Bones’s Handy College Football Glossary

Hey, all! After a long absence from blogging due to unwanted interference from something called “responsibility,” I figured I’d ease back in by writing a guide for new fans who are looking to understand some of the ins and outs of the game. The inspiration for this comes from a genuinely funny Grantland article, which you should read because it’s way better than this one.


Any hoo, my intention here is to put together a guide that will introduce people to both the general concept of college football and some of its finer points. To-wit, here’s a glossary of useful terms that you’ll find sprinkled into other posts, both here and on other blogs. And I’m only repeating one of the terms in the previously linked article. See if you can find it!


announcer (n.)–Person theoretically in charge of informing TV audience on in-game action. Usually abandons this duty somewhere in the first quarter to make pointless observations, pop culture references, wild guesses, or (if you’re watching CBS) to cheer for Alabama.

assistant coach (n.)–Coach responsible for a smaller aspect of the team than the whole. If your team is terrible but the coach is beloved, these guys must be fired. If your team is terrible and the coach isn’t beloved, they must be promoted.

BCS (n.)–former championship system for college football. Inadequate and universally hated, it will be remembered fondly the first time any sort of controversy arises with the new inadequate championship system.

blogger (n.)–hack writer who hammers his own opinions into his work, regardless of how nightmarishly wrong they are. Is not held to journalistic standards. Is very well aware of the hypocrisy, thanks.

bowl (n.)–Postseason game, once meaningful. Now indicative of a team that has attained the mighty summit of a 6-6 record.

This is not a thing I made up.

bust (adj.)–Term used to describe any athlete who did not live up to the potential he exhibited at a lower level. Usually used in regard to a college star who does not fare as well in the NFL. Because the game is totally the same at all levels.

chippy (adj.)–term used to describe a player who acts like an a**hole, but who the commentators like. Will be described as “classless” or “thug” if they don’t like him. (See also: Football, Johnny.)

class rank (n.)–An arbitrary number ranking how well a set of high schoolers from all parts of the country will perform when brought together into one area and forced into multiple years of refinement before they even see the field. Exactly as accurate as the description makes it sound.

Clemsoning (v.)–Performing well for roughly half to two-thirds of a season and attaining a high ranking before going on national TV and crapping the bed in front of millions. Alternatively, beating the teams you’re supposed to beat and getting hammered by any halfway decent opponent. Named for a certain university that does this year after year after year after year.

commentator’s curse (n.)–An event wherein a commentator makes an observation, often statistically based, that is immediately contradicted by the action on the field. e. g. An announcer observing that the quarterback has not thrown an interception in 98 pass attempts, followed immediately by an interception.

defense (n.)–A theoretical entity that supposedly stops scoring. Has not been publicly discussed since 2007.

division (n.)–1.) The divide between big schools and small schools. “Big” schools play in the FBS, which sorts out its championship the American way, with elitism and flagrant favoritism. Smaller schools play in the communist FCS which has less money and determines its championship through a balanced playoff system. This division is necessary. 2.) The separating of teams into separate groups in conferences that have grown too large to have everyone play one another. Especially effective when you divide the teams into one competitive group with multiple hardnosed teams, and another group with only 2 competitors, one of which chokes like a vomiting Jim Morrison every dang season. This division is also necessary.

Seems legit.

facemask (v.)–grabbing the protective thing on the front of a player’s helmet. A 15 yard penalty that is always called on the defense. It’s just blocking if the offense does it, because reasons.

Football, Johnny (prop. n.)–Former Texas A&M quarterback/greatest football player ever, according to the current sports media. Frequently taunts other players and behaves like a spoiled child off the field, thus is described as “chippy” by his adoring fans. Is now in the NFL, but will still be referenced every 30 seconds whenever his team is on TV.

goal-line stand (n.)–event where defense holds the offense out of the end zone. This will never be accomplished by the team you cheer for, it will only happen against them.

gridiron (n.)–a term used by announcers and coaches to refer to the field. Used because saying “field” all the time gets old, and “gridiron” sounds cooler.

Hail Mary (n.)–long, last-second, desperation pass. Named for one of the most famous plays in football, and the fact that the university completing the play had a majority of Catholic students. Surprisingly does not involve Notre Dame.

Heisman Memorial Trophy (n.)–Award given to the Most Outstanding “Player” (read: quarterback) in any given season of college football.

home field advantage (n.)–propensity for certain teams to win more at home, generally owing to the presence of several thousand inebriated people screaming at the top of their lungs. Doesn’t always work.

illegal shift (n.)–a penalty that will be called about 4 times per game, though no one (including the referees) knows exactly what it is.

Is this an illegal shift? Who knows!

kickoff (n.)–along with a punt, the only time the foot is supposed to be used in football. Don’t think about it too much.

lateral (v.)–the act of tossing the ball backwards. “Backwards” can be loosely interpreted on occasion.

offense (n.)–the guys who move the ball and do the scoring. Football’s new god, offense is considered to be more exciting than defense, and the breakdown of penalties and the absurd basketball scores that are a weekly occurrence now seem to indicate that the deity is pleased. I’m not bitter.

offensive pass interference (n.)–a theoretical scenario in which an offensive player prevents a defensive player from doing his job. Given the rate at which it is called, may or may not still be in the rule book. Was called once in 2004 to ensure that the favored team would win the game in question. I’m still not bitter.

piling on (v.)–Racking up an obscene score against a clearly beaten opponent. An offensive, classless move when done against your team, it is absolutely acceptable for when your team does it.

quarterback (n.)–the player on offense who handles the ball first. Generally the most important player on the field. Also generally the guy who wins the Heisman.

sack (n. or v.)–tackling the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage. The only time the defense is allowed to hit the quarterback, touch the quarterback, or give the quarterback a mean look.

scrambler (adj.)–descriptor for a quarterback who can run and play his main position. It’s a must for your team to win. Unless of course it isn’t.

tight end (n.)–a very large wide receiver

upset (n.)–event wherein a smaller or lower-ranked school defeats the team that was supposed to win. Here is a link to the greatest upset in college football history.

Virginia Teching (v.)–A cousin of Clemsoning. Playing well through most of the season, gaining a high ranking, and inexplicably losing at home to an unranked, possibly theoretical, school like the University of Phoenix or East Carolina.

wide receiver (n.)–guy who catches passes. A holy creature, they are not to be touched, hit too hard, or blown on.

So there you have it! Now you know everything about college football. Go and show your new knowledge as the season dawns!