College football season is one of the most exciting in American sports. With top teams going head-to-head on the gridiron, we have an exciting season ahead! Whether you want to see the current top-ranked team claim the national championship or are cheering for an underdog, follow this updated guide to enjoying a favorite pastime at a fraction of the cost. If you want to watch college football without cable TV, here are your best options.
Here are our recommendations for how to watch college football without cable. Keep reading the article below for full details.
- Watch college football over the air with an antenna for your TV
- Get college football live stream via SlingTV
- YouTube TV, a cable replacement slightly cheaper than cable, includes many channels for sports fans
- Hulu + Live TV offers college sports along with a full package of entertainment
- Watch ESPN+ without cable
- Paramount+ replaces CBS AllAccess and comes with a free trial
- fuboTV cable replacement option that includes many college sports and has a free trial
- Cell phone plans may include college football streaming free
- Conference apps provide select free college football live stream online
- Sports Live
- Bonus: Radio broadcasts online
While this article focuses on college football streaming and broadcast options, you can learn how to watch the NFL without cable here.
Traditional broadcast TV
If you want to keep tabs on the top 25 teams, you can generally get a few games every weekend with an over-the-air digital cable antenna. Unlike the days of rabbit ear antennas with sometimes fuzzy signals, the current digital antennas are an all-or-nothing proposition. Make sure to test your antenna before game day so you don’t get an unpleasant surprise.
You can find both in-room and roof-mounted digital antennas today. Intro level antennas can provide a good quality signal, and boosted, powered antennas will cost quite a bit more. If you struggle to get a good signal, make sure to place your antenna high up, near a window, and ideally away from walls. This guide from Consumers Reports will help you position an indoor antenna for the best quality signal.
Many stations have moved to new broadcast frequencies, so you will need to rescan for channels if you get your TV signals using an antenna. You won’t have to rescan if you are live streaming or if you have cable TV.
I cut cable in 2011 and have since saved thousands of dollars on my TV service. Follow our Living on the Cheap guide to ditching your cable service to learn more about getting college football and other shows over the air for free. For NCAA football, you can expect games with the largest followings and biggest rivalries for free over-the-air. Most free broadcast games feature top-25 teams.
Major networks including ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox broadcast college football games. If you don’t have cable and you want to see more games, here are five ways to watch college sports online.
College football online live streaming
Slingbox is a box that hooks up to a TV with cable and then rebroadcasts the stream to a phone, computer, or even another TV anywhere in the world with an internet connection. It does require the home TV to have an active subscription, but that doesn’t mean SlingBox has to sit in your own home.
If you don’t have a relative or friend willing to let you use their TV and internet to watch the big game, Sling TV is a great option. Sling TV is a service that allows you to bundle your favorite TV channels for online and app based viewing. You can subscribe to the channel lineups you want, which can include ESPN, NFL Network, and other football and sports heavy channels. Plans start at $35 per month, which includes most games. At the time of this update, Slingbox has a promo of $10 for the first month.
YouTube TV is a paid online TV service from Google. The list price is $64.99 per month, which is similar to many lower-cost cable packages. There’s a current prompt for $54.99 per month for your first three months after a two-week free trial.
Channels for sports fans include ABC, CBS, Fox, NBS, ESPN, and NFL Network, among others. This is essentially a complete cable-TV package delivered over the internet.
Hulu + Live TV
Hulu, now owned by Disney, has a live TV package with 75+ channels for $64.99 per month. That’s less than you get from YouTube TV for the same price, so it may not make sense for you on its own. However, there’s a 7-day free trial of Hulu + Live TV so you can decide for yourself.
However, if you’re into the full package, you can get Hulu, Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu Live TV for a total of $72.99 per month. That’s almost as much as some cable packages, but you can watch college football live stream and you may not need much else for entertainment.
ESPN+ is the premium app that allows you to watch live sports – including college sports. It also gives you access to some pro games from MLB, NHL, MLS, UFC, and more. You don’t need a cable subscription to watch games on ESPN+. You can pick up ESPN+ with a discount if you buy it in a package with Disney+ and Hulu, also owned by Disney.
ESPN+ online works through your web browser, mobile, or smart TV app. ESPN+ supports Android, iOS, Roku, Xbox One, PS4, FireTV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and other smart TV apps.
Don’t confuse it with WatchESPN, which was an app (no longer available) that allowed cable subscribers to watch ESPN on their devices. ESPN+ is a separate subscription that does not require you to have cable TV.
ESPN and ESPN2 account for about 80% of all the college football on the ESPN networks. ESPN also includes ESPN3, ESPNU, SEC Network, SEC Network +, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes, Longhorn Network, ESPN Goal Line, and ESPN Buzzer Beater.
You might be able to watch a handful of games at espn.com/watch without a subscription, but they will typically limit you to less exciting matchups.
Your cellphone provider
Your cellphone company may offer a package that streams some ESPN games. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon offer ESPN packages to get you access to streaming games, either included in your account or with an extra subscription fee. This gives you access to some of the major games on ESPN. You would be limited to viewing these college games on your phone unless you have an Apple TV, Chromecast or another way to send this to your TV.
You can download the ESPN app for free, or it may be preinstalled on your phone. You won’t get access to all games without a subscription, however. Depending on your options and preferences, this could be the best choice. As a bonus, you wouldn’t need to add a new monthly bill. It’s simply tacked onto your existing mobile phone bill.
Paramount+’s sports and live TV
Another good app for budget-conscious sports fans is Paramount+ — especially if their team is part of the Southeastern Conference. Paramount+ has replaced CBS All Access, which was already on a lot of fans’ radar because it gave them a way to watch football, golf and basketball. For prices starting at $4.99 per month, with a free trial, college football fans can watch whatever SEC games are being broadcast on CBS that week.
And if you are a college student yourself, you get a 25% student discount on Paramount+ to watch any games you won’t be attending in person.
(And even if you’re not a sports fan, you might be interested to know that Paramount is also home to several new Star Trek series, such as Discovery and Picard, which are not available elsewhere.)
FuboTV is another cable alternative that broadcasts live TV over the internet, including ESPN. You may run into some blackout restrictions on local or regional games, depending on where you live and where the game is being broadcast.
fuboTV includes college football as well as most of the pro sports leagues. They also have full coverage of special events like the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals and Stanley Cup playoffs.
You can watch on up to two devices at a time without an extra charge. Watch on your computer, phone, tablet or on TV with your Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, Xbox, Fire TV or Samsung Smart TV.
Every fuboTV account includes 30 hours of Cloud DVR space at no extra charge. You do not have to sign a contract for fuboTV and can cancel at any time.
Some conferences have their own apps for Android and iOS that allow the streaming of specific games. To access all games, you would have to download the ACC app, Big10 app, PAC12 app, SEC app, and any other conference you care to watch. Some apps offer season-long subscriptions to live games with varying fees.
Thanks to blackout market rules, these apps may only include untelevised games. You can’t rely on a conference app for every game.
College Sports Live
SportsLive aggregates games and live events from more than 100 colleges and universities for a monthly fee. This service gives you access to a lot more than just college football games.
College Sports Live includes other sports like soccer, volleyball, and field hockey. You can also catch press conferences and similar events from many teams. Check out the full-lineup of upcoming programming here. You can watch games on your computer or through the College Sports Live Android, iOS, or Roku apps. And don’t forget the power of Chromecast, a favorite tool for cord cutters!
Honorable Mention: Radio broadcasts online
You can always go old school. Hearing an audio feed of the big game is pretty simple. If you know the radio station that is affiliated with your team, you can probably put it into your Web browser and be presented with a play button immediately. If you don’t know what station airs your team’s games, then search for something like “ESPN Radio” “Boise State Football Radio Network” or “East Carolina Football Radio Network” and you can be listening over the Internet for free in a flash.
A couple of years ago, you could find several free websites on which you could watch your team from across the country. The NCAA has plugged most of these holes, and the FBI has plugged a few more. They are getting very serious about enforcing intellectual- property laws.
While it is tempting to Google “Free college football online,” research shows that most places advertising streaming of live sports online are lurking in the hope of putting malware and viruses on your computer. Please beware.
If the options above don’t cover your college football needs, your best bet may be to band together with a friend. You can both pitch in and hang together on game day. The more friends in your group, the less you’ll pay. Do your best to pick a friend with a big TV and existing cable subscription to get the most bang for your buck.
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