College football and the NFL are essentially the same game, but significant differences exist between the two. Guysgirl recently covered the major rules differences and traditions between the two sports, but rules aren’t the only thing that sets the two football variants apart. Pageantry, mascots, gameday, rivalries and fandom are vastly different, and if you venture into a college stadium looking for an NFL experience, or vice versa, you’re going to be in for a surprise if you’re not prepared.
Last, but not least, are the rivalries. Sure, the NFL has some great ones—Denver-Oakland, Cowboys-Giants, Bears-Packers, and Steelers-Ravens—but when it comes to rivalries, the NFL simply can’t compete with college football.
College football rivalries are awesome, plain and simple.
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Whether state bragging rights or iconic trophies are on the line, the games are always intense, and the fans and players are jazzed up.
The rivalry games have colorful nicknames, and some sort of interesting trophy is the prize.
Often, the rivalry is between two schools in the same state, and the whole state takes sides.
Auburn and Alabama square off in the Iron Bowl. Washington and Washington State play in the Apple Cup. Colorado and Colorado State kick off the season in the Rocky Mountain Showdown. Stanford and Cal duke it out in the Big Game. Utah and BYU face off in the often-heated Holy War. Oregon and Oregon State have the Civil War.
Sometimes the schools are in neighboring states like Colorado State and Wyoming or Michigan and Ohio State.
Kansas and Missouri have one of the most acrimonious rivalries in the Border War, which dates back to the 1850s when slavery and anti-slavery supporters shed blood while fighting over whether Kansas would be a free or slave state.
The NFL just doesn’t have history like that.
The trophies that are awarded to the winner are a huge part of what makes college football special.
The winner of the Colorado State-Wyoming Border War game gets the Bronze Boot. The Boot is an actual boot that was worn in Vietnam by a CSU ROTC instructor and is guarded by the ROTC unit of the school that won the previous year’s game.
The winner of the annual USC-Notre Dame game is awarded the Jeweled Shillelagh while Indiana and Purdue fight over the Old Oaken Bucket. TCU and SMU play for the Iron Skillet.
Minnesota has a number of odd trophies: the Floyd of Rosedale trophy that is shaped like a pig (Iowa); Paul Bunyan’s Axe (Wisconsin); and the Little Brown Jug (Michigan).
The NFL is the highest quality football on the planet, but when it comes to the actual football experience, there’s just no competing with college football.
Do you have a favorite rivalry? Let us know why in the comments…