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College football's 100 greatest things

8/27/2013 - College Football

College football isn't Sistine Chapel, '63 Corvette Stingray, "Mad Men" Season 1 perfect, but it's very close -- like Sofia Vergara, but with a tiny piece of spinach stuck between her front teeth.

And that's OK. I love that about college football. I love that it still lives in a dorm, that it isn't the NFL Jr., that it acts like a dumb teenager sometimes.

And by the way, I'm not anti-NFL. It's my second-favorite sports child, right behind college football. I even own Green Bay Packers stock and a Paul Hornung throwback that makes me mist up with pride.

But c'mon. What's the best compliment ever paid to Lambeau Field? That it has a college football atmosphere.

The NFL gets more TV eyes, but college football gets more hearts. Even convicted knucklehead Harvey Updyke, who poisoned Auburn's beloved Toomer's Corner oak trees, acted out of misguided, reprehensible Roll Tide love, saying later that he had "too much Bama in me."

College football has its problems -- lots of them. But every fall I renew my wedding vows with the game. What can I say? I'm a romantic.

Why? Here are 100 reasons:

1. I love that college football is usually played on the most perfect day of the week: Saturday. You have Friday to prepare, Sunday to celebrate/mourn and recover.

2. The Immaculate Reception? Please. That's nothing compared to Our Blessed Lady of the Five Laterals, aka Assumption of the Trombone, aka Miracle at Memorial, aka The Play.

Anyway, Cal beat Stanford 25-20 in 1982. The footage of the final play has been analyzed more than the Zapruder film.

3. Walk-ons.

And not just because of Rudy.

J.J. Watt walked on at Wisconsin. So did Jared Abbrederis. Clay Matthews walked on at USC. Jordy Nelson walked on at Kansas State. Santana Moss walked on at Miami. Owen Schmitt walked on at West Virginia. Colt Brennan walked on at Hawaii. Darren Woodson walked on at Arizona State. Ezekiel Ansah walked on at BYU.

4. You don't have to be a walk-on-turned-star to earn respect on this list. Walk-on wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez caught just three passes for 10 yards last season at Clemson. Before that, he fought in Iraq and then Afghanistan, surviving the horrific Battle of Kamdesh.

5. Penn State has 40 "run-ons" on its roster. Think about that: 40 guys playing on their own dime with no chance at a bowl game for the next three years. Impressive.

6. I love the first four notes of "Hold That Tiger" played by the LSU Tiger Marching Band in the pregame.

7. And all of the notes of the "Tennessee Waltz," played by the Pride of the Southland Band.

8. The flight of the War Eagle before the first quarter at Auburn.

9. Halftime at Ohio State and dotting the i.

10. Gators fans singing, "We Are the Boys of Old Florida" at the end of the third quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

11. The Fifth Quarter at Wisconsin. Actually, anything at Madtown.

12. Alabama's Million Dollar Band.

13. The Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band.

The bucket hats were famously suspended and criticized for their parody of the Irish potato famine in 1997 at Notre Dame. The band's official response to the suspension was priceless: "We think it absurd that Notre Dame can claim a whole ethnicity as its mascot, and further characterize this ethnicity as belligerent: the Fighting Irish. Further, to represent the Irish, Notre Dame uses a leprechaun. Most Irish people we know are not, in fact, leprechauns."

The band also came to the defense of the spotted owl and its wooded habitats in a 1990 halftime show at Oregon, a state where the logging industry was at odds with environmentalists. To make its point, the band formed the shape of an owl and later, a chainsaw.

14. I love the idea of one day sipping an adult beverage while tailgating on the Grove at Ole Miss. Now all I need is a Saturday off.

15. All things Steve Spurrier of South Carolina, such as ...

16. The Head Ball Coach at Arby's, courtesy of Jadeveon Clowney's Instagram.

17. The HBC at practice. Shirtless, shoeless, but still wearing his trademark visor.

18. The HBC throwing his trademark visor.

19. And yes, I'd pay money to listen to a Spurrier news conference.

20. All things Les Miles of LSU, such as ...

21. The Mad Hatter's 2005 analysis of himself: "The only thing that I can tell you is that I am relatively honest and somewhat deceptive."

22. The Mad Hatter and his game diet of stadium grass.

23. I love that Army is always trying to steal Navy's goat.

24. I love that MIT is always trying to screw with the Harvard-Yale game. And often succeeds.

25. The Trojan warrior aerating the Los Angeles Coliseum field with his sword.

26. Ralphie's run at Colorado.

27. The charmed, perk-filled life of the Texas A&M mascot, Reveille.

Reveille VIII, a purebred collie from Topeka, Kan., has her own Facebook page. She is the highest-ranking member of A&M's Corps of Cadets, which isn't bad for, you know, a dog. She has her own entourage, and, if she falls asleep on a cadet's bed, the cadet has to sleep on the floor. If she barks during a class, the professor has to immediately end the lecture.

I really wish I could have had Reveille with me during Stats 101.

28. I love the testosterone level of the Heisman Trophy.

Look at that thing. That trophy can beat up your trophy.

29. Bowl confidence pools.

30. Mocking the BCS during its farewell season.

31. A playoff system next season!

32. I love Auburn vs. Alabama, and all of the delicious weirdness that comes with it.

33. That Team Up North vs. Ohio State.

34. OU vs. Texas.

35. Army vs. Navy.

36. Florida vs. Georgia.

37. Notre Dame vs. USC.

38. College bars vs. fake IDs.

39. Johnny Football vs. those mean parking-ticket people.

40. Johnny Sharpie vs. NCAA rules.

41. Johnny Manziel with a football in his hands and a defense at his mercy.

42. I love the schools that give their students the best seats in the house.

43. I love the Big House.

44. The loudest house: LSU's Death Valley, where eardrums go to die.

45. The shakiest house: Wisconsin's Camp Randall.

46. The most polite house: Nebraska's Memorial Stadium, where Huskers fans, even if their beloved Big Red lose, applaud the opposing team at game's end.

47. My favorite house: a three-way tie between Tennessee's Neyland Stadium, Notre Dame Stadium and the Rose Bowl.

48. Honorable mention: Washington's Husky Stadium and BYU's LaVell Edwards Stadium.

49. The house on my bucket list: West Point's Michie Stadium.

50. The sign-language house: Kyle Field, which is growing from 82,000-plus to 102,000-plus by 2015.

51. I love that there's almost no ad signage at Notre Dame Stadium.

52. The unapologetic facilities arms races.

Oregon's new $68 million, 145,000-square-foot Football Performance Center has showers with marble imported from Italy, an in-house barbershop, televisions embedded in the mirrors of the coaches' locker room, a locker ventilation system, hydraulic piston-powered desktops, a 170-seat auditorium where each seat is covered with Ferrari leather, handwoven rugs from Nepal, and an equipment room that features an Austrian-engineered machine that steams and sanitizes chin straps and jock straps.

(I'm just kidding about the last one -- I think.)

53. I love that Alabama is going for the historic three-peat.

54. Ohio State is going for a second consecutive undefeated season.

55. Watching opposing offensive linemen when South Carolina's Clowney takes his stance. A little bit of pee comes out when they see him.

56. Watching Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas outrun geometry.

57. I love comeback stories, which is why I'm rooting for TCU's Casey Pachall. And oh yeah, I also hope he has a good football season.

58. So many teams, so many boutique offenses.

59. Heisman pools.

My preseason top five: Alabama's AJ McCarron, Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Clemson's Tajh Boyd, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and A&M's Manziel. If Manziel is sent to the NCAA penalty box, then it's a toss-up between USC's Marqise Lee and Georgia's Aaron Murray.

60. I love great helmet designs. The 10 best:

Wisconsin, Tennessee, Bama, Penn State, Texas, Michigan, Ohio State, USC, TCU, Notre Dame.

61. Boise State's blue turf.

62. Uga IX. Tennessee's Bluetick hound. In fact, any canine mascot.

63. The tapping of things by players as they head out to the field: Howard's Rock at Clemson, the "Play Like a Champion Today" sign at Notre Dame, the Gator head at Florida, the Testudo statue at Maryland and Phil Knight's wallet at Oregon.

64. USC's Song Girls.

65. Male cheerleaders with no access to a live microphone or to polyester sweats.

66. I love fight songs, no matter how annoying. My faves: Michigan's "The Victors," Notre Dame's "Victory March," Georgia Tech's "Ramblin' Wreck," Oklahoma's "Boomer Sooner" and Tennessee's "Rocky Top."

67. College towns.

68. "College GameDay."

Lee Corso and mascot headgear is performance art.

69. National signing day.

70. The 12th Man.

71. The service academies.

72. I love that Army's leading receiver, Chevaughn Lawrence, had only 21 catches in 2012 (Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton had that many in a single game against Texas A&M last season) and zero touchdown receptions -- and he never threw a hissy fit. He was about Team, not Chevaughn.

73. Senior seasons.

74. Second chances: Bobby Petrino at Western Kentucky.

75. Third chances: Michael Dyer at Louisville.

76. Upsets.

Louisiana-Monroe 34, Arkansas 31.

77. Shockers.

Bret Bielema leaving Madison for Fayetteville.

78. Loyalty and Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer.

Twenty-seven seasons and counting.

79. I love that Spurrier and Clemson's Dabo Swinney are in the same state.

80. Hot seats.

81. Coaches' polls.

82. The pink visitors locker room at Iowa's Kinnick Stadium.

83. The not-so-lovely visitors locker room at Penn State.

84. Taking a boat to a game at UT or U-Dub.

85. The Esso Club at Clemson.

86. Eskimo Joe's at Oklahoma State.

87. Dreamland Ribs in Tuscaloosa. Just take Jug Factory Road up the hill.

88. Nick Saban's panama practice hat.

89. Purdue's big bass drum.

90. The speeches.

From Rockne to Tebow.

91. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

92. I love that K-State's Bill Snyder, who turns 74 in October, is still relevant.

93. I love the former-player-turned-radio-color-analyst who wears his heart on his microphone.

94. Head coaches who actually have been in campus buildings other than the football stadium and the football facility.

95. I love hearing Bear Bryant's gravelly voice piped over the loudspeakers before the start of a Bama home game -- and that you can't hear what he's saying because the Tide fans are cheering so loudly.

96. The vibe before a big game.

97. That the clock stops, just for a few moments, after a first down.

98. I love the SEC championship because it almost always matters.

99. That Rutgers is retiring Eric LeGrand's number.

100. I love Aug. 29.

The first day of the season.