Can you smell it? It’s the aroma of tailgate food wafting into my nostrils, overpowering the funky odor that generally hangs over the River Wards.
Autumn is just around the corner, and that means you can strap me down and inject college football directly into my veins. I want to overdose on it. I want to wake up in a daze, turn to my television, and slowly focus in on the score in the upper left corner:
West Virginia 55, Virginia Tech 0.
Give it to me. Give me Manny Diaz going 0-12 and getting himself fired. Give me Penn State vs. Pittsburgh and Temple vs. Maryland and Villanova vs. Delaware. I want it all, and I want it now, as Freddie Mercury used to say.
Here are 10 reasons why college football is better than the NFL. Don’t even think about disagreeing with me.
1. There’s more pageantry
The band is playing, the student section is rocking, the cheers and chants are choreographed and generally on point.
NFL stadiums don’t really feature any of this, and the most organization we can do at Eagles games is “Fly Eagles Fly,” after a touchdown. The Linc might be loud, sure, but it’s mostly just a bunch of reactionary noise based on what’s happening on the field. It’s a completely different atmosphere in and around college stadiums, an organic celebration of campus pride and sport.
2. The rivalries are more interesting
What’s the best rivalry in the NFL? Cowboys vs. Eagles? Packers vs. Bears?
Those games don’t hold a candle to Auburn/Alabama, Ohio State/Michigan, Oklahoma/Texas, or Army/Navy. We’re talking about competition for recruits, geographic proximity, year-long bragging rights, etc. Dallas is 1,500 miles from Philly, and even though I hate those cucarachas with the passion of 1,000 burning suns, I just don’t feel like that rivalry is as inherently biological as a good college football rivalry.
3. Different offenses, different defenses, different styles
The NFL is pretty straightforward. Teams are gonna work from a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive base, then end up sitting in nickel for about 70% of the game. They’ll throw the ball something like 60% of the time on offense.
In college, it was interesting to watch Paul Johnson’s triple-option, or Hal Mumme’s Air Raid, then observe the spread and influence of those styles over the years. Same goes for the 3-3-5 stack defense and various alternative sets with bandit and spur safeties and whatnot. College is the staging ground for a lot of new and unique ideas that then become absorbed by NFL teams. The read option, Wildcat, RPO – all of that stuff started in college.
4. September games actually matter
The Eagles can drop a game or two along the way and still finish 12-4 or 13-3 with a first round bye.
This weekend, the loser of Florida and Miami might be out of the playoff picture right away. It would be a shame if Manny Diaz got smoked by the Gators. You would just hate to see that.
But yeah, the stakes are incredible high right off the bat, which pulls you in immediately. NFL season to me requires a few weeks to really get going, and there’s more room for error right from the jump.
5. Games are played on Saturdays
The best part of about college football Saturdays is that I can stay up until 1 a.m. watching Washington State vs. Arizona and not have to worry about going to work the next day. By the time the Seahawks and Rams hit the 3rd quarter on a Sunday night, I’m already half-asleep.
6. Fewer posers
Most fans of college teams at least went to the school or actually grew up in the region where their team plays.
You’ll find more bandwagon Cowboy and Giant fans than, for example, Ohio State or Southern Cal fans. The one exception here is Notre Dame, where legions of people who have never stepped foot in Indiana will claim Irish fandom because they themselves are Irish Catholic or because ND was “on TV all the time,” as if that’s a legitimate reason to support a team. Alabama is on TV a lot, too, but you don’t see people in Philadelphia wearing Crimson Tide jerseys.
7. Just more of everything
More teams, more storylines, more games to watch. I can flip through a bazillion channels on Saturday and pick out a good game, when on Sunday I’m typically sitting on Red Zone because I don’t really care about the 1 p.m. game between the Cardinals and Niners or the Bills and the Dolphins. Similarly, I’m not getting beat over the head five days in a row with the Antonio Brown helmet story because the college landscape is bigger and there’s just more to talk about in general.
8. Non-conference crossover and intrigue
Every year the Eagles play their divisional opponents twice, then a rotating collection of NFC and AFC teams. You occasionally get the intriguing road game (at Bills, at Chargers, for example), but there’s less variation than at the college level.
For instance, Temple gets Georgia Tech and Maryland at home this year, two Power Five conference schools at the Linc. That’s in addition to their AAC slate, which includes #17 UCF. Then, in the future, the Owls will face these non-conference opponents:
Oklahoma? Miami revenge game? Rutgers? These are intriguing matchups made possible by the variance in conference setup.
Oklahoma vs. Texas is played every year in Dallas. Florida/Georgia is played in Jacksonville. South Carolina and Clemson play their game at the very end of the year.
I don’t know how practical some of these traditions are in terms of competition, i.e. maybe Texas wouldn’t mind going home and home with OU at some point, but these little quirks and practices don’t exist at the NFL level and are unique to the college game.
10. Huge upsets
Appalachian State vs. Michigan doesn’t happen in the NFL. Neither does James Madison knocking off VPI in Blacksburg, or Troy beating LSU in Baton Rouge.
Some of the early non-conference games make for incredibly compelling TV, even for people with no rooting interest whatsoever. Sure, NFL parity is fantastic, but these moments are really something to behold when they happen.
Anyway, that’s about it. I could go on and on with the list but the bottom line is this:
Now and forever, college football > the NFL.