When I first wrote this essay, I made the argument very generic, asking simply which game I thought was better. I also did not come to a full conclusion, but instead simply said that they were both good. Throughout my revisions, I have worked on improving both the aspect of narrowing down the question, and coming to a full conclusion on which game I thought was more exciting. I also added more examples and facts, trying to add to the logic and credibility of the essay.
NFL vs College Football
There has always been a small debate between fans of collegiate and professional football. I was born and raised in Ann Arbor, growing up a giant University of Michigan football fan, and always staying uninterested in Michigan’s professional football franchise, the Detroit Lions. Football at U of M was always exciting, mainly because the team would generally roll over competition and end up playing in very competitive games against the best of the best in the college game. The Lions, on the other hand, were only exciting when people were watching to see if they could become the first team to have a winless season, which they achieved in 2008. I think that it was mainly because of this, that throughout my life, I have preferred the college game over the professional game. The college game is so much more exciting to me than the professional game, with a constant rotation of players, huge upsets, and the high pressure race for the national title. During my first couple months in the dorms at U of M though, it has become apparent that my views are not shared by all. Many of my friends throughout my hall, especially the ones who are from outside of the state of Michigan, have completely opposite feelings about the two games. However, I still stand by my long belief that the collegiate game of football is more exciting to watch than the professional game.
The collegiate football game is something that thrills me every time I watch it. Any team, regardless how big of a school or how impressive of a football program that they have, could win. This is something that I think is fantastic. The fact that a small school in the country with a low budget on athletics could beat a powerhouse football program with a longstanding tradition, in the middle of a city built on football, is amazing. The incredible performance of the players on the underdog team on the big stage is not only thrilling to watch, but inspiring as well.
Seeing small unknown football programs rise up and consistantly challenge national football forces is another exciting aspect of the college game. Football programs from schools such as Boise State, Texas Christian, and Utah have challenged and beaten giant football programs such as Wisconsin and Alabama in national bowl games. The coaching of these small programs, along with recruiting of national talent, is impressive to see. It also gives you a good feeling to know that the program came up from almost nothing to becoming one of the best teams in the nation.
You may be wondering how the pro game differs from the college game in this aspect. Although programs may not have come out of nowhere, there are still major turnarounds that occur in the professional game. Take the Lions for instance, a team that only four years ago lost every single game, is now making it to the playoffs and considered a challenging opponent. The San Francisco 49ers, who in 2010 had only 6 wins to 10 losses, completely turned themselves around and in 2011 were not only a playoff team, but expected by many to win the super bowl.
In terms of individual games not having an overwhelming underdog and favorite, one can look at the game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Green Bay Packers on October 7, 2012. The Green Bay Packers won the super bowl in 2010 and are still considered one of the best teams in football. The Colts on the other hand were one of the worst teams in NFL history last year, going 2 – 14. The Packers also had a veteran team led by an elite quarterback in Aaron Rogers. The Colts, on the other hand, were rebuilding with new talent, led by rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. The game was a close shootout, and in the end was won by an impressive drive by the Colts, ending with a game winning field-goal. The emotion and excitement by the players on the Colts was impressive, and the excitement on the young quarterback’s face along with the poise that he showed was an impressive experience to witness all on its own.
The players in the NFL though, although some may be unexperienced rookies or long timers with not much playing time, can all be expected to perform. They get paid large sums of money, and are there because they are the best of the best. Even though it is fun to watch these players play to near perfection on the field, it is one of the reasons that I feel professional football is less exciting. Because everyone is so good and so perfected, it makes upsets in the NFL a little bit less impressive. If everyone in the league has shown that they are amazing players, then you can assume them to be somewhat on the same level as each other. The best players in the NFL are the best from college, who are the best from high school, who are the best from peewee. So while the level of the game may be increased, with this amount of talent in the game, the level of surprise goes down when there is an upset. It’s kind of like watching an olympic sprinting event occur every week for 20 weeks out of the year, every year. It can occasionally get a little boring, as the underdogs winning may be less impressive if you can easily see that many of them are about the same skill level.
The college game really differs in the aspect of players ability, as there are so many more players and teams that statistically it is unreasonable to assume that a lesser known school in the middle of the country such as Utah State could have the same caliber players as a school such as Wisconsin. Yet, the game that was played between the two schools on September 15 at Wisconsin was closely contested, and Wisconsin only won by two points, with a missed game winning field goal by Utah State.
How a game that could be this close between two schools that seem like they differ so much in talent is amazing, and watching a possible goliath go down, only to win with a missed game winning field goal, is an ending that you will almost never see in the professional game.
The main difference I find between the excitement of collegiate and professional football though is the caliber of a loss to a team. In professional football, a loss is bad and could hurt you down the line, but even having only three or four losses is still considered a good season, and the team will almost definitely make the playoffs. In the collegiate system on the other hand, a loss for a program shooting for the national title can greatly impact the chances of making it to the title game, and two losses can almost guarantee that you will get knocked out. If one of those losses is to an underdog opponent, the team can essentially kiss the title hopes goodbye. Just look at Notre Dame this year, a team that if they had lost would not have a shot at the title. Yet they handled the pressure, and showed that they are worthy at the national title game coming up in a couple months. The amount of pressure on a college team every single game makes for more exciting games and seasons.
Collegiate football and professional football both have their pros and cons, but overall I think that the college game is much more exciting than the professional game. Both are fantastic and fun to watch and follow, and excitement does appear in both. However, I feel that the way a college team works under pressure, going against highly varying degrees of players, teams and coaches is just a little more exciting than the highly skilled amounts of professional teams. The rotation of new faces into the college game every four years compared to many of the same faces for many years at a time in the pro game only adds to the incredible system that collegiate programs must work with. The pressure from game to game for any team with a legitimate chance at the national title is something that is unmatched between college football and professional football. The fact that a team with a legitimate chance at the title has to do everything that they can to go undefeated is so much pressure, and to see a team be successful in this feat, proving that they are truly the best, is about as exciting as it gets.