It’s fourth quarter with under a minute on the clock. Fourth down and RG3 is going for a long pass to Pierre Garcon. Everybody is holding their breath...
And you have no idea what’s going on.
Okay, so I totally made up that scenario, but it could happen and if you don’t understand why that would make for some AWESOME Sunday football, you’re not alone. With school, extracurriculars and that awesome new season of Real World/Road Rules Challenge coming up, it’s all too easy for collegiettes to ignore football. It’s a bunch of people whose names take way too much effort to remember playing in what seems like a million different positions for a million different teams, and then how does that BCS playoff thing work again?
Don’t worry. HC UNC is here to break it all down for you in the simplest way possible. By the end of this crash course, I promise you’ll maybe-sorta-kinda understand football... Or at least, you’ll be able to pretend that you do!
First things first, there are two big football seasons in the Fall: NFL and NCAA. Already knew that? Great. We’re off to a solid start.
The NFL is made of two conferences- the American Football Conference and the National Football Conference (the AFC and the NFC). Both of those are split into East, West, North, and South. I’m pretty sure that nobody can name all 32 teams in the 8 divisions, but here’s a little list for you just in case you want a cool new party trick.
The NCAA is made of 12 Division 1 1-A conferences (SEC, ACC, Big 10, etc.) and 15 2-A conferences. At the beginning of the season, the AP Coaches’ Poll ranks the top 25 teams. I wish I could say how these rankings will play into the new playoff system, but nobody really understands or knows how this system is going to work, or how teams will be chosen. At the end of the season, two bowl games will act as a “playoff” for the BCS Championship. But, like I said, nobody knows who is going to these bowls. My guess is we’re going to see a lot of SEC and Pac-12 action in them.
NFL playoffs, however, are pretty simple. At the end of the 16-game season, the top six teams from the AFC and NFC (12 total!) go into single-elimination playoffs for a spot in the Super Bowl. Each division’s champion gets an automatic spot in the first round of playoffs. Two “Wild Cards” also get to go to the playoffs. To be a “Wild Card,” a team must have the highest (or second-highest) winning-percentage out of all of the teams in the conference that didn’t win their division.
As you might already know, games are built around four quarters. Even though they can sometimes feel like they’re hours long, each quarter is just 15 minutes. Offensive players attempt to move the ball down the field in “downs.” A team has four downs before the ball is given to the other team. In those four downs, a team must complete (by passing successfully or running - “rushing”) 10 yards. Once the team completes those 10 yards, they go back to “first down” and they can keep moving the ball down the field. If a play moves the ball further back, those yards are added to the 10.
If a team scores a touchdown, they receive six points. The team may then go for a field goal (kicking the ball through the posts) for one point or can try to score again from the 2-yard line (or 3 in college!) either by passing the ball or running into the end zone (the painted end of the field) for two points. During the game, if a team is on their fourth down and is close enough to kick a field goal, they will probably do so. A successful field goal in this situation will award the team three points.
That’s basically it. People will throw around fancy words like sack (tackling a quarterback), fumble (dropping the ball and allowing the other team a chance to grab it) or interception (defensive player catching ball thrown to offensive player), but it’s really just about moving a ball down a field. And guys hitting each other.
Occasionally players mess up and do things that are “illegal.” Flags will be thrown, refs will explain calls, people watching will either be really upset or really excited. Happens. Flags can be thrown for false starts, holding, interference, blocks in back (offensive player hits defensive player in the back), grabbing face masks and being offsides. A player is offsides when he is on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage (the invisible line between the two teams).
Learning all of the positions can be a little intimidating. I pretty much gave up. There’s the offensive line (guards, the center, the offensive tacklers and the tight end), the defensive players (defensive ends, defensive tackles, linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties), the wide receivers, the fullback, the tailback and, of course, the quarterback.
Overwhelmed yet? Don’t worry about it! Lucky for you, people really only expect you to know who the quarterback is (because nobody wants to be THAT girl who doesn’t know who Peyton Manning is).
In my opinion, the best part about NFL and NCAA football (besides the games) is getting to know the players and their storylines. This basically means knowing what (and who!) to watch for.
In college, the importance rankings, scarcity of games, and always looming NFL draft make for high intensity games. Heisman Trophy talks start before cleats hit the field and everybody wants to know if the SEC will take home the BCS Championship for the eighth time in a decade.
Of course there are teams in the NCAA and NFL that have definitely sparked my interest, so you should check them out, too!
NCAA Teams I’m Watching:
UCLA- Beat Nebraska last week knocking them way down in rankings. And Diddy’s son is on the team. Pretty cool if you ask me.
South Carolina- I just want South Carolina to win an SEC Championship so badly. They get so close every year and with a healthy Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney working together, I think it could be an interesting year for them.
Michigan- The Wolverines lost to Alabama 41-14 in a surprising opening game that made many wonder how superior the SEC might be. I’m personally hoping Michigan gets a comeback.
Florida State- Facing formidable ACC opponent Clemson early in the season might spell trouble. And Tailback Chris Thompson is back after breaking his back at Wake Forest last year just as the Seminoles prepare to match up with the Demon Deacons again. I love the timing.
Georgia/North Carolina/Nebraska- A girl can have some favorites can’t she? Plus just look at Aaron Murray. Look at him!
NFL Teams I’m Watching (Or more simply: QB’s I’m Watching)
Redskins- Even if you swear off ESPN and you’ve never seen a football game, you should know who Robert Griffin III is. He’s only on every Gatorade and Subway commercial. Though he was picked 2nd in the 2012 NFL Draft behind new Colts QB and Stanford alum Andrew Luck, RG3 has come into the league facing some high expectations. Already in week 1, he’s proved himself to be an effective QB, defeating veteran QB Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. I’m wondering if he’ll continue this caliber of performance all season.
Jets- The Jets hired Tim Tebow and kept Mark Sanchez. So they have two quarterbacks and both of them get to play. Does anybody understand how this is going to work? Do they just tag team? “Hey, man. I got this play. You wanna get the next one?” They were switching in and out pretty frequently in their 20-point win over the Bills. Maybe Tebow does the plays that don’t involve throwing?
Broncos- And speaking of Tebow, the Broncos trashed Tim and brought in legend- (wait for it) dary QB Peyton Manning who reached 400 career passing yards in his win against the Steelers. And I think it’d be pretty cool if the Mannings had back-to-back Super Bowls.
Jaguars- Actually, I just think second-year Blaine Gabbert is cute. He had a rough start last year, but I’m hoping round two in the NFL is a little bit better. Just wish he’d take his helmet off more...
NFC South- Okay, okay. So this isn’t a team. It’s a division. But with a sophomore Cam Newton, dynamic-duo Matt Ryan/Julio Jones, and a shaken up Saints (sorry TB Bucs), I’m really excited to see who comes out on top. My guess? Falcons.
So what do you think, collegiettes? Think football might be your thing? Who do you think will take the BCS Championship or the Super Bowl? What players are on the rise? Sound off in the comments below!