College football is not only about what happens on the gridiron. It's a comprehensive Saturday experience that includes tailgating, massive stadiums, cheerleaders, and a band. There are also mascots.
Every team has one. Some are fierce, some are funny, some are just lame. Here's a look at the best ones in the land. Let the debates begin.
If nothing else, the West Virginia Mountaineer is authentic. No furry suits or animals here. A student (male or female) is chosen every year to wear the costume and carry the flintlock, which could come in handy when WVU's generally rowdy tailgating gets out of control.
This guy just looks mean.
Think about being stuck in the desert with Sparky the Sun Devil, looking for water. Think about being jabbed with his pitchfork. Not a pleasant image, is it?
When it's 110 degrees on the sidelines in an early season game, he's about the least comforting character out there. Unless of course, you're wearing maroon and gold.
It's hard to correlate the carnage of a hurricane with an ibis, but Sebastian works. He's a flashback to the 1980s, when no team visited the Orange Bowl with a feeling of optimism.
The Orange Bowl is gone, and so are the dominant Miami teams. Still, when the smoke starts pouring out of the tunnel in the stadium formerly known as Joe Robbie, and Sebastian the Ibis runs out onto the field, you know what's about to happen.
Technically Auburn are the Tigers. More accurately, they are the War Eagles.
Tiger or not roaming the stands, the Eagle Flight that precedes kickoff is an amazing display. Jordan-Hare Stadium is at a frenzy when he lands.
It's hard to beat the SEC for good football, tradition, or mascots.
We're sticking with a bird theme here. Oregon's Duck appears to be more cute than mean, but seems to get into more trouble than most costumed mascots. He's shown assaulting the Houston Cougar in this frame. The Duck has also had numerous altercations with rival Benny Beaver of Oregon State.
The University of Oregon has something like 36 different uniform combinations. They have only one Duck.
Have you ever been to a night game at Neyland Stadium and seen Smokey sprinting across the corner of the endzone after a Tennessee score?
If not you've never really experienced college football. It's one of the enduring images of the sport.
Live, actual mascots get extra points. Smokey always seems fairly well-behaved, so he loses a few marks there. The differences offset. He's a great mascot.
One question: Is the sword real?
It could possibly be used at some point to keep new coach Lane Kiffin in line, if USC's compliance committee cannot do so.
Riding on Traveler, his white horse, the Trojan is a feared member of the USC student body. No game at the Los Angeles Coliseum would be complete without the two of them roaming the grounds.
Folks, this picture pretty much sums it up.
The UGA lineage (actually based in Savannah, while the school is in Athens) has been supporting the 'Dawgs for generations. Not only that, they are willing to attack members of opposing teams, either between the hedges or on the road.
Not only that, they wear sweaters and sit on bags of ice during hot games. How do you contend with that?
For sheer aggression and unpredictability, Bevo reigns supreme.
There have been many Bevos at Texas. They have attacked targets ranging from cheerleaders to parked cars.
Only if Clemson were to actually bring a live tiger to Death Valley would there be a more dangerous mascot in a college football stadium. That's not likely to happen, so Texas fans should stay on edge if they sit near Bevo's domain in Austin.
Here's the clear-cut winner. Chief Osceola's ride on Renegade, flaming spear in hand, to midfield at Doak Campbell may well be the most cherished ritual in college athletics.
One thing is for certain, there is no place in the football world louder than when the spear tip meets the ground.
The actual Seminole nation supports the likeness, so it looks like the Chief will be around to stay. That's good news for any college football fan.