100 Reasons You Should Watch College Football More Than the NFL in 2012
The 2012 season is already shaping up to be an awesome one in college football. The controversy, excitement and passion ignited by college football are unparallelled in modern sports, and that includes those of the NFL.
The reasons why a person should watch college football over the NFL this upcoming season are endless. The players care more, the fans are more frenzied and there is more controversy to argue with your friends about. College football is a sport that gets people excited no matter what happens. There are more games, more teams, more conferences and more styles of play.
In scope and variety, college football towers over its professional counterpart.
Fans grow up, and traditions are built around the special relationships people develop with their alma maters. These relationships are deeper and have stronger foundations than those people develop with their favorite professional football franchises.
College football is what powers the NFL; not the other way around. It is a much richer, more vibrant sport, and there are hundreds of reasons why a person should watch it over the NFL. Hopefully, the first 100 will do to convince you.
100. Marching Bands
NFL teams do not have marching bands for the most part. A couple do, but they are not of much repute. The halftime show consisting of the marching bands at each college football game is one of the highlights of the experience.
The best in the nation is pictured above. Texas A&M's band does things that few bands in the world can do, and their kind certainly cannot be found in the NFL.
99. Al Golden's Attempt to Revive Miami
After going 6-6 in his first season, Al Golden will continue to try to rebuild the Miami Hurricane football program. It will not be easy, as Miami is under NCAA sanctions and may be under more in the near future. Golden has done a respectable job so far, but no one would blame him if he cuts his losses and goes somewhere he can win. How it all pans out will be fascinating.
98. 'Doctor' Lou Holtz
College football has Lou Holtz, and the NFL does not. Holtz is funny and witty and has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to this game. His Notre Dame bias may get a bit annoying at times, but he is all the more entertaining for it.
"Doctor" Lou is the only coach that has taken six different teams to bowl games, and that makes him valuable all by itself.
97. More Stars
Let's be honest about this. Star power is what really makes fans excited about sports. We love to watch an athlete lead a team or make an amazing play. The NFL has its stars, and quite a few of them at that.
However, there are many more stars in college football. Even the lowest of the low in terms of talent still have that one player who transcends his surroundings and does something special. You can find stars everywhere in college football, which is why it is so popular everywhere.
96. EA Sports' NCAA Football 13 Video Game
Can you just not get enough college football? Never fear; EA Sports has you covered with its NCAA Football 13 video game. The NFL does have its Madden series that is also hugely popular, but this college football version is better. The gameplay is smoother, the players are faster and there are more ways to customize the gaming experience to fit you. This year's game is particularly good.
95. Better Mascots
NFL teams do have mascots, but the average fan probably does not even know that. College mascots are a much bigger part of the experience and have more free reign to entertain. There are also more of them and a larger variety of different types of them.
I cannot help but think that Nick Saban is not really mad in that picture. He is really just trying not to laugh at that goofy elephant behind him.
94. The Texas Storyline
Rewind the clock two years, and you will see a Texas Longhorns team that put up a good fight without its starting quarterback in the national championship game against Alabama. Since that game, this Texas team has gone 13-12 and has been mediocre at its absolute best.
With the best defense in the Big 12 and what should be an improved offense, this will be a critical year for Mack Brown and his program. It is not something that you will want to miss by watching the NFL, where teams fall and rise on a whim.
93. Brent Venables at Clemson
Longtime Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables is at Clemson now, looking to redeem himself in a new environment. Last season, the Sooner defense hit a low, getting shredded by Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas Tech for big yardage. Venables was not fired, but Mike Stoops was brought in to help with the defense.
It was clear that Venables was going to be demoted. Now, he'll try to prove himself in a new place and prove that he was not the problem with the Sooner defense. NFL coaches do not get such lateral opportunities, especially such drastic ones, which is another advantage of college football.
92. A More Challenging Game
It is much more challenging to be successful in the college game than it is in the professional game for numerous reasons.
First of all, you do not get to pick your players. Your players pick you, which is what makes it so special for a Boise State or Houston to win on a big stage.
Second, you are competing against 119 other teams instead of just 29. This spreads out the talent much more and makes it far more difficult to win games and recruits.
Also, there are no playoffs. So, in order for you to have any hopes of a championship, you must win a lot more than you would have to in the NFL.
These challenges make it tougher for coaches, but so much more rewarding for fans.
91. Rich Rodriguez at Arizona
One storyline that will be very fascinating to watch will be the one regarding Rich Rodriguez at Arizona. After having major success at West Virginia, Rich Rod was a complete bust at Michigan, which has only been validated more by Brady Hoke's instant success there. Rodriguez's system is a potent one when run right, but whether it will work for the Wildcats remains to be seen. Either way, it will be a lot of fun to watch.
90. Marcus Lattimore
One big reason you should watch college football instead of the NFL is Marcus Lattimore. He is clearly NFL-bound, but right now, he is still in the college ranks.
In the toughest defensive conference in the country, Lattimore rushed for nearly 1,200 yards as a sophomore. He was on pace to shatter that mark last season until an injury kept him out for over half the season. Now, he is back and will be looking to prove himself as the best running back in college football.
Trent Richardson was good, but this kid is probably even better.
89. The Matt Barkley-Robert Woods Connection
Last season, the quarterback-receiver duos that we all loved to watch were Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon at Oklahoma State and Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright at Baylor.
This season, we will probably get an even better duo in Matt Barkley and Robert Woods. These two were pretty prolific last season, but they will be even more so this season as they try to take USC to the national championship.
Both of these guys will be in the NFL soon, but you will only be able to watch them together right now in college.
88. Charlie Weis at Kansas
The Big 12 has added a lot of good coaches this season, but the most interesting one may be Charlie Weis at Kansas. It is a hire that does not seem to make a whole lot of sense, and those hires are the most entertaining because they always do one of two things. Either they pan out and the school looks genius for making such a bold hire, or it is a complete flop and we all get to laugh and say I told you so.
Unfortunately for NFL fans, professional teams just do not make hires this goofy.
87. The Disappearance of the Big East
The Big East is slowly but surely disappearing in terms of college football relevance. The conference was already the worst among the BCS automatic qualifiers, but now, it is getting ridiculous. I am not ashamed to admit that I really have no idea who makes up this conference now. West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse have flown the coop, and their replacements are not the type that are going to get anyone excited.
Unlike the NFL, which is all one big organization that has a pretty rigid structure, college football is very fluid, and the last few years have been proof that anything can change.The Big East's struggle to remain above water is a compelling one.
86. Can Mike Gundy Keep This Up?
Mike Gundy's program took a huge step last season, beating Oklahoma and Texas and securing its first Big 12 title. Gundy has done a good job there, but this year will be a big one in determining just how good this program is.
In each year that Gundy has been the head coach at Oklahoma State, he has won the same amount of games or more each year as he did the year before. Obviously, no one can keep that pace up forever, and it will be especially hard this year considering the playmakers his team lost to the NFL. How close he gets will be a measuring stick for just how high this program has truly risen nationally.
85. Danny O'Brien at Wisconsin
The NFL may have trades and free-agent transactions, but college football has transfers.
Last season, Russell Wilson transferred from N.C. State to Wisconsin and helped lead the Badgers to one of the best seasons in school history. This season, the Badgers will try to employ the same by bringing in former Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien. O'Brien showed some ability with Maryland and will have a much better supporting cast at Wisconsin.
This strategy worked once at Wisconsin, and it will be fascinating to see just how well it works the second time around.
84. Can Mark Richt Win a Title This Season?
Mark Richt had come under fire in previous seasons because of lackluster play by his football team. However, last season's 10-4 record and SEC East title definitely bought him some time. He is a very good coach, and his team has most of its important parts returning from last season. This year may be his best shot at winning that title that he has been unable to so far.
83. Sammy Watkins at Clemson
Sammy Watkins had one of the best seasons a freshman has ever had at the wide receiver position. He caught 82 passes for over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns.
A big question, though, is whether or not the freshman phenom will have a sophomore slump. He has already been suspended for Clemson's opening game of the season, which certainly does not get him off to a good start. Sophomore slumps occur in the NFL as well, but rarely do they occur to a player like this who is his team's main offensive weapon.
82. The Penn State Refugees
Maybe I am being a bit overly dramatic in calling them refugees, but they basically are. These players were put in a terrible situation, and they left because of it. A major storyline this season will be how they will do in their new college football homes.
Silas Redd and Justin Brown were the two biggest transfers of the group. Redd should help USC out right away, and Brown will probably start for Oklahoma. How well these former Nittany Lions do in their new environments will be fascinating to watch, and the NFL has nothing similar to offer.
81. Changing Rivalries
Another thing that will be particularly interesting this season in college football will be how certain rivalries have changed. The Backyard Brawl (Pittsburgh and West Virginia) will not be played, and each team will have to find someone new to fill that special place in one's heart a rival inhabits. The same goes for Texas and Texas A&M and for Missouri and Kansas.
This might be construed as a bad thing by some, but it gives college football an opportunity for growth that it otherwise would not have had.
80. Knile Davis' Return
After leading the SEC with 1,322 rushing yards in 2010, Knile Davis missed all of last season with a knee injury. This year, which will probably be his last as a college athlete, is an important one for his future and for Arkansas.
With the returning cast and the players that will leave after this season, this may be Arkansas' last chance for a BCS title for a while. Davis will be instrumental in that effort.
79. Jim Mora at UCLA
The UCLA football program has not been good in recent years, which is why many thought they needed to make a big splash in whoever they hired as their new head coach.
They failed to do so with Jim Mora. Mora has never been a college head coach, so no one really knows just how good he will be. He may be great, but I cannot help but think how much better a hire Mike Leach would have been.
Anyway, it will be fun to watch Mora at UCLA and see how he does in his first college gig.
78. Life at Stanford After Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck is an Indianapolis Colt, which means it will be fascinating to see just how Stanford moves on from one of the best quarterbacks in school history.
Brett Nottingham and Josh Nunes are the two young player competing to be Luck's successor. Luckily for them, Stanford has one of the best rushing attacks in college football with returning starting running back Stefan Taylor, who rushed for over 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Still, both quarterbacks are fighting to fill pretty big shoes.
77. The Civil War
The annual battle between the Oregon Ducks and the Oregon State Beavers was first played in 1894, making it one of the oldest rivalries in college football. It is also one of the most evenly matched historically, and it is a fierce one at that.
These two schools hate each other more than any NFL teams do, and they even have different styles of play. The Ducks have held the day recently, but this could just be the year the Beavers break through.
76. Family Traditions
There is something special about passing down a family tradition of rooting for the same program over the decades. The NFL cannot really imitate it, especially when you factor in how good it feels to have an alma mater and be a part of that huge family. NFL traditions are passed down, but very few fans can say they were a part of that franchise. College football fans can do just that.
75. Can Washington Make Some Noise in the Pac-12?
After two straight seasons with a 7-6 record, the Washington Huskies appear to be mired in mediocrity. Head coach Steve Sarkisian has improved the program since he arrived, but the program needs to take a step forward this season and leave behind the near-.500 records. It will not be easy, as the Pac-12 is still a pretty tough conference.
If Sarkisan cannot get it done, he may be on the hot seat at season's end.
74. The Holy War
The annual Holy War fought between the University of Utah and Brigham Young University is among the richest rivalries in college football. For nearly 120 years, these two schools have battled and were in the same conference up until a few years ago.
This game should be especially valued now because it is no longer an annual event. The religious affiliation of BYU is what sparked the term "Holy War" in relation to the rivalry, and it provides an aspect that NFL rivalries cannot replicate.
73. Derek Dooley's Future at Tennessee
So far, in two seasons with the Tennessee Volunteers, Derek Dooley has yet to post a winning record. He is one of many coaches that could be on the hot seat this season, and Tennessee really needs to show something good for him to be good about keeping his job.
Dooley was already a bit of a risky hire, given that he had only coached at Louisiana Tech. Even in his last season there, he was only able to post a 4-8 record.
72. Which Team Will Break Out?
Last season, it was Houston that was the breakout team from a non-BCS conference that cracked the Top 10 for part of the season.
One of the funnest parts of each college football season is watching out for that one unexpected team that overachieves. Who it will be this year remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: It will happen to someone.
71. Logan Thomas
After a good season for Virginia Tech last year, many believe that Logan Thomas could be a superstar in 2012. His name has been mentioned for Heisman consideration and as potentially a high pick in the draft next April. However, he does lose star running back David Wilson from last year's team, which will put even more of the offensive burden on him. Watching him progress into a star will one of the best progressions to watch for this season.
70. Andrew Maxwell Trying to Replace Kirk Cousins
Kirk Cousins won 11 games in each of his last two seasons at the helm for the Michigan State Spartans. Big things are expected again from this squad, but whether they can deliver will depend on junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell.
The team around him is very talented, especially the defense. But he will be the missing link, and his play could determine if they have a down year or are contending for a Big Ten title.
69. Steve Spurrier
Let's be honest about this. The ol' ball coach makes everything a lot more interesting. From insulting other teams in his own conference to spurning questions about retirement, Steve Spurrier is just plain entertaining. He is a big-time coach as well, although he has struggled to have as much success at South Carolina as he did in the past.
This is a big year for him, as the offense looks better and the defensive front is elite. We will see just how good Spurrier and his team are very quickly. The SEC does that to you.
68. Tommy Tuberville at Texas Tech
The football at Texas Tech has not been the same since Mike Leach left. And while Tommy Tuberville is a very capable coach, he has been unable to have similar success to that of Leach.
Last season, the Red Raiders did not make a bowl for the first time in a very long time. If Tuberville does not have a good year this year, he could be looking at finding a new job soon.
67. Cheerleaders Have Actual Talent
Don't get me wrong, but NFL cheerleaders are not anywhere near as talented as their college counterparts. College cheerleaders actually compete in competitions against one another. They do stunts and dances and are skilled. NFL cheerleaders cannot do that stuff. Pretty girls are great, but wouldn't you rather them be skilled?
66. Rex Burkhead Continuing to Be a Stud
Rex Burkhead is a stud for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers. His bruising running style is becoming unconventional, but it works for him. He accounted for 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns, and was a big part of the Husker offense. He will continue his studly ways in the Big Ten this season and will be especially important for Nebraska if Taylor Martinez is unable to get his act together.
65. Jadeveon Clowney
Jadeveon Clowney is a playmaker, pure and simple. As a freshman last season, the 6'6" defensive end recorded 36 tackles and eight sacks, earning him second team All-SEC honors and the SEC Freshman of the Year award.
He will only get better next season and comes into the year as one of the top defensive players in the best defensive league in America. Luckily for the Gamecocks, Clowney cannot go to the NFL until after the 2013 season.
64. The New Skill Players at Oregon
Oregon is projected to be a Top 5 team this season in college football despite losing its starting quarterback and starting running back to the NFL. Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota are battling to replace Darron Thomas as quarterback. Head coach Chip Kelly has had no trouble with new starting quarterbacks in the past, but green players are never a certainty.
In replacing running back LaMichael James, the Ducks have D'Anthony Thomas, who rushed for nearly 600 yards and seven scores as the backup last season. While Ducks fans should not be too worried, how these players pan out will be compelling to watch.
63. Larger Coaching Carousel
The coaching carousel in the college football game is extremely fun for fans during the offseason. There are so many more coaches and coaching positions than in the NFL, which makes the whole experience exponentially more interesting.
Charlie Weis, Mike Leach and more all have new jobs this season. In fact, there were 27 head-coaching changes in Division I football. The NFL cannot beat that.
62. Casey Pachall in the Big 12
Speaking of new people in new places, TCU quarterback Casey Pachall will be in a brand-new conference this season in the Big 12. Unlike the Mountain West, Pachall will have to up his game to be considered peers with many of the incumbent quarterbacks in that league. While his play has been good so far, he has nothing on players like Collin Klein, Landry Jones and Geno Smith. Watching him try to match them in-conference will be too good to pass up, especially because he has the talent to do it.
61. A Worse Authority Figure to Hate
NFL fans love to hate on Roger Goodell, and they have some pretty good reasons to do so. But he pales in comparison to the NCAA. At least Goodell always seems to have a reason for what he does.
The NCAA is a shadowy organization that operates with no real leader and with absolute power. It sanctions teams all the time and often is too harsh or too soft. No one is happy with the NCAA, and they are much easier to hate and spoof than Goodell.
60. A.J. McCarron at Alabama
A.J. McCarron helped lead the Alabama Crimson Tide to a championship last season. However, he did so with a ton of help from a guy named Trent Richardson.
Now that Richardson is gone, it will be McCarron's turn to shine on the big stage. He will be the focal point of the offense, and he should make things very interesting in the SEC West.
59. Fight Songs
College fight songs are just another big part of college football tradition and another reason why it is what you should be watching instead of the NFL. Each university has its own song that its diehard fans know by heart. It adds to the uniqueness of each stadium experience and the tradition of the individual schools. It is a great part of the sport, and the NFL just cannot compete with it.
Tailgating is one of the best parts about college football. Not only does college football tailgating beat NFL tailgating almost everywhere, it also beats just about any other pre-game celebration for any sport. Great food, beer and crazy college students make for a great party, and that is what college football tailgating is made up of.
57. Ticket Prices
Ticket prices for college games are significantly cheaper than those to a professional game. Many times, especially at smaller college stadiums, you can get a ticket for $10-20. There is no way that is happening for you at any NFL venue. The college stadiums may not be as nice across the board, but you are certainly getting more bang for your buck.
56. Life at Baylor After Robert Griffin III
Robert Griffin III will go down as the best quarterback to ever play at Baylor. But now he is in the NFL, and it is time for the Bears to move on without him.
Senior Nick Florence will attempt to step into Griffin's now-vacant role. Florence filled in some last season while RG3 was hurt and showed himself to be a very capable passer. However, the leadership he will need to bring is huge, and it will fascinating to see if he has what it takes.
55. World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party
This rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators is one of the biggest and most contentious in college football. These two teams hate each other so much they can't agree how many times they've played, the record of the rivalry or the first time they actually played each other. It does not get much better than that.
This season's game should be a good one, as a favored Georgia team will try to defeat a talented Florida one. The NFL has nothing on this game.
54. September 1: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 8 Michigan
This season-opening game is a reason all by itself as to why you should be watching college football over the NFL. Not only does it match up two Top-10 programs, but it also is being played in the Dallas Cowboys' stadium in Arlington, Texas.
As if that was not enough, these two teams are arguably the most historically accomplished in the history of the sport. The season will certainly start off with a bang.
53. No Money Disputes
The NFL is filled every year with contract disputes and all kinds of arguments about money. And while I do not blame any of those players for getting their money, I do appreciate the fact that the college game is not like that. Well, at least not openly. It is nice to have players who go out without having any purse strings attached.
Granted, they are playing for future money in many cases, but still. It is nice to not have to hear about money all the time.
52. The Army-Navy Game
The annual Army-Navy game has come to have a special place in the hearts of American college football fans. It is a game that honors those who give their lives to protect us, and it will always be an important part of the culture. The NFL is not unpatriotic, but it does not have anything like this. This game is college football's way of recognizing the heroes of our armed forces, and it is near-sacred.
51. Continued Conference Realignment
Any smart betting man would bet that the shifts in conference alignment are not over. Texas A&M, Missouri, West Virginia, TCU, Boise State and San Diego State will all be in new conferences this season, and I would not expect things to end there.
Rumors putting Florida State and Clemson in new conferences have abounded, and there is also those who question how much longer Notre Dame will remain an independent.
Something will definitely change within the next year or so, which a lot more than one can say about the NFL, whose rigid structure never changes.
50. Will Taylor Martinez Ever Pan Out?
This year could be the year for Taylor Martinez. The talented dual-threat signal-caller is in his third season at the helm for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and it will be his play that determines how good they can be this season. He has had his moments, both good and bad, but the inconsistency is a worry.
He is entertaining, though, especially considering how immature but talented he has been during his career. In the NFL, he would already be on the bench, but what fun would that be?
49. Will Muschamp in Florida
Will Muschamp has only been the head coach at Florida for a year, but the pressure is already heavy on him to win. An excellent defensive coordinator at the University of Texas, Muschamp was among the most wanted head coaching prospect for numerous years. He finally took the Florida job after it was clear that Mack Brown was not leaving Texas anytime soon.
He went 7-6 in his first year, which is not terrible, but Gator Nation will be expecting bigger and better things this year. He has brought in a great recruiting class, but that is not always enough.
48. The Polls
The college football polls are one of the most controversial parts of the sport. Each week, the fans have a concrete representation of exactly what various groups think of the Top 25 teams in the country. Like everything else in college football, the appeal is the controversy and the discussion.
Unlike the NFL, college football does not just have the boring conference standings. These polls are valid opinions from those who are supposed to be qualified to make such judgements. That is what makes them so fun to flaunt or disagree with.
47. Boise State Broncos
Boise State has gone from a completely irrelevant football program to one of the biggest national television draws in the country. Always entertaining, the Broncos have flourished under the leadership of head coach Chris Petersen, and that entertainment value reached its peak in their huge Fiesta Bowl upset of the Oklahoma Sooners a few years ago.
The Broncos will be rebuilding a bit in 2012, but they will also be in a new conference with a chance to qualify automatically for a BCS bowl. There are no Boise States in the NFL.
46. Trap Games
There are trap games in the NFL, but they are nothing compared to the ones in college. Each NFL team is in a big city and a heavily-populated area. But some of these Division I college football teams play in the middle of nowhere. There is no NFL equivalent to playing Texas Tech out in Lubbock, Texas or the Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming. Those are experiences that are completely unique to the college environment and give a whole different meaning to the term "trap game."
45. The Triple Option of Georgia Tech
The triple option has all but disappeared in the game of football today, but if you still wanted to enjoy its nostalgic feel, you will have to tune in and watch the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. A few other college teams run it too, but there is no way you will ever see it in the NFL. The college ranks are the only place you will ever see this old, but effective offensive system.
44. Kirk Herbstreit
The best college football broadcasters were often not the best players. While Kirk Herbstreit was actually a pretty good player, he is even better as a broadcaster and analyst. He is Emmy-nominated and always is doing the color for the biggest games on ESPN's family of networks.
Herbie has done great work for ESPN for many years now, but his best moment has to be this one from last season.
43. Denard Robinson
Denard Robinson has been one of the most interesting players in college football during his time at the University of Michigan. A gifted dual-threat quarterback recruited a specific system, Robinson now must play in the pro style system of Brady Hoke. He did well last year, leading the team to a 10-2 record. His stats were not as good as they had been, but he was also able to stave off the injury bug much more effectively. He is mentioned in the Heisman race every year thanks to his ability to rack up yards through the air and on the ground, and this year will be his last chance to try for that award. It will not be easy for him, and it will all depend on his ability to continue to learn how to play like a more traditional quarterback.
42. The Magic of Bill Snyder
Coaches like Kansas State's Bill Snyder are a rarity in college football and are unheard of in the NFL. Snyder has coached at Kansas State his entire career, turning around the program multiple times. Six years after going 1-10 in his first season in 1989, Snyder posted a 10-2 record in 1995. He retired in 2005, only to return yet again in 2009. The Wildcats became a Top 10 team last season. Snyder is just a man that wins at the game of football. His teams run the ball, execute and play solid defense. This season, they should yet again be a Top 10 team. You cannot see anything like this man in the NFL.
41. Jimbo Fisher at Florida State
If having to follow a legend in Bobby Bowden was not enough of a burden on Jimbo Fisher, he will also have to deal with the pressure he has put on himself by winning 10 games in his first season as the head coach. Combine those with the stellar recruiting classes that Florida State has had recently, and you can see why the expectations are so high for Fisher and his program. Many have predicted a national championship for them this season, but he still has a lot to prove in order to get there.
40. Matt Barkley
It is clear that the No. 1 quarterback in the nation right now is Matt Barkley. There is a ton of pressure on the young signal-caller as he strives to carry USC to a title, win a Heisman trophy and prepare himself for the NFL. Barkley has the skills to do it, and watching him try will be immensely entertaining. Professional quarterbacks carry quite a bit of pressure too, but Barkley has even more than any of them.
39. John L. Smith at Arkansas
An affair and motorcycle accident have kicked Bobby Petrino out of Fayetteville and now John L. Smith has been transplanted in his place. This experiment at Arkansas will be a fascinating one to watch. Can a program that was among the nation's best last season continue on that path with a brand new head coach? Smith is the only significant change to the program, and it will be interesting to see just how successful he can be as a placeholder. It could get him a long-term commitment from the Razorbacks, but only if he performs exceptionally well.
38. Michigan Is Back
Brady Hoke has not been the head coach at Michigan for very long, but he has already made a heck of a difference. An overtime victory in the Sugar Bowl over Virginia Tech capped off an 11-win season for the Wolverines last year, and now the pressure is on Hoke and the program to continue to compete on a national level. It will be fascinating to watch, and it is great for the sport for Michigan to finally be relevant again. Those Rich Rod years were rough.
37. Crazy Fans
College football fans are crazier than their NFL counterparts. That is just the truth. Maybe it is the loyalty one feels to their alma mater. Maybe it is the fact that every game means so much more in the championship race. Or maybe it is simply because college students are just insane anyway. Whatever it is, it is awesome and is a big part of what makes college football such a unique sport.
The Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys have one of the most underrated rivalries in college football. This year is particularly interesting, as each team has something to prove. The Sooners are out to show the world that they are still a championship-caliber program, while the Cowboys are trying to prove that they are here to stay as a Top 20 program in the nation. The game is played in Norman this season, and Sooners will try to get revenge after suffering a 44-10 beatdown in the game last year.
Before the NFL season starts, if you are given the chance to pick five or six potential Super Bowl teams, odds are that you will pick the winner. The few amount of teams and lack of turnover in rosters makes the professional game much more predictable than the college one. College football has favored teams each year, but there have been years where lowly ranked or unranked teams have made huge jumps by the end of the year. It is entertaining, and it just is not the same in the NFL.
34. The Stats
Last season, Houston's Case Keenum threw for over 5,600 yards and scored 48 touchdowns to just five interceptions. You are not going to get those kinds of numbers in the professional game. Ever. It is not going to happen. Granted, we are not all stat geeks, but for those who are, your place is in college football. In the NFL, a running back is considered extremely good to rush for over 2,000 yards. The college record for rushing yards in a season is nearly 3,000. The NFL just cannot compete with college football when it comes to stats.
33. Urban Meyer at Ohio State
If two things in sports seemed like they fit together better than anything else those would be Urban Meyer and Ohio State. Everyone knew Meyer would end up in Columbus, even in the face of his denial of it. We all knew it was the perfect job for him and that he would end up there. Now, we get to see just how good the fit is. Meyer will attempt to bring the Buckeyes back to college football glory, and it is expected to happen sooner rather than later. With the success of Brady Hoke at Michigan, the rivalry between the two coaches should shape up to be a great one that you will not want to miss.
32. Dana Holgorsen
After lighting up scoreboards as the offensive coordinator at Houston and Oklahoma State, Dana Holgorsen certainly did not disappoint at West Virginia. Not only did he win the conference, but he also put up 70 points on a very good Clemson team in the Orange Bowl. Now, he is headed back to the Big 12 and will try to survive in an conference built on offensive firepower. We will find out really quickly whether or not Holgorsen's team is the real deal. The NFL does not have a personality quite like Holgorsen, and it will be tough for it to find one.
31. ESPN Goal Line
For those of you who like the NFL because of NFL Redzone, never fear. ESPN Goal Line is college football's version. The cable station provides live look-ins and analysis on games in-progress and is one of the best resources a college football fan can have. Plus, Goal Line has more games to look in on than Redzone, which makes it infinitely more entertaining.
30. TCU and West Virginia in the Big 12
The Big 12 has been the second-best conference in college football for the past few years. The additions of TCU and West Virginia are improvements over the teams that left, and each brings a unique storyline to the table. TCU is looking to prove that they belong among the elite in their own state. West Virginia is going to a conference that values offense as much as they do and will try to prove that they are better than the conference they came from. It should be interesting to watch how each plays out.
29. Penn State's Attempt to Move on
The Penn State scandal and fallout have filled up the headlines for many months now. Plenty has been written on this subject, and now the Penn State family will try to move on in a new direction. That will be one of the most interesting stories to follow next season, as the Nittany Lion program struggles to maintain itself under the weight of NCAA sanctions of epic proportions. It will not be easy, but I think we are all rooting for them to survive.
28. The Reunited Stoops Brothers
Mike Stoops is no longer the head coach of Arizona, but he is the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma. He has reunited with his brother, Bob Stoops, the head coach at Oklahoma. Both are hoping that their reuniting will turn around a Sooner defense that was unable to stop very many teams last season. Whether two Stoops are better than one remains to be seen, but it will absolutely be entertaining to watch.
27. College GameDay
College GameDay on ESPN is one of the highlights of any college football fan's Saturday, and it is better than any NFL-themed show. It has been on since 1987. Lee Corso has been on it for that long, and who does not love watching that old coach put on those goofy mascot hats? Kirk Herbstreit, Cris Fowler and Desmond Howard are all good here as well. However, it just will not be the same without Erin Andrews.
26. The Passion of Amateurism
Granted, this slide is probably a joke to most people. However, there are people out there who value amateurism still in college athletics. That amateurism can still bring with it passion and loyalty that are not found in the professional game. Professional football players have the image of rich, spoiled babies. College players, for the most part, do not. They might one day, but at least they don't yet.
25. Halftime Coach Interviews
Coaches hate them, but fans love them. They do not last long, but the interviews coaches do before halftime can be immensely entertaining. Sometimes the coaches are happy, sometimes they are even-tempered and, best of all, sometimes they are grouchy. NFL coaches do not do halftime interviews, so even coach speak in these interviews is better than what you are going to get in the NFL.
24. Notre Dame
Notre Dame is one of the most historic football programs in the country. Even though their program has fallen on hard times over the last couple decades, they are still among the Top 15 programs in the country. Their fan base is still a national power, and as long as that is true, they will be relevant. They are also entertaining to watch, because they will either implode completely or finally succeed again. Whether you hate them or love them, someone is going to be entertained.
23. Breakout Stars
Every season in college football, no-names become household names. Robert Griffin III was known at the beginning of last season, but his star has become infinitely brighter after the season he had last season. Something similar happens every season. Maybe not to the extent that it did with RG3, but it does happen each year. In the NFL, it is much more difficult to rise so quickly.
22. Les Miles
One thing no one can deny about Les Miles is the entertainment value he brings to the sport of college football. Love him or hate him, he is a passionate coach whose eccentricity is matched only by his ability to coach at an elite level.
This guy chews the grass before each game. It reminds me of Russell Crowe in the movie Gladiator, and that is exactly the type of bravado that Miles wants to bestow upon his players. He leads passionately and makes up for what he lacks with unbridled enthusiasm and passion.
21. The Upsets
The upsets in college football are much more important than those in the NFL. Teams in the NFL can get in to the playoffs with eight losses sometimes. To get to the championship game in college football, a team cannot really even afford a single loss. Any loss can keep a team from reaching its goal, and an upset loss can completely kill a team for an entire season. The NFL is full of upsets each week. College football upsets are rarer, and much more satisfying.
20. Bowl Season
I do not know about you, but I love the bowl season. Watching teams that normally would not get a national audience just shows you what a deep and rewarding experience college football can be, even if those teams are not necessarily the best. Those players fight for what is really nothing more than pride. Those trophies do not mean anything really when it comes to championships, but they do mean honor. And they mean a great viewing experience for fans.
The USC Trojans are attempting to rise from the ashes of the Reggie Bush scandal. The Oregon Ducks are looking to prove that they are an elite program, even after losing key playmakers from last year's team. This will be one of the biggest matchups of the season. USC uses a pro-style system, while Oregon uses an up-tempo attack based on speed. These two teams are different in almost every way. They are similar in that each wants to be the best.
18. The Offense of the Big 12
The Big 12 has become a conference known for scoring touchdowns. The offenses of this league are all lethal. Most of them can sling the ball pretty well, and many can also run the ball in addition to that. They score with the best of them, and at times, their games resemble track meets more than anything else. The NFL does not have anything like that. No division or conference in professional football can boast such offensive firepower.
17. Variety in Style
The NFL has seen an increase in the variety of different philosophies you will see on any given Sunday in the past decade. However, it is nothing compared to the radical differences in style that you will see on any given Saturday. On both sides of the ball, different regions of the country and different conferences have very different principles they operate on. High-octane passing attacks, ground-and-pound time-eaters, smash-mouth blitzes and tempered containment are all widespread.
16. The Players Are Always Changing
Another thing that college football has over the NFL is the fact that its players are always changing. Even the best players only get four years to actually play, while most do not even get to play that many. This keeps college football fresh, as the stars and breakout players are always changing. The NFL does turn over more rapidly than other leagues, but not as much as college football.
The offseason of one's favorite sport can kill a fan. There is nothing to watch. Your favorite team, or any team, does not play for six months, and all you can do is wait. That is not the case with college football. Teams recruit high school players year-round, and a ton of coverage is devoted to it. The NFL scouts, but there is anywhere near the hoopla, because teams are ultra-secretive about it. Thankfully, that is not the case in the college ranks.
14. Red River Rivalry
The Red River Rivalry is another of the greatest rivalries in college football. The Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns do not get along, and the Red River does its best to separate them. The animosity runs deep, especially since their matchup has had championship implications more often than it has not in the last decade. Texas is rebuilding, while Oklahoma is a Top 5 team yet again. The matchup this year should be just as good as it has always been.
13. BCS Bowls
The NFL has just one big bowl at the end of the season. And while even I have to admit that it is a pretty great bowl, college football has five big bowls for you to watch. Each big BCS bowl has some of the best teams in the country competing in it. Conference winners and Top 10 teams square off to find out who is better. The matchups are exciting, and the different, competing styles always make it compelling. One big "super" bowl is great, but does it really beat five bowls?
12. USC's Potential Comeback
The USC college football team is still at a major disadvantage because of the sanctions placed on them by the NCAA in response to the scandal that involved Reggie Bush. They have less scholarships and have not been to a bowl in years despite being good enough to qualify. However, they are still projected to be one of the best, if not the best, college football teams in the country next season. Lane Kiffin has done a good job so far as the Trojans' head coach, but how well they do this year will determine whether or not they are ready to contend for championships. And that is entertaining.
11. Ohio State-Michigan
One of the most storied rivalries in all of sports, the annual matchup between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines is one that we all look forward to each year. Even though the Big Ten conference split into divisions recently, these two teams could not be split. Despite being in opposing divisions, these two will always play each other. Their rivalry is an old one, and it is more fierce than any the NFL can boast.
10. Mike Leach Is Back
Mike Leach has been one of the most entertaining college football coaches of all time. Unorthodox but clearly effective, Leach has come under some criticism thanks to the unideal way he departed Texas Tech. Finally though, Leach is back in the game where he should be. His effort to build up Washington State football will be an uphill battle. Let's just hope he does not have to criticism his players' "fat little girlfriends" as he did in Lubbock.
9. Nick Saban
Nick Saban has become such an institution in college football that he warrants Top 10 status on this list. His three championships are unparallelled in college football today, and he has made Alabama into the football powerhouse it should be.
He has done well everywhere he has coached in the college ranks, and his abrasiveness and grouchy nature at times just makes college football fans love him more. Saban is one of the most entertaining coaches in college football, mainly because of the excellent product he puts on the field.
Plus, Saban left the NFL after just one season and came back to college. That should tell you something about each league.
8. Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC
The SEC is still the best conference in college football, and it will grow by two this season. Texas A&M and Missouri are leaving the offensive Big 12 for the defensive SEC, and the transition will be an interesting one to watch. Neither of these teams have been great defensive teams, and neither were great on offense last season. So, it should be interesting to see if either of them can compete in the SEC.
7. The Defenses in the SEC
Some people get sick of all the offense hoopla in football today. If you think it is offensive, college football has a whole conference for you. In the SEC, it is all about defense. Smash-mouth, brutal defense rules the conference unquestionably. Last season, Alabama and LSU were the class of the SEC and the class of the sport. They both had confident defenses that were confident for very good reasons. That is what we get every year from the SEC, and it is awesome.
6. The Heisman Race
The Heisman Race is one of the most exciting parts of the college football season. The NFL really does not have an equivalent, which is a major advantage for college football in this debate. Last season, Robert Griffin III came from nearly nowhere to win the Heisman. This year, the race is pretty wide open, probably even more so than last season. There are a few players who appear to have the inside edge, but it all depends on how the season shakes out.
5. More Games
It is just a fact. There are way more college football games than there are NFL games. It has gotten to the point now where there is at least a couple of games each night of the week. Even Sunday nights are beginning to feature at least one college football game. That speaks volumes considering just how dominant the NFL has been on that day of the week. During the season, it is college football that dominates the airwaves, and there is a reason for it.
4. Richer History
College football has a much richer history than that of the NFL. While the NFL struggled to find its way in its early years, college football was already well-established, producing stars that have stood the test of time. Players like Archie Griffin and Herschel Walker are renown for their college success. It is this success in college that has always been the foundation for NFL success. Therefore, it is more important. College football has been here longer than the NFL, which is why it is the more evolved sport.
3. BCS Controversy
The BCS as we know it may be on the way out, but it will still be here in 2012, telling us that one team that has the same record still is not as good for obscure and undefined reasons. The controversy stirred up by the BCS is often considered a bad thing, but it really has been good for college football. The reason is that it is entertaining. We all enjoy injustice because we like to stand up against it, even though most of the time we all seem to agree that the system gets the two best teams. It is fun to rail against something, and the BCS has been the college football fan's whipping boy for many fun years.
This matchup of teams gave us a great regular season matchup last season. It was the most evenly matched game of the season, and despite how disappointing the national championship rematch was, no one can deny the epic-ness and magnitude of the regular season matchup.
Les Miles and Nick Saban have already made appearances on this list previously, and each is one of the best, most interesting coaches in college football today. The best part of this matchup is that each team will be among the nation's most talented this season, just as they were last season. You can probably book the fact that one of these teams will be in the BCS title game, trying to continue the SEC's title streak.
1. A Team Near You
The biggest reason you should watch college football over the NFL next season is a reason that applies to every single year. You are almost guaranteed to have a college football team near you, whereas NFL franchises leave areas of the United States devoid of NFL football.
For example, I grew up in Oklahoma, in the exact middle of the Dallas Cowboys and the Kansas City Chiefs. I did not follow either. There, college football was the dominant sport above all others, and while the NFL was watched widely, it had nothing on college football in terms of loyalty.
Last season, the state of Oklahoma was just fine without the NFL. The three in-state Division I teams posted a combined record of 30-9 and two of them were Top 10 teams at the end of the season. Not all locations will have football that good, but all locations do have a Division I team nearby.
The point is this: college football gives each fan the opportunity to develop a relationship with a fairly local team. The NFL leaves gaps that college football does not. This is just another example of how much larger the sport of college football is. Each fan can find a team to love and root for, no matter where they live or what style of play they enjoy. That is why, above all else, you should watch college football more than the NFL in 2012.