The pageantry, the rivalries, student sections, fight songs and traditions like running through the “T” at Tennessee or releasing the “War Eagle” at Auburn. Those are some of the traditions that make college football so great. What makes the NFL great? Read on to see what I have to say…
Taking the Field: The script “Ohio” and dotting the “i” at Ohio State, Howard’s Rock at Clemson, the “Sooner Schooner” in Oklahoma, the “Ramblin’ Wreck” at Georgia Tech, the buffalo at Colorado—so many schools have their own unique traditions in how the team is led onto the field—all while their school’s fight song is played by their marching band. In the NFL, teams may have one of those flimsy blow-up tunnels to run through while some AC/DC or Guns ‘N Roses plays over the PA system.
Atmosphere: The Oregon Ducks “O” chant is loud throughout four quarters and all their home games. Marching bands entertain during halftime (even when teams are out of the national title picture), school pride is always on the line, and fans and players always want to win. When you attend an NFL game you’ll hear pre-canned music, sit through long television timeouts even though players are ready for the next play, and see a wide range of halftime shows that can either be entertaining or an insult to how much you paid for your ticket.
Homecoming: In college football, there will be one game a year where alumni return to the school they graduated from. In the NFL, homecoming might mean a game where the team invites a couple of old players back to do the coin toss.
Rooting interest: NFL teams mostly reside in major U.S. cities, so if you don’t live in one of those places you probably don’t have as much rooting interest for a team that is hundreds of miles away. There are 120 teams in the FBS level of college football, and in all types of cities, large and small. Couple that with the rooting interest you have when you attend/attended a school and you’ll find alumni who will watch their college team no matter if they are sports fans or not.
Rivalries: The rivalries are so much better in college football. Many schools have been playing each other since the early 1900s. There are in-state rivalries (Stanford-Cal), border-war rivalries (Michigan-Ohio State), and sometimes just plain old hate rivalries (USC-Notre Dame). Sometimes, it doesn’t matter if both teams have winning records (Army-Navy). In the NFL, rivalries seem to change constantly. Too many of the rivalries in the NFL depend on whether or not both teams have winning records, which brings me to my next point…
Parity vs. Stability: The NFL is simply too unpredictable. Because of the salary cap, revenue sharing, roster turnover and injuries (Hi Peyton!), the NFL looks different every week and anyone could be a winner. Beating the Indianapolis Colts one year (2010) is impressive, beating them the next year (2011) is expected. The NFL makes it tough to have depth on a team, retain players, or sustain greatness. Not the case in college football. It will always be impressive when your team beats the USCs, the Alabamas, and the LSUs of the world.
Spread Offense vs. Pro Style Offense: I don’t know about you, but I like watching football games that have a lot of scoring. The spread offense has been running wild in college football the past decade score points in the 40s-50s most Saturdays. When is the last time you saw a team score 50 points in the NFL? (To be fair, though, LSU’s offense was pretty horrific in its BCS title game matchup against Alabama, who held the Tigers to 53 yards passing and 39 yards rushing. When was the last time we saw a team fail to score in the Super Bowl? The answer: never.)
Pros vs. Joes (Not the TV show that once starred John Rocker and Muggsy Bogues): In the NFL, we are constantly hearing about players holding out during training camp in order to get a million more dollars. In general, people don’t like whiney millionaires. In college football, it’s all about the love of the game, and pride for their school, because players aren’t getting paid (well, not as much).
Playoffs vs. BCS: The NFL playoffs include 12 of the 30 teams. The BCS includes two, though it will expand to four at the end of the 2014 season. Only the elite of the elite of the elite can play for a national championship in college, but in the NFL a 9-7 Giants team played in the Super Bowl after beating three teams in the playoffs. Talk about rewarding the mediocre.
Bowls: Wait a second, this is rewarding the mediocrity. Uh, let’s keep going.
Talent: Hmmm…Maybe I should use a Jedi mind trick on you here. (Waving hand) Eighteen to 22-year-olds with less experience are much better football players than 23 to 35-year-olds (I think that worked).
Saturday vs. Sunday: There is nothing better than watching college games all day on Saturday. It only happens once a week in the fall…er…well, I guess it does happen again the next day on Sunday. Hmmm…
Conclusion: Well, that wasn’t as convincing as I thought it would be. I guess we could just watch both and enjoy this great sport that has captivated young and old fans alike.
Aaron May is a staff writer and videographer for Sports Spectrum. Print and digital subscribers, log in and view the issue here. You can catch his weekly columns on college football, college basketball, and Major League Baseball, depending on the season, each week at sportsspectrum.com.