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College Football's Top 25 Mascots

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Pete Fiutak

Pete Fiutak writes previews, predictions and prognostications for CollegeFootballNews.com.

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Rip on a college football fan's mother and you're asking for trouble. Rip on the mascot of a college football fan's favorite team and you'd better be prepared to throw down.

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College football's best mascots

From intimidating animals to quirky traditions to goofy costumes, the mascots across the college football landscape are as unique and revered as anything identifiable with anything found in any other sport. So how is it even possible to rank which mascots are the coolest? Obviously it's all subjective, so the attempt is to find the ones most synonymous with their schools and teams and which, at least with our experiences, inspire the most passion. Compiled by the staff of CollegeFootballNews.com, here are the 25 best mascots, or more to the point, the most identifiable symbols in college football.

1. Colorado - Ralphie
Some mascots are cute, some mascots are funny, and some symbols get the crowd roaring. Colorado's Ralphie the Buffalo is the most intimidating and the one that inspires the most awe from fans and foes alike. Just before the start of the game and before the second half, a 1,100 to 1,300-pound buffalo leads the team onto the field in a semi-controlled 20-to-25 mile per hour sprint. The animal has handlers who hang on for dear life and try to keep it somewhat contained, and while it could probably tear off and do whatever it wanted if it was inclined to do so, there's never been a problem. Five sophomores take it on a run just before going onto the field just to make sure it's a little bit cashed. It all started in 1934 when a group of students paid $25 to rent a buffalo calf that required four handlers to keep it under control on the sidelines in a 7-0 win at Denver. A live buffalo was used off and on for several years, but it didn't become a regular part of Colorado games until 1966 when a 6-month-old calf named Rraalph was donated to the school. Soon after, when it was discovered that it was a she, the name was changed to Ralphie and the tradition has gone on ever since. Now up to Ralphie IV, the buffalo made its first-ever, regular-season road trip out of state since 1989 when it traveled down to Georgia this year.


2. Georgia - UGA
Georgia fans will certainly dispute UGA's number two ranking to any mascot in any sport anywhere, but it gets beaten out here simply because of the presentation of Ralphie, the Colorado Buffalo. UGA is an English bulldog (although the first UGA was a goat) and is certainly the most beloved and well-known mascot in college football, past UGAs have flowers laid on their graves before every home game.


3. Texas - Bevo
From the nickname to the Hook 'em Horns hand gesture, no symbol is more associated with a team than Bevo the longhorn steer is with Texas. As the story goes, a group of Texas A&M fans actually sparked the name. In 1915, a Texas student raised $100 to buy what turned out to be an uncontrollable steer that basically did whatever it wanted to. A group of Aggie fans, as a prank, put a 13-0 brand on the animal, the score of A&M's 1915 win over the Longhorns. The Texas handler quickly turned the one and the three into a B, and the fashioned an EVO to come up with the name. The first BEVO, too wild to tame, was eventually eaten. In 1936, the tradition started up again and now the school is now up to Bevo XIV. Bevo XIII died this year.


4. Auburn - Tiger the eagle
Auburn's nickname is the Tigers, but the battle cry is "War Eagle" as a majestic eagle soars onto the field before each home game. To make things even more confusing, the actual eagle that's used is War Eagle VI, but its name is Tiger. Lost yet? How about this? Auburn's mascot, technically, is Aubie, a costumed tiger. To take it one step further, the eagle doesn't even belong to Auburn, since federal law doesn't allow anyone to own a bird of prey. Technically, Auburn's main symbol belongs to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, although the Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity takes care of it. The legend, true or not, is that a confederate soldier, lying wounded on the battlefield, could see only two living things, himself and a baby eagle. He took the eagle with him when he went back to school at Auburn, where he became part of the faculty. In the school's first meeting with Georgia in 1892, after Auburn scored its first touchdown, the eagle broke free, flew around the field, and later died having done its part giving everything it had in the 10-0 win.


5. Oklahoma - Sooner Schooner
Now we get into a bit of a grey area. While the Sooner Schooner isn't really a mascot in the traditional sense, it is the football team's symbol and identity. Technically named the school's mascot in 1980 and started in 1964, a covered wagon is pulled by two Shetland ponies after every Oklahoma score. Unfortunately, the Sooner Schooner's most famous moment turned out to hurt the team. In the 1985 Orange Bowl, OU got hit with a 15-yard penalty after the Schooner raced onto the field to celebrate a field goal that had been waived off due to a penalty. Sooner PK Tim Lashar missed the next attempt, and OU went on to lose to Washington 28-17.


6. Florida State - Chief Osceola
Second only to Ralphie the Buffalo's entrance in terms of awe-inspiring moments, before every home game Chief Osceola rides into the stadium on a horse, Renegade, and plants a flaming spear at midfield. The entire setup, outfit and tradition have been approved by the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida.


7. Wisconsin - Bucky Badger
A nod has to be given to the costumed mascots. A real badger roamed the sidelines on a leash, but the school had to stop the tradition in 1940 after the animal was too wild and mean. A cartoon character, Buckingham U. Badger was created, and the rest is history.


8. Tennessee - Smokey
Looking for a mascot in 1953, Tennessee brought several dogs onto the field and let the fans pick which one they wanted by cheering loudest for the one they liked the best. Blue Smokey fired out a howl/bark that got the fans fired up, and ever since a blue tick bloodhound has been the team's sideline symbol. Most famously, Smokey VI suffered heat exhaustion in the 1991 UCLA game and ended up listed on the injury report the next week.


9. Texas A&M - Reveille
Traditions and legends usually happen by chance. In 1931 a group of Aggie students hit a dog while driving around campus. The collie was nursed to health back in the dorms that night, and when the bugler played "Reveille" the next morning, the dog barked and howled like mad. The next fall, it became the football team's mascot. It's commissioned as a five-star general, and as the rule goes, if you sleep in the same room with it, you sleep on the floor while the dog gets the bed.


10. Michigan State - Sparty
Michigan State's mascot has come a long way since 1909 when a live bear named Brewer's Bruin was on the sideline. The look has been changed several times since 1955, and now it's among the most recognizable college football symbols.


11. West Virginia - Mountaineer
Fine, so it's a guy in a beard and a coonskin hat, but he gets to carry a gun. Picked from a cheer-off and after a long screening process, the Mountaineer is selected for his work in the classroom as well as his spirit.


12. Air Force - Mach 1 Falcon
Since 1956, the Air Force has used two falcons with one flying around the stadium and one for show. It requires months to properly train a falcon to be able to perform in front of big crowds. Since 1974, most birds used for public exhibition have been hatched in the Academy breeding project.


13. Washington - Husky
The first mascot was Frosty I, started in 1920. Ten Alaskan Malamute have represented Washington. The current Husky, "Spirit", leads the team onto the field before every game and patrols the sideline during all home games in Seattle.


14. Miami - Sebastian the Ibis
An ibis is a bird found in the Everglades that's known for its ability to survive hurricanes. Sebastian the Ibis is a sometimes-bizarre, always-present mascot who's found celebrating under the goalposts after every Miami extra point and field goal. Considering how good the teams were during the late-1980s and early 1990s, he got more air time than Madonna. The name came from Miami's San Sebastian Hall.


15. Army - Mule
While hardly intimidating, the Army mule is one of college football's longest running mascots. Sixteen mules have been used over the past 100 years, with Raider currently manning the post. In 1899, at the Army-Navy Game, the Navy football team appeared with a mascot, a goat. Army fans looked hastily for a mascot of their own. The Army mule was already legendary for its roughness and endurance, so the mule was obvious. A quartermaster in Philadelphia stopped a passing ice truck, and the big white mule pulling it became the first Army mascot.


16. USC - Traveler
Traveler I, a white horse in the 1961 Rose Parade, was brought in to appear at USC home games. Several Travelers later, the horse has now become the symbol of USC football and still rides in every Rose parade.


17. Notre Dame - Leprechaun
The Notre Dame mascot used to be an Irish terrier until 1965. Arguably the most annoying of all mascots for many fans, the leprechaun is the ultimate Notre Dame football cheerleader. He is always a student, chosen annually at tryouts, dressed in a cutaway green suit and Irish country hat.


18. Florida - Albert Gator
It used to be a lot cooler in Gainesville. In the 1960s, Florida had a real alligator named Albert on the sidelines. When he died, the school went to a costume mascot with Albert Gator wearing an orange letter sweater.


19. Stanford - Tree
With no actual Cardinal mascot, the symbol on the school's seal has been distorted to create an irreverent, controversial, outside-the-norm mascot that's the nation's most unique. It can be as annoying as it can be humorous.


20. Syracuse - Otto Orange
It's the Stanford Tree without the edge. SU's mascot used to be Big Chief Bill Orange, and then was booted in 1978 after protests from the students. After several disastrous attempts to come up with another mascot, the school settled on a lovable, cartoonish orange named Otto.


21. Virginia Tech - Hokie
It's the story more than the actual bird costume. In 1902, the football players were known for "gobbling" up food in massive amounts eventually leading to the Gobbler Club. In 1913, things got really goofy with a student getting pulled in a wagon by an enormous turkey, which was stopped, but led to the emergence of the Gobbler costume roughly based on the big turkey. Morphed into more of a cardinal, it eventually became the Hokie Bird it's known as today.


22. Purdue - Purdue Pete
Originally created as an ad for the school bookstore, Purdue Pete has grown, literally, into a larger-than-life mascot with an enormous head. The school also is known for a train symbol called the Special.


23. LSU - Tiger
It would be much higher on the list if anyone outside of LSU, and opposing players, actually knew it existed. "Mike" is kept in a pen in the back of the stadium before it's rolled out in a cage close to the visitor's locker room where the players have to pass by him on the way to the field.


24. Texas Tech - Masked Raider
Depending on who you're a fan of, the Masked Rider is either really cool or slightly bizarre. Started in 1935, the rider, mounted on a palomino horse, is masked to hide his true identity. Now the school also uses a Raider Red mascot, as well.


25. Ohio State - Brutus Buckeye
It doesn't have the history or legacy of other costumed mascots, but it's still as identifiable as any mascot in college football. In 1965, an art student designed and introduced the first Brutus. The mascot began as a hardened papier mache affair that looked like a bowling ball with legs. In 1975, a radical new Brutus was designed with a prune-like head and a man's body. That attempt was booed off the field and was re-worked, giving way to a mascot comparable to the beloved present-day Brutus.


Thanks to each of the schools and their sports information departments for their help and assistance.


For more previews, predictions and prognostications, go to CollegeFootballNews.com.

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