True Grit: College Football Photos That Feel RealS

For some sports fans, fall is the season when baseball finally gets interesting. But for countless other maniacs, autumn is about one thing: football. College football. It doesn't really matter whether a school is in the SEC or the Big Ten; the Ivy League or Big Sky; Division I, II or III: when summer's over, every Saturday is football Saturday, and every game — especially the clashes of ancient rivals, like Army-Navy, Cal-Stanford, Oberlin-Kenyon — feels like a matter of life and death.

(Above: Syracuse vs. Texas, 1960 Cotton Bowl. Syracuse beat Texas 23-14 behind a great performance by Ernie Davis — the first African American to win the Heisman.)

[See a gallery of vintage college football photos on LIFE.com.]

True Grit: College Football Photos That Feel RealS

Ben Cosgrove (not pictured) is the editor of LIFE.com. Picture This is his weekly, and occasionally more frequent, feature for The Stacks.

Photos: Top: Robert W. Kelley—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images; left: Grey Villet—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images