It’s College, Jim. But Not As We Know It

Guest writer Simmo has 10 ways for @5yardcollege listeners to decide on their college team. 

Once upon a time, there was a young boy who had been bitten by the football bug and after a couple of years, was introduced to college football. Being very excitable about his new found interest, he wanted to find out as much as he possibly could about the college game. He read about the rules, who the teams were and it soon became apparent that the college football arena was bigger than anything he could have ever imagined. A world of endless wonder. Now, what team should he support?

That last paragraph was my introduction into college football. Having become a fan of the NFL in 1983, I soon became very aware of the draft process and it was from there and through reading the weekly newspaper First Down that my interest with the college game was hooked. The only problem I had was which college football team to support. In the NFL I followed Washington because they were the first team I saw on the Channel 4 highlights playing against the Cowboys, the team my best mate supported, so it just seemed right that as they were rivals my friend and I should have this rivalry between us.

When it came to college football, not only were there no games to watch on television in the 1980s, and none of my friends who followed NFL at that time were interested in it. I had nobody else to refer to.

Which brings me to the point of this article. Which college team should British fans support?

My choice of college team was made based on who my favourite player was in 1985 and at that time my favourite player (although he did not play for my team) was Joe Montana. He went to college at Notre Dame and therefore I chose my college team based on this. But what other options do British fans of college football have? I’ll see if I can help.

1) Your NFL team

Probably a route for a lot of NFL fans new to college is to pick a college in either the same state or city as their NFL team. This is by far the most common method, but you can’t equate performances. I do know of a few people who support less than successful NFL teams like Detroit or Cleveland who decided not to do this because they wanted to celebrate success somewhere. Boy, did those people who follow Detroit and Cleveland miss out on using this system! Michigan and Ohio State are two of the most successful programs in the college game. 

2) Where you were born 

Another option is to pick a college team from the place in the U.K. you were either born, or now live. Some examples include :

Nebraska Cornhuskers (Big 10) – Lincoln, Nebraska
UAB Blazers – Conference USA – Birmingham, Alabama
Mississippi Rebels (Ole Miss) – SEC – Oxford, Mississippi

3) Armed forces

If you were a member of the armed forces you may want to follow one of their teams. The Army West Point Black Knights are an Independent team (they pick their schedule), the Air Force Falcons play in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference and then you have the Navy Midshipmen, who play their football in the American Athletic Conference.

4) Team Name 

You could be scrolling through the list of the college football names and suddenly come across a name which you really like, or don’t like. The last part of that sentence is why I do not support the college team from where my NFL team comes from. I just didn’t like the name Maryland Terrapins.

5) Favourite animal

You may well be an animal lover, in which case you have an abundance of names to choose from. Love going to the park to feed the ducks with your kids? Then the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 Conference is your team. You love watching wildlife programmes with the bears in the wild? The Baylor Bears in the Big 12 Conference is for you. You’re a big cat fanatic, in which case the Clemson Tigers in the ACC could be the team you support.

6) Rivals 

I know of one NFL fan who didn’t have a college team and asked me to help him decide. We went through a few options in this list, but we came up with this one because of him. He is a big Everton fan and there is nothing he likes better than a good old Merseyside derby with Liverpool. The idea popped into my head to suggest a game in college football which has an immense rivalry and therefore he could have that experience. So, if you are wanting to follow a team where you have this fierce rivalry, why not one of these:

Alabama vs Auburn
Michigan vs Ohio State
USC vs Notre Dame
Georgia vs Florida
Florida vs Florida State
California vs Stanford
Texas vs Texas A&M
Oklahoma vs Texas
Michigan vs Notre Dame
Georgia vs Georgia Tech

7) Holiday

Whether it was the sunny climates of Florida or California, a gambling weekend in Las Vegas, a rodeo trip to Texas, sipping drinks at the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, a trip to New York or skiing in Colorado. If you have had one of those unforgettable holidays in America, you may want to pay homage to it by following the college team from where you had such a great time. Ever wondered why there were so many New York and Miami NFL fans over here in Britain? 

8) Glory Hunter

You can look at the previous season and see who won the National Championship or look at the list of prestigious multiple winners and take your pick from those colleges who have a trophy packed cabinet. Equate that to English soccer and somebody wants to follow a team of recent prestige then they wouldn’t support Tottenham. 

9) The Mr T Method

Those of you reading this who do not or have not watched Soccer AM will have no idea what I mean by “The Mr. T Formula”. The big man himself was in the U.K. some years ago and appeared on Soccer AM. He admitted to the presenters that he did not support a football (soccer) team in England. So, they put all 92 football teams in a hat and Mr. T just put his hand in and picked one out. From that moment on Mr. T became a Barnsley F.C. supporter. Now, I’m not saying this is the way I would choose my college team, but if you just want luck of the draw system and you don’t mind who comes out, then this could be the way for you.

10) Your favourite NFL player

This was my choice. If you have an all-time favourite player then you could honour them by supporting the college they attended and played football. In my case it was Notre Dame because of Joe Montana. But if you’re a Patriots fan and your idol is Tom Brady you will be looking at supporting Michigan.

And a bit of advice. Although most of, if not all of, the games you will find relate to the Division I – Football Bowl Subdivision (your Bowl games), you may want to support a team in the Division I – Football Championship Subdivision. I do have a team in there I follow, the North Dakota State Bison. Some colleges do move up, some move down. You could have a team in both the FBS and FCS, but you may just want the one.

There are many other ways to choose your college team, but if you are looking to get into the college game more and more the ideas above could give you a starting point.

‘Here Come The Irish’, Simmo

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