For many of us, college football season is one of the most exciting times of the year. But, with so many teams to watch (including your local team), it seems like most of the “good games” require cable TV.
Despite this roadblock, it’s possible to watch college football without cable.
After all, it was only a few years ago when you could watch the national championship game and the major bowl games on local channels.
Today, you need ESPN to watch the most important games of the year.
Fortunately, that no longer means you need to sign up for a 12-month cable contract. Instead, consider these low-cost options to watch college football.
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Watch College Football Without Cable
If you’re looking to cancel DirecTV or your cable TV subscription, there are several other ways you can watch college football.
They’re legal, you’re not locked into a contract, and you can stream the game from any device. The only thing you need is a reliable internet connection.
Once college football season ends, you can cancel your streaming subscription fee-free. Or you might decide to hang on until the college basketball March Madness tourney ends.
College football streaming options might be the primary factor in deciding which of the services you choose.
Don’t forget to factor other, non-sports channels into your price comparison. After all, most of us watch more than college football on TV.
1. An HDTV Antenna
The streaming options below do an excellent job of offering cable TV channels. However, they don’t always excel at providing your local channels.
There’s a good chance you won’t get all four local broadcast affiliates (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox). This is because the major networks don’t have to partner with the different streaming apps.
If you happen to live in a major market where you can stream all four local affiliates (i.e., Los Angeles and Hulu Live TV), you may not need an antenna.
You may still run the risk of having those channels temporarily removed due to contract disputes.
Also, you might be able to get better picture quality using an HDTV antenna than streaming the channel over the internet.
Heavy internet usage can cause your internet stream to stall or buffer. This can cause you to miss key plays that you could have seen using an antenna.
You can see which local channels the apps below stream by entering your zip code. If they don’t offer the local channels you need, you can most likely get them with an antenna.
Why We Like HDTV Antennas
- Most viable way to get all your local channels without cable
- Watch every over-the-air channel for free
2. Sling TV
If you’re only keeping your cable plan to watch ESPN, the cheapest alternative is Sling TV. It offers three viewing plans: Sling Orange, Sling Blue and the Blue and Orange Combo.
Sling Orange ($40 per month)
For $40 a month, you can stream ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3. With other apps, expect to pay at least $60 a month to stream the ESPN networks.
Adding the Sports Extra package costs $5 per month. This lets you stream ESPNU, Pac-12 Network, SEC Network and the Stadium Network.
Now, for the tradeoffs. If you only want to pay $40 monthly for college football, you must choose between the ESPN and Fox Sports networks. The latter networks don’t stream in Sling Orange.
Also, you can only stream on one device at a time with Sling Orange.
Sling Blue ($40 per month)
You can’t stream ESPN, but you get FS1 and FS2. Plus, select markets also stream their local NBC and Fox channels on Sling Blue.
Adding the Sports Extra package with Sling Blue costs $10 monthly. Unfortunately, you still don’t get any ESPN channels. But you can stream NFL RedZone, which makes this a good package for watching NFL football.
For college football, this is the less practical package because you can’t stream any ESPN channel. But, you can stream on three devices at once.
If you want maximum college football exposure on Sling, either choose the Orange or Orange and Blue combo package.
Sling Orange + Sling Blue ($55 per month)
When you want ESPN and Fox Sports, you can get the combo package and save $10 per month off the price of both separate plans.
You will get all the Orange and Blue channels, including ESPN. And, you can stream on four devices at once.
For any plan, you need to pay $5 a month extra for cloud DVR. But even with that, you can’t record any of the ESPN channels or the SEC Network. If you want to DVR games on these networks, consider a different streaming app.
What We Like About Sling TV
- Cheapest way to stream ESPN channels
- Cheapest way to stream FS1 and FS2
For more information on Sling, read our full Sling TV review.
3. Hulu with Live TV
To get ESPN and Fox Sports, one of the best platforms is Hulu with Live TV. For $44.99 per month, you can stream both networks.
That’s about the same price as Sling’s Orange and Blue package. Other streaming apps offer both networks, but charge more.
With Hulu Live, it’s possible to get most (or all) of your four local channels. But, in most markets only expect two or three local channels that air college football.
In my town, Hulu doesn’t stream the local NBC affiliate. So, I need to use an HDTV antenna to catch the NBC broadcasts.
Besides live TV, you have full access to the on-demand Hulu library of movies and TV series.
Plus, you get 50 hours of free DVR storage. Hulu states you can record any college football game they stream. And, you can stream on two screens at once with the basic Live TV plan.
Maybe you’re one to set up at least three screens at once. For an extra $14.99 per month, you can watch on unlimited screens at home and on three devices when you’re away from home.
Why We Like Hulu with Live TV
- 50 hours of free cloud DVR to record college football on any channel
- Stream regional sports networks without buying an add-on package
- Unlimited device streaming at home (extra $14.99 per month)
You can learn about the other Hulu with Live TV benefits here.
4. College Sports Live
Another budget streaming app you might enjoy is College Sports Live. This app partners with over 70 schools to stream live sports content. Many of these colleges belong to smaller conferences.
However, College Sports Live also partners with larger names, including Penn State, Notre Dame and USC.
It’s possible to watch full-length games of partner schools. You can watch televised events for other sports, too.
If your favorite team is a partner, it’s worth looking at the College Sports Live program schedule. You can see in advance which games they are streaming. If you subscribe, it’s only $9.95 per month.
Why We Like College Sports Live
- Stream 70 college teams, regardless of your local broadcast zone
- Listen to radio broadcasts if the game isn’t video-streaming
The ESPN+ app costs $4.99 per month. But, this isn’t a full access pass to the entire ESPN network. Instead, most of the available college football games are from lesser-known colleges and divisions. It’s similar to the streaming options available on ESPN3.
To watch the games that broadcast on ESPN or ESPN2, plan on spending at least $25 a month with a streaming app like Sling TV.
You can also stream other college and professional sports on the ESPN+ app. Some of the options include NHL hockey, European soccer and Canadian football.
When you’re not watching live sports, you also have access to an on-demand library of original ESPN programming. For instance, you can watch the popular 30 for 30 documentary series.
What We Like About ESPN+
- Cheapest way to stream ESPN programming that’s not on ESPN or ESPN2 channels
6. DirecTV Now
This is the contract-free online version of DirecTV. For college football, look at the DirecTV Now “Just Right” package, which costs $55 a month.
The sports channels are similar to those available on the other streaming plans listed here that cost at least $40 monthly. But you have more non-sports channels to watch the other six days of the week.
With this plan, you can watch college football on these channels:
- Big Ten Network
- ESPN2 and ESPNU
- Local ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC (where available)
- SEC Network
Which regional sports networks you can stream may depend on your home address.
You can also stream on two devices at once. And you get 20 hours of free cloud DVR.
Why We Like DirecTV Now
- 20 hours of free cloud DVR
- Stream on two devices at once
- Access to local channels in most markets
Fubo might be the best network for other sports fans, but not for college football. This is because ESPN isn’t available with any plan.
If college football isn’t your primary passion, you might prefer Fubo. It allows you to stream foreign sports and U.S. professional sports with NBA TV and the NFL Network.
Other benefits: You can stream on up to two devices at once. You can add a third device for $5.99 per month. You also get 30 hours of free cloud DVR storage.
But Fubo is one of the more expensive options listed here. You can choose from one of two basic packages:
Fubo ($44.99 per month) and Fubo Extra ($49.99 per month). With either package, you can add the Sports Plus package for $8.99 monthly. This add-on gives you access to the various Pac-12 and Fox College Sports networks.
Fubo ($44.99 per month)
The basic Fubo package comes with these college football channels:
- Your regional Fox Sports network
- BeIN Sports
- Big Ten Network
- CBS Sports Network
- Local channels (where available)
If the various Fox Sports channels broadcast the games you want, you might like this package.
Fubo Extra ($49.99 per month)
For an extra $5 a month, you get access to the the Stadium Network channels in addition to the same sports channels as the basic Fubo channel.
Once again, for the price you pay, other apps might provide better viewing options.
Why We Like Fubo
- Most complete way to watch college football and other global sports
- Stream on two devices at once
- Regional sports networks
Below are answers to some of the more common questions about how to watch college football without cable.
Using an HDTV antenna is the only way to watch college football for free (once you’ve paid the one-time purchase cost of the antenna). But with an antenna, you can only watch what your local channels are broadcasting.
Otherwise, you have to pay to watch college games. Once you have one of the streaming apps we recommend, you can watch games on that app.
If the streaming service also partners with ESPN or other cable networks, you might be able to stream games from their apps instead.
Depending on the app, you might be able to stream live broadcasts or watch full game replays at your leisure.
If you have the Sling Orange package, for example, you can watch ESPN broadcasts from the Sling app or the WatchESPN app. With WatchESPN, you can multicast multiple games from a single TV screen.
Keep these network apps in mind if you like watching multiple games at once.
Other TV streaming apps partner with the cable network apps, too. Sling, Hulu, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now partner with these different apps.
As long as that channel is in your current package, you can probably use the network app if you prefer that streaming experience.
To watch cable channels, you can pay as little as $25 a month for the Sling Orange package.
With this package, you can watch ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3. For $30 monthly, you can add the Sports Extra package to also stream ESPNU, SEC Network and the Pac-12 Network.
Other full-service streaming apps start at $40 per month. These other apps might offer more channels or features (e.g., free cloud DVR).
Sling is the best option for bargain hunters. But, Hulu with Live TV might be better if you want ESPN and Fox Sports.
For the same price as the Sling Orange and Blue package, you can also stream the Hulu on-demand library and more non-sports channels. And, Hulu provides free cloud DVR that saves you $5 a month.
Once you begin paying more than $45 a month, you need to decide if the extra channels are worth the cost.
Most of these channels don’t specialize in college football. But, they might be fun to watch if you enjoy other sports or lifestyle channels.
No. None of these suggestions require you to sign a contract like cable or satellite TV providers do.
You can cancel your streaming plan at any time and not pay a deactivation fee. When college football season rolls around again, you can restart your streaming plan penalty-free.
With the exception of using an HDTV antenna for local channels, you need an internet connection to stream college football.
A home internet connection of at least 5 Mbps should be sufficient. But, you may need a faster speed if you stream on multiple devices at a time.
Most of these apps offer a five-day free trial. Before you cancel your cable plan, try them out to make sure these options meet your expectations.
In some markets, you can stream all four major network affiliates. However, in most cities you will only be able to stream one, two or three local channels. So, plan on buying an HDTV antenna if you want all four.
Each local TV market is different. On the website of the streaming app you’re considering, there should be a place to enter your zip code to see which local channels and regional sports networks are available.
These apps help you break the cable TV monopoly on watching college football.
Next season, you can watch your favorite teams for a fraction of what the cable company charges.