1. Fighting Okra, Delta State Statesmen: D-II Delta State made a strong late push for consideration with the recent release of the above "FEAR THE OKRA" video, a reassuring sign to committee members that the University has moved beyond the stodgy disavowals of association and embraced the surefire branding touchdown that's been right under their noses for two decades. Offering free Okra bracelets didn't hurt, either. The Committee is not above susceptibility to bribery. Spiny when dry, slippery when wet, and delicious in gumbo, the Fighting Okra is everything a fruit or vegetable mascot should aspire to be.
2. Brutus Buckeye, Ohio State Buckeyes: The most privileged and well-known of the fruit and vegetable mascot set brings a sterling resume to the argument, with a proudly bizarre costuming history and multiple national championships to his credit. The Committee docked Brutus a slot, however, after much heated argument over whether a seed from within a pod could be counted as a fruit itself, whether mascots should strive for completion in this matter, and whether it was a positive or a negative that the nuts themselves are poisonous.
3. Cayenne, Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns: Is increasing in national prominence thanks to the Cajuns' successful nine-win 2011 football season and New Orleans Bowl win. Cayenne, right, demonstrates remarkable versatility when utilized as an apostrophe in the university's athletic department stationery.
4. Otto the Orange, Syracuse Orange: This once-proud dynasty (he beat out a Pilgrim shot full of arrows!) hasn't done much to earn its keep in the illustrious Power Rankings game of late. Is it the nose? The Committee is of the opinion that it might be the nose. It smacks of hat-on-a-hat, and there's already a hat on this orange. Should be done away with entirely, in our estimation. Renders the entire getup completely free of menace. Otto also dogged by brand dilution from Obie, the Orange Bowl mascot, and by persistent, malicious rumors of being half tangelo.
5. Artie the Artichoke, Scottsdale Community College: In an unprecedented move, a community college team has cracked national rankings. Can you blame the Committee? Have you seen that fierce logo? Largely a defensive beast thanks to layer upon layer of protective spines and leaves, Artie in graphical form is all speed and aerodynamics.
BONUS: The currently hypothetical fruit and veggie mascot power rankings
Institutions undertaking the establishment of new football teams are strongly encouraged by the Committee to eschew the Big Cat trend and select one of the following culinary mascots to represent their fledgling squads:
1. Rutabaga. Tough exterior skin to weather several losing seasons at program outset. Pleasing cadence to name for ease of chanting. Potentially deadly stadium projectile.
2. Pumpkin. Can be hollowed out for student section costumes and use in homecoming floats.
3. Cauliflower. As no one in his or her right mind wants to actually eat one, it may as well make itself useful in some other arena.
4. Durian. Impenetrable, covered in spikes, and foul. Perfectly logical football material.
5. Rambutan. High terrifying potential in mascot form, although plushy tentacles may make cleaning cost-prohibitive. Recommended for comfortably monied programs only.
(Images from Icon SMI)