Strange Bedfellows: Why the SEC Needs Florida State

You could sense it.  Feel it.  Though there is no academic way to prove it, it is likely that approximately 90 percent of the college football nation was beginning to feel uneasy…sort of sickening.  Like realizing that Einhorn is a man!  They knew, probably after the 68-yard touchdown strike, that the game was not going to end up the way they were wishing…praying.  But, they knew…like Josh in Searching for Bobby Fischer.  They knew that Louisville had already lost…the Cards just didn’t know it yet.

Drowning in tears, the country saw the Florida State Seminoles win another game.  It is apparent, given the amount of support seen for Notre Dame and now Bobby Petrino’s team, that Florida State has replaced Alabama as the most reviled team in college football.  Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel wrote an excellent piece on Coach Jimbo Fisher, and how while he is respected as a coach and a recruiter, Fisher’s handling of issues in Tallahassee have left his team marked as arguably the most hated team in the U.S.

Nowhere is this hatred more galvanized than in SEC country.  The hatred SEC fans harbor for Florida State likely began with the university shunning SEC overtures to join the conference in the early 1990s.  Many saw the Seminoles’ dominance to be a product of a weak conference, ironically similar to the run Boise State produced in the WAC.  This perception was even echoed when former coach Bobby Bowden opined that Florida State should remain in the ACC due to its “weakness.”  While the overtures then were mostly from the Big 12, Bowden’s notion that the Seminoles could win championships in the ACC because other conferences were “stronger” only reinforces the ACC stereotype.

Nevertheless, choosing to go to and remain in a perceived weaker conference creates a sour taste in the mouths of SEC fans.  After all, the SEC is God’s gift to the modern college football world.  Why the heck would any team NOT want to join the SEC?  This shunning allowed tFSU to dominate the ACC and have a clearer track to potential championships.  Of course, this was always examined by SEC fans through the lens of the SEC.  What they saw was a talented Florida State team that was mostly buoyed by the weak competition in the ACC.  The accolades were “tarnished” in the eyes of SEC fan as the Seminoles earned them against inferior competition.

How happy SEC fan must have been when Florida State was struggling during the end of the Bowden era!  Florida State shut out at home to Wake Forest?  That had to make SEC fan grin from ear to ear.  All the while the SEC was beginning its reign of dominance, starting with the Seminoles’ bitter rival — the Florida Gators.  From the 2006 season until the 2013 season, the SEC dominated the BCS.  During this reign of terror, the SEC went 7-1 in the BCS Championship game.  That one loss?  Well, that occurred against another SEC foe when Alabama defeated LSU in a somewhat controversial rematch.  So, for SEC fans, that “loss” was not really a loss for the SEC since it came against another SEC team.  In the other six matchups, the SEC defeated the Big Ten (twice), the Big 12 (twice), the Pac 10, and even an Independent for good measure.

The only two “power” conferences that the SEC did not destroy were the ACC and Big East.  But those were weak conferences.  Who cares about those posers?  Yes, life was pretty swell for the SEC.

Then, a resurrection.  Jimbo Fisher took over in Tallahassee and since 2010 has gone 5-1 against SEC opponents.  The rise of the Seminoles was nearly complete in 2012 before Fisher suffered his only loss against an SEC foe — a 37-26 loss to the Florida Gators.  Still, the SEC was put on notice.  And, in 2013, the Seminoles stormed through the ACC on the way to the BCS Championship Game.  There was no doubting that tFSU was a talented team, but the old questions of the weak ACC reemerged.  And, while there was chatter that a battle between Alabama and Florida State would be lopsided, Auburn happened and changed the course of history.

Early in the BCS Game, it appeared that the perception that Florida State — and by extension the ACC — was no match for the SEC was going to prove true.  Auburn raced out to a lead.  But, the Seminoles withstood the flurry and came out victorious.  The mighty SEC struck out.

I see you hatin' over there, SEC fans.

I see you hatin’ over there, SEC fans.

Since the clock hit zero, SEC fans have been waiting for tFSU to get what’s coming to them — a loss to prove they are inferior.  Something needs to happen to the Seminoles for pulling the mask off of the SEC and exposing it.  They needed to pay.  And, for SEC fan, the only way for this to happen is for the Seminoles to falter; to lose.  While the rest of country might be pulling against the Seminoles because of the handling of the off of the field issues, the SEC Nation is dying to see Florida State lose to anyone.  It led to them supporting Clemson, only to after-the-fact call the Tigers overrated since they did not fulfill the deed.  It led to rooting for Notre Dame.  Imagining Alabama fans rooting for the Fighting Irish would make Bear Bryant weep into his Houndstooth hat.  And, then there was the backing of Bobby Petrino, who to some is the epitome of the sketchy football coach.

But, unfortunately for SEC fans, Florida State found a way.  And as the wins keep piling up, the anger in SEC fans burns brighter.  And they glance at the remaining schedule to see where Florida State could falter; what team could keep the Seminoles from making the pseudo-playoffs?  It is looking grim.  Colonel Reb is cryin’.

But why?  Why are SEC fans so desirous for the Seminoles to lose?  Well, the belief is rooted in the notion that the ACC is weak and therefore Florida State is weak.  We’ve touched on this before with Boise State and the WAC — a dominant team is a dominant team regardless of its conference affiliation.  But, there is something about the Seminoles beating the SEC that has them pissed off.  Losing to Ohio State or Oklahoma or Oregon?  Though SEC fans would not be happy, they could likely stomach those teams winning.  However,  for the ACC and Florida State to be the one to end the SEC’s dominance?  A team from a basketball conference?  What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here?

Thus, for SEC fans, they need Florida State to lose.  You see, when the Seminoles lose, it will (re)balance the universe.  According to the SEC narrative, in order to return the SEC to its “rightful place” as the king of college football, the ACC and Florida State must be placed back into its inferior position.  But, until tFSU loses, the world is out of whack.  And the more Florida State wins, the more the knife twists.  Hence, the deep-rooted hatred for Florida State and the desire to see them lose.

However, it appears that SEC fans are missing the point.  Or, at least, approaching this situation the wrong way.  Florida State took what was the SEC’s — college football dominance.  The Seminoles beat an SEC team and took home the crown.  Now the Seminoles are rulers of the college football landscape.  If the Seminoles were to lose to an ACC team, it will NOT prove that the SEC is once again the dominant conference.  At best, it will “prove” how weak Florida State must be since they cannot beat a “weak” ACC team.  But, even then it is a stretch.  What it really does is muddy the water.  And, by no means does it reassert the SEC’s dominance.  If anything, it continues to signal its decline as the team that ended the reign is losing to ACC foes.  What does that make the SEC now?

The reality is that the SEC needs Florida State.  The SEC needs the Seminoles to make the College Football Playoff.  Sure, SEC fan would be satisfied with Florida taking out the Seminoles — a weak SEC team beating tFSU.  But, the better way for the SEC to reassert its dominance is to have its best beat the Seminoles.  Alabama?  Auburn?  Georgia?  Mississippi?  Mississippi State?  Does not matter.  It must be an SEC team that does it.  This is not a proxy war where others need to take out Florida State.  To paraphrase former President Lyndon Johnson, the SEC doesn’t need to send ACC teams to do what SEC teams ought to be doing for itself.  The SEC cannot even have the Seminoles lose in the “Playoff” to a team from another conference.  The SEC must do this and do it alone.

It certainly makes for strange bedfellows.  The SEC knows that they will have at least one team in the pseudo-playoff.  But they need to be hoping that Florida State makes it as well, rather than praying for the Seminoles to falter.  Because until an SEC conquers the Seminoles, Florida State will continue to parade around with the SEC’s manhood.

How Florida State and Mississippi State Prove the Uselessness of Polls

“We’re #1!”

That is what fan bases desire to say.  NAY!  They demand to say that their chosen team is #1.  The use of “we” incorporates a sense of how the accomplishment is shared by the fan base in addition to the team.  Being #1 speaks volumes to the superiority of your team over that of rivals and “lesser” teams and conferences.  Being #1 matters…it means something.  Hell, even if a team has no business claiming to be #1, we see fans of those team throwing up a single finger — a flash that claims to be the best.  Sorry, Vandy fans…beating UMass and Charleston Southern does NOT make you #1.

Naturally, in order to have a #1 we need to have a concept of what being #1 constitutes.  There must be some ordinal ranking that allows us to look and say, “ah yes, Steve…Southwest Wisconsin State Tech is indeed #1.”  So, we have polls.  Multiple polls to be exact.  And while there are multiple polls, generally the same team occupies the top slot.  Certainly other teams might state their claim to superiority.  But we obediently look to polls to justify team standings; to justify a team’s place in the hierarchy of football dominance.

But college (team) sports are one of the few sport leagues that utilize polls to determine its best team.  Most examine only records (or in the case of the NHL and various domestic soccer leagues a point system) to determine the best team.  Of course, there is a reason why this is unfeasible for college athletics, such as football.  Other than the NFL, every team in professional sports at least plays each other within their subdivision [conferences in NBA and NHL; leagues in MLB].  For professional basketball and hockey, every team plays all other teams at least once.  The smaller number of teams in professional leagues allow for better comparisons because of the way the scheduling works.

More importantly, there is greater balance between the various teams in professional sports versus college sports.  Yes, the Jacksonville Jaguars are terrible and the Dallas Cowboys are in the upper echelon [ugh, that pained me to write that].  But generally speaking, there is more competitive balance.  With college athletics, the difference between the haves and have-nots is clear.  And, it only seems to be getting worse.

Because of these two points, examining only records can be misleading.  It is why no one is taking undefeated Marshall as seriously as undefeated Florida State or Baylor.  Thus, polls are necessary to differentiate between the “quality” of teams.

But are polls truly necessary?  Or, to put it another way, have we moved beyond the usefulness (or utility, if you will) of polls?  I will make the case that polls are absolutely worthless in college basketball because the seeding of teams for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is not based on where teams are ranked.  I mean, remember that Connecticut was ranked 19th in the coaches’ poll, seeded 8th [which in reality is between 29th and 32nd], and after winning the title jumped to #1 in the coaches’ poll.  How ridiculous is that!  [Not saying the Huskies winning and being #1 is ridiculous, just the way the poll reflected that].  Thus, i think agreeing to do away with polls for college basketball would be accepted by some.  [I’ve made this argument before].

However, doing away with football polls?  Inconceivable!!!  But, i think that now is as good of a time as any.  And, i have harped on this point on numerous occasions [here, and here, too!].  So why now?  Well, it is not so much as to now being the “right time” inasmuch as there is a perfect example of the flaw of polls — the Florida State v. Mississippi State debate over which team should be #1.

Full disclosure: I privately told someone last week that i thought that Mississippi State was the best team in the SEC following its victory over Texas A&M.  It had little to do with the Aggies and more to do with the fact that in a season when the so-called top teams have underwhelmed, the Bulldogs have been consistent.  I also noted that if they beat Auburn, they should be number one.  So, i do have an opinion that Mississippi State should be the number one team over Florida State.  So yes, i have a position and i am making it known.

The Bulldogs versus Seminoles Debate

Now, that stated, i want to start with this article that came across my personal Facebook feed.  It attempts to kvetch about the media bias towards the SEC at the expense of the Seminoles.  It focuses on schedules, perceptions, and preseason polls.  In doing so, however, it overlooks key points while also undermining his own argument.  First, the author attempts to show that beating Texas A&M and Auburn did not amount to much for Mississippi State because neither of those teams have beaten anyone of note.  But that does not mean that these victories should be discredited any more than tFSU’s wins over Oklahoma State and Clemson should be.  You cannot claim that your team’s wins should matter while simultaneously dismissing another team’s victories.  Those wins over the Aggies and Tigers are quality wins AT THIS POINT IN TIME.

But here is where the argument falls apart.  The author complains about the Bulldogs’ “other” wins and how “difficult” it must have been.  After all, South Alabama and UAB are simply dyn-o-mite!  But then, conveniently ignores similar “weaknesses” on Florida State’s schedule, only noting that those were not struggles.  Typical fandom mentality that when your team does something it is okay, but when others do it DAMN THEM!!!!!!!!!!!  DAMN THEM ALL TO HELL!!!  Simply put, this is ignorance.

These aren't the only Bulldogs they were worried about.

These aren’t the only Bulldogs they were worried about.

However, the author does bring up a point that is quite vital to the entire debate here — context.  He notes that the Seminoles beat Clemson with their back-up quarterback [he tries to argue that Sean Maguire is actually the third or fourth string QB due to defections, but difficult to buy that argument].  This is a fair point.  Even if you want to argue that it was in Tallahassee and that the Seminoles defense could not stop Clemson for much of the game, you cannot dismiss the impact that not having Jameis Winston had not only on offense but on the entire team [if the offense cannot move the ball, it puts pressure on the defense].  Thus, context is important.  The UAB game cannot be explained, but the LSU game saw a close game only because of the late comeback against second teamers.  Furthermore, while criticizing margin of victories, the author fails to note the double digit wins against two ranked opponents.  Yes, context is important with the Auburn game, but the Bulldogs dominated Texas A&M [a team that admittedly was overhyped due to an opening night victory over South Carolina].

What of the contexts of the Seminoles’ opponents?  This, of course, is ignored by the author…well, other than the Clemson game.  Still, remember that game, Clemson had a freshman QB going into Tallahassee and the Tigers were able to move the ball at will against tFSU.  The Winston point is fair, but so are the other aspects of the game.  It is more than one variable and it works both ways.  The Citadel game was just flatness — a team uninterested in playing the Bulldogs.  But, North Carolina State is noteworthy as the author quickly dismisses this game as not being a struggle against an unranked opponent.  The Seminoles were down 17 points early and 10 in the third quarter.  The Wolfpack were still within one score midway through the fourth before Florida State scored again for the final margin…of 15 points.  FIFTEEN!!!  The author believes that the magic number is, for some reason, 14 points…as though 15 is significantly more superior than 13.

Finally, the author never critiques tFSU’s “best” opponents, which would be Oklahoma State and Clemson [in that order].  Oklahoma State’s victories include an FCS school, the Roadrunners of UT-San Antonio, and the bottom three teams in the Big XII [sic].  Explain to me how that justifies the Cowboys being #15!  Clemson?  They beat Louisville, which I guess counts as a quality win.  But, the Cardinals are unranked.  NC State and UNC are not world beaters.  Oh, but there was that close game with South Carolina State.  So, why should I take Florida State’s victory over Clemson seriously??

Once you start looking objectively, you see that Florida State’s schedule is not all that impressive either.  The argument i made elsewhere is that while Florida State did not necessarily do anything to move out of the top spot, they did not do anything to earn that spot either.  Which brings me to …

The Illogical Polls Revisited and the Myth of the #1

Again, i could speak ad nauseum about how the polls, rooted entirely on opinions, are illogical and biased.  Of course, the author of the cited piece would argue the same and it is here that we are in agreement.  The divergence comes over why it is illogical.  The author’s belief is that the flaw is in the love for the SEC.  If that were the case, Alabama or Auburn would have begun the season #1.  Neither team did.  Which team started #1?  Florida State.  Why?  Well, that is where the flaw truly exist.

See, the preseason polls operate off of two concepts — perception [of how a team will do in the upcoming season] and reputation [of how a team fared last season].  Florida State was privileged a starting position at #1 because of what happened last season.  That is important to remember.  In the past ten years, the only reigning BCS champion NOT to be ranked in the top ten [a favorable starting position] was Auburn in 2011 [interesting to note, Auburn was also not ranked in the top ten in 2005 following their undefeated 2004 season].  Certainly, teams that win titles do tend to return key players, which feeds into the perception factor [both Auburn teams lost many key players].  But, the weight of winning in the previous season matters.

How?  The argument many lay out for Florida State being, and remaining, #1 is that they are the defending champs and have not lost yet.  But, what does last year have to do with this season?  Nothing.  New season; new circumstances.  This angle lacks logic because certain factors beyond the players go into a team winning a title.  Thus, each season is different.  Another example of this is that the author makes mention of Mississippi State’s record from last season — 7-6.  What bearing does that have on anything?  Well, it does explain why MSU was unranked.  But apparently this does not resonate with Florida State fans; that what happened last year — something that should have nothing to do with this season — is why the Seminoles and Bulldogs were ranked where they are.

But, that leads to perception, a point the author and many other Nole fans will point out with regards to the SEC.  But, keep in mind that perception applies to all teams, especially once it comes to preseason polls.  By the end of last season, seven teams that were ranked in the preseason poll was NOT in the final poll; none of those seven even received votes!  As of right now, six teams ranked in the 2014 preseason poll are no longer ranked.  Three teams currently in the top ten did not begin there (Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Notre Dame).  Preseason polls are an inexact guessing game.  It is only natural for it to even out over the season.

Most Seminole fans will admit this — the preseason rankings were wrong and Mississippi State should have at least been ranked.  They will disagree with the meteoric rise and the displacement of Florida State.  And therein lies the rub…and the myth behind being number one.  If the preseason polls were “wrong” and the Bulldogs should not have been unranked, then why can we not accept that the #1 team in the country may not be the best team in the country?    Why must we stand by the notion that they are number one and should not be displaced?  That’s the myth behind being #1…the myth that they are untouchable.

Consider this.  The argument is that a #1 team should not be displaced UNLESS it loses.  But, this logic applies ONLY to the #1 team.  Every other position in the polls can be displaced without such backlash [admittedly, there is some but not to the extent of if a #1 is unseated].  It happens quite often that one undefeated team will jump over other undefeated teams…UNTIL we reach #1.  Last year, Florida State leaped over Ohio State to move to #3.  The Buckeyes did not lose; they in fact won their game against Iowa.  But, the Seminoles beat a then-undefeated Clemson team and thus that catapulted tFSU up.  No complaining from Seminole fans…coz it benefited their team!  If this can happen elsewhere, than it should happen with #1.  If the point of the polls is to rank the 25 best teams — from the #1 team [i.e., best of the best] to #25, then it should be accurate!  Thus, let it be truly fluid and displace #1 teams when necessary.

Death to the Polls

As long as we are top four, we good, right?

As long as we are top four, we good, right?

This weekend, Florida State will take on undefeated #5 Notre Dame.  And, should the Seminoles win, they should (rightly, according to the model) become #1 again.  Ironically, the same Seminole fans that are kvetching about Mississippi State displacing Florida State will have no qualms when/if the Seminoles do the same to the Bulldogs.  They will argue, of course, that it is righting the injustice of tFSU dropping to #2, but that argument also ignores the injustice of a seemingly good Mississippi State team starting out unranked.

Still, that the Bulldogs and Seminoles may swap claims to #1 in back-to-back weeks does not reflect the fluidity of the polls [as it likely should be if we are going to use polls].  Rather, it is a reflection of the uselessness of polls.  The Harris Poll and, to a certain extent, the BCS poll had it right by waiting until at least some games have been played before releasing a poll.  The problem is that even then the poll is incomplete.  All it does is offer a snapshot of the season for that particular moment in time.  Even waiting until the midpoint of the season is not perfect.  Last season, the first BCS poll had Miami ranked seventh…they ended up unranked.  This is why claiming the Bulldogs beat three straight top ten teams is misleading because those teams might have been top ten at that moment, but were they clearly one of the ten best?

The only way of truly knowing is once the season is over and looking at the complete picture.  EVEN THEN there are flaws.  Injuries or suspensions to players can affect a team and change the course of a season [for better or worse]; so too can a devastating loss [looking at you, 2013 Northwestern].   Therefore, while Bulldog and Seminole fans battle over who is truly #1, the reality is that we will not know until the season is over.  Being a temporary #1 for a week or a month means nothing if you are not there in January.  Leading early does not matter if you do not take home the prize…just ask Rick Santorum.

Since only one moment in time matters as it pertains to being number one — after the winner of the pseudo-playoff is determined, isn’t it time to kill the polls?

Iron Bowl: Taiwanese Style!

Living in Taiwan makes it difficult for me to closely keep up with sports in the United States, even with the beauty and awesomeness of the Internets!  Sure, many professional games occur during a time where i can at least keep track of them — most NBA, NHL, and MLB games happen during the morning here.  But, a majority of games in college football and the NFL take place over night.  And, the sports world often turns by events that unfold and by storylines pushed forward during the daytime in the U.S. — or overnight here.

Thus, i have not been able to write as much as i would like.  Even though, through the power of Slingbox, i’ve been able to watch more games, it is tough to get up/stay up for 2am NFL games of 4:30am SEC games.  And, my work schedule has not been conducive to blah’gging!  Even our good ol’ Uncle Popov college football ranking and the newly christened College Football Belts have fallen off.

BUT, every so often, something comes across that is definitely worth posting about…especially when it originates from Taiwan.

This is a video that is a product of NEXTMedia and their animated studio arm Next Media Animators, and it is carried by TomoNews.  These types of “Taiwanese animations” are widely known in the U.S. as NMA often makes humorous clips of events and scandals that happen not only in the U.S., but also in East Asia [see their recent video of China’s air defense zone as a regional example].  The studio has close to 500 talented people who work on these videos that have become almost as popular as stinky tofu [and if you don't know what stinky tofu is, trust me...you don't want to know].

And the video “accurately” depicts the fandom and rivalry that is the Iron Bowl.  Here is the Chinese version as it is funnier to hear this in Mandarin rather than English:

Yes, Alabama and Auburn.  Once you’ve received your very own Taiwanese animation, you know that you’ve made it in the world!

Suck on that, Michigan/Ohio State!

So, Cary Williams Said What?

Look, stoking this whole Riley Cooper “drama” fire is so unnecessary and (honestly) boring.  But, there is something ironic about the recent incident.

I do tend to believe with Stephen A. Smith that black DBs are going to target Cooper [and not because of Marcus Vick's "bounty"].  But, other than that, it is not worth even really exploring.  Actually, even DBs targeting Cooper does not mean much.  I don’t really care.

However, this altercation [don't call it a "fight"; it's not a fight!] brought something potentially interesting.  Fights happen all the time in practice…especially after going against each other so many times; you’re just waiting to face actual opponents.  So, that this is being blown up is because of the overblown Cooper issue.

Hell, any time Cooper has some sort of “issue” with a black player, this shit is going to get played up.  So the fight…I don’t give a fly fuck about that.

But, it is what Cary Williams allegedly said:

I’m not a nigger to fuck with!

Whoa now!  I know that Riley wanted to jump the fence and fight a brotha or two, but geez settle down Williams.

Now, keep in mind, this is what Williams “allegedly” said (coming from an anonymous third party).  No one is really stating that he did (or didn’t) say that…just that the initial June incident “was not mentioned.”  But it does — if true — present and interesting twist to all of this because of what Williams stated back in early August:

We as a black community sometimes pounce on somebody who uses it in a derogatory way when there are times in the black community when we use it freely.  . . . I think there’s no place for that word in anybody’s language, in anybody’s mouth or off anybody’s tongue, whether you’re black, white, green, purple, blue.  It’s still the same meaning, it’s still a harsh word.

Oops!

Again, this is all based around an allegation that is still unfounded.  But, he DOES bring up a good point in his initial response to Riley’s uttering of “nigger.”  While it is “just a word,” it is one that needs to be eliminated from our vocabulary.  Yes, there is a sense of power gained by co-opting the word and altering the meaning, but this might be one of those words that should go the way of the interrobang.

Still, that Williams stated a very thoughtful response in August and “allegedly” said what he did during his altercation with Cooper is incredibly ironic.  Hopefully, for Williams, that did not happen.  I hope that it didn’t.

But then again, if it did, it brings to light the double standard of the word that he so carefully attempt to rally against.  Maybe it can be a good thing.

Or, perhaps we should take a cue from the Wu Tang Clan:

2013 Uncle Popov College Football Table [Week 1]

With Week 1 in the books, here is the top 23 for the Uncle Popov College Football Table.  The full list will appear in the “College Football Table” section of the website.

Remember that with bonuses and whatnot, some teams receive a lot of points overall.  In the end, this tends to level off.  So while NC State pulled down 6 points this week (3 for a win; 2 for a win over a Tier 1 team; 1 for a win by a Tier 3 team over a Tier 1 team), the Wolfpack’s early lead is not insurmountable.

WEEK 1

Rank

TEAM

Points

1

North Carolina State

6

2

Clemson

5

3

Bowling Green

4

3

Florida

4

3

LSU

4

3

Louisville

4

3

Mississippi

4

3

Oklahoma

4

3

Oklahoma State

4

3

Penn State

4

3

South Carolina

4

3

Texas A&M

4

3

Utah

4

3

Washington

4

15

Alabama

3.5

15

Arkansas

3.5

15

Cincinnati

3.5

15

Florida State

3.5

15

Michigan

3.5

15

Nebraska

3.5

15

Texas Tech

3.5

15

California-Los Angeles

3.5

15

Virginia

3.5

Tiers for the 2013 Uncle Popov College Football Table

Last year witness yet another modification to the Uncle Popov College Football Poll as we moved from a formula-based poll to one that awards points based on certain types of wins [as well as OT losses, in some cases].  I thought it worked well.

So, this year we continue the Uncle Popov College Football Table with all new tiers.  And, there has been a slight alteration to how the tiers are designed.  Now, Tier 1 — the top tier — only contains 20 teams rather than 31.  The other three tiers contain 35 teams.  This is done so that there are fewer top tier teams and the “bonus” for beating a Tier 1 team is more well-earned.

The rules are still the same.  I thought that the point system was fair and worked quite well.  So, no need to reset that.  As for the Tiers:

Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3 Tier 4
Alabama Arizona Air Force~ Akron
Clemson^ Arkansas State^ Arizona State~ Alabama-Birmingham
Florida Ball State^ Arkansas~ Army~
Georgia Boise State~ Baylor~ Auburn~
Kansas State^ Bowling Green State^ Brigham Young~ Boston College~
Kent State^ Central Florida Central Michigan Buffalo
Louisiana State Cincinnati~ Connecticut~ California~
Louisiana Tech^ East Carolina^ Duke^ Colorado
Louisville^ Florida State Georgia Tech~ Colorado State
Nebraska Fresno State^ Houston~ Eastern Michigan
Northern Illinois^ Iowa State^ Indiana^ Florida Atlantic
Northwestern^ Louisiana-Monroe^ Louisiana-Lafayette Florida International
Notre Dame^ Miami (FL)~ Marshall^ Georgia State~
Ohio State Michigan Memphis^ Hawaii~
Oregon Middle Tennessee State^ Michigan State~ Idaho
San Jose State^ Mississippi State Minnesota Illinois~
South Carolina North Carolina Mississippi~ Iowa~
Stanford Ohio^ Missouri~ Kansas~
Texas A&M^ Oklahoma~ Navy~ Kentucky~
UCLA^ Oklahoma State~ Nevada~ Maryland~
Oregon State North Carolina State~ Massachusetts
Penn State~ Pittsburgh~ Miami (OH)
Rice^ Purdue Nevada-Las Vegas
Rutgers Southern Methodist New Mexico
San Diego State^ Tennessee~ New Mexico State
Southern California~ Texas Tech~ North Texas
Syracuse^ Texas-El Paso^ South Alabama
Texas~ Troy South Florida~
Texas Christian~ Utah~ Southern Mississippi~
Toledo^ Virginia Temple~
Tulsa Virginia Tech~ Texas State
Utah State^ Wake Forest Texas-San Antonio
Vanderbilt^ West Virginia~ Tulane
Washington^ Western Kentucky^ Washington State
Wisconsin~ Wyoming^ Western Michigan~

^ – promoted

~ – relegated

As you can see, teams that performed well last year such as Notre Dame (the 2012 Uncle Popov Champion) and Kent State (who won ten FBS games) moved into Tier 1.  In fact, the Golden Flashes jumped from Tier 4 to Tier 1.  That can happen.  On the other hand, a team like Iowa dropped from Tier 1 to Tier 4.  That’s the cruel fate of this Tier system.

The good thing, however, is that it is very fluid.  However, starting next season, the Tiers will be based on a two-year average rather than just one year.

Now, with one more game to go, the first table for 2013 will be up and ready soon.  And, there will already be eight teams with negative points, including newcomer Georgia State.

 

Conference Belt Title Game Results for Week 1

There were seven different title defenses during Week 1, including the new WAC Heritage Belt.  Overall, the  title defenders were 5-2, with one of those losses helping a belt return to its conference.

ACC BATTLE BELT

  • Result: Clemson Tigers defeated Georgia Bulldogs (c)
  • Belt Status: Clemson’s fourth title reign
  • Next Title Defense: Sept. 19 at North Carolina State Wolfpack

C-USA BATTLE BELT

  • Result: Texas State Bobcats (c) defeated Southern Miss Golden Eagles
  • Belt Status: Texas State’s first successful defense
  • Next Title Defense: TBD

MAC BATTLE BELT

  • Result: Ohi State Buckeyes (c) defeated Buffalo Bulls
  • Belt Status: Ohio State’s 21st successful defense
  • Next Title Defense: TBD

MAC MIDDLEWEIGHT BELT

  • Result: UCF Knights (c) defeated Akron Zips
  • Belt Status: UCF’s fourth successful defense
  • Next Title Defense: TBD

SEC BATTLE BELT

  • Result: Texas A&M Aggies (c) defeated Rice Owls
  • Belt Status: Texas A&M’s third successful defense
  • Next Title Defense: Sept. 14 versus Alabama Crimson Tide
  • GAME NOTE: this is a unification match; Alabama can unify the two SEC belts with a win; Texas A&M is not eligible for the Unified SEC Belt

SUN BELT BATTLE BELT

  • Result: Oklahoma Sooners (c) defeated UL-Monroe Warhawks
  • Belt Status: Oklahoma’s third successful defense
  • Next Title Defense: TBD

WAC HERITAGE BELT

  • Result: Utah Utes defeated Utah State Aggies (c)
  • Belt Status: Utah’s first title reign
  • Next Title Defense: Sept. 21 at BYU Cougars

 

Leinart cut by the Bills, plans to keep sucking!

Since Tim Tebow got an entire article covering his release by the New England Patriots, I thought that it would be only fair to give Matt Leinart his own article.  After all, he won a Heisman trophy, too!  The media is always hating Leinart and trying to drag him through the mud!!!!

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — A Heisman Trophy, three season-ending injuries, a regional following.

Matt Leinart won all that in his football career.

On Saturday, he lost his third NFL job in 18 months.  It might be hard to find another.

The quarterback with two big problems — staying healthy and not being that good — was cut by the Buffalo Bills just five days after they signed him and only five days before the season.

But, as Leinart sees it, this long journey is not over.

leinart“True strength is keeping everything together when everyone expects you to fall apart,” he tweeted.

Coach Doug Marrone gave the player who could not even beat out Derek Anderson or Terrell Pryor what may have been his last chance when he signed him August 25, when QB injuries led to the Bills to consider starting undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel.  And Leinart is grateful.

After being out of football since the end of last season, he was thankful to be given yet another chance, even if it is with the Bills.

In a tweet sent out after the signing, Leinart stated that he was “really excited and thankful for the [Bills]” for giving him the chance, and that he had been “working hard for 8 straight months.”

The Bills cut 17 other players and put quarterback Kevin Kolb on injured reserve.  That left them with 55 players, two above the regular-season limit that they have to reach before 6:30 pm EDT.

Marrone didn’t comment on Leinart’s release.

He was unsuccessful with Arizona, for four seasons, when he went 4-7 in his first season in 2006 and compiled a 7-10 record in an injury-plagued tenure with the Cardinals.

But then a career of inefficiency descended into true adversity.

Kurt Warner retired and instead of seizing the starting gig lost out to friggin’ Derek Anderson, as well as Max Hall and John Skelton.

He was released prior to the start of the 2010 season and then signed with the Houston Texans on September 6.  He languished on the bench and ended up starting one game in 2011 and was promptly injured.

Released again, he signed with the Oakland Raiders in 2012 where, once again given a chance to possibly start, was passed over for Terrell Pryor.  He was not resigned in the offseason.

For eight months no team wanted him until the Bills signed him to a no-risk contract

Now, nearly four months after his 30th birthday, Leinart’s NFL career may be over.

The Bills had a total of five quarterbacks on their preseason roster.  So with E.J. Manuel the future and Kevin “Concussion” Kolb at the top of the heap, Leinart’s chances were a challenging one, even before that final preseason game.  Then he posted a quarterback rating of 0.0 with zero touchdowns, two interceptions and one sack against the Lions.

Leinart’s last play with the Bills, and perhaps in the NFL, was an interception thrown to 11-year veteran Rashean Mathis with 12 minutes remaining in the second quarter of the Lions game on Thursday night.

After his last game, Leinart said he wasn’t sure it would be enough to keep him on the team.

But he didn’t plan to worry.

He knows that he “could have played better, but you just move on.  . . . So yeah, it’s tough, but I was thankful to be here and you know we’ll see what happens.  Obviously, after that performance, you can’t feel too good.”

Non-Conference Scheduling and the 2013 College Football Season

I am always amused at the amount of complaining that goes on about non-conference scheduling, especially about how weak a rival school’s [or even general conference's] schedule is.  As with any sports “discussions,” these arguments often ignore context for the sake of their own argument.

No one wants to point out the limited number of non-conference games and matching up logistics.  No one wants to remember that Alabama played Virginia Tech when pointing out Georgia State on the schedule.  No one wants to talk about how Texas actually played AT Wyoming and UTEP when most “big” teams won’t even leave their home stadium to play such “lower” teams.

It is always about how the SEC always schedules FCS schools, or how the Big Ten loves playing the MAC.

But, how do the non-conference schedules really compare?  While I am not trying to actually rank the non-conference schedules of the various teams and conferences, I am interested in which conferences appear on those respective schedules.  So first…the numbers:

ACC

  • Most scheduledC-USA and Independents (16.07% each)
  • Least scheduled: Big 12 (1.79%)
  • BCS scheduled: 28.57%
  • FCS scheduled: 28.57%

American Athletic

  • Most scheduledConference USA (15%)
  • Least scheduled: Pac 12 (0%)
  • BCS scheduled: 35%
  • FCS scheduled: 22.5%

Big 12

  • Most scheduledC-USA and Sun Belt (16.67% each)
  • Least scheduled: Mountain West and Pac 12 (0% each)
  • BCS scheduled: 23.33%
  • FCS scheduled: 26.67%

Big Ten

  • Most scheduledMAC (27.08%)
  • Least scheduled: Sun Belt (0%)
  • BCS scheduled: 29.17%
  • FCS scheduled: 20.83%

Conference USA

  • Most scheduledACC (16.07%)
  • Least scheduled: Big Ten and Pac 12 (1.79% each)
  • BCS scheduled: 51.79%
  • FCS scheduled: 12.5%

Mid-American Conference

  • Most scheduledBig Ten (25%)
  • Least scheduled: Pac 12 (0%)
  • BCS scheduled: 53.85%
  • FCS scheduled: 23.08%

Mountain West Conference

  • Most scheduledIndependents (26.53%)
  • Least scheduled: Big 12 (0%)
  • BCS scheduled: 38.78%
  • FCS scheduled: 20.41%

Pacific 12

  • Most scheduledMountain West (29.73%)
  • Least scheduled: American, Big 12, and Sun Belt (0% each)
  • BCS scheduled: 24.32%
  • FCS scheduled: 24.32%

SEC

  • Most scheduledSun Belt (16.07%)
  • Least scheduled: Big Ten, Independents, and Mountain West (1.79% each)
  • BCS scheduled: 32.14%
  • FCS scheduled: 25%

Sun Belt Conference

  • Most scheduledSEC (22.5%)
  • Least scheduled: Big Ten and Pac 12 (0% each)
  • BCS scheduled: 42.5%
  • FCS scheduled: 25%

Now, for the explanation of all of this.

GEOGRAPHY MATTERS!  In most cases, it would seem that proximity to another conference is likely more of a factor than anything else.  This should go without saying.  The Big Ten and MAC correspond so well that it makes sense that each are the other’s most scheduled conference.  The truly curious case is why the Mountain West has exactly zero games against Big 12 opponents.

EVERYONE LOVES THE FCS!  It does not matter which conference you look at, there are teams that have scheduled an FCS team (or two).  Of the 323 non-conference games (including all games for independent teams), there are 110 games involving FCS schools (34.1 percent).  The ACC leads the way with 28.57 percent of all non-conference games being against FCS opponents, with two schools — Clemson (South Carolina State and The Citadel) and Georgia Tech (Elon and Alabama A&M) — faces two FCS teams.  The Big 12 is second with 26.7 percent, while the SEC and Sun Belt are tied for third with 25 percent.  The Pac 12 is just behind with 24.32 percent.

At the other end is Conference USA, which has only 12.5 percent of its games scheduled against FCS opponents.  Those seven schools (East Carolina, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Middle Tennessee State, Tulane and UAB) each scheduled one opponent from the FCS, with East Carolina facing a potential upset with a very good (and soon to be FBS member) Old Dominion team.

POWER vs POWER.  Of course, if we look at all conferences to see which ones tend to schedule teams from the BCS conferences, then we are going to get results that show that non-BCS conferences tend to do it more.  It makes sense because of the attempted “W” grab by BCS schools by scheduling the North Texases and Florida Atlantics of the world.  So, what about how the BCS conferences schedule themselves?

Well, the American Athletic Conference is tops here, with 35 percent of all of their non-conference games coming against BCS conference opponents.  The American is mainly drawing from the Big Ten and SEC and includes the likes of Michigan, Texas A&M, South Carolina, and Michigan State [as well as weaklings like Kentucky and Illinois].  Next is the SEC with 32.14 percent, followed by the Big Ten, ACC, Pac 12 and rounding it out at the bottom is the Big 12 (23.3 percent).

ODDS and ENDS!  That the Mountain West has a large number of games against Independents should not be surprising.  BYU, a former Mountain West member, plays three games against the conference (Utah State, Boise State and Nevada).  Temporarily nomadic Idaho and New Mexico State each play two games against MWC foes.  And Air Force annually plays two independents — Army and Navy.  In fact, all three of the Falcons’ FBS non-conference opponents this year are Independents (Notre Dame).

Georgia State was counted as a FBS member since they are in the final transitioning stage from the FCS tier.  For their part, the Panthers are playing against three FCS opponents — the most of any FBS school.  Georgia State faces Samford, Chattanooga, and Jacksonville State.

Some teams did shy away from scheduling an FCS opponent.  Nineteen teams avoided that very easy “W” by not scheduling an FCS team, including the usual group of Southern California, UCLA and Notre Dame, as well as teams like Hawai’i, Florida Atlantic, and Miami University.

And, while some went for the weakest of the weak, others at least were willing to entertain the cream of the FCS crop.  Kansas State faces two-time defending champion North Dakota State.  Montana State travels to SMU in what could be an upset win for the Bobcats.  Georgia Southern faces Florida, while Appalachian State will take on Georgia.  Eastern Washington, the D-1 champs from 2010, will attempt to take down Oregon State, while the back-to-back runners-up to NDSU — Sam Houston State — get to face Texas A&M.  And, the aforementioned Monarchs of Old Dominion will be facing FIVE different FBS opponents — East Carolina, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Idaho, and North Carolina.

CONCLUSION! Keep in mind that this is just a look at how conferences schedule each other.  I did not try to rank strength of opponents or conferences.  One could look and argue that the SEC might play Sun Belt teams, but they also play a lot of BCS teams, while the Big 12 tends to shy away from BCS schools.  However, we also need to be mindful about which teams are being played.  Again, that is not the goal here, but for every Clemson-Georgia, there’s an Auburn-Washington State or Washington-Illinois.

Current Holders of All Conference Belts

While the histories of each belt date back decades (and in some cases over a century), this post is to serve as a setting point going forward.  Listed are the initial holders of the belt [first team to "win" the belt] and the current holders of each belt including when they won it, who they defeated to obtain it, how many times they have held and defended it, and their next title defense.

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE [formerly the Big East]:

UNIFIED AMERICAN BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Miami Hurricanes (November 6, 1993)
  • Current Title Holder: Cincinnati Bearcats [2nd reign]; vacated by Syracuse on 2013
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: October 5, 2013 at South Florida

AMERICAN BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: West Virginia Mountaineers (1993)
  • Current Title Holder: Kent State Golden Flashes [1st reign]; defeated Rutgers on October 27, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: TBD

ACC:

UNIFIED ACC BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Duke Blue Devils (November 16, 1957)
  • Current Title Holder: Florida State Seminoles [10th reign]; defeated Georgia Tech on December 1, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: October 5, 2013 versus Maryland

ACC BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Duke Blue Devils (1954)
  • Current Title Holder: Georgia Bulldogs [3rd reign]; defeated Georgia Tech on November 28, 2009
  • Current Successful Defenses: 3
  • Next Defense: August 31, 2013 at Clemson

BIG 12:

UNIFIED BIG 12 BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Kansas State Wildcats (November 11,1998)
  • Current Title Holder: Oklahoma Sooners [5th reign]; defeated Texas on October 13, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 2
  • Next Defense: October 12, 2013 versus Texas

BIG 12 BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Texas Longhorns (1996)
  • Current Title Holder: Arizona Wildcats [1st reign]; defeated Oklahoma State on September 8, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: TBD

BIG TEN:

UNIFIED BIG TEN BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Chicago Maroons (November 5, 1899)
  • Current Title Holder: Northwestern Wildcats [12th reign]; defeated Michigan State on November 17, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 1
  • Next Defense: October 5, 2013 versus Ohio State

BIG TEN BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Wisconsin Badgers (1896)
  • Current Title Holder: Iowa State Cyclones [1st reign]; defeated Iowa on September 10, 2011
  • Current Successful Defenses: 1
  • Next Defense: September 14, 2013 versus Iowa

CONFERENCE USA:

UNIFIED CUSA BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Houston Cougars (October 18, 1997)
  • Current Title Holder: Rice Owls [1st reign]; vacated by SMU in 2013
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: October 5, 2013 at Tulsa

CUSA BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Southern Miss Golden Eagles (1997)
  • Current Title Holder: Texas State Bobcats [1st reign]; defeated Houston on September 1, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: August 31, 2013 at Southern Miss

CUSA MIDDLEWEIGHT BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Tulane Green Waves (1998)
  • Current Title Holder: Boise State Broncos [1st reign]; defeated Tulsa on September 24, 2011
  • Current Successful Defenses: 1
  • Next Defense: September 28, 2013 versus Southern Miss

MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE:

UNIFIED MAC BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Miami Redhawks (November 5, 1949)
  • Current Title Holder: Northern Illinois Huskies [9th reign]; defeated Western Michigan on October 15, 2011
  • Current Successful Defenses: 12
  • Next Defense: October 5, 2013 at Kent State

MAC BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Cincinnati Bearcats (1947)
  • Current Title Holder: Ohio State Buckeyes [1st reign]; defeated Bowling Green on September 12, 1992
  • Current Successful Defenses: 20
  • Next Defense: August 31, 2013 versus Buffalo

MAC MIDDLEWEIGHT BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Marshall Thundering Herd (1998)
  • Current Title Holder: Central Florida Knights [1st reign]; defeated Buffalo on September 9, 2009
  • Current Successful Defenses: 3
  • Next Defense: August 29, 2013 versus Akron

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE:

UNIFIED MOUNTAIN WEST BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Colorado State Rams (November 2, 2000)
  • Current Title Holder: San Diego State Aztecs [2nd reign]; defeated Air Force on November 10, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 1
  • Next Defense: October 10, 2013 at Air Force

MOUNTAIN WEST BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Colorado State Rams (2000)
  • Current Title Holder: Florida Gators [1st reign]; defeated Wyoming on September 3, 2005
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: TBD

MOUNTAIN WEST MIDDLEWEIGHT BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Colorado State Rams (2000)
  • Current Title Holder: Toledo Rockets [1st reign]; defeated Wyoming on September 8, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: TBD

PACIFIC 12:

UNIFIED PAC-12 BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: California Bears (November 23, 1918)
  • Current Title Holder: Stanford Cardinal [18th reign]; defeated Oregon on November 17, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 2
  • Next Defense: September 21, 2013 versus Arizona State

PAC-12 BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Washington Huskies (1916)
  • Current Title Holder: LSU Tigers [1st reign]; defeated Washington on September 21, 1983
  • Current Successful Defenses: 9
  • Next Defense: TBD

SEC:

UNIFIED SEC BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Alabama Crimson Tide (November 27, 1948)
  • Current Title Holder: Alabama Crimson Tide [18th reign]; defeated Georgia on December 1, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: September 28, 2013 versus Mississippi

SEC BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Alabama Crimson Tide (1933)
  • Current Title Holder: Texas A&M Aggies [1st reign]; defeated Alabama on November 10, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 1
  • Next Defense: August 31, 2013 versus Rice

SUN BELT CONFERENCE:

UNIFIED BELT of the SUN BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: North Texas Eagles (November 2, 2002)
  • Current Title Holder: UL-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajun [5th reign]; defeated UL-Monroe on November 3, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 2
  • Next Defense: October 16, 2013 at Western Kentucky

SUN BELT BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: North Texas Eagles (2002)
  • Current Title Holder: Oklahoma Sooners [1st reign]; defeated North Texas on August 30, 2003
  • Current Successful Defenses: 2
  • Next Defense: August 31, 2013 versus UL-Monroe

SUN BELT MIDDLEWEIGHT BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: North Texas Eagles (2002)
  • Current Title Holder: Air Force Falcons [1st reign]; defeated North Texas on September 13, 2003
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: TBD

WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE:

UNIFIED WAC BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: BYU Cougars (November 20, 1965)
  • Current Title Holder: Utah State Aggies [1st reign]; defeated Louisiana Tech on November 17, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 1
  • Next Defense: NONE; converted to Heritage Belt

WAC BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: New Mexico Lobos (1962)
  • Current Title Holder: Auburn Tigers [1st reign]; defeated Louisiana Tech on October 9, 2004
  • Current Successful Defenses: 3
  • Next Defense: NONE; retired

WAC HERITAGE BELT

  • Initial and Current Title Holder: Utah State Aggies (2013)
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: August 29, 2013 at Utah