The NFL is king but for many it’s not even the best source of entertainment even for football.
We’re a few days out from the first college football weekend which has quite a sexy lineup of games. I’m terribly excited although most of my friends think I’m some type of weirdo for loving college football more than the NFL. Below I outline the ten reasons why college football is a much better sport to follow opposed to the NFL. But first some context (feel free to skip).
– This is totally subjective between football fans. For instance, where you grew up is a huge factor as being raised in Alabama, Nebraska, or Utah is most likely going to nurture you into a college football fan as opposed to growing up in Philadelphia, New Orleans, or the Northeast (in fact I made a map taking a stab at what states prefer CFB opposed to NFL here). Other factors include if and where you went to college, if and where your parents went to college, and how good or bad your local teams are. If you agree or disagree, a large part of that maybe just because of your upbringing and familiarity to either level of football.
– On Twitter there is certainly a robust history of writers and personalities throwing shade on sports they don’t like. NBA fans and NHL fans always like to take shots at each other with the amount of overlap their seasons share. College basketball fans and NBA fans also have been known to mix it up. That’s not me. I’m not jaded towards the NFL at all. In fact I grew up lucky enough to have season tickets to the 49ers in the 90’s and attended a Super Bowl #allsortsofprivilege. I have three fantasy football teams and started playing fantasy in high school without the aid of email or the internet. I subscribe to Sunday Ticket and have done so since the 90’s. I don’t think there are many people who consume as much NFL Films produced content as me. Basically, you can disagree with me all you want but you can’t say I’m an NFL hater because that’s just not the case.
So with all of that in mind, let’s get started.
1) College Football doesn’t require you to spend $350+ to watch all the games
I tried to find an image here that showed the pricetag of DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket. There are none (do an images search on NFL Sunday Ticket) because DirecTV knows people will see that pricetag and walk away. It’s insane.
The cost of being a displaced fan of any other sport is way way way more manageable and flexible. Monthly packages, team specific packages, and much more affordable packages.
Not only do you have to pay an insane amount ($250-$360) depending on what upgrades you need (I suspect most get the full package although many are able to haggle with DirecTV because you know it is rather ridiculous), you either need to have DirecTV or more recently a good internet connection plus some hardware or a big monitor.
How about college football? Unless you are a PAC 12 fan with DirecTV, you can pretty much get all of the games as long as you subscribe to the extra sports tier of channels which usually includes ESPNU, BTN, SEC Network, CBSNSN, etc. That’s about $5 a month and a lot of those channels have sports all year round opposed to Sunday Ticket which is $20 a Sunday if you get the big boy package. $360 a year? That’s more than I spent on my season tickets as a student combined with a month of rent while in college.
2) Rivalry games that tower in significance over the NFL and other sports
Rivalries for pro sports teams are just not even remotely close to college football rivalries.
My favorite day of the year is my school’s rivalry game. A lot of fans feel that way. Attending a memorable rivalry game can often be one of the best memories in someone’s life. The right rivalry in the right scenario absolutely dwarfs pro rivalries. Ask a college football fan their most memorable rivalry games and they’ll light up telling you details from games that go back even decades ago. Shit, most fans can tell you about lots of rivalry games not pertaining to their team that were memorable even for them.
Now ask a Bears fan if they recall the two games against the Packers in 2013 or a Redskins fan about their clashes with the Cowboys in 2009. NFL rivalries are hard to build up and then be sustained over time. In my lifetime, you could say the Niners’ chief rival has flipped 5-6 different times and the 49ers have been good for a lot of that time. And yet, outside of a few big big games the rivalry department is pretty dormant these days.
I don’t even know who the chief rival is for many NFL teams. If you’ve been 6-10 the last few years and so has your rival and you play twice a year, you’re going to tell me that’s as badass as the Iron Bowl, the Red River shootout, or OSU vs. Michigan? Do fans rush the field when the Bears beat the Packers? Do teams play for rivalry specific trophies? I pretty much sneer at the idea of NFL rivalries being anywhere near the same level of significance as college football. It’s like you’re sipping on a Michelob Ultra and we’re all here downing moonshine out of a beer bong. Don’t even start with me.
3) Actually caring about other team’s games
This is probably the biggest one. Regular season games matter a LOT more, for your team or for any team. College football fans will passionately watch games not involving their teams and then be excited or disappointed by these outcomes. With the NFL, there really isn’t much of that at all. Oh the 7-2 Packers lost to the 3-6 Rams? Surprising, but nobody really cares that much or will remember a year from now.
But do college football fans ever eat up unexpected upsets, especially if it derails a championship season. I’ll spare you reciting a list right now but I assure you fellow college aficionados can list off examples of crazy regular season games. The average NFL fan will probably be lucky to know another team’s record beside their own and who they actually lost against in the previous year. Here is the difference between the sports:
In most years it’s just not that exciting to see the cream to rise to the top over a 17 week NFL regular season. Only one or two playoff spots may be up for grabs by the final weeks with the rest of the field being decided well in advance.
The only thing I could compare college football to is ~30 or so people walking over a super thin sheet of ice to which the other side of the water is the playoff. I think most would say between 25-40 teams have at least a slim shot at one of the playoff berths and basically every week you can just sit at home and see who plunges into the ice. Wait! Oregon is losing Utah?!?!?! Hold up Florida State is in a dogfight with Georgia Tech?! College football fans yearn for this chaos and it’s pretty dependable when you factor in the regularity of away teams imploding or rivalry games that derail an elite team’s season.
Now most teams who fall through the ice with a loss end up sinking and dying but some struggle to get back onto the surface again. So even when Alabama or Ohio State lose, you’re still keeping an eye on them because another game can just be a death blow the playoff aspirations or a big win could get them out of the freezing water and back into the race.
If you need me on the weekend in the fall, you better make it a Sunday because Saturdays are reserved for rubbernecking the chaos of the regular season opposed to the monotony of Sundays.
4) Diversity in offensive systems
NFL offenses certainly have their advantages in terms of consistency, talent, and balance. That said given the vast majority of the league more or less uses a handful systems and playbooks, there isn’t much intrigue as to how defenses will defend specific teams or what type of success they’ll have. If you’re a shrewd NFL fan, you can probably guess the amount of touchdowns each team will score on each other and get that number right a respectable percentage of the time. I mean most games it’s a team scoring 2-4 touchdowns against the other team who usually scores 2-4 of touchdowns as well.
But college is CRAZY. Option football! Read option! (Yes the NFL has this to some degree but fear of getting a QB injured really throttles it down) The Big 12 in particular is pass happy with most of the teams going 4 wide each play. Two QB systems! The Wildcat! Defensive players getting touches on offense! Freak athletes playing invented hybrid position! QB’s getting 20+ carries a game! No huddle and fast tempo offenses using crazy cards to signal in plays! The pistol! Crazy Stanford jumbo packages!
Yeah that paragraph was a bunch of random shit with exclamation marks but that’s how I feel. You may get a service academy running an option versus a pass happy team that puts up 50 points a game and who knows how that will go. If you’re a fan of a particular team or just the sport in general, the crazy diversity in offensive systems lends itself to a way more uncertain and exciting game given you really have no idea how some of these flavors of offense will do versus a team that hasn’t seen that type of system all season and in many cases beyond.
5) Following recruiting
This one may only be for the hardcore fans, but if you really want to let yourself go into football fandom, following recruiting is the rock bottom of football addiction. There are literally hundreds of message board websites that charge subscriptions so fans can find out all the new developments of what high school recruits are thinking in terms of where they’ll go to college. It’s year round and for some reason it’s really popular.
Yes the NFL has the draft and free agency and other offseason things to follow but it’s sparse compared to the constant news cycle of recruiting. You can track scholarship offers, visits, commitments, performances in high school games, and a bunch of other stuff that isn’t really interesting at all to 99% of the population. And it’s not only just following all of these developments, but for those who partake in this vice, these message boards are often more beloved than Twitter or Facebook in terms of community. It’s basically like an old fraternal organization with a bar on main street with a bunch of old dudes who will shit themselves if you order a fancy cocktail or beer, but hey for those guys….there is nowhere else they’d prefer to hang.