College fantasy football: A guide for beginners

College fantasy football is growing in popularity, so how does it work, and where can you play leagues currently?

College fantasy football has been somewhat of a sleeping giant looming in the background when compared to the professional version. Part of the reason for that has been the licensing concerns that come with using the player names, much like the issue we saw with the NCAA video games. However, college fantasy football leagues are now growing in popularity, both in terms of season-long and DFS. Let’s take a look at the basics of college fantasy football ahead of the 2022 season and the differences you will encounter compared to the professional version of the game.

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Introduction to college fantasy football

The beauty of college fantasy football is the options and potential customizations that can be introduced. Much like the NFL version, there are different league options, including head-to-head, total points, and variations like keeper or dynasty leagues. If you are feeling particularly bold, you can join a Campus to Canton league and combine your love of NFL fantasy football with the college game.

Types of college fantasy leagues

One of the earliest decisions for any startup league is the size of the player pool. You could go for the entire 130 teams, or you could go as low as a single conference. Of course, in the middle are a number of potential customizations.

The size of your desired player pool can also impact the size of your league, or vice-versa. Leagues with the full player pool will likely look to be between 10 and 16 players deep. Meanwhile, a conference-only league may be better suited for six to eight players.

How to structure college fantasy football leagues

If you go for a head-to-head format, when to hold playoffs is a key question. To answer that, we should first consider the bowl season and its impact on fantasy. Much like the NFL playoffs, the bowl season is perhaps best ignored in terms of your year-long league. Not only will the success of the teams themselves have a huge impact but so will opt-outs and resting of players.

Therefore, when setting up a league, the optimal time to hold playoffs is a major debate. The optimal time for the championship game in your fantasy league is really the week before the conference title games themselves. That is usually Week 13, meaning the fantasy playoffs for your college league would either start in Week 11 or 12.

Where to host leagues

When it comes to hosting college fantasy football leagues, the options are limited. Only Fantrax offers season-long support currently, but DFS sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel do allow you to play a weekly game. There is also the option to host your own leagues using spreadsheets, or pen and paper if you want to be classical about it.

Of course, the DFS element adds another alternative. If you didn’t want to be at the mercy of injuries and bye weeks that a season-long league presents, then you could play a weekly league. That would involve using the DFS offerings each week and keeping track of the scores during the season to determine a winner. The beauty of this is that if you and your league-mates want to take a week off, you can with no issues at all.

Differences between college and NFL fantasy football

There are many differences that fantasy managers used to the NFL version of the game will encounter when they move over to playing the college version.

First and foremost, the sheer difference in the size of the player pool is stark. With 131 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), that alone is more than four times larger than the NFL’s 32 teams. Additionally, college teams tend to carry bigger rosters on game day, meaning that the player pool is huge compared to that of the NFL. Player pool sizes in college football can be limited, but where is the fun of that?

Additionally, college football games are now played almost every day of the week. If keeping up with the NFL across Thursday, Sunday, and Monday stresses you out, then college fantasy football may not be for you. However, if you cannot get enough football, then tuning in on Tuesday nights to see how MACtion impacts your weekly matchup could be right up your street.

Bye weeks, injury reports, and mismatches

Bye weeks and injury reports are one of the many strategy opportunities in the NFL. Well in college fantasy football the strategy element is taken to a new level. With teams having multiple bye weeks and injury reports being far less prevalent in college, keeping up with the availability of your players takes on a whole new level of strategic importance.

Then there are the mismatches in the quality of opponents. While the NFL prides itself on parity, college football prides itself on the underdog story. This introduces elements such as whether you start Bryce Young in his game against an FCS opponent and risk him sitting after a quarter. Or do you gamble on a lesser option at the position who might get into a Tuesday night shootout and single-handedly win you your week?

These strategic elements are one of the biggest draws of college fantasy football.

Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN

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