I love college football. The pageantry of the games and passion of the fans is unmatched in American sports, and it generates a whole lot of excitement, speculation, and discussion during the season. There is almost nothing better than waking up early on an autumn Saturday and knowing that, for the next eleven hours or so, college football has your entertainment needs covered. However, as great as it is, it cannot compare to the excitement and intensity that I feel as a fan of the NFL.
First of all, the quality of play in the NFL is simply better than college football. Obviously, every NFL player is a paid professional and it is their full-time job to practice and improve each week, whereas in college, the athletes have strict limits on practice time and must also focus on schoolwork. Watching well-orchestrated offensive drives, intimidating defenses, and impressive feats of athleticism is exciting for me. Plus the NFL has the advantage over college in these areas.
The NFL’s method of determining a champion is also much better than college football’s. The NFL uses a 12 team playoff system where each team objectively earned their spot in the tournament based on their season record. College football uses a committee to subjectively vote on the teams that they feel are most deserving, which sparks debate and controversy. The fact that only the NFL has an undisputed champion makes it a more compelling sport to watch.
People say that the NFL’s playoff system negates the significance of the regular season, but I do not buy that argument. Regular season games in college are too significant, as one loss all year could leave you out of the playoff (unless you are in the SEC, of course). The NFL lets a completely fair number of teams into the postseason, and rewards teams that have better records with bye weeks and home field advantage.
NFL detractors also claim that the pros cannot compare to college in terms of game day atmosphere and fan passion, but based on what I have seen, that is not true. In fact, it is NFL stadiums that set new crowd volume records and they are doing it with smaller capacities than the largest college stadiums (70,000 people compared to over 100,000). Unless you are a student in the student section of a college game, the in-person experience at NFL games is better. The stadiums are newer, the video boards are bigger and clearer, the game is higher quality and the seats are much more comfortable. The vast majority of NFL tickets are individual, chair-backed seats with armrests, compared to the typical cramped metal bench at college games.
Finally, the playing field is more even in the NFL. As already discussed, each team has an equally fair shot at the postseason, and teams can rebuild through the draft and free agency. Roster limits and the salary cap prevent teams from stockpiling the best players, whereas in college it seems like the rich always get richer (better programs attract better recruits which leads to better programs). Teams can win and lose any given Sunday in the NFL, but it is increasingly rare in college to see a heavy favorite lose to an underdog.
Overall, I am still definitely a fan of both sports, but as my Patriots prepare for Super Bowl XLIX, I want to make my stance clear: I am an NFL fan first and foremost.