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14 Aug 2006

Confessions of a Football Junkie: NCAA Should Copy NFL

by Russell Levine

For many college football fans, the sport's appeal comes in part from what it isn't: namely, the NFL. From its overtime format, to the way it determines its champion, the NCAA has long resisted turning its brand of the sport into a replica of the professional game.

Through the years, some of those differences have disappeared -- remember the place-kicking tee? -- but others have remained, sometimes stubbornly so.

Chief among these differences is the way college football manages the game clock. As anyone who has stuck it out through a no-longer-rare four-hour marathon can attest, the length of games needs addressing. Some of last season's most noteworthy games, including the USC-Notre Dame classic and the Penn State-Florida State Orange Bowl, were games to be endured as much as they were to be enjoyed.

In moving to shorten games, an adjustment that is long overdue, the NCAA has not addressed the problem at the most obvious points. Instead, it has put into place rules that could have a dramatic effect on late-game strategy, perhaps in a misguided effort to remain distinct from the NFL.

Not many observers noticed "Rule 3-2-5-e, When Clock Starts" in the NCAA's rules-changes memo in June. It reads, "When Team B is awarded a first down, the clock will be stopped and will start on the ready for play signal," which doesn't sound significant. But in specifying "Team B," the rulebook is referring to change-of-possession plays, such as turnovers or punts.

Imagine this scenario: Notre Dame, out of timeouts, trails USC by five points when Brady Quinn throws an interception at the USC goal line with 24 seconds left to play. The referee spots the ball, signals ready-for-play, winds the play- and game-clocks, and ... nothing. With the game clock running thanks to the new rule, USC wouldn't even bother to send its offense on the field. Pete Carroll would simply jog to midfield and shake Charlie Weis's hand.

Or this: Ohio State, also out of timeouts, trails Texas by six when it forces a punt from deep in Texas territory. Ted Ginn is tackled at the Texas 38 with one second on the clock. Jim Tressel furiously sends his offense onto the field for a Hail Mary attempt, but after the ball is spotted and the clock is wound, the referee rules that Ohio State failed to snap the ball before time expired.

If you think a referee would always allow the offense to get off a play in this scenario, Ryan Leaf and the 1997 Washington State Cougars would beg to differ. In their Rose Bowl loss to Michigan following that season, Leaf appeared to have moved his team into position to throw one final pass into the end zone. Yet the officials ruled that Washington State failed to get a snap off with two seconds remaining after winding the clock following a first down.

"As a coach, I am appalled at the rule changes," said Oregon's Mike Bellotti at the Pac-10's preseason media day. "They are major and very severe, in my mind, and are going to change the game as we know it -- especially starting the game clock at the ready signal after change of possession.

"That changes a lot of strategy, a lot of opportunities at the end of a game. And I'm disappointed because I can't find anybody who says they were in favor of that."

In enacting the new Rule 3-2-5-e, the NCAA ignored several less-intrusive methods of trimming minutes off its average game. College football's unique time management rules, which include a 25-second play clock that doesn't start until the referee signals ready-to-play, and a rule that calls for the clock to stop to move the chains following any first down, would be a much easier target.

The NFL long ago went to a 40-second play clock that starts on the whistle ending the previous play. College officials often take longer than 15 seconds to spot the ball, during which time the players are huddling, so a 40-second clock makes sense.

Stopping the clock to move the chains is engrained in the fabric of college football, and it keeps final minutes of many games steeped in drama. Unlike the NFL, a team out of timeouts can still stop the clock without having to spike the ball. But is it really necessary on first downs in the first quarter? The stoppage should be eliminated except for the final two minutes of the first half and the final five minutes of the second. That would still allow ample comeback opportunities while shaving several minutes off the average contest.

Another change that should be considered affects out-of-bounds plays. In college football, the clock stops on all out-of-bounds plays and doesn't start again until the ball is snapped. Here too, the clock could be restarted after the ball is spotted except in the final minutes of each half, much as the NFL has done.

College football's timing rules worked in an era when the sport was dominated by clock-eating ground attacks, and four-hour games simply did not occur. But with the modernization of collegiate offenses, and the proliferation of pass-happy spread attacks -- not to mention more games on television, with their broadcast-mandated TV timeouts -- the NCAA is correct in moving to address the problem. Four-hour games not only stretch the patience of ardent fans (myself included), they wreak havoc with the typical 3 1/2-hour broadcast window, forcing many viewers to miss the start of their favorite team on television each week.

All the additional, and unnecessary, clock stoppages also lead to more snaps per contest -- as many as 30 more a game as compared with the NFL. In football, more snaps mean more injuries. One might reasonably assume the NCAA would want to protect its student-athletes by not exposing them to additional risk. However, reason doesn't always apply, especially with an organization that refuses to allow a championship playoff (citing additional missed class time for the players from the handful of schools that would be involved) yet passes over the objections of its coachs a rule extending the season to 12 games for every school.

When the NFL realized it had an issue with the growing length of games, it acted to curtail the problem. College football is attempting to follow suit, but it appears the NCAA believes that to copy the NFL's lead would be to sacrifice some of the sport's individuality. It's a misguided line of thinking.

Meet Russell, along with Aaron Schatz, Al Bogdan, and Bill Moore, Monday night at 6:30pm at Coliseum Books in New York City, 11 W.42nd Street.

Note: This article first appeared in Friday's edition of the New York Sun.

Posted by: Russell Levine on 14 Aug 2006

55 comments, Last at 31 Aug 2006, 4:13pm by Brock


by James G (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 10:30am

The other rule change drives me even more crazy - starting the clock on the kickoff rather than when it was touched by the return team.

by Dennis (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 10:44am

Re #1: That one makes sense. I've never understood why the clock didn't start on the kick - the ball is in play, the clock should be running.

Starting the clock on change of posessions is just idiotic.

by primantis (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 11:19am

My advice is to do what I did many years ago - ignore college football altogether. You'll be glad you did. It's inferior to the NFL in every way I can think of.

by James G (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 11:35am

3 - Sorry, but it's not. Especially if you have any allegiance to one of the power schools. The game day atmosphere at the Penn State games I went to while a grad student there tops any NFL experience I've had (to be fair, only consists of 2 Redskins games and 1 Rams game when they were still in Anaheim).

2 - I agree the change of possession rule is messed up. I don't like the kickoff rule because I don't think a team that just went up on a score should esentially be able to run time off against the other team, by dribbling the ball slowly out of bounds or something of that nature.

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 11:37am

Primantis, you wouldn't happen to be a Pitt alum would you? Does the Wannstache have you down?

by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 12:13pm

People who say that college ball is inferior to the NFL have never been to a major college's home game, especially a rivalry game. The NFL has better players and some better rules, but college has them beat in terms of more enjoyable games to actually watch if you care.

If you don't care and just want to watch a game? Well...the Rose Bowl last year was pretty great, but most games aren't that good, and I'd rather watch some random NFL game than some random NCAA game. That being said, I'd always rather watch some important NCAA game than some important NFL game.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 12:32pm

#3: The college version of most sports is more entertaining and (most importantly) passionate than the pro version. Shoot, even with non-BCS schools, the atmosphere is much better than the pro atmosphere. You just can't beat the experience.

by Cabbage (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 1:06pm

In football, more snaps mean more injuries. One might reasonably assume the NCAA would want to protect its student-athletes by not exposing them to additional risk.

It would be more reasonable to assume that the NCAA has no concern beyond its revenue stream.

by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 1:11pm

No one beats the-powers-that-be in NCAA football at changing a slightly broken system and making it worse. See the year-to-year changes to the BCS formula and the (now gone) fair catch halo rule for examples.

Another way the NCAA could cut down total game time is by reducing the length of halftimes (28 minutes) except on special occasions (Grambling-Southern, and the like).

by Justus (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 1:14pm

"You just can’t beat the experience."

Except the overwhelmingly vast majority of fans watch college football on TV. That's why these changes were made: because of TV. The last Rose Bowl had 23 million people watching on TV versus how many thousand in the stands?

by Dennis (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 1:19pm

In person, college football definitely has a better atmosphere. On TV, you lose that completely.

by James G (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 1:21pm

I thought there was a change in halftime rule this year and I finally found it - the recommended halftime length is 20 minutes, but it can be shortened or lengthened upon agreement of the home and visiting teams.


by Russell Levine :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 1:23pm

Re: 11, I don't know that the experience is lost completely on TV. Watch a game from the Swamp and you can almost always tell the crowd is jacked up beyond nearly any NFL level.

Re: 9, They allegedly have cut down on the length of halftime, 20 minutes max, 15 in some cases.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 1:26pm

Yes, the important college games are tremendous. Unfortunately, one often has to wade through a lot of crappy, completely non-competitive contests to get to the important games. I've often wondered how the football fan who is fanatic about one major football program, and who prefers the college game, tolerates the tomato-can opponents that are too often the norm. Is it really that much fun to see your favorite team crush an opponent who has no business, talent-wise, of being on the same field? There are programs that play tough non conference schedules, or in the case of the Irish, often play tough overall schedules, but there are also way too many that schedule cream-puffs way too much. Toss in the conference cream-puffs, and there are just too many completely non-competitive games.

As to the rule changes, I think the author is right. It would have been preferable to simply keep the clock moving on first downs, except for the last two minutes of the first half, and the last five minutes of the second half.

by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 1:32pm

Re: 12, 13

Thanks. The NCAA got one right, I guess.

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 1:54pm

NFL vs. College atmosphere depends a LOT on which pro team, which college team, and which game. A Colts playoff game has a LOT better atmosphere than any game at my alma mater (Rose-Hulman, a div 3 engineering school) for example ;o)

by Tim Gerheim :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 2:19pm

Re 14: Is it really that much fun to see your favorite team crush an opponent who has no business, talent-wise, of being on the same field?
Yeah, it kind of is. Because in some ways the game itself, at least when it's one of those creampuff games, is secondary. I'm at Texas now, and a home game Saturday means a tailgate party starting at like 9 AM, then going to the stadium to join the mind-boggling sea of orange. You get to sing the fight song a bunch of times - particularly against a bad team, since it comes up every time Texas scores. It's basically a big party, at least in the student section, so it doesn't really matter how much we're beating the opponent by. And anyway, if you're watching the game for the game's sake, you're not really watching to see the outcome of that game. You're trying to scout your team for the Oklahoma game or the Big 12 Championship game. And Texas won, so everyone leaves happy. As long as they didn't drive to the stadium, anyway.

by calig23 (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 2:33pm


I’ve often wondered how the football fan who is fanatic about one major football program, and who prefers the college game, tolerates the tomato-can opponents that are too often the norm.

I prefer the term "cream-puff", but that's just me.

And if it weren't for those games, how would schools like Pitt ever win?

Oh wait... Pitt loses most of those games, too.

by Marko (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 3:29pm

"Imagine this scenario: Notre Dame, out of timeouts, trails USC by five points when Brady Quinn throws an interception at the USC goal line with 24 seconds left to play. The referee spots the ball, signals ready-for-play, winds the play- and game-clocks, and . . . nothing. With the game clock running thanks to the new rule, USC wouldn’t even bother to send its offense on the field. Pete Carroll would simply jog to midfield and shake Charlie Weis’s hand."

That wouldn't bother me, because USC would just run one kneel-down and the game would be over. (I'm assuming the ball is not right on the goal line, so a kneel-down would not result in a safety. If it was right on the goal line, the quarterback could simply run a sneak one time.) What would bother me is if, under your scenario, there was a little more time left (say, 35 seconds), the ball is inside the 5-yard line, and Notre Dame had all 3 of its timeouts remaining.

With this new rule, Notre Dame would have to use its first timeout before first down. USC would then take a knee. This would be repeated twice more, with Notre Dame's final timeout taken before third down. After the final kneel-down on third down, depending on how quickly the ball was spotted on third-down, either the clock would run out before the ball had to be snapped on fourth down, or USC's punter could simply run the clock out in the end zone before taking a safety (or do something else to run out the clock).

Under the previous rule, Notre Dame obviously could use its timeouts after first, second and third down, "forcing" USC to punt on fourth down. ("Forcing" is in quotes because, while USC would have a choice, I am assuming not even advocates of never punting would go for it on fourth down here.) USC would have to decide whether to run actual plays to try to get the first down (and risk a fumble), or to kneel-down three times and then punt, with enough time left on the clock for Notre Dame to run some plays and have a chance to win (or even to run the punt back for a touchdown). The old rule obviously makes for a much more interesting finish to a game.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 3:29pm

Re #17, it seems to me that what you're basically saying is that the athletic competition is of secondary importance, which is fine. Whatever people like is o.k. by me, but then I wouldn't say that the college "game" is as good as the NFL "game", since I've been to many absolutely great parties that didn't have much, or anything, to do with an athletic competition. Watching Texas play Northwest Southeastern Arkansas Polytechnic A and M, in order to get a feel for how they'll do versus Oklahoma, is like watching the fourth quarter of a preseason NFL game for insight as to the teams' future performance. Actually, that's not a bad way to look at a lot of major college football programs; they have a six to eight game regular season, with four to six exhibition contests.

by Tom (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 3:30pm

Hey, how could you expect Pitt, which represents just a single city, to have possibly beaten Ohio, an entire state? Wanny deserves credit just for taking that game to OT!

by CA (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 4:24pm

Re: 3

I understand not wanting to watch inferior athletic performances after watching the best in their field play. That's exactly why I don't watch National League baseball. But big-time college football, compared to the NFL, generates so much more passion by fans and such a better gameday atmosphere that, all things considered, the NFL really is the inferior source of entertainment. I've been to a lot of football games, both college and NFL, regular season and post-season, and there are easily 20 college gamedays that I've enjoyed more than the best NFL gameday I've ever experienced. Sundays are fun, but Saturdays are special.

by Rocco (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 4:38pm

"I’ve often wondered how the football fan who is fanatic about one major football program, and who prefers the college game, tolerates the tomato-can opponents that are too often the norm."

Hey, my alma mater is one of those tomato-can opponents. :) The best part is when they're playing a 1-A school and actually scare them. A few years ago, I went with a buddy to see W&M take on UNC- the Tribe were actually leading after 3 quarters and had home fans booing UNC. It was awesome, even though W&M couldn't hang on to win. This year, I'm hoping they at least make Maryland work.

"Shoot, even with non-BCS schools, the atmosphere is much better than the pro atmosphere. You just can’t beat the experience."

The atmosphere at smaller schools pales to the big boys. It always frustrated me that people didn't go to more games and support the team. Then again, my senior year, our two biggest home games were against Hofstra (played in a rainstorm that scared everyone away) and against Brian Westbrook's Villanova team for a playoff spot (that was played over Thanksgiving weekend, so there were no students on campus). Sometimes, you get unlucky.

Before college, the only college game I went to was PSU-Michigan in 1997 when both teams were unbeaten, so I admit that there's a high standard there. W&M did have a great atmosphere for their playoff game against JMU 2 years ago, and their night game against JMU last season. So maybe fans care now that I've graduated.

by Kyle S (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 5:18pm

Re: 6

I have been to a major college football game, and against major rivalries (went to Colorado State home games against Air Force, Wyoming and B.Y.U.). And I say the NFL is still vastly superior. So your "People who say that college ball is inferior to the NFL have never been to a major college’s home game, especially a rivalry game" statement is innacurate.

by Charlie Heuer (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 5:30pm

Question. Do any college stadiums play canned music? A few years back I went back to D.C. and caught a skins game at Fedex. Between each play, immediatly after the announcer had given the skinny on the preceeding play, the stadium would click on some currently popular song, at an unconsciably high volumne. And the speaker system just isn't, well its not designed for music. I was so annoyed I swore I would never return and haven't. There really wasn't a moment during the entire game where you could say anything to anyone without having to yell. RFK was a righteous place. Yeah you could get religion there. Boy do I miss it. ch

by kyle(tcn) (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 5:31pm

i'm not sure that WAC games count as 'major'. i'd rather go to nebraska-oklahoma or nebraska-colorado than denver-kansascity or denver-oakland (i have been to all those games, and enjoyed the former two significantly more)

by Russell Levine :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 5:49pm

Re: 25

If you're at a college game and you hear canned music, that's a sure sign you're not at a lousy site for college football.

I remember going to see a game at the Carrier Dome a few years ago and they broke out "Start Me Up" before the opening kickoff. So much for Syracuse as a home of big time college football.

by Russell Levine :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 5:51pm

As to the overall college vs. NFL argument, to each his own. I love them both. The best college atmospheres I've experienced far outweigh anything I've been to in the NFL. Then again, I'm a big fan of the "any given Sunday" aspect of the NFL.

by James G (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 6:11pm

I love college for the gameday atmosphere - in addition to Penn State, I've attended U.Washington games. However, 16 is right about the small games. My undergrad was also DIII in football and there the atmosphere is more like a good IM game with a smattering of people watching.

However, I've found at UW and Penn State, the atmosphere is better.

OTOH, Will is right - I'm not going to be excited for the Penn State - Youngstown State game and wouldn't be for the Penn State - Akron game except I'll be there.

But I think the sparsity of the big games actually contributes to the excitement of college football. I know as a Penn State fan that I already have Michigan and Notre Dame circled on my mental calendar.

As a Broncos fan, I don't have the dates of the games against Kansas City (except I do know that one is on Thanksgiving on the NFL network and I won't be able to watch it, grr...) or Oakland memorized. But those games don't make a season, whereas only 2 or 3 college games will.

I'm sure my experience is also colored by ticket prices. Since college games are more affordable, I've been to more. At PSU, I had student prices. At UW, at most it would cost me was $36, compared to the $95 the Seahawks wanted when I called them a few weeks before a Broncos game. And then that also affects where I sit at the stadium.

by CA (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 6:19pm

Re: 27

If you’re at a college game and you hear canned music, that’s a sure sign you’re not at a lousy site for college football.

Russell, I assume that you didn't mean to include the "not" in there. If so, I'm going to have to disagree. One of the many great Big Ten gameday traditions is the entire University of Wisconsin student section jumping in unison to a canned "Jump Around" after the end of the 3rd quarter in Camp Randall.

by Jesse (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 6:22pm

It's great that college football has a great atmosphere and all that, but thus far in my life I have been to 1 college game and 0 pro games. I've watched hundreds of both on television. I could care less how great the partying in Austin is when Texas plays Colorado, all I care about is if the game entertains me at home, and it doesn't nearly as much as any random NFL game does

by James G (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 6:29pm

31 - I'm going to have to disagree there, too. One thing that I tend to like about the college games is that the big games are usually on TV. Too many times in the NFL, unless it's a Sunday or Monday night, the best NFL games are superceded by crappy regional coverage. I haven't lived in my favorite team's viewing region since 1991, which affects my perception there as well. And outside of the few years I lived in Seattle, I've been stuck with 2 (or even more) teams considered local and placed in the pecking order. And I don't have sattelite TV because I live in an apartment that doesn't allow it, which means no Sunday NFL Ticket, but I can still get ESPN GamePlan so that I can catch the big college games.

Sure, some bad game between the Jets and whoever is better than a random MAC game, but I'd often rather watch the ABC college schedule than Jets vs. Bills.

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 7:11pm

Until they stop with the 8 home game creampuff schedule silliness I cannot imagine I will give NCA football anything but a cursory glance. Not to mention the completely rediculous fiction of student athelete...

The whole idea of amatuer athletics being noble is just pap left over from British aristocracy.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 8:05pm

So if you don't like it, don't watch it, and feel free to not bitch about it in the college threads. Thanks, buh bye.

This also applies to those who visit Peter King or TMQ threads just to complain about how much they suck. We know how you feel, we don't care, go cram it with walnuts.

Now to the article at hand. I think Russell has a very good point about games being too long. I'm sure he wants to watch Michigan bite it, and still have time to salvage the rest of the afternoon. And I couldn't agree more - watching Michigan lose is even more enjoyable when it happens fast.

by Zac (not verified) :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 8:43pm

Yeah, and the people who complain about the complainers can stuff it too!

by Russell Levine :: Mon, 08/14/2006 - 11:05pm

Trogdor's back and ripping on Michigan! Yay, college football must be about to start!

But seriously, Trog, don't you and the other citizens of Ohio have better things to do .... like build up your defenses against Maurice Clarett?

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 08/15/2006 - 1:38pm

Maybe we need a thread for irrational college-vs-pro arguments ...

So ... the NCAA said "Gosh, after adding 40 commercials to our televised games, they're taking too long. I know, let's start the clock quicker after a change of possession!"

That is not exactly addressing the root cause. They seem to run about six distinct national commercials per game, so I don't see why it would hurt to cut back on the TV timeouts. Drastically. I mean, if you really want one more viewing of the guy enraptured by a can of beer rather than his girlfriend, or the Daimler-Chrysler CEO in an uncomfortably-bad commercial, there are other ways to watch them. (MLB coverage on FSN has devolved to the point where they run the same commercial every half-inning for about five innings, it seems.)

However, that could potentially lower advertising revenue. So that will never happen.

It's like baseball trying to cut down on game time by getting pitchers to throw more quickly. Yeah, it's a contributing factor, but it's not the primary cause.

by Kyle S (not verified) :: Tue, 08/15/2006 - 3:05pm

I'll take a few canned songs such as "Rock and Roll, Part II" at an NFL game over "Hail To the Victors" or "Boomer Sooner" overandoverandoverandoverandoverandoverandoverandover any time.

And, just because the Mountain West isn't necessarily an automatic BCS Conference doesn't mean it isn't major college football.

by Rob S. (not verified) :: Tue, 08/15/2006 - 3:10pm

2 absolute 100% predictions:
1) Coaches will absolutely utilize these rules incorrectly
2) Brent Musburger will be extremely confused.

by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Tue, 08/15/2006 - 5:29pm

I have so missed Russell and Trogdor sniping at each other's schools -- a sure sign of autumn to come.

Now that being said, there is no atmosphere anywhere that matches LSU on a football Saturday -- and I have seen Saints games in the Dome when they were good. As crazed as Louisiana is about football, they save a special craziness for Tah-gah Stadium, home of the true 2003 national champions.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 08/15/2006 - 5:39pm

Not all college bands are that obnoxious. I hate USC's band with a passion because they only know one song but let's not lump all the bands in with that - I think Georgia Tech and Notre Dame do a decent job of mixing the songs up a little. I'm sure there are other bands that do that. It's really the AD or Director's fault anyway. I played in enough different situations to know that the band can have a lot of songs memorized or just a couple sheets and that would suffice.

by joepinion (not verified) :: Tue, 08/15/2006 - 5:48pm

Of course College vs. NFL is a preference thing. There are many, MANY contributing factors. I can understand why anyone would choose either/or.

One reason I prefer the NFL is that the whole system is a lot more entertaining than college football. The right number of total teams, the right number of games, divisions, playoff participants, playoff system, etc. The NFL is something you can discuss--everyone plays each other and talking about talent, odds, predictions, etc makes sense. College football is something people (in this area of the country) just yell at each other about.

But most of all, the #1 reason by far that I am an NFL fan is that in my area of the country, everyone loves the Steelers above all else. If I grew up 80 miles west, I would live where everyone loves the Buckeyes above all else, and I'm sure I would too.

by Turkstock (not verified) :: Wed, 08/16/2006 - 12:07am

With the way the NFL had been watered down and parity dominates the sport, College football offers plenty. The NFL playoffs was absolutely brutal football to watch last year(when the playoffs are usually the best games to watch). The NFL is getting tougher to watch because teams have no depth on there rosters so there is a decrease in quality of product, and the refs can't make the right call %50 of the time. Meanwhile, with most players needing 3 years of college ball to be draft worthy, there is no lack of quality players and with such large rosters, there is plenty of depth. College still has a "purity" about it in that you still see gadgetry offensive schemes like the triple option. And you can't beat having a little action on a college football game. While I wouldn't have said this 15 years ago, college is becoming the better option. If they ever adopted a playoff format the college game would soar over the pro game.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/16/2006 - 12:54am

Of course College vs. NFL is a preference thing. There are many, MANY contributing factors. I can understand why anyone would choose either/or.

And then, there are those of us who simply don't understand the people who see a difference between them, and like both.

Other than the BCS's weird method of determining a winner (and regardless of what people say, a four-team playoff would not destroy the regular season), I like them both just fine.

Note that my main gripe with the BCS is the human voters. The fact that Ohio State could go undefeated and go to the title game, but another team (with an equally strong schedule) wouldn't, just because preseason voters have a disturbing man-love for Troy Smith and Ted Ginn just doesn't sit well with me.

by Flux (not verified) :: Wed, 08/16/2006 - 8:55am

It's kind of a pointless comment, but I'm amazed no one got there until #37. The main problem with the length of pro and college games is the endless and all-too-frequent commercial breaks. Is there anything a football fan hates more than 3 minutes of commercials, come back for a kick off, and then 2.5 more minutes of beer ads?

I'm not a fan of continually tinkering with the rules to keep the clock running, simply because every change seems to bring us less football. We've got to wait 8 months between real games as it is, while baseball and basketball seasons seem to run longer than a typical pregnancy. I suppose it's as out of the question as a movie theater cutting their concession prices to something approaching market value and making up the difference in volume, but has any network ever considered cutting the commercial break times and simply charging 50% more for 50% fewer ads? I don't say it would work, unless every network did it across the board, but it's fun to dream.

Incidentally, how many people really watch football games live at this point? I enjoy the drama, but with job and family and errands and such I simply can not give up 3 or 6 or 9 hours on a weekend to sit through the games. Not when I can tape a game or two, do other things all day, and then watch them both in an hour flat.

by Pete (not verified) :: Wed, 08/16/2006 - 8:57am

I agree that the college games are getting too long. However, I do not like the kickoff rule and I dislike the change of possession rule.

About 10-15 years ago I remember seeing a few game at the Swamp that were not televised nationally and a few games that were televised nationally. The difference: about 1 hour longer for all of the commercial breaks. *THIS* is where all of the longer time is.

Just cut back on typical commercials. If necessary, run a few banners (like soccer, which I do not think stops the game just to glorify some merchandise).

by Flux (not verified) :: Wed, 08/16/2006 - 9:06am

As for the pro vs. college, I'd say I enjoy a good pro game more than a college one, but there are a lot of crappy pro games; punting chess matches, "defensive struggles" caused largely by overly-conservative play calling and inept QBs, etc.

College games are far more wide open, generally have more scoring and more big plays due to the wider spread of talent on the field, are full of kids going all out to prove themselves rather than 30 year olds pulling up across th emiddle to stay healthy and keep earning their pay check, and have a far greater variety of plays, compared to the KISS style of most NFL offenses.

Furthermore, on the rare day I get to veg on the couch with a remote, I'll take a Saturday over a Sunday any time, simply for the volume. It's different for the few who pay for the satellite packages of every NFL game, but for the regular cable viewer there's no comparision. Sunday brings 2 or 3 afternoon games and 1 more (usually involving Michael Vick) at night. Saturdays often bring a dozen or more games, with 4 or 5 on at the same time during the day, late games from Florida at 5, late PAC 10 games at 7, and sometimes even a Hawaii nightcap at 11.

Saturday night highlights blow away NFL days too; who wants to see NFL field goal replays and bloviating ESPN talking heads when the alternative is nothing but big plays and wild finishes from 40 or 50 college games?

by Jim (not verified) :: Wed, 08/16/2006 - 12:12pm

Anyone that says college football sucks compared to the NFL has probably never experienced a college game before. Yeah the NFL has its perks of course, but college football is a different experience - but you can only get that in person. Watching it on TV can kill it.

I was checking out some stats online and I came across this fantasy football survey. Thought I'd pass it along for kicks.

Check it out:


by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 08/16/2006 - 4:00pm

I like both games, and my only harsh criticism of the college game is the one I stated above; too many non-competitive contests, but I gotta disagree with a few remarks made above, in support of the notion that the college game is superior.

I don't know why there is more "purity" in the college football when offenses can run "gadgetry" plays by virtute of the fact that the defense is less athletic and less disciplined than is the case of the NFL. Similarly, it is not that college players have an extreme desire to "prove themselves", which allows them to go "all out", as opposed to pro players "pulling up", it is that the defensive players in the NFL are, on average, much, much, much, more dangerous to an offensive player's health. There really is no comparison between the typical level of dangerous violence in the college game, and that of the NFL.

Also, the defenses are so much more sophisticated in the NFL that, in combination with superior athletes, it does place more constraints on what is possible for the offense, in terms of wide open play. People who say that the NFL is more simplistic than the college game are only seeing half the contest. Ask Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Ben Roethlisberger which game, pro or college, may be more accurately said to be employing a KISS approach.

Finally, I'll correct myself by saying that my other harsh criticism of the college game is the BCS bowl format. It is absurd to me that teams like LSU, or Penn State in 1994 don't get a chance to prove their mettle against the supposed champion, despite never having lost a game. The shame of it is that if the NCAA simply had an eight game playoff in December, featuring the top eight conference winners (yes, the Irish would be forced into a conference in my world), they would own the remote controls in December, their championship game would quickly evolve to be every bit as big as the Super Bowl in terms of revenues, and the regular season wouldn't lose a thing, and possibly would be enhanced.

If somone insisted on including 2nd place conference finishers, then have the top four 2nd place teams play away at the conference winners seeded 5-8 in the first week of the playoffs, and give seeds 1-4 a bye. Personally, I'd just prefer the top eight conference winners in the tournament, no matter that some conferences are no doubt much weaker, with seeds 5-8 playing at seeds 1-4 on the first Saturday in December, the four winners playing the following week on two neutral fields, and then the championship on New Year's Day.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/16/2006 - 5:07pm

and the regular season wouldn’t lose a thing

Using the 8 conference champions? I can't agree there. Texas walked to the Big 12 championship last year. They could've lost to Ohio State, and it wouldn't've mattered in the tiniest bit. They still would've ended up in the playoffs, and still could've won.

Now. That being said, I wouldn't care that much there, but I can kindof understand some people's mentality on that - which is why a 4-team playoff of the top 4 BCS teams makes the most sense to me. It still has the possibility to screw undefeated teams over, so it's not ideal, but it's better than what's already out there.

The big problem with the BCS in my mind are the poll inertia that human voters have. Ohio State will very likely stay at #1 until it loses. End up with 3 unbeaten teams, and the reason that Ohio State ends up in the championship rather than #3? Because they were ranked #1. Why were they ranked #1? Because their offense was great last year, and "they are always able to reload their defense." So Ohio State ends up ranked #1 because they're always good. There's some circular logic there.

That's why I think that you need at least a 4-team playoff. Humans can't distinguish between 3 unbeaten teams, and neither can computers. Let the game do it.

by Daniel (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 2:20pm

The NFL's on the field product is clearly superior to the NCAA. Guys who started, and even starred for quality BCS teams become career backups in the NFL. Because the talent is dispersed among more teams at the college level you see more big plays due to mismatches between individual players or mistakes in strategy. That being said, the atmosphere of a college game is far superior to anything the NFL can offer. I graduated from Ohio State and have had the pleasure of seeing several games there over the last 20 years. They cheer the band on as much as the team. The band! And even the creampuffs and tomato-cans have a good time. I can still hear the Northwestern fans chanting "That's alright, that's OK. You're gonna work for us someday" halfway through the second quarter and down by 3 scores. And I'm not really a fan of college football. I watch the occasional game on TV and I go when a ticket becomes available. Without a fair playoff system that determines a clear champion I cannot take the sport too seriously.

by Josh (not verified) :: Sun, 08/20/2006 - 4:32pm

As a Vanderbilt student, a Tennessean, and a Titans fan, the atmosphere at Dudley Field if far, far better than the Coliseum (or LP Field, I guess), especially against one of the big state schools. 70,000 bored, affluent, middle-aged soccer moms and dads and their bored children are not nearly as fun to watch a game with as 5,000 hyped up, strung out, sh*tfaced college students, plus 15,000 diehard fans from the other school.

by Jake O Hara (not verified) :: Tue, 08/22/2006 - 9:28pm

Don't really understand some of you people. It isn't like you have to pick one or the other, you can like both you know.

by PackMan (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 1:21pm

I think one of the reasons why I prefer the NFL is because you have the same players for 10+ years, whereas, in college, your starters change about every other year, so you can really only follow 1 team, or maybe 1 conference. In the NFL, of course I follow my team more closely than all of the others, but if I watch a Packers game, I know who alot of the starters on the other team are, but in college, I can't see how you could know more than the best 1-2 guys on the other team are.

by Brock (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 4:13pm

I like both college and the NFL. College has a better gameday atmosphere and rivalries. The NFL has better talent, more competitive games, and a playoff. I agree with post #49 about the reasons why the NFL shouldn't be criticized for not having more types of offenses. I think what you like better depends on geography and which college you went to.

I don't like the clock starting right after kickoffs and change of possessions for many of the reasons already mentioned.