"College football is more spectacular and rich in tradition," says SPIEGEL author Andrej Reisin
American football can be one of the most exciting sports in the world. Unless the game ends 10: 3 as in the Green Bay Packers victory at the Chicago Bears opening NFL season. A meager touchdown got the audience to see. That a game is as high as in the 55:40 victory of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Los Angeles Rams, is the absolute exception.
But how about a football world where such results are the rule? Welcome to the college.
34:35, 41:38, 30:36 - these are the results in top games. College football offers everything that distinguishes even the best NFL games: spectacular athleticism and suspense until the end - usually only with significantly more points.
This is mainly due to the fact that different rules apply than the professionals who favor the attacking team. For example, after catching, a pass receiver must only land one foot instead of two on the field for the catch to count.
Colors with history
Away from the rules, the long tradition makes college football more interesting than the NFL, after all, football has emerged as a stand-alone sport at American universities. Partially the teams have been playing since the second half of the 19th century, at the same venues as then. Therefore, the colors are classic as well. For example, the crew of the Catholic Notre Dame University is playing with golden helmets, which are being repainted by students every Friday evening in the style of the golden dome of the main building.
John Mersits / ZUMA Press / imago images
Before the games, the alma mater, the university anthem, is sung at the college
And the jerseys are just the beginning: marching bands, fanatics and organized guest fans make for even more atmosphere. There are historical reasons for the fact that there are college rides away from the NFL - in the professional arena, distances are usually too big for traveling fans, while college teams play most of their games in regional divisions and leagues.
If you live in Alabama, a southern state without a professional team in one of the four major US sports, you have the choice between Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers. There is nothing in between. In 1907, the competition escalated so much that the "Iron Bowl", as the derby is called, was subsequently held until 1948. Since then, the game is back, and every time Alabama is in a state of emergency. Such passion can only be found in college.
"In the NFL the competition is more balanced than at the college," says SPIEGEL editor Martin Vornweg-Brückner
A game like Texas A & M's against Arkansas Razorbacks last weekend is a perfect way to show why college football can be quite wonderful: 50,000 spectators in Arlington, splendid atmosphere, high level and excitement to the very end. Still, the NFL is more fun, and there are several reasons for that.
First of all, you need a bit of luck to run college football games with the characteristics described above. Mostly there is a huge imbalance and the victories of the favorites are merely a matter of form. A few results from the weekend: Florida beat Towson 38-0, Iowa 48-3 against MT and Michigan 52-0 against Rutgers. Anyone who enjoys such one-sided demonstrations, takes the duel with his small, defenseless nephew at the table tennis table seriously.
What is lacking in college is exactly what distinguishes the NFL: balance. The greatest talents gather under the rooftops of elite football schools like Clemson, Auburn and, of course, Alabama. As cluttered the buildup of college leagues is for outsiders, the outcome seems to be cemented so predictably. Year after year, the same teams determine the action. Alabama has been one of the four best teams in the country for five years. The university has the most active NFL players and with ten selected players - three of them in round one - also set the tone for this year's draft.
Sporting substance ensures balance
Of course there are predictable achievements in the NFL, but results are generally difficult to predict, unless the opponents are called New York Jets or Miami Dolphins. On the one hand, the reason is that the talent is spread more evenly among the 32 teams through the draft and, on the other hand, sport simply has more substance than at college.
Fred Kfoury III / Icon SMI / imago images
On the sidelines: Patriots Quarterbacks Tom Brady studies the tactics of the opponent
The weekly game preparation, the precise analysis of strengths and weaknesses and the match plan weigh more heavily in the NFL than simply having the most talented players in its ranks. The Oakland Raiders won against the favored Indianapolis Colts this season, as did the injury-stricken Philadelphia Eagles in the previously unbeaten Green Bay Packers. Such surprises prove balance and that no NFL team is without chance against another just because it has the weaker squad.
Critics will point out the dominance of the New England Patriots at this point. Three of the past five titles went to quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, but on paper there are five to ten other teams that are nominally better placed. The Patriots do not win because they take advantage of a decade-long advantage - they win because they are better under the same conditions.