February 14, 2009

The things we love about college football

In honor of Valentine's Day, the Rivals.com football staff decided to put together a top-10 list of the things we love about college football.

Fire up the grill, crack open a beer, put on your No. 1 jersey, load in a DVD of your team's most thrilling wins, cue your favorite fight song on the stereo and enjoy.

Argue all you want about how the NFL has a much better method of deciding its champion. At least college football knows how to decide the winner of a game that's tied at the end of regulation. College football's overtime procedure might overemphasize the importance of a quality kicker, but at least it guarantees each team one possession.

Any self-respecting college football fan can hum at least a few bars of the "The Eyes of Texas," "Boomer Sooner," "Notre Dame Victory March," "The Victors," "Ramblin' Wreck of Georgia Tech" and plenty of other fight songs. Just try to name any NFL fight songs beyond "Hail To The Redskins." You can't do it.

Whenever college football creates an exciting multitalented player, such as Arkansas' Matt Jones, Indiana's Antwaan Randle-El or Florida's Tim Tebow, all we hear is how he won't be a proper fit for the NFL. So what? We don't care about what they will do in the NFL. We don't care if they are "system" players. In college football, teams find ways to make room for unique talents. Remember how the "Wildcat offense" was all the rage in the NFL this past season? To anyone who paid attention to college football, that scheme already was yesterday's news.

The world stops for at least 24 hours, and nothing matters but a three-hour game.

No other sport has them roaming near all the action. Thank goodness for, among others, Ralphie (Colorado), Bevo (Texas), Mike the Tiger (LSU), Chief Osceola and Renegade (Florida State), Traveler (USC), Rameses (North Carolina), Auburn's eagle and Uga (Georgia).

People talk about Major League Baseball rivalries, rivalries in the NBA and rivalries in the NFL. Come on they all pale in comparison to those in college football. Red Sox-Yankees is a heated rivalry, yes, but the teams play at least 18 times per season . Contrast that to, say, Michigan-Ohio State. They meet once on the last Saturday of the regular season. And in college football, some rivalries are so big they get names: The Big Game (California-Stanford), The Civil War (Oregon-Oregon State), The Holy War (BYU-Utah), The Backyard Brawl (Pittsburgh-West Virginia), The Iron Bowl (Alabama-Auburn), The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (Florida-Georgia), The Red River Rivalry (Oklahoma-Texas).

The postseason might be considered a disaster by some, but there's nothing better than September, October and November.

Admit it: When you hear a drum line, everything is right with the world. Nothing beats the brass bombast and flurry of drums as the band strides in rhythm toward the stadium on a Saturday morning. And it's not just at halftime, but before the game and during the game, too. In college football, the actual game is only part of the show; the bands can make the pregame and halftime pageantry almost as good as the game. And enough with the canned music during breaks in the action; there's nothing like hearing the marching band crank it up instead.

Man, there's too many to mention but we'll get a few in: the marches by the Cadets and Midshipmen at Army and Navy, FSU's flaming spear at midfield, Tennessee's checkerboard end zones, singing "We are the Boys" at the beginning of the fourth quarter in Gainesville, rolling Toomer's Corner, Texas A&M's 12th Man, Georgia's hedges, flashing the "Hook 'Em Horns" sign, Clemson players touching Howard's Rock, night games in Baton Rouge, tailgating in the Grove at Ole Miss, Tightwad Hill in Berkeley, dotting the "I" at Ohio State

Nothing matches the fan hysteria surrounding college football. Tailgating with your friends, cheerleaders, marching bands, fight songs, stadium chants you know, it's enough to bring a tear to your eye, especially when there's six-and-a-half months until it starts again.


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