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Ever wonder how your alma mater got its nickname? Some are obvious – those schools whose teams are named after something indigenous – but others can leave even the most ardent fans scratching their heads. After all, since when did a Golden Gopher, Buckeye or even a Horned Frog seem all the tough and scary?

Many college football teams can thank their local newspapers, history and vivid imagination for providing the perfect name at the perfect time.

Below is a look at some of the more interesting names from a smattering of teams from the Power Five football conferences:

Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama Crimson Tide

First known as "varsity" or "Crimson White," Alabama got its current nickname in 1907 when the sports editor of the Birmingham Age-Herald used the phrase "Crimson Tide" in a story about the Iron Bowl against Auburn. Dirt throughout the South is often a red or orange clay that stains when it gets wet -- and that's exactly what happened. The Tigers were favored to win the wet game, during which Alabama's white jerseys got stained. In his story, Hugh Roberts referred to Alabama as the "Crimson Tide," after it held Auburn to a tie.

Arkansas Razorbacks

Arkansas Razorbacks

After a 1909 victory over LSU, Arkansas coach Hugo Bezdek said his team played "like a wild band of Razorback hogs." The following season, the student body voted to keep the name.

Duke Blue Devils

Duke Blue Devils

The term Blue Devils first belonged to a French military unit in World War I, known as the Chasseur Alpins and nicknamed "les Diables Bleus." How the Blue Devil became associated with Duke is less clear. There was no official announcement, though in 1922, the student paper began using the phrase, and it stuck.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Minnesota Golden Gophers

An 1857 political cartoon depicted state officials as gophers pulling a train and so Minnesota as "the Gopher State" was born. As the flagship university, Minnesota adopted the name and sometime in the 1930s, an announcer coupled it with one of the school's colors, gold, and the Golden Gopher was born.

North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina Tar Heels

The name Tar Heels has its origins in either the Revolutionary or Civil wars, depending on which tale you believe. Legend has it that British soldiers were slowed by tar on their feet after crossing a river (and that North Carolinians dumped it in the river) in eastern North Carolina. A second legend holds that when going got tough in the Civil War and some Confederate soldiers left the battlefield, their comrades threatened to stick tar on theirs to keep them fighting.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State may have the distinction of being the only athletic team named after a nut. As the story goes, the buckeye resembles the eye of a deer and, like the proverbial rabbit's foot, carrying one brings good luck. After adopting the nickname, the university then created Brutus Buckeye, meant to be a fearsome mascot.

Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma Sooners

In a nod to history, the Sooners are so called in honor of the settlers who entered the area that is now Oklahoma in the Land Rush of 1889. This land hadn't been open for settlers until a new law was passed. According to SoonerSports.com, one of the few rules for the Land Rush was that everyone had to start at the same time: "Those who went too soon were called 'Sooners.' Sooners were often deputy marshals, land surveyors, railroad employees, and others who were able to legally enter the territory early to mark out choice pieces of land for themselves or others."

Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State Nittany Lions

Nope, the Nittany Lion doesn't really exist. This nickname came about when before a baseball game against Princeton in 1904, the team was shown a statue of Princeton's Bengal tiger and told how tough Princeton would be on the field. Player Joe Mason immediately replied that Penn State was the Nittany Lions, "the fiercest beast of them all" – who could even overcome a tiger. The name stuck and the Nittany Lion depiction is based on a common mountain lion.

Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue Boilermakers

With a football history dating back to the 19th century, Purdue was referred to as corn-huskers, log-splitters and foundry molders by newspapers of competing teams. But in 1891, after a 44-0 shutout of rival Wabash, a headline read: "Wabash Snowed Completely Under by the Burly Boiler Makers from Purdue." The nickname stuck and Purdue even built its Boilermaker Special replica train engine to represent the steam engines built by boilermakers.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Though the student body initially wanted to adopt orange as the school color to honor the school's Dutch history, the student newspaper proposed scarlet. In 1869, the football team donned scarlet handkerchiefs and turbans to distinguish itself from its opponent, Princeton, in the first college football game ever played. In 1900, the school adopted the color. The team was originally known as the "Queensmen" because the school was first called Queens College. The student body voted in 1955 to adopt the Scarlet Knight as its mascot.

Stanford Cardinal

Stanford Cardinal

Stanford may be the only school out there without a mascot. The school's teams were known as the Indians from 1930-72, but that nickname was dropped after meetings between Stanford's 55 Native American students and university president Richard Lyman. The students felt the name was an insult to their culture, and the Stanford Student Senate ultimately voted to drop it. For nearly a decade, Stanford had no name, until adopting The Cardinal after one of its school colors in 1981. The "Stanford Tree" was created by the school's band and is not the official mascot.

TCU Horned Frogs

TCU Horned Frogs

There is some question as to whether TCU meant to be the Horned Frogs or Horned Lizards. But no matter. Legend has it that during TCU's first football practice in 1896, players found a bunch of horned toads on the practice field. The following year, the photo of the creatures landed on the yearbook cover. Though the creature found on that football field more than 120 years ago was likely a horned lizard, TCU embraces its "Horned Frog." Another story is that one of TCU's early deans, Colby Hall, wanted to replace the football team's name from Fightin' Preacher Boys to something different that would also represent Texas.

Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee Volunteers

The university takes its nickname directly from the state of Tennessee, known as the "Volunteer State." As the story goes, the nickname traces its roots back to the War of 1812 when tens of thousands of volunteer soldiers from Tennessee were critical to U.S.’s victory, particularly at the Battle of New Orleans.

USC Trojans

USC Trojans

USC's first nicknames – Methodists and Wesleyans – didn't instill the sort of toughness the university was looking for, so in 1912, athletic director Warren Bovard asked Los Angeles Times sports editor Warren Bird to come with a more appropriate name. "At this time, the athletes and coaches of the university were under terrific handicaps," Bird said, accordingly to USCTrojans.com. "They were facing teams that were bigger and better-equipped, yet they had splendid fighting spirit. The name 'Trojans' fitted them."

Vanderbilt Commodores

Vanderbilt Commodores

This may be the only nickname in college football that is a nod to the school's namesake, shipping titan Cornelius Vanderbilt. Though Vanderbilt was never part of the Navy, he donated the largest steamship the Union troops had during the Civil War.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

They were first known as the Fighting Baptists for Wake Forest's religious ties, but in 1922, the editor of the student newspaper used the moniker Demon Deacons in a story about a big victory over Duke (then Trinity). From there, the school's PR department began using it in press releases and both a nickname and mascot were born. A version of the current mascot made its debut in 1941.

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