Saturdays Just Mean More

Saturdays Just Mean More

Carson Ward, Staff Writer

Carson Ward Columnist

The NFL is a watered-down version of football. It’s for people who want to enjoy a nice meal while there happens to be a football game on in the background. College football is real football. It’s where fans from all across the country show their true stripes, travelling hundreds of miles every weekend to cheer their school on and taunt rival fan bases. Students will wake up at the crack of dawn to tailgate and get ready for gameday. Saturday morning crowds on ESPN’s College GameDay is a premier example of the unwavering support that fans have for their teams. 

Rivalries are one of the major reasons that college football blows NFL out of the water. How many memorable rivalries are there in the NFL? Bears-Packers comes to mind, but what else? Although that’s an intense rivalry, especially here in the Chicagoland area, it doesn’t come close to rivalries such as Ohio State-Michigan, Alabama-Auburn, Notre Dame-USC, and Army-Navy. Anyone who goes down to Death Valley to watch LSU play Alabama will be met with the deafening roar of 102,000 fans and the electrifying music of the Golden Band from Tigerland.  

Having a stadium known as “Death Valley” exemplifies the intensity between not only college football teams but also their fan bases. In the NFL, is anyone afraid of playing the Raiders in the “Black Hole?” It’s just a baseball field! The “Dawg Pound” is where Browns fans covered their faces in brown bags for a decade. 

No matter how much a big-time college football team struggles, their fans will always be rowdy and supportive. Most fans of college football teams went to that school or had a family member that did, so they’re personally invested in every game and their hatred of rival schools is unwavering. Compare this to NFL teams, where most fans only root for a team because they happen to live in the same area where that team plays. 

No matter how lopsided a matchup is, college fans will always be hyped up and hopeful because they care more. ”

Rivalry games are more intense in college football because every game in the season counts. The Bears lost to the Packers last week, but that doesn’t mean their season is over. They can still make the playoffs. But if Notre Dame lost to USC, their chances of making it to the College Football Playoff would be ruined. It’s these high stakes that make college football games much more exciting and meaningful.

Not every college game is a rivalry game, but pregame traditions for teams amplify the hype for every game tenfold. They create an atmosphere that’s unique to college football and nowhere to be seen in the NFL. In the NFL, players simply run out of the tunnel. Boring! They aren’t led out by a 2,000 pound buffalo like the Colorado Buffaloes. They don’t touch Howard’s Rock and run down a hill like the Clemson Tigers.  No NFL team can get 65,000 people jumping to “Enter Sandman” like Virginia Tech does

Add in the presence of marching bands, raucous student sections, and school fight songs, and it becomes clear why the atmosphere of college football games is unparalleled. The Wisconsin student section sends seismic shocks through Madison during “Jump Around.” What does the NFL have? It has wine and cheese crowds with the occasional middle-aged man who paints his face and wears odd masks.

Yes, the talent disparity in college football is greater than it is in the NFL, so there are more blowouts. But is watching Alabama annihilate New Mexico State any less fun than watching a primetime Titans-Jaguars matchup? No. Because no matter how lopsided a matchup is, college fans will always be hyped up and hopeful because they care more.  Appalachian State beating Michigan in the Big House will be remembered forever. Would anyone care a year from now if the Dolphins had beaten the Patriots last Sunday? Does anyone have fond memories of the Bills destroying the Vikings last year despite being 17 point underdogs? No, because NFL games don’t have the immense impact that college games do. 

The enjoyment of going to an NFL game doesn’t come close to the thrill of experiencing a college football Saturday. Going to a college game means more than just watching two football teams duke it out. It’s about the tradition, energy, and passion.