Michigan marching band

By Nick Scoliard

With bowl season upon us, there are plenty of articles online predicting who will win each bowl and who will win the College Football Playoff with statistics and game film. This is not one of those articles.  The best way to learn about a team’s performance is through their fight song and cheer – how memorable is it, does it strike fear into the opponent, is it catchy – which will tell us who will come out of bowl season with some wins.

Note: A lot of these are not the official fight songs, but the ones that are sung the most, and used the most during games.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Aggie War Hymn (Texas A&M) vs. Louisville ‘s fight song

We start our bowls with an absolute slaughter. The Aggie War Hymn is one of the greatest fight songs in college football. Super catchy tune, basically 2 minutes of trash talking their rival University of Texas, some fun random words like Hullabaloo and Caneck thrown in there, it’s got everything you’d want in a fight song. Meanwhile, Louisville barely comes to play with a nameless fight song that has the lyric “How we sure will win this game.” With lyrics like that, it’s courageous of opposing teams to even take the field against them.

Winner: Aggie War Hymn

Holiday Bowl: Tribute to Troy and Fight On (USC) vs. On Wisconsin (Wisconsin)

Now we get a heated battle. On one side, the one-two punch of Tribute to Troy, a fanfare that sounds like it came from the real Trojans, and Fight On, a more normal fight song that has actual lyrics. On the other, On Wisconsin, one of the most recognizable fight songs in college football. Just as this game will be a great game to watch, these fight songs put up a real fight here. Some might say it’s cheating or unfair that USC has two songs, while Jump Around isn’t included for Wisconsin. Even if we can agree that Jump Around isn’t really a fight song, and more of an excuse to try to demolish Camp Randall every Saturday, I make the rules, and I say Jump Around is a tradition, not a fight song. But ultimately, that might be what gives Wisco the loss. Jump Around is the thing to experience at Camp Randall, not On Wisconsin. If the fight song’s playing second fiddle to something, then it justcan’t get a win against a great combo like USC.

Winner: Tribute to Troy and Fight On 

Outback Bowl: Go U Northwestern (NU) vs. Rocky Top (Tennessee)

This battle is what inspired me to write this article. Because here’s a secret – Go U isn’t that good. It’s a run of the mill fight song. After doing all my research, some fight songs diverge from being normal fight song melodies (we’ll get to those later), or have great lyrics, basically something that redeems them from being a cookie-cutter fight song. Not Go U. Go U isn’t doing anything wrong at all, but it’s not doing anything well. Meanwhile, the fight song that’s actually just a song from the Osbourne Brothers made in 1967 is actually one of the best ones in college football. Upbeat, state pride, a sprinkle of banjo, and just different from what is normally heard in college stadiums. I’ve been singing this song since the Outback Bowl was announced. Northwestern needed a Louisville-esque opponent to win, but instead they got Rocky Top. Landslide for the Vols.

Winner: Rocky Top 

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: The Victors (Michigan) vs. Orange and Blue (Florida)

It seems like most of these matchups are pretty lopsided (the CFP committee and bowl selection should really incorporate fight songs into rankings and selections), and this one’s no exception. Orange and Blue isn’t even a bad fight song, The Victors is just that good. The Victors is consistently ranked as the best fight song in all of college football, so Orange and Blue doesn’t stand a chance. It’s like the best FCS team facing off against 2004 USC – doesn’t matter how good they are, they’re playing one of if not the best.

Winner: The Victors

TaxSlayer Bowl: Fight On, State (Penn State) vs. Glory, Glory (Georgia)

Our last non-New Year’s Six Bowl has a somewhat even matchup. Glory, Glory is sung to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which everyone knows already, and they only use 4 words – glory, to, old, and Georgia. Such a simple, easy to understand tune versus a fight song with words like gait, evermore, and thee. Penn State’s fight song gets the edge here, even with words like that, just because Georgia’s is so simple and well known, it can get annoying fast. Meanwhile, Fight On State is meant to be played for touchdowns, as the song slows down and pauses while the extra point is attempted, and then continues after the attempt. It probably gets awkward if they miss the XP, but still better than singing four words on repeat during the game.

Winner: Fight On, State

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Houston’s fight song vs. Florida State’s fight song and War Chant

We’re starting the NY6 off with the battle of the no names. Both fight songs aren’t known for much – which speaks much more about Florida State, Power 5 football team that has done well since the 80s, than Houston, an AAC team that started in the 80s. Going by just fight songs, this one would be really close, but the ‘Noles have an ace up their sleeve – the war chant. What they lack in fight songs, they make up in this wordless chant. A catchy melody that gets the whole stadium yelling, the chant is a staple at FSU games, and gets them a W in a much closer bowl than it should have been.

Winner: FSU’s War Chant

BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl: Victory March (Notre Dame) vs. Buckeye Battle Cry (Ohio State)

Another Citrus Bowl situation. Going against Victory March is almost suicide. ND’s fight song, along with The Victors, is arguably one of the best and most memorable fight songs of all time. Ohio State’s much better competition than Florida, but not even they can stop ND from winning.

Winner: Victory March

Rose Bowl: All Right Now (Stanford) vs. Iowa’s fight song

While the no name songs haven’t done well so far, the Rose Bowl is where things turn around. Stanford’s fight song is an actual song, much like Rocky Top, from 1970 by the band Free. Unlike Rocky Top, this was a very popular song that people recognize outside of being Stanford’s fight song, and it really doesn’t work as well as Rocky Top as a fight song. It sounds like the songs the band plays during timeouts to get the fans on their feet, not a song to start a game or celebrate a score. Even if Iowa’s doesn’t have a name, it’s a good song, and easily beats Stanford, which could be one of the worst fight songs in this article, maybe even college football.

Winner: Anything but Stanford

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Ride ’em Cowboys (Oklahoma State) vs. Forward Rebels and Hotty Toddy (Ole Miss)

Our final bowl before going into the playoff is a barn burner. Both good fight songs, without the extremely storied history like Michigan or Notre Dame, or the obvious weaknesses like Stanford or Georgia. Ole Miss has a cool melody, but it repeats way too many times. Ride ’em is more upbeat, and is mostly fan chanting rather than singing. If it were just the songs, OSU would probably eke one out. But Ole Miss also has the Hotty Toddy chant that catapults them to victory. It’s only 6 lines, which is perfect for drunkenly yelling when around other Ole Miss fans. Hotty Toddy could even win on it’s own, but having another fight song doesn’t hurt.

Winner: Forward Rebels, but really Hotty Toddy

Capital One Orange Bowl CFP Semifinal: Boomer Sooner (Oklahoma) vs. Tiger Rag (Clemson)

Heading into the playoff, the competition heats up. While I might have ragged on repetitiveness in fight songs earlier, these two do it right. If you know the words boomer, sooner, and Oklahoma , you can sing 75% of this song. It’s fast, it’s repetitive, and it’s just plain fun to scream. I’ve been caught on Northwestern’s jumbotron singing it, while the rest of the students near me were wondering what the hell a boomer sooner is. If you like repetitiveness in the form of animals, though, you’re in luck with Tiger Rag. The beginning words are forgettable, but shouting Where’s That Tiger and Hold That Tiger will never get old. The problem is Tiger Rag still has that beginning verse to go until the fun repetitive part, while Boomer Sooner saves it’s verse for the end, and shouts it at light speed. The Sooners move on to the championship, but Clemson gave them the good fight.

Winner: Boomer Sooner

Goodyear Cotton Bowl CFP Seminfinal: Victory for MSU (Michigan State) vs. Yea Alabama! (Alabama)

Another great playoff matchup – it’s almost like the committee took my advice and slotted based on fight songs! At this level of fight songs, the melodies are going to be catchy and memorable. So what really sets it apart is lyrics and how it’s sung. MSU’s got lyrics like “Its specialty is winning, and those Spartans play good ball” while The Crimson Tide put it all out there with “Go teach the Bulldogs to behave, send the Yellow Jackets to a watery grave.” Spartans can talk about how they like to play and win, but Alabama’s humiliating and killing the competition.

Winner: Yea Alabama!

College Football Playoff National Championship: Boomer Sooner vs. Yea Alabama!

Couldn’t ask for a better national championship than this. Both great fight songs, no extra chants to muck things up, they aren’t as recognizable as Victory March or the Victors, so they get judged on their merits. On one hand, a fast, repetitive, fun song that can be shouted no matter how drunk the fans get. On the other, an in your face march that pumps everyone up. In the previous matchup, I didn’t talk about the end verse of Boomer Sooner, echoing back to Oklahoma pride, and a great play on the word Sooner. Alabama got past MSU with their soul-crushing lyrics, but what wasn’t mentioned were the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets. Oklahoma State putting Oklahoma in their song, or texas A&M doing it with Texas makes sense, but Alabama with Georgia Tech no longer makes sense, since GT left the SEC in the 60s. Other versions mentiOuon the University of the South Tigers, which no longer compete in Division I athletics. Alabama may have fierce lyrics, but are they really fierce when talking about ACC and Divison III opponents?

College Football Playoff Champion: Boomer Sooner