I'll first point out that my selections are completely subjective, but then, the sport with which this is related is college football, so that's nothing new. Secondly, and this goes without saying, but I've got to see them. This means that big conference bands get a clear bias for a couple reasons: One is that they are more likely to be televised, and the other is that since they are more likely to travel, they have more performances each season. Again, this bias is nothing foreign in major college football.
There are plenty of inherent biases I've got--favorite bands, preferred styles, and personal opinions about what I think a band's role is. I'll attempt to unpack those here. Just for fun, et's start them all with V:
Volume and Volume: For a band to be picked, they've first got to be heard, which is where the first volume comes in. With that volume, of course, comes good intonation, togetherness, and altogether not-sounding-bad. The second is how much of the game the band plays spending. One thing that will never earn you any recognition is if we hear the stadium's loudspeaker more than we do the band. Ideally, a band will have an answer--even if it's a short tag--for each down played.
Variety: Now this one is tricky, because the downs tags that I just mentioned are usually played many times throughout the game. And I'll be honest, there are some repeaters I enjoy and others that make me cringe. As a shameless homer, USF's Herd of Thunder can play The Bull for 24 hours straight. FSU's Marching Chiefs bother me probably less than they should with the War Chant. But if I never hear Tribute to Troy from USC's Spirit of Troy again, it'll be too soon. But regardless of what your repeater is, ideally you've got something else up your sleeve.
Visual: This is always a tough one because it depends on the network to actually show the band. The ideal situation is always that we get to see at least a little of the field show, but those opportunities are few and far between, so we've got to live with stands presence. No I'll put it out there: I like big bands and I cannot lie. In the college ranks, that's usually not too had to come by. Beyond that, I love together horns-ups, exciting drumline and cymbal visuals, and well-choreographed horn swings.
As I continue to watch the Bama-Tennessee game, the final V may very well be Victory--the band is happier and likely has far more opportunities to play when they are backing a winning team.