Throwing on your favorite team’s jersey and heading to an opponent’s field for a football game shouldn’t evoke fear. Tell that to the guy wearing a Buckeye jersey in the Big House.
College football may not claim the talent pool that the NFL does, but college football as a whole is far superior in many aspects.
Who’s House? Our House!
Pro football stadiums just don’t compare to college stadiums in size or energy. The largest NFL stadium is MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Jets and Giants. It only houses 82,500, which doesn’t even crack the top 10 in college stadium capacity. The Big House, home of the Michigan Wolverines, is the largest sporting stadium in the country, packing in just under 110,000 rowdy (mostly Michigan) fans.
It’s not just the significantly larger number of fans, but who makes up the fan base, and how loud and proud they get. The “white-out” during a Penn State football game is one of the best examples of unity. Every Penn State fan, almost all of the 109,000 capacity, dress head to toe in white, with some even painting their faces. Good luck trying to get the entire fan base of a pro team to dress in one color for a home game.
Numbers are not always a telling sign. Oregon’s Autzen Stadium only holds 54,000 fans, but is one of the loudest places to play, with Duck fans screaming “OOOOOO” in unison, creating a human harmony that is ear-piercing. Former Oklahoma Sooner running back Adrian Peterson recalled a 2006 game against the Ducks to ESPN the Magazine: “It was like some sort of crazy torture in the movies. How do people do that so long without taking a breath? I think my ears are still ringing.”
A combination of large numbers of fans and solidarity are enough to give the college game the slight advantage but the addition of the marching band tips the scale in favor of the college game. The marching band not only provides live “fight songs” after a team scores, but also halftime entertainment. Fans would much rather see the Ohio State University Band “dot the I” than Nickleback at the intermission (except those fans in Michigan apparently).
The Pro Advantage: Kansas City Chiefs Arrowhead Stadium, the loudest pro football stadium in the NFL, gave the college kids a run for their money, but one team is not enough to dethrone the co-eds as a far superior atmosphere.
College rivalries are second to no other American sport rivalries. They are vicious, often generations old. Kids are dressed in team gear before they can speak, carrying on the tradition of hating the opponent before they even understand the rules of the sport. The number of great college rivalries outnumber all NFL teams combined, are rarely dependent on how the teams are ranked, and most have histories over 50 years.
There are no pro rivalries to match the college greats like Ohio State vs Michigan, Florida vs Georgia, Miami vs Florida, Oklahoma vs Texas, Auburn vs Alabama.
The Pro Advantage: There are several historic rivalries in the NFL (Packers vs Bears, Cowboys vs Redskins, Broncos vs Raiders), but the intensity is nowhere near the collegiate level. When people start killing trees over football (Auburn vs Alabama), you know it is serious.
*Tailgating: NFL fans know how to tailgate, but college fans take it to the next level. What NFL fan camped out for a week prior to a game (Paternoville, Penn State)?
*College football has the better pregame show. Coach Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, and Chris Fowler take their show on the road every week to the heart of the big game with the show culminating in Corso’s pick. Jimmy Johnson would never mess up his hair to put on a mascot head.
*Upsets are the norm, not the exception. Almost every week, a lower-ranked, or even unranked opponent, knocks off someone they should not have beat. The greatest to date was the 2007 Appalachian State victory over No. 5 Michigan 34-32. It was the first time a ranked DI-A team lost to a D-IAA team.College fanhood is a birthright. When you are a fan, you are a fan for life, passing the torch on to the next generation. The action on the field may not be as precise as the pro game, but the pageantry accompanying these games puts college football in a class all its own.
Follow Kristen on Twitter @Call2theBullpen