How Much Do You Know About the Difference Between College and Professional Football Rules?


By: J. Reinoehl

6 Min Quiz

Image: YouTube

About This Quiz

As a football player advances from high school to college to pro, the basics of football stay the same, but sometimes the rules are a little different. Can you tell if each rule applies to the NFL, the NCAA, both or neither? Find out by taking this quiz.

In which one can quarterbacks throw the ball away once they move “out of the pocket?”

“Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” ― Lou Holtz


If a player jumps into the neutral zone at the beginning of the play, in which one is the ball dead and a penalty automatically assessed?

The NFL and NCAA both have the same rule on this: A penalty doesn’t occur until the ball is snapped as long as the player doesn’t touch another player. In high school football, the player is automatically given a penalty.


To make a completed catch, a receiver needs to make sure he has at least one foot in bounds in the _____?

“Football is like life - it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.” ― Vince Lombardi Jr.


Personal fouls give an automatic first down in which one?

Personal fouls are called unsportsmanlike conduct. The NCAA and NFL agree that the fouled team receives a first down.


Which has narrower goal posts?

“In football everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team.” ― Jean-Paul Sartre


As soon as you get a first down, the clock will stop in which one?

The clock stops in college football as soon as you get a first down. Although the clock stops at other times in the NFL, getting a first down does not stop it.


If a kickoff breaks the plane of the endzone, the football is a dead ball and it is considered a touchback in which one?

“There definitely needs to be water on the sidelines for these players, but I also had some Gatorade just in case they were allergic to the water or vice versa.” ― John Madden


All plays are subject to review in which one?

In college, a referee can review any play. The NFL allows certain plays to be reviewed, but not all of them.


For which one is a missed field goal counted as a punt and can be returned?

“‘Wouldn't you like to make sure all those millions you give to Uncle Sam went to schools and hospitals instead of nuclear warheads?’ As a matter of fact, he would: Playgrounds for big kids, preschool programs to little ones, and mandatory LASIK surgery for NFL refs.” ― Susan Elizabeth Phillips, "Natural Born Charmer"


Which one has a 10-yard penalty for defensive holding?

A 10-yard penalty is assessed when players hold at the college level. In the NFL, the penalty for defensive holding is only 5-yards.


Which one places the opposing team on the previous line of scrimmage or the 20-yard line, depending on which is greater, after a missed field goal?

“I may win and I may lose but I will never be defeated.” ― Emmett Smith


In order to have the ball carrier ruled down and stop the play, you must make contact with the ball carrier once his knee or elbow is on the ground in which one?

In the NFL, according to Rule 7, Section 2, the ball carrier with possession of the ball can fall to the ground and get back up to resume the play if said player has not been touched by a defender, given the player does not declare themselves down.


In which one is a player ejected once he commits two personal fouls (unsportsmanlike conduct)?

“You got one guy going boom, one guy going whack, and one guy not getting in the endzone.” ― John Madden


Which one has a 20-yard penalty for pass interference?

The NFL gives no yardage penalty for pass interference but spots the ball at the place of the infraction and gives an automatic first down. The NCAA spots the ball at the place of the infraction, as well, but adds up to a 15-yard penalty and also gives a first down.


Which game officially lasts 48 minutes and is divided into four 12-minute quarters?

"When you’re good at something, you’ll tell everyone. When you’re great at something, they’ll tell you." –Walter Payton


Which one uses a play clock that is 40 seconds from the end of one play until the ball is snapped for the next play?

The NFL, NCAA, and NFHS all use a 40-second play clock with a 25-second play clock for special administrative actions and game delays. Before 2014, high school football only used a 25-second clock that did not start until the referee positioned the ball for the next play.


Which one stops the clock at the two-minute warning before the end of the half and the end of the game?

The NCAA does not stop the clock for a two-minute warning. Two-minute warnings only occur in the NFL.


Which uses a field that is 100 yards long with a 10-yard endzone on either end of it?

Both the NFL and the NCAA use football fields that are a total of 120 yards (including the endzones). In high school football, the fields may be 80-100 yards not including the endzones.


In which one can the defense score when the offense is attempting to kick an extra point or perform a two-point conversion?

“You fail all of the time, but you aren’t a failure until you start blaming someone else.” –Bum Phillips


Which one starts overtime without a kickoff?

In the NCAA, after the coin toss, the ball is simply put into play. In the NFL, a kickoff occurs to put the ball in play after the coin toss.


If a ball carrier goes out of bounds on the right side of the field, which one spots the ball on the right side hash mark?

“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” –Lou Holtz


Which one can’t end in a tie?

The NCAA record for most overtimes is seven. In 2001, Arkansas and Ole Miss went seven overtimes with Arkansas winning. Arkansas went seven overtimes again in 2003 and beat Kentucky.


Which one allows a player’s hand to touch the ground without considering the player down even if he is touched?

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it." –Peyton Manning


Targeting is a safety foul with a 15-yard penalty and ejection from the game in which one?

The NCAA (and high school) football has targeting fouls, but only the NCAA ejects the player for committing one. The NFL considers these fouls personal fouls and penalizes them as such.


Which one has a rule prohibiting contact for the first 5 yards of a play?

“The Enemy of the best is the good. If you're always settling with what's good, you'll never be the best.” ― Jerry Rice


Which one allows the defense to score during a point-after-touchdown try?

Prior to 2015, the NFL did not allow the defense to score on an extra point conversion. In December of 2016, the Saints were the first team in the NFL to score after blocking the extra point return.


Which one is divided into three divisions?

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will." –Vince Lombardi


Which one starts from the 3-yard line when attempting a 2-point conversion?

In the NFL, a 2-point conversion is started on the 2-yard line. In the NCAA the ball is placed on the 3-yard line.


In which one is a touchdown worth only 6 points?

"Don’t give up at half time. Concentrate on winning the second half.” –Paul “Bear” Bryant


Which one uses a ball that has two white stripes on it?

The NCAA allows more variation in the balls it uses. For example, a NCAA ball may be 10-7/8” to 11-7/16” whereas one for the NFL must be 11” to 11-1/4.”


There can only be eleven players on the field at one time in which one?

"Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan." –Tom Landry


Which one does not use a game clock in overtime?

The NFL has a 10-minute game clock for overtime. This is a new rule in 2017. Previously, the overtime game clock was 15 minutes.


Which one performs kickoffs from the 45-yard line?

"Confidence doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s a result of something… hours and days and weeks and years of constant work and dedication." –Roger Staubach


The hash marks running down the center of the field are 40 feet apart in which one?

In the NFL the hash marks are 18 feet 8 inches apart. This corresponds to the width of the goal posts.


Which one has the teams change end zones every quarter?

"The principle is competing against yourself. It’s about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before." –Steve Young


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