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At first glance, the National Football League (NFL) and college football seem to be very similar. However, these two leagues have some significant differences. Here are some of the biggest differences between the NFL and college football. 

The Number of Teams

One of the most significant differences between the NFL and college football is the number of teams in each. The NFL has 32 teams, making it much easier to follow. Conversely, the Football Bowl Subdivision has 130 teams. College football teams make up several conferences, which is why there are so many “bowls” in college football (and only one in the NFL).

The Number of Players

In the NFL, every team has 53 players. College teams don’t have a set number of players and can often have over 100. In the NFL, each player is highly specialized in their position. However,  it is not uncommon in college football for players to play more than one role.

Hashmark Placement

Another big difference between college football and the NFL is hashmark placement. In the NFL, hashmarks (which determine where the ball is placed) are 18 feet, 6 inches apart. In college football, hashmarks are 40 feet apart. This difference in placement changes the strategy of the game for both the offensive and defensive sides of the team.

Catch Rules

Some of the other most notable differences between the NFL and college football are in the rulebook, including what constitutes a catch. To make a catch in the NFL, a player must have both feet inbounds. However, college players only need to have one foot inbounds. If a player lands with one foot out of bounds and the other foot in, the foot that touched first determines whether or not the catch stands. 

Clock Rules

Both the NFL and college football play for 60 minutes of game time. However, they operate with different rules as to when the clock stops. In college football, the clock stops much more often, making the games an average length of 3 hours and 24 minutes (sometimes approaching 4 hours). This is notably longer than the average NFL game, which is usually just over 3 hours. 

Although college football has much in common with the National Football League, the two have many significant differences, as well. Fortunately, sports fans can enjoy watching both college football and the NFL, regardless of which rules and structures they prefer.