Outside of the US, football fans tend to focus on the NFL and why not? There are other leagues and competitions across the globe, but this is the pinnacle of the sport. A brief boom in the 1980s saw an emergence of sides across Europe and while some franchises still exist, the game quietly died on the continent.
Back in the United States, the NFL is king but there is huge interest in college football. Football fans in other parts of the world are aware of its existence but the lack of TV coverage makes it almost impossible to access.
So why is College Football such a big deal and why should you switch on to a relatively unheralded part of the game.
If you know your History
The inaugural college match was, in fact, the first official game of American Football. History tells us that the first ever College Football game took place in 1869 in New Brunswick, New Jersey between Rutgers and New Jersey – later to become Princeton. Under very different rules than the ones which are used today, Rutgers won 6-4 which was to prove typical of low scoring affairs that would follow.
For a time, college football was the only form of the game available. The National Football League (NFL), wasn’t formed until 1920 and it would therefore be some time before professional teams representing specific cities came along.
The next stage of development came along in 1910 when the National Collegiate Athletic Association was formed. This is the organization that organizes college sports tournaments and regulates student athletes from 1268 bodies across the United States. The sport now had a governing body and a more organized approach to the game was implemented.
Over time, several rule changes have been put in place and the current playoff system came in as recently as 2014. Otherwise, the sides play to standard football rules and, as we’ll see, College Football can lead to much greater things.
Playing with the big boys
We now come back to the question of why college football is so important, and part of the reason lies in the NFL’s feeder system. During every offseason, the franchises taking part on the road to Super Bowl glory get involved with the draft pick process. The best college players who have graduated and are ready for the first steps into pro football are made available for trade and a bidding procedure takes place.
The 2019 NFL Draft shows that the number one pick was Kyler Murray, who enjoyed a productive college football career with Oklahoma. The highly rated 22-year-old quarterback was snapped up by the Arizona Cardinals after a period in the NCAA when he won a host of individual awards including the prestigious Heisman Memorial Trophy.
The second pick was Nick Bosa from Ohio State followed by Quinnen Williams from Alabama and Clelin Ferrell from Clemson. All picks in the first round were attached to an NCAA side so, in short, College Football is the prioritized path into the NFL and for those players picked up by a pro franchise, it’s a seriously big deal.
There are some rare exceptions like Christian Wade, the former English rugby union player who has signed for the Buffalo Bills. However, for most players, College Football is the only path.
Supporting Your Team
Remember that even the best athletes in college football have no salary but they are incentivized to perform at their best because they have that potential for a lucrative and life-changing NFL contract when their studies come to an end. All of this adds up to a game that is played to the highest standards.
We’ve therefore seen how College Football can be a big deal for the players but what about the fans? In a sense, there is even more loyalty at NCAA level because it’s easier to identify with a team and stay with them for life. Wouldn’t you want to support your former college once you leave and enter the world of work?
Loyalty works both ways of course and while a number of NFL teams have relocated over the years, this isn’t a major factor with College Football. Pick a team and you can essentially guarantee that you won’t have to fly to another part of the country to watch them in the future.
The 2019 NCAA Season got underway on August 24 with teams across the US battling to advance to the latter stages of the competition. The regular season will end on December 14 with successful colleges progressing to the Playoff National Championship in New Orleans.
College football is taken so seriously in America that there is a betting market, and the football odds suggest that two teams are clear of the chasing pack. Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers couldn’t be separated and both sides will be confident of lifting the Championship trophy at the start of 2020.
The Tigers certainly need to be watched as they are the defending champions and while the nature of College Football means that they will be fielding a number of new faces, Clemson looks strong again this year. Alabama, like Clemson, also progressed serenely through the regular season. Founded way back in 1892, the Crimson Tide have won no fewer than 14 national titles, the last of which came in 2017.
Those two look to be the teams to beat as the 2019 campaign kicks off but there will be some serious challenges from the chasing pack. Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame are among many colleges who are tipped for glory at the end of the playoff series in 2020.
The battle for the trophy is on and all we know is that we are in for another exciting and dramatic season. College Football is far from the poor relation to the NFL and, as we’ve seen, it is very much the lifeblood of the sport.