College football has it perks. Whether it’s the 100,000-plus seat stadiums filled to the brim or the marching bands starting parades from 20 miles outside the arena, the aura of college football has been a Saturday tradition for decades. But the NFL has become the new Sunday religion for most. From buckets of beers and wings to jersey sales and Super Bowls, football has replaced baseball as America’s pastime. But which one has the edge? Is it the NCAA or the NFL? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley discuss.
Riley: Polls and rankings give the NCAA the slight edge to me. Every week is an absolute must-win and it’s hard to find that type of pressure in the NFL. There’s nothing like a Saturday night home game for some unranked school against one of the nation’s top dogs. You can feel the excitement from the bands, the crowd and the commentators as you watch. Just an audience’s energy can turn a game between two nobody schools into the best thing on television. Don’t get me wrong, the NFL has plenty of excitement in its own right, but college football definitely has the edge.
Green: Name recognition in professional sports always gives the paid players the edge. Sure, everyone knows about USC, UCLA, Michigan and Notre Dame but do we really know any of the star players on those teams? Being able to identify and recognize players gives fans a better feel for the game. The NCAA is full of action-packed games, and the crowd really gets into it, but there’s no comparison between USC versus UCLA and the Baltimore Ravens versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. Period.
Riley: Rivalries like Baltimore and Pittsburgh are rare in the pro league. But there are rivalries aplenty with campus football, basically giving you a classic clash every single weekend. With the playoff system in the NFL, it’s too easy for teams to slack off during the regular season. Last year’s Super Bowl champs sleep-walked through the season before catching fire in the postseason. In college football, you’re guaranteed to get a team’s best every Saturday, so you never have to worry about a talented team like the New York Giants taking a weekend off against the Washington Redskins. If USC is the number one ranked team for that week, I can guarantee that you’ll see their best when they come out and trounce some team that they should clearly beat.
Green: You make it sound like superior teams don’t lose to lower-ranked schools. It happens all the time in both college and the NFL. And the fact that a team like the Giants basically caught fire and stormed through the playoffs tells me how wide open the pro league is. In college, a team basically has to be ranked in the top two or three all season to even have a chance at winning it all. If a sixth seed can win the Super Bowl, that gives you a true idea of how much parity there is in the NFL.
Riley: I like to see teams play hard every week, not take games off because they think they can just flip a switch in the playoffs. Parity is great, but effort is what I want to see.
Green: OK, fine. You can have your every-week effort, and I’ll take my fantasy football, which has basically elevated professional football into a tier of its own. Face it Riley, it’s the NFL here, and everything else is a notch below it. Name recognition, a functional playoff system and fantasy football, three things that college football can’t possibly match. And then there’s the TV schedule of the NFL, which now shows football games not only all day on Sunday, but on Thursday nights. And we still have Monday Night Football, the ultimate medium for entertainment on a dull Monday night. All that considered, there’s simply no better version of football than the NFL.