Sure, I’m excited when I wake up on Saturday.
There’s football to be watched, and it’s my favorite sport. I’ll turn on “College Gameday” in the morning, watching the rabid fans wave their signs and either yell with the fury of a thousand suns or cheer in jubilation when Lee Corso dons his hallowed mascot head.
Becky Burleigh’s Florida Gators have been sitting comfortably for quite a long time.
I love Saturdays, but nothing compares to Sunday.
Eight divisions, two conferences and 32 teams made up of the world’s best football players, all vying to watch the stadium lights glint off the Lombardi Trophy as it’s hoisted high in the air. College football as a whole simply cannot compare, and I’ll give you three reasons why.
NFL Teams have to earn every win
You know that saying “any given Sunday”? It came from a book written by former NFL defensive end Pat Toomay, and the phrase is so embedded in the American sports lexicon that Oliver Stone made a movie off it in 1999. It means that, with any game in the National Football League, there are absolutely no guarantees as to who will emerge victorious.
In the NCAA, that saying might read “Any given nine or 10 Saturdays.”
Of the Gators’ twelve-game schedule, three of them are paltry opponents.
Sure, there have been few upsets in the past--such as Old Dominion’s victory over Virginia Tech this season and Appalachian State’s legendary upset over Michigan—but teams like Charleston Southern, Colorado State and Idaho are games UF is absolutely expected to win.
If a college team like Florida starts well against lesser competition, many fans will still be left wondering how good that team will be against “real opponents.”
That just doesn’t happen in the NFL. If an NFL team starts the season well, fans and analysts sees it as a playoff contender.. Every win is earned in the National Football League, whereas in college football, two or three of them are practically gifted.
The players in the NFL are the world’s very best
How many college football players will go on to the NFL? Take a guess.
As of April 20th, of the 73,063 players in the NCAA football system, the answer is 1.6 percent, according to the NCAA website.
How close were you there?
When you turn on the television on Saturday afternoon, 98.4 percent of the players you see across every game, Power Five or no, will not go on to play in the NFL. What does that mean?
It means that when you turn the television on Sunday afternoon, you’re watching players battle it out on the field that are better than almost 99 percent of every other football player in America. The very best football minds and athletes that represent the sport compete for the Lombardi Trophy, and there is no level of talent greater.
Last year’s 0-16 Browns would hang 50 — maybe more — in a shutout on Nick Saban’s best Alabama team. The competition isn’t even close.
There’s nothing like watching DeAndre Hopkins line up against Jalen Ramsey or Todd Gurley run full speed ahead at Luke Kuechly. Even the players in the league that aren’t stars can still give any All-Pro player a tough time on the field, and the same simply cannot be said about college football. When I’m watching a sport, I want to watch the best that sport has to give me to truly showcase what its competition is about.
I’m not gonna like minor league baseball better than the MLB, even if the “atmosphere” is better. I like watching the NFL on Sundays because I like watching football’s elite do what they do best.
The NFL postseason is vastly superior
Alright, so here’s the scene.
It’s 2016. The Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the Wisconsin Badgers 38-31 and thus won the Big Ten Conference. Boasting an 11-2 record, Penn State holds the conference title, and having won the title in a Power Five conference, goes on to the playoffs to play the best—
Wait a minute. That’s not right.
The Nittany Lions didn’t go to the College Football Playoff. Instead, Ohio State did, a team that, while amassing an impressive 11-1 record over the season, didn’t even play in its own conference championship because it couldn’t beat, you guessed it, Penn State.
But the Buckeyes passed an “eye test,” you see. They played Clemson in the semifinal, and they got embarrassed.
There are 12 teams in the NFL Playoffs, six from each conference. If a team wins its division, it’s in with zero questions asked. That’s the reward. There are two wild-card teams that sneak in there, of course, but if a team emerges victorious in its division it gets what it earned.
You get exciting matchups with teams that have overcome their own division and beat out three other teams for the chance to clinch a berth in the postseason with this format.
Now, I’m not saying that teams like Ohio State in 2016 and the 2017 Alabama team don’t deserve spots in some kind of college postseason (The Crimson Tide clearly did because they won it all). But if the NCAA is going to be adamant about keeping four teams in the college football playoff, then they must reward conference winners by placing them there.
Finally, all 32 teams in the NFL technically have a shot of making the postseason, from the Patriots all the way down to the Browns. If they win their division or have a good enough record to make the wild card, they’re in.
What about the Mountain West Conference? The American? The Sun Belt?
The NCAA has clearly shown that even if teams from the group of five go undefeated, a la UCF, they have almost zero chance of competing for the title of college football’s best team. They’re disregarded because of the competition they play.
So there you have it, folks. Although I like college football quite a bit, the NFL brings a skill level, organization and parity that the NCAA cannot match, and is thus the superior product. While rabid college football fans have their traditions and atmosphere, I’ll be on the professional side with all its glorious Terrible Towel-waving and Lambeau leaping allure.
River Wells is a sports writer. Follow him on Twitter @riverhwells or contact him at [email protected].