Fall, for us girls, is usually met with thoughts of the newest season’s fashion, back-to-school adjustments and the beginning of another hectic college year. But for millions of men across the country, this time of year means NCAA College Football is underway. This season brings arguably the country’s most hardcore fans, rivalries, and school spirit. No matter if your school is a National Championship contender on the field, or simply a small Division III program, being football-savvy will surely spice up your game day experience. It is time to say goodbye to the stereotypes of girls being naive about football. Learning the game will not only mean you can “bleed” school spirit (and dress up as your mascot at the tailgate), but you can also start enjoying the athletic prowess on the field. Besides, nearly every guy you meet will be impressed!
Back to Basics A lack of understanding often leads to boredom on game day, especially because there are many breaks in the action. However, the game of football can be easily deciphered with a small knowledge of the basics. Here is a crash course on everything you need to know to enjoy a football game like “one of the guys.” The goal of the game is to move the ball 100 yards down the field into the end zone. There are 11 players on the field per team at all times. On offense, the offensive team has 4 downs—or “chances”—to move the ball 10 yards. If they fail to move the ball 10 yards (typically in the first 3 plays or downs) the ball is turned over to the opposing team after the 4th down or punted to them. If the 10 yards is successfully gained, the offense is awarded a “First Down” giving them 4 more chances to move 10 yards again. This process is repeated.
Pulling Ahead on the Scoreboard… If the ball reaches the end zone, the offensive team scores a touchdown worth 6 points. They are awarded the ball again for an attempt to gain a PAT—or, point after touchdown. The team can go for 1 point by scoring a field goal (kicking the ball through the goalposts), or they can “Go For 2,” an extra 2 points if they make a successful play into the end zone from the three-yard line. Almost every time, the team will go for the PAT by kicking the ball.
Crowning a Champion The college football season caps off at 12 regular season games. All NCAA Division 1-A schools are broken up into conferences throughout the country. The most competitive conferences include the SEC (Southeastern Conference), the Pac-10 (Pacific 10 teams), Big 12, Big 10, and the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference). The conferences are consistent for all NCAA sports. The most competitive conferences are part of the
BCS (Bowl Championship Series). The ultimate goal is to earn a bid to a “BCS Bowl.” The pinnacle, of course, is the BCS National Championship, which rotates between the Rose Bowl (Pasadena, California), Orange Bowl (Miami, Florida), Fiesta Bowl (Tempe, Arizona), and Sugar Bowl (Baton Rouge, Louisiana). There is no play-off system in college football—a system that is constantly debated throughout the athletic world. Instead, the BCS decides the final rankings and bowl bids. The BCS was “created by conferences and schools in 1998 to assure a match up between the top two teams—correcting a major flaw in the system—while maintaining and enhancing the traditional bowl system that’s nearly 100 years old” (BCSFootball.org). The final BCS rankings, which give way to the bowl game match ups, are mathematically calculated by a formula combining the “USA Today Coaches Poll, the Harris Interactive College Football Poll and an average of six computer rankings.” (To find out more about the BCS visit: Your browser may not support display of this image. http://www.bcsfootball.org/bcsfb/faq)
Conquering the Enemy Most college football teams have one major rival; this rivalry brings out the most intense fan sentiments of the season. The most heart and soul is poured into these match-ups. The oldest of these rivalries is Harvard v. Yale, beginning in 1875. Some notable rivalries include: “The Red River Rivalry” – Texas v. Oklahoma, “The Game” – Harvard v. Yale, Army v. Navy, “The Big Game” – Stanford v. Cal, “The Battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh” – USC v. Notre Dame, “Iron Bowl” – Auburn v. Alabama, “The Civil War” – Oregon v. Oregon, “The Apple Cup” – Washington v. Washington State, “Battle of the Palmetto State” – South Carolina v. Clemson, “Holy War” – Notre Dame v. Boston College, “The Biggest Little Game in America” – Williams v. Amherst
Hot in the Tabloids…Hotter on the Field Off the playing field, the quarterback is usually the player with the most pop-culture fame. Of all players, these are “big names” you probably already know. NFL quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Tony Romo headline tabloids often. On the field, these guys play a big role too. They touch the ball every single play on offense and enable the rest of the players into motion. In order to be successful, a quarterback is usually tall (but not big), has poise and confidence on the field, and is a natural leader—he must gain the trust of the other 10 players on the field. Gaining Yards In order to move 10 yards per offensive possession, teams use either a running or passing play. The choice to run or pass the ball depends on an offense’s tendencies, strengths, and ability to be successful over the opposing team’s defense. A team with talented running backs will most likely run the ball more, and with all-star wide receivers, will more often pass the ball.
How does the quarterback know which type of play to call? The play is actually chosen by a coach above the field in the press box, and calls down to the coach on the sidelines the play. The sideline coach signals the quarterback by a number or a hand signal, which correspond to a specific play. In college football, the clock stops when an offense gains a first down, makes an incomplete pass, or goes out of bounds. The clock continues after a running play.
The defense is a different batch of eleven players than the offense. Players, almost one hundred percent of the time, do not play both offense and defense at the college level. The defense has one goal in mind: to stop the offense from moving the ball down the field. The defense calls plays just like the offense and quarterback do, and some of the most ferocious men on the field play on the defensive side.
The Heisman Trophy Award was started in 1935 named after John Heisman—a notable contributor to the invention of American Football in the early 20th century. This coveted award crowns the best college football player in the nation each year. Former awardees, and the press vote on the winner; the ceremony takes place at the New York Athletic Club. Recent Heisman Trophy winners include: Tim Tebow, Troy Smith, Reggie Bush, and Matt Leinart. So get out there and start impressing the guys in the stands! Land a date with an all-star running back! Test your knowledge on the sidelines and find out what rivalries are coming to your campus.
For the 2009 College Football season, the pre-season top 25 ranked teams (with mascots included, for an even more impressive football repertoire):
1. Florida – Gators
2. Texas – Longhorns
3. Oklahoma – Sooners
4. USC – Trojans
5. Alabama – Crimson Tide
6. Ohio State – Buckeyes
7. Virginia Tech – Hokies
8. Mississippi – Rebels
9. Oklahoma State – Cowboys
10. Penn State – Nittany Lions
11. LSU – Tigers
12. California – Golden Bears
13. Georgia – Bulldogs
14. Boise State – Broncos
15. Georgia Tech – Yellow Jackets
16. Oregon – Ducks
17. TCU – Horned Frogs
18. Florida State – Seminoles
19. Utah – Utes
20. Brigham Young – Cougars
21. North Carolina – Tar Heels
22. Iowa – Hawkeyes
23. Notre Dame – Fightin’ Irish
24. Nebraska – Cornhuskers
25. Kansas – Jayhawks
According to The Associated Press on ESPN.com as of August 30, 2009.
2009 NCAA Football Rankings – Preseason “The Associated Press Top 25” (http://espn.go.com/college-football/rankings)
Bowl Championship Series: http://www.bcsfootball.org
“List of NCAA College Football Rivalry Games”(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_NCAA_college_football_rivalry_games).
Heisman Trophy http://www.heisman.com/. BCS Graphic:
http://www.bcsfootball.org/id/7894629 Red River Rivalry:
Tom Brady and wife, Gisele Bundchen:
http://hollywoodismyhood.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/tom-brady-and-gisel… Heisman Trophy Graphic:
http://graphics.fansonly.com/testing/heisman/images/logo_trophy.jpg Do YOU bleed your school colors?
Are you a college football super fan? Send me a photo of yourself in the midst of your most intense school spirit and you can be featured in the next issue!