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.
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.
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.
Watch ESPN without cable on Sling for $10 your 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.
Try Hulu + Live free for 7 days
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.
Get ESPN+ for $5.99 per month
multi-generational family in home cheering on their football team without cable
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.