A debate worthy topic that has been argued since the beginning of time (citation needed), the National Football League versus College Football has been the subject of sports banter far and wide. While I write this column in defense of the NFL, please do not assume that I am not a college fan. I enjoy watching college football immensely and the atmosphere on many college campuses’ across the nation is some of the best in sports. That being said, I think that there are a handful of factors that put the NFL above college football, and I will outline them here.
I’ll start with the following formula:
What is that formula used for? Calculating automobile insurance? Nope. It’s the formula used to determine Bowl Championship Series (BCS) standings and, ultimately, what two teams “earn” the right to play for the national championship. If you are curious, go here to see the extensive list of rules and procedures associated with the BCS selection process. I don’t know about you, but I like seeing teams duke it out on the field rather then let a computer determine which teams should play for the top spot. In the current format, there could actually be several undefeated teams who do not get a shot at the championship game. Plus, this systems allows teams like the 2008 Hawaii Warriors to cry like pacifier-less babies that they don’t get a shot at the big game (only to lose their bowl game against Georgia). On the flip side, a really good team could have a bad game or be without their star player for a week or two, rack up a loss, and almost eliminate themselves from title contention. This makes sense how?
In the NFL, teams grind it out all season to battle for the best record. Then they start this system called “the playoffs” where teams play each other in order to advance further towards the championship. This is a concept grasped and endorsed by basically every other sport in the world. The NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament of 64 teams is arguably the most exciting finale to a sports season in America, but NCAA Football won’t change.
Some argue that the revenue of having multiple bowl games is too great to pass up and it gives smaller teams a chance to get a larger spotlight. The problem is, outside of the big bowls, a lot of people don’t care. I’m not interested in the Quaker Oats Cereal Bowl game in early December. Keep those bowl games for those teams, but have the top eight enter a playoff system and designate those playoff games as the Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, etc.
Another reason why the NFL is better than college football is because the competition level is far better. The NFL takes the best players from all of those college teams and packs them together on 32 teams. The NFL has great parity as evidenced by the first three weeks of this season. College football is typically dominated by the teams that have the best recruiting. While I won’t say names, their are some schools that use less than repUtable, reSpectible reCruiting practices that may even give theM an unfaIr advAntage against sometiMes vastly Inferior teams…but that’s another story. A college team could have a choke hold on a conference because they consistently nab the area’s best recruits and schedule weak non-conference games (essentially locking up a bowl bid year after year). I’m a Big 10 fan, but I don’t want to see Ohio State lose championship game after championship game after rolling through a recently-weak Big 10. Make them earn in through a playoff system.
The diversity of college football playbooks can be entertaining to watch, but does that make it better? There’s a reason the option doesn’t get used in the NFL…because it doesn’t work. NFL defenses, particularly linebackers,are often too fast, too athletic, and too smart to get fooled by options and gadget plays. Do they work from time to time? Of course, look no further than the wildcat offense from last year. But said and done, Miami didn’t win the Super Bowl, the team that played hard nosed defense and good all around football did. I think the pure athleticism of NFL athletes gets overlooked at times because of how many great athletes there are in the league (so individual feats may look less spectacular in relation to the level of the league). Remember Reggie Bush making defenses look foolish in his USC days? He can no longer just run past guys because he’s no longer the fastest guy on the field (and he isn’t on a college team full of pros anymore either). Think about any number of great college quarterbacks who simply failed in the NFL. The math is simple, you just have better players at more positions on fewer total teams.
Another thing that bothers me about college football is the length of time a team could wait between their last regular season game and their bowl game. This could end up being over a month! A young college male could go through the final stages of puberty or go on a three week drinking bender in that time no problem. Again something that makes no sense. Why would you want to wait a month before playing another team? The two weeks between the divisional championship game and the Super Bowl in the NFL is excruciating enough, but a month! C’mon.
Another reason why I like the NFL better is that there is no place “above” the NFL for the players to go. College players have to decide whether they want to forgo a college season to turn pro and all the potential consequences that come with that decision. I can’t blame a guy for taking the money while he’s healthy, but it hurts to watch a great player leave your team for greener pastures. I know this happens in the NFL with free agency and trades, but they at least are staying within the same league and a bad NFL team can hope for a change of fortune with a big trade or free agent pick up. In college, you have to hope to land the big recruit and then hope that he pans out to be as good at the college level and hope that he stays for four years (a lot of “hopes”). In the NFL, your team can target a proven player who can step in and make an instant impact and you may have the chance to watch a player progress and become a great franchise player. Teams in the NFL have a longer window of opportunity to piece together a dynasty.
A major flaw in the NFL that I figure I should address is the overtime format. While I don’t like the current coin toss to determine possession situation, I’m not convinced the college way is the best either. I heard an argument recently on Mike & Mike in the Morning that at least in the NFL the overtime format somewhat resembles the the first four quarters. The argument was that giving each team the ball at the 25 yard line and taking turns gets away from the flow of the game. The best option they put forth, and one I agree with in many ways, is to make the overtime period in the NFL a specific time length which would be similar to overtime formats in the other professional sports.
With all that being said, I’m sure I could turn around and make good counter-points to many of the points I made above. I wrote this article hoping to spark debate and conversation as I know many people have very adamant opinions on the topic. So let’s hear what you have to say: comment on this page or send me a tweet @patlussenhop and I’ll respond as soon as I can.