June 16, 2024

Ranking College football’s 20 best GameDay traditions of 2024

College Football's best gameday traditions

Florida State's Osceola and Renegade prepare to run onto the field before game against LSU Sunday September 1, 2023 at Camping World Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

Game day tradition is what separates College football from the NFL. Several programs from across the nation have a variety of ways of generating momentum. There are certain schools that have carried out traditions for decades. Others even have mascots to hype up the crowd.

These 20 traditions are well known around the College football landscape, and each one has its’ own original back story. These rankings shine a light on what makes these programs unique, and why the fans embrace the pride.

20. Purdue, Big Bass Drum: The World’s largest drum is used by the Boilermakers on game day, and is a site to see. After all, it stands over 10 feet when the carriage is included, and is the face of Purdue’s marching band. The massive instrument was created in 1921 and whenever the Boilermakers score at Ross-Ade Stadium, crew members can be seen performing flips and pushups. Training for the crew includes two minutes of push-ups, sit-ups, a 1.5-mile road course, a 100-meter dash, and a 400-meter run. Each test has a perfect score for which members aim. The hardware has received several signatures from celebrities in attendance. It’s always fun to Boiler up with the drum and hammer.

19. Florida, The Gator Chomp: Visitors know when they’re in the Swamp, and if they’re not gator-friendly, than they’re gator bait. The iconic stadium is one of the most feared venues in the SEC because of the sweltering heat and deafening noise levels. However, the Gator Chomp is what separates the program’s tradition from the rest. The way Florida fans sandwich their arms up and down in a biting motion can be overwhelming to opponents, especially in those non-conference games. This tradition gained traction and notoriety in the 1990’s when Steve Spurrier dominated the league. That’s when the Swamp was the hardest place to play in College Football.

18. Alabama, Rammer Jammer: It’s a traditional cheer performed by the Million Dollar Band that gets Crimson Tide fans going. Rammer Jammer is controversial to many because of its’ taunting nature. The original lyrics were wrote back in the 1920’s and has ties to southern Confederacy. Alabama modeled Rammer Jammer after Ole Miss’ Hotty Toddy, and the infamous cheer took a life of its’ own. Rammer Jammer was synonymous with the Crimson Tide’s pregame rituals, until the cheer was banned shortly after the start of the new century. Still, Alabama sneaks Rammer Jammer in from time to time. When it’s performed during blowouts, it’s like rubbing the opponent’s face in the mud.

17. Oregon, The push-ups by Oregon Duck: He’s one of the most recognizable mascots in College Football. It’s hard to argue against that when Oregon Duck rides a motorcycle into Autzen Stadium, hangs with the cheerleaders and pumps up the crowd. What he’s most known for is the push-ups after every Duck touchdown. It gained notoriety under former Coach Chip Kelly, when the team put up video game numbers on offense and torched the scoreboard. With every push-up Oregon Duck does, it ignites more energy into the crowd. A game at the Autzen Zoo is a workout for him. And with the muscle mass he’s building from the push-ups, no one is raising their hand to arm wrestle Oregon’s Duck.

16. Nebraska, The Tunnel Walk: It’s arguably the program’s favorite tradition, especially since the balloon release is still banned. There’s nothing like feeling the adrenaline rush and goosebumps once the music starts for Husker fans. After all, they’ve been selling out Memorial Stadium since 1962, and the Sea of Red is one of College Football’s best game day atmospheres. Big Red Nation is also the epitome of fan loyalty. So when Husker fans stand on their feet and clap as the team walks through the tunnel with the American flag, it’s an appreciation of the blue-blood’s five National Championships, three Heisman Trophy winners, two Hall of Fame coaches and being a part of the 900-win club.

15. Texas A&M, Mugging Down: The Aggies have the 12th Man, the Elephant Walk and the War Hymn. However, Mugging Down has to be a fan favorite. After all, what other tradition allows you to kiss your date every time the team scores. Texas A&M fans take pride in the ordeal, and practice it with their midnight yells the day before. When it all transpires it’s beneficial for all parties involved. Although the players don’t get to participate, they’re still the ones who put points on the scoreboard to start the process. Just imagine what it’s like to bring a date to Kyle Field, and the Aggies score 40-plus points. Not to mention there’s 100,000-plus fans in attendance. So that’s a lot of kissing.

14. Tennessee, Running through the T: The Volunteers are never short on providing southern hospitality. Once the Tennessee band opens up the T and the players run through, Neyland Stadium turns into a venue of pandemonium. It’s arguably the best entry in the SEC and an exhilarating moment for fans in attendance. Neyland Stadium packs over 102,000 fans, and the cheers from them can reach deafening levels when the Volunteers run through the T. If that’s not enough to petrify visitors, all of the smothering orange is sure to distort their psyche. Tennessee is a sleeping giant program, but once it awakens, running through the T will have its’ notorious appeal again.

13. Oklahoma, Sooner Schooner: Game days at Gaylord Memorial Stadium are electrifying as they come. The Sooner Schooner is like a ritual to Oklahoma fans, and a celebration of the teams’ dominance. The crimson and creme wagon is pulled by two white ponies, and driven by a member of the University’s spirit organization. Every time Oklahoma scores, Sooner Schooner storms across the field to the 50-yard line and the fans go crazy. It’s a level of excitement very few programs can match. Sooner Schooner debuted against USC in 1964, but didn’t become Oklahoma’s official mascot until the 1980’s. Besides the accident in 2019, Sooner Schooner is the epitome of Oklahoma pride.

12. Hawaii, The Haka: Not many College Football fans stay up late enough to see this pregame tradition take place. That’s because most of them are mentally drained from all of the action in the earlier games. However, for the ones who get a chance to see the Rainbow Warriors do the Haka, it’s breathtaking and drenched in Polynesian culture. Although the war dance is not a Hawaiian ritual and originated in New Zealand, the program adopted it during an 11-win campaign in 2006. For the fans who pack Aloha Stadium, the Haka is a symbol of pride. This tradition usually gets the lone spotlight on Christmas Eve when the Hawaii Bowl is played, and what better way to bring in the holidays.

11. USC, Drum Major’s Sword Stab: Like Trojan and the white horse Traveler, the drum major plays a key role in USC’s game day atmosphere. The pregame ritual requires a lot of responsibility that comes with being the face of the USC Trojan Marching Band, which is one of the nation’s best. The drum major’s uniform design is drenched in tradition, and they get to orchestrate the Spirit of Troy. The individual performance with the sword, before stabbing it into the field at the 50-yard line, really makes it feel like it’s time to battle. The fans in attendance feel the impact of the stab, which the drum major does every game at the Coliseum. The fight song follows, making it a pure adrenaline rush.

10. Wisconsin, Jump Around: Although the group House of Pain made it one of the best rap songs of 1992, the Badgers turned it into an infamous tradition in College Football. Wisconsin started it on a Homecoming game against Drew Brees and Purdue in 1998, and the rest was history. Once the clock hits four zeroes at the end of the third quarter, that’s when all of the fun starts. Camp Randall Stadium turns into a frenzy, with Badger fans jumping up and down like they’re on giant pogo sticks. It gets the blood boiling for players and fans, plus it’s very intimidating to watch for visiting teams. The Badgers respond by taking their game up a notch and making the fourth quarter 15 minutes of pain.

9. Virginia Tech, Enter Sandman: Game days at Lane Stadium are like no other, especially at night. Enter Sandman is a song that’s played before the Hokies enter the field, and is arguably one of the best entries in College Football. When the players prepare to take the field with the American Flag in hand, and Enter Sandman comes on, it ignites the crowd into hysteria. Not to mention the song was played so loud against North Carolina in 2021, that it registered on a seismograph. The program started it in 2000 when Michael Vick was on the roster. The fans go from zero to a hundred real quick when it all transpires, and the team feeds off that energy by responding with high levels of physicality.

8. Auburn, War Eagle: There’s no denying Jordan-Hare Stadium is one of the most intimidating venues in the deep south. Although the bird isn’t the official school mascot, Auburn’s home games don’t kickoff until War Eagle flies over the stadium. As War Eagle soars through the air on Autumn Saturdays inside the Jungle, it ignites a spark in Tiger fans. The players know once those wings spread it’s time for action on the Plains, and they respond with four quarters of brute force. War Eagle has been flying before every game at Jordan-Hare since 2001. Not to mention War Eagle is the program’s battle cry, and has ties to the University that dates back to 1892. There’s even a little folklore to War Eagle.

7. Clemson, Howard’s Rock: There’s a lot of history tied into the little piece of quartzite, and it’s the reason why Memorial Stadium is dubbed the original Death Valley. It was initially a gift given to former Clemson Coach Frank Howard, who used the rock as a doorstop before it was placed in the east end zone for the first game of the 1966 season. The players rubbed the rock for good luck before an epic comeback victory over Virginia, and the rest is history. There’s nothing like watching Tiger players rub the rock before home games, then storm down towards the field. That’s when Death Valley becomes electric. It’s like opening up a big can of momentum for the players and fans to feast on.

6. Florida State, Osceola and Renegade: Fear the spear. Florida State was one of a few Universities that kept its’ mascot name, which represents Native Americans. It had the approval from leaders of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. So it means more than just a game. Osceola and Renegade are considered major symbols of American history by many. There’s something special about the duo trotting out with a burning spear, and stabbing the weapon down at midfield before games at the Doak. The two first debuted in 1978, and been doing it ever since. Watching it all carry out with the fans doing the Tomahawk chop, sends chills down the spine, and delivers the Seminoles a boost of motivation.

5. Notre Dame, Play Like a Champion: Placing a hand on the sign is one of College Football’s beloved traditions, that dates back to 1986. The writing on the wall says it all. Former Coach Lou Holtz came up with the idea. It’s a yellow square poster that’s no bigger than the art portrait in your family’s living room, inscribed in blue letters. However, when Notre Dame players slap the sign before entering the field, it’s like they develop special powers. Just watching it take place gets Fighting Irish fans out of their seats, with Touchdown Jesus staring down on Notre Dame Stadium. After all, every Golden Domer wants to be a champion, and it’s just another amazing aspect of the iconic program.

4. Penn State, The White Out: Beaver Stadium is the fourth-largest venue in the world, and packs over 107,000 fans. A game day atmosphere in Happy Valley is second to none. Beaver Stadium can be a house of pain for visitors. However, when it comes to intimidation, the White Out is on another level. First off, everyone is dressed in white. Second, the fans are all turned up due to anticipation and alcohol consumption. Third, the raucous crowd never stops chanting We Are Penn State. Fourth, it’s themed around one of the biggest night games of the season. Not only is the White Out a beauty of art to the eye, but it’s also a tool for potential recruits to find out what Happy Valley is all about.

3. Iowa, The Wave: It’s one of College Football’s newest traditions, that’s bigger than the game itself and touches hearts across Kinnick Stadium. The Wave debuted in 2017 and quickly became a centerpiece for the program. The real heroes are the scientists, researchers, doctors and nurses. However, everyone shows how inspired they are by children battling cancer across the world, with a simple hand wave. It takes place after the first quarter of every home game, and is the program’s way of letting the hospitalized children know that they’re not in the fight alone. What better way for the Hawkeyes to show it than ending home games with a victory. Iowa is 25-7 at Kinnick since the Wave started.

2. Ohio State, Script Ohio: Tradition doesn’t get much bigger than forming the O and dotting the I. Script Ohio is an amazing work of art to the naked eye. The blueblood program started it back in 1936. The halftime ritual is also performed by the Best Damn Band in the Land. Script Ohio is the pride of the football team, and the 100,000-plus Buckeye fans who pack the Horseshoe every home game embraces it. This tradition elevates to another level when Ohio State plays rival Michigan, and emotions are at an all-time high. Sometimes you never know who’ll dot the I either. Famous alumni members, former coaches and players have all participated in the Buckeyes’ legendary tradition.

1. Colorado, Ralphie’s Run: There are very few live mascots left in today’s game, and Ralphie is arguably the best. She’s actually a bison that debuted on the sidelines in 1966. Ralphie’s been storming Folsom Field since 1967. Just imagine some Colorado students trying to tame the largest mammal in North America every home game. Which is why Ralphie requires five trained handlers for when she bursts out of the wagon. Once the 1200-pounder hits the turf, energy levels rise, fans cheer, players follow and Folsom Field becomes an electrifying venue. Ralphie VI replaced 13-year old Ralphie V last season, and fans are hoping as she grows, so will their once proud program.

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