17 for ’17: Happy Valentine’s Day Reasons To Love College Football
17 reasons to choo-choo-choose and love college football on Valentine’s Day.
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17. Bowl Games
Yes, the bowls are a total rip-off for the schools, and yes, about five people show up to several of them, and yes, they’re easy to complain about when they match up teams you’ve never heard of, but they’re something to do in December. And when they’re good, and when the players are fired up, they can be among the most intense games in sports.
16. Pac-12 After Dark
It’s a big problem that the Pac-12 1) has so many fun games that 78% of the country is asleep for, and 2) has a network that’s not on DirecTV. But for gluttonous junkies, the late night Pac-12 – and throw the Mountain West in there, too – games that go into the wee hours of the morning are the wafer-thin mint at the end of Mr. Creosote’s college football Saturday meal. No matter how bad the day’s games are, there are always 1,000 yards of total offense waiting there for you until bar time.
15. The Different Styles
The NFL has different versions of the exact same Texas Tech offense – throw Tom Brady in one here, and an Ezekiel Elliott in a different one there – and a few tweaks of whatever the hot defensive wrinkle is at the moment. If you like high-powered passing games, the Big 12 and Pac-12 are there for you. If you like defensive slugfests, you can find them all over the SEC and Big Ten. Whatever type of football blows your hair back, you can find it, with the potential to mix and match styles if you’d like. And then there’s the …
14. Triple Option
Yeah, when the triple option offense bogs down and doesn’t work, it’s as ineffective as Ryan Gosling trying to sing. But when it’s on, and the fullback is pounding away to set up the home run pitch to the outside, or the one-on-one deep ball, it might be the most brutally-effective beautiful thing in all of sports. In this time of Valentine’s Day love, if you have a twisted thing for this offense like I do, here’s your old school porn …
13. Wacky Point Spreads
Unless you can spot the inconsistency in the off WNBA game, or see some sort of discrepancy in a preseason NFL exhibition, you’re pretty much guessing if you’re a sports investor – which is why the true degenerates are into the horses. But the smorgasbord is there for you in the college world. Want to go one way big on a tight rivalry battle? Take XYZ State minus the 2.5. Want to go another way on Direction School State +43.5? Go and make your life better.
12. It’s Possible To Make A Team Better In A Hurry
If an NFL team is really, really bad, it might take a few years of good drafting, a lot of luck in the free agent market, and a lotto win to get the right guy under center to become really, really good. In college, change coaches, have a good recruiting class or two, and a program can go from lousy to great in a hurry – or at least faster than it’ll take the Cleveland Browns to be decent.
11. You’re Only Sort Of Rooting For A Business
Sorry, but if you’re a die-hard, lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, or Miami Dolphin supporter, or Golden State lover, you’re rooting for a franchise of a giant corporation. You’re an emotionally-manipulated customer of a more-interesting Jiffy Lube. Of course college athletics are a billion-dollar business, and of course these major football programs exist to generate revenue, but the Missouri Tigers aren’t going to move to Los Angeles to get a better stadium deal.
10. Overtime System
As Super Bowl LI proved so painfully, the NFL overtime system is needlessly flawed. (Really, with the way that thing was going, the championship of the biggest sport in the world came down to a coin flip?) The college version isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t beat the NHL 3-on-3 style in terms of fun, but at least it gives both offense an equal shot to come up with a win. Now, college football, move the ball from the 25 to the 35 to start, and it’ll be better.
9. Fight Songs
Yeah, it’s way too corny, but between the Notre Dame Victory March, to On Wisconsin, to USC’s Fight On, to Boomer Sooner, to whatever your rouser might be, college football does the song thing better than any other sport. (However, this doesn’t necessarily count for the commandeered Enter Sandman or Seven Nation Army.)
8. Replay System
College football has the gold standard. If the booth finds something a bit funky, it looks at it to make sure without the coach having to risk anything unless absolutely needed. It’s not fair that NFL coaches have to figure out on the fly whether or not a guy got his toe on the line, and it’s not right that baseball managers have to take a guess. If a call is close, get it right by using everything technology has available. There’s no nobility in a wrong call, and college football – in general – does replay as quickly and efficiently as possible.
7. New Stars Who Come From Nowhere
Every sport gushes over its new shining stars. College basketball might have the star freshmen, but college football’s new guys are forced to stick around for a little bit.
Die-hard fans knew who Lamar Jackson was coming into the season, but it only took a few games for him to become a household name. Johnny Manziel became an instant sensation after being in a fight for a starting gig, while Cam Newton went from being just another starting quarterback, to a national champion Heisman winner in a few months. Legends are born in a hurry, and unlike other sports where some of the top new guys fizzle out, most of the time, the college football superstars leave on a high note.
6. Alabama & Nick Saban
There are two ways to look at this. 1) You have a front row seat to one of the most amazing runs in the long, long history of college football. Saban is at least in the discussion of the best coaches of all-time, and the Crimson Tide are on an epic streak of historic greatness. And/or, 2) this is the evil empire and you get to root hard against it. Either way, appreciate it.
5. ESPN Actually Does This Well
If you’re old enough, you remember when Chris Berman was fresh, SportsCenter didn’t have to try so hard, and ESPN was … cool. The whole thing is fine now and gets a bad rap, but it’s Kenny Mayne at best, contrived hot-take kitsch at worst, and in the middle it ranges from Bill Walton to unavoidable pablum – except for college football.
Chris Fowler was as it good as it got when it came to his studio work. Now he’s just as strong a play-by-play man for the biggest games, and Kirk Herbstreit is getting better and better now that he’s established and able to step out more. No, GameDay isn’t quite as necessary as it used to be, but Rece Davis and crew are still terrific, Paul Finebaum is a voice of reason in an insane wilderness, and overall, the network continues to do college football better than any other sport.
4. The Best Individual Honor In All Of Sports
The Stanley Cup is the greatest trophy, but no individual award is as important as the Heisman. Being the NFL MVP is nice, and then Tom Brady wins the Super Bowl. Baseball’s MVP is fun, the NBA’s version is big, and hockey is hockey, but there’s nothing like the Heisman race, which takes on a life of its own each season.
3. Rivalries That Matter
Duke vs. North Carolina, Green Bay vs. Chicago, Red Sox vs. Yankees, Adele vs. Fastlove – rivalries are always a big deal to the people who care about them. But on a wider scale, unless they determine a championship, they’re just big battles that rile up the base. But when Michigan vs. Ohio State or Alabama vs. Auburn helps shape college football’s national title chase, or if a conference title comes down to it, it takes on a level other sports can’t match.
2. The Regular Season
I know, I know, you’ve been bashed over the head with the tired college-football-regular-season-matters-more cliche for far too long, but the college football regular season matters more. There’s a reason the sport is more intense each and every Saturday than any other – the losses are bigger. NFL people always fight this, and they’re wrong. You can lose two games in the NFL regular season and get into the playoffs, and in the right division, you can probably lose seven. You can’t lose two in college football, which leads to …
1. A Playoff That’s Truly Meaningful
So, the playoffs create a true and fair champion of an NFL season, right? You got the playoff system down, so the best teams that proved themselves in the regular season get in the Super Bowl, right? 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2007 New York Giants, 2010 Green Bay Packers. (Mic drop)
All playoffs are great, and that’s not always a plus.
You really, really don’t have to watch a college basketball regular season game, since the NCAA Tournament is the only thing that matters – ask Michigan State last season. And no, if you’re not a fan, you aren’t going to miss anything if you don’t see an NBA, NHL, or MLB regular season game, mainly because the playoffs are so long and so separate from the long, grinding death march that is their respective regular seasons.
We can all argue about who should be in the College Football Playoff, but there was never a cheap BCS champion, and you have to be amazing to win the CFP National Championship. College football might not have the best playoff in sports, but it’s champion is almost certainly the truest year-in-and-year-out.
Happy Valentine’s Day, college football.