College football has kicked off. UVA is an unexpected 1-0, Virginia Tech is an expected 0-1, and fans of every team have high hopes for what their program can achieve. With that in mind, we're taking the time to pick out some of the best of college football. I'm not talking players, coaches, or plays. I'm talking about things that make up a gameday experience.
Best Team Entrance: Clemson
Anybody that's been to a Clemson home game understand that the Tigers know how to make an entrance. Seeing them run down the hill through the crowd is unlike anything else in college football. I had the opportunity to see it on C.J. Spiller's senior day, and I've never heard a crowd that loud.
Best Team Entrance Song: Virginia Tech- Enter Sandman
Some say it's overrated, I say it's awesome. The first time I attended a Virginia Tech game, I was covering UVA, but the one thing I was looking forward to the most was seeing the Hokies take the field to Enter Sandman. I was down at the UVA end of the stadium, and the Cavs entered as the song was playing, prompting the Wahoo band to fire up its welcome and drown out everything else (any other time I really enjoy the UVA band, by the way). Needless to say, I've made it back and it's everything it's cracked up to be. When Lane Stadium gets jumping as the Hokies get ready to charge out of the tunnel, it's really something to see.
Best Midfield Logo: LSU
Granted, you could have the coolest midfield logo in the world, but if you put a terrible product out on the field, nobody is going to see it. LSU has the product and the atmosphere to go along with a terrifying Tiger eye at the 50-yard line. Any logo that scares my kids is worthy of this Marc Madness blog honor (I'm sure it will be at the top of the Tigers' list).
Best Stadium In-Game Atmosphere: Texas A&M
This is a tough one, because there are a ton of big schools that pack the house, Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, LSU, the list goes on... but I'm giving the edge to Texas A&M. The Aggies pack the house every game, and by the looks of things, all 83,000 of the fans know their responsibility as a member of the 12th man. We all know how big football is in Texas, no matter what level, and the Aggies embrace this passion the best. The noise level and passionate fans provide the greatest home field advantage in college football.
Best Field: Eastern Washington
The Eagles play their home games on a fire engine-red field. Some people love it, others hate it, and I happen to think it's awesome. I would watch an EWU home game just to see a football game on a bright red field, despite the fact that your eyes will be bleeding out of their sockets by the fourth quater, especially if the Eagles decide to sport their all-red uniforms. Boise State's blue is cool, USTA's orange is alright, but Eastern Washington takes the top spot.
Best Live Mascot: Colorado- Ralphie
In a tight race between Ralphie and UGA, the live buffalo takes the top spot because, well, it's a real live buffalo on a football field. Ralphie gallops around Folsum Field before each half under the supervision and guidance of five handlers. On more than one occasion, Ralphie has gotten free of her handlers, and because of this her appearances may be cancelled if she appears nervous or over-anxious.
Best Costume Mascot: Ohio State- Brutus the Buckeye
Brutus the Buckeye burst onto the scene in 1965 and has become one of the most recognizable mascots in college sports. Brutus is present at all Ohio State football games, and his buckeye nut-shaped head is easy to spot in the crowded horseshoe. This was another tough one. Sebastian the Ibis also got a fair amount of votes from the panel (made up of sports directors at the NBC affiliate in Richmond, VA).
Best Pregame Tradition: Florida State- Chief Osceola
There are few better ways to get fans ready for football than stabbing a spear that's on fire into midfield, but that's Chief Osceola's routine. Riding a horse name Renegade, Osceola charges out in front of the nearly 83,000 fans at Doak Campbell Stadium, raises his spear into the air, then stabs it into the turf. The crowd goes crazy and it really sets the tone for the game. It's also a really cool unique way to showcase how the school celebrates the Seminole indians, as the tribe supports the traditions, nickname and practices of Florida State.
Best Uniforms: Washington
Another tough category, but the Washington Huskies boast the best uniforms in college football. I'm a huge fan of the all-black look. It looks really sharp with the gold helmets, especially during nights games at Husky Stadium. Their uniforms are a great mix between a classic and modern look. Not too plain, but not too crazy.
Best On-Campus Pregame Atmosphere: Southern California
If you're going to celebrate college football, why not do it with a bunch of rowdy Los Angeleans? It would be hard to find a place that does an on-campus pregame celebration better. Just a stone's throw from the Los Angeles Coliseum, the campus is buzzing like nothing I've seen. More people pack onto the Trojans' campus to celebrate gameday than you can imagine as there are fans as far as the eye can see on any given corner of the grounds. Food, drink,friends whom you've never met before and fun are all all part of the festivities. I know what many of you are saying, "I've been to a ton of places that sound like that," but you need to experience USC and you'll understand.
Best Rivalry: Ohio State vs. Michigan
There are a lot of great rivalries in college football, but the Buckeyes and Wolverines battle is the best in the business. While many rivalries are fierce, these two teams often enter this game as Big Ten contenders, adding stakes to a heated match-up. To illustrate how seriously the teams take this rivalry, look no further than Urban Meyer. The OSU head coach has basically banned the color blue from being worn by team personnel, coaches, player and recruits.