Thursday, September 20, 2007

Why College Football is Better than the NFL (Part 2)

So reasons numbers 6 through 10 weren't enough to convince you huh? Well that's why I made this a top-10 list and saved the best for last. So without further ado, lets return to the list.

5. Unpredictability: Can you say Appalachian State? Better yet, can you find Appalachian State on a map? Chances are prior to week one of the college football season you had no idea who Appalachian State was and probably didn't care.

Now of course they are the architects of the greatest upset in college football history. Checking in at number five on the list, it's this type of off-the-wall unpredictability that makes the college game so much more fun than the NFL.

In the NFL the name of the game is parity and when a team like the Browns, with a quarterback named Derek Anderson (no, not that one) hangs half a hundred on the Bengals it's not that big a deal. The major upset has disappeared from the pro game and that gives the edge to college football on a week-to-week basis because you just never know what might happen on the college gridiron.

Already in 2007 there have been some true shockers. USF goes into Jordan Hare and takes out SEC power Auburn, who then gets beat by SEC doormat Mississippi State. Utah pimp slaps then #11 UCLA and Kentucky finally beats their in-state rival Louisville in an instant classic of a football game.

Anything, and I mean anything, can happen in college football which brings us to number four on the list...

4. They're Just Kids: Having spent time around professional athletes and their somewhat lackluster attitudes towards just about everything, it's refreshing to see kids playing a kids game.

Don't get me wrong, nowadays collegiate athletes are more and more aware of their own talents and like most kids try to emulate their professional idols. But despite the fact that they are literally young adults, from a maturity standpoint they are still just kids.

They make the game fun with their unscripted celebrations and not-so-great decision making at times. They also have the ability to let the emotional wave control them in a way that the professionals simply don't.

The pros are measured and calculated and almost completely un-affected by ra-ra stuff or "win one for the Gipper" speeches. College kids on the other hand are still inspired by the simple idea of playing for one another.

Maybe it's because they're not worth millions and most of them know they don't have a future on Sundays, but there's something so much more entertaining about the highs and lows produced by college kids every Saturday.

3. The NFL Draft: Why is an NFL event sitting at number three on the big list you ask? Well without the college game and its popularity the NFL Draft would not be the sort of event that it has become. No other sport has a draft that comes with as much anticipation and hype as football and it's because the college game is so great.

I am a self-described draft junkie. I'm the guy who likes to see every pick of every round and mark guys off my draft sheet as they go. I'm the kid who (when I lived on the West Coast) would get up at 7:45 in the morning on a Saturday to settle in for the 10+ hours of coverage on ESPN. I simply can't get enough of it.

I'm into the potential of the top picks and interested in seeing where some of my favorite collegiate players land at the next level. Sure I care about who the Niners pick, but I love the draft because I'm an analyst at heart who gets excited over projecting guys at the next level no matter where they end up. If you don't believe me, take a look at my analysis of 50 of the top players in the 2007 draft.

It's cool to see EA Sports mock up screenshots of what the best players of tomorrow will look like in their new NFL threads. And it's cool to see kids who have worked their whole lives, many times with the odds stacked against them, finally reach the big time.

The other thing that I love about the draft is that it means a whole new crop of players will be starring for their schools in the fall after waiting for their turn to shine. The ever-changing landscape of the college game keeps it fresh and the draft just happens to be one of the more entertaining steps in the process.

2. Wide Open Style: They call the NFL a "copy-cat" league where teams take offensive and defensive strategies that work and tweak them to fit their own teams strengths. That's good strategy if it helps you win games, but lets be honest, it's pretty boring to see nearly every team in the league employing some version of the West Coast offense and/or a zone blitz scheme.

The college game features the most innovative and downright fun styles of play at any level. Sure Steve Spurrier's Fun-and-Gun never made it in the NFL, but he won a national title with it at Florida.

Current Florida head coach Urban Meyer guided the Gators to a national championship by utilizing a two-quarterback system and lots of designed QB running plays to go along with secondary-flooding wide receiver sets.

Only in college will you see the option and the spread option that gives mobile quarterbacks everywhere a chance to play and win. Trick plays, odd formations and multiple-use athletes like Penn State's Derrick Williams are all in play in the much more entertaining styles of play found at schools across the country.

Three yards and a cloud of dust just won't cut it in today's college football world and that makes me smile.

1. Every Game Counts: This is the easy one on the list, but still the most important in my humble opinion. One of the most popular Super Bowl picks, the New Orleans Saints, find themselves 0-2 to start the season and they - like everyone else - are still very much in the running for a playoff spot.

Conversely my beloved 49ers are off to a 2-0 start, but I know not to get overly excited as things can change quickly. The Michigan Wolverines on the other hand saw their title hopes dashed by - say it with me - Appalachian State.

The same is true for hopeful teams like Virginia Tech, Tennessee and Louisville who find themselves needing more than a little bit of help from the myriad of schools ahead of them in the polls.

Detractors say that the national title should be decided on the field with a playoff system, but I say a playoff system would only serve to kill what is currently the most important and exciting regular season in any sport.

I love college basketball, but when I really think about it, I really only love college basketball in March. I like it a lot during the regular season, but even the games biggest and best rivalry - North Carolina vs. Duke - means virtually nothing in the grand scheme of things. Both teams will most likely make the Big Dance with a chance to take home the big prize.

In college football you have to be virtually perfect all year to have a chance, and I love that. There's no pre-season to get things ironed out and no room for a let down if a school wants to win it all.

The system is not perfect, but it lends itself to more sustained excitement than any playoff system ever could. All a playoff would do is open the door to more teams whining and moaning about being left out, just as all the teams who are on the bubble and miss out on March Madness do in college basketball.

Quite simply college football is unmatched in weekly excitement and importance and that's the biggest reason why the NFL loses this matchup.

Okay, so there it is, that's the list and I hope you enjoyed it. Some of you may be wondering where things like tradition and rivalries are. Well this is my list and while those things are great, they narrowly missed the cut.

Feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment and let me know how you feel about this list. What other factors did I forget? Am I dead wrong in the first place? I want to know what you think.

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