view of SoFi Stadium as the Los Angeles Rams takes on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. A late-season surge in COVID-19 cases had the NFL in 2021 looking a lot like 2020, when the coronavirus led to significant disruptions, postponements and changing protocols. The emerging omicron variant figures to play a role all the way through the playoffs, including the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, where California has always been aggressive with policies to combat the spread of the virus. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong, File)

Final Thoughts

Although the NCAAF and NFL have great football matches, there are differences in play and structure when it comes to the pro and collegiate leagues. Nonetheless, both present a great deal of excitement which makes the two leagues equally interesting. As a bettor you should know these differences as it can greatly influence the game and how you bet.