College Fantasy Football: A Beginner's Guide

Todd at CollegeFootballGeek.comCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2009

New to college Fantasy Football? Here’s a beginner’s guide to get you revved up.

The Evolution of College Fantasy Football

Pro Fantasy Football really started to hit it big in the late 90s with the explosion of the Internet and has become exponentially popular ever since. It was just a matter of time before its popularity bled over into the college game. 

Since no online college Fantasy Football league management product existed, the game was limited to hardcore geeks such as your truly. Leagues were managed manually for many years until U-Sports came to market. U-Sports offered the first quality online league management product using actual player names instead of keywords like Texas Tech, QB, No. 15. 

In 2008, fantasy juggernaut CBSSportsline took the plunge using player names. This is significant because of their large audience. College Fantasy Football is on the verge of growing by leaps and bounds.

Differences Between College and Pro Fantasy Football

You’re familiar with the pro game and wondering how it relates to college Fantasy Football? The differences are many. In a nutshell:

  1. Number of teams. NFL 32. NCAA 120 in Division 1-A, aka Football Bowl Subdivision.
  2. Injury reports. The NFL requires them. The NCAA does not, and the information can be difficult to obtain.
  3. Player turn-over. A star in the NFL can have a 10-year career. Stars in college play a year or two and move on to the pros. Players come and go much quicker in the college game.
  4. Gamedays. Everyone is familiar with the NFL’s schedule. College games, however, are now played nearly every night of the week.  You better keep on your toes in order to set your line-ups before that Tuesday night MAC kick-off!
  5. Bye weeks. In the college game, bye weeks are scattered all over the calendar.
  6. Mismatches. The NFL prides itself on parity. A college powerhouse can hang 70 on a lowly non-conference opponent. This can bring about some interesting fantasy questions: Do I start Tim Tebow against The Citadel? After all, he might only play a quarter and one-half.

Don’t let these factors intimidate you! We’ve got you covered. It’s not overwhelming - just a different challenge than the NFL game. Play one season of college Fantasy Football and you’ll become addicted.

Types of Leagues

  • Head-to-Head Formats: Probably the most popular format. The only tricky thing is how to handle the playoffs, since some college teams end their season earlier than others.
  • Total Points Formats: Draft a team. Either submit a line-up each week, or just a “season” line-up. Track each team’s total points for the whole season.
  • Keeper Leagues: You can use either format above. Keeper leagues allow you to keep players on your roster for more than one season.  It certainly makes those impact freshmen some very valuable commodities and adds a whole new element to your drafting strategy. Your league commissioner determines the number of keepable players, and the duration you can keep them.

League Player Pool Decisions

There are 120 schools in Division 1-A. This sounds overwhelming, doesn’t it? It doesn’t have to be. League management sites allow you to pick and choose which conferences and-or schools are included in your player pool. Here are the four basic models along with the percentage of leagues that fall under each category:

  1. 35 percent—All-FBS/120 School Leagues
  2. 25 percent—BCS-Only Leagues
  3. 5 percent—One-Conference Leagues i.e. SEC Only, Big 10 Only, etc.
  4. 35 percent—Customized variation i.e. BCS-Only plus the MAC conference

How Many Team Owners Should My League Have?

Of course, it’s entirely up to you and how stacked or watered down you want your teams to be. As a general rule of thumb, here are some recommendations:

  • All-FBS League: 10-12
  • BCS-Only League: 8-10
  • Conference-Only League: 6

In Head-to-Head Formats, when should we hold our playoffs?

The college football schedule is not a nice and neat package like the NFL. Schools conclude their regular seasons beginning in Week 12. Some teams play through Week 14. The Army-Navy game is in Week 15! You need to take all of this into consideration.

After playing this game for 10 years, and trying out many formats, we recommend you hold your season’s championship game the week before the conference title games. In some years, depending on how the calendar breaks, it’s Week 13, like in 2009. In some years, it has Week 14. It’s something to keep an eye on as you set up your league prior to the season. The good league management sites provide you with flexibility here. 

Depending on how many teams make your playoffs, we recommend you start them in Week 11 or 12, and finish in Week 13.

Where Should I Host My League?

You have a few options:

  • U-Sports: These guys have been around a long time.
  • CBS Sports: This media giant jumped into the college Fantasy Football fray in 2008.
  • Fantrax: A new player in the space.

What about the Bowl Season?

The majority of college Fantasy Football leagues end during the regular season. Those that just can’t get enough will take it upon themselves to start an off-line Bowl League.  Hold a quick draft and track the stats yourselves. In the near future, don’t be surprised if one of the league management providers offers this product.

Scoring Variations

Your scoring options are the same as in NFL fantasy leagues. Some leagues are performance-based: yardage-heavy, touchdown-heavy, etc. Some incorporate negative points. Some don’t. Whatever scoring system your league uses will directly affect your draft strategy. Be sure you understand all of the details thoroughly.

Looking for a standard scoring system? Here’s a recommendation:

Skill Players

  • .04 pts per Passing Yard
  • .10 pts per Rushing or Receiving Yard
  • 4.0 pts per Passing Touchdown
  • 6.0 pts per Rushing or Receiving Touchdown
  • -2.0 pts per interception
  • .50 pts per Reception if you’re a fan of PPR


  • 1 pt per Punt Attempt
  • 3 pts per Field Goal


  • 1 pt per Sack
  • 2 pts per Interception
  • 2 pts per Fumble Recovery
  • 6 pts per Defensive or Special Teams Touchdown
  • 2 pts per Safety
  • 10 pts per Shut-out
  • 7 pts for 2-9 Points Against
  • 4 pts for 10-19 Points Against
  • 1 pt for 20+ Points Against

Starting Line-up Requirements

You will find that college Fantasy Football leagues will start more players than the normal NFL league. The reason? You have a larger talent pool to choose from. The NFL has 32 teams. All-FBS leagues have 120. Big difference. Don’t let the larger line-ups scare you off. It may add a few extra rounds to your draft in August, but during the season it’s really no extra work.

Starting line-ups come in all shapes and sizes. Here are some standard formats to work from:


  • Quarterback: 2
  • Running Back: 3
  • Wide Receiver: 3
  • Tight End: 1
  • Flex: 1
  • Place Kicker: 1
  • Defense: 1


  • Quarterback: 1
  • Running Back: 2
  • Wide Receiver: 2
  • Tight End: 1
  • Flex: 1
  • Place Kicker: 1
  • Defense: 1

Todd DeVries is the founder of, your premier destination for all things college fantasy football.


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