CONFERENCE BELTS: Week 6 (late) Primer

Missed a week and nearly missed this week.  But, we are on it.  And, some changes occurred.  Northern Illinois lost another belt, dropping the Unified MAC Belt to Central Michigan.  The Huskies now lost both of its titles that it carried coming into the season.  Meanwhile, Mississippi lost to Florida, dropping its title as the Undisputed SEC Champion [holder of both the Unified and Battle belts].  The Gators defend the Battle Belt this weekend versus Missouri, which has yet to qualify for the Unified Belt.

Let’s look at this week’s slate, which is pretty full.

Week 6 Unified Conference Belt Defenses:

  • ACC: Miami (FL) at Florida State (c) [14th defense of their tenth reign]
  • Big 12: TCU (c) at Kansas State [fourth defense of their first reign]
  • Conference USA: Southern Miss at Marshall (c) [second defense of their first reign]
    • Marshall defeated Southern Miss on Friday 9 October
  • MAC: Central Michigan (c) at Western Michigan [first defense of their 13th reign]
  • Mountain West: Boise State (c) at Colorado State [fourth defense of their second reign]
  • Pac 12: Washington State at Oregon (c) [sixth defense of their 16th reign]

Week 6 Battle Belt Defenses:

  • ACC: Miami (FL) at Florida State (c) [21st defense of fifth reign]
  • American: Tulane at Temple (c) [fourth defense of first reign]
  • Big Ten: Maryland at Ohio State (c) [sixth defense of 19th reign]
  • SEC: Florida (c) at Missouri [first defense of 12th reign]

Week 6 Middleweight Belt Defense:

  • Sun Belt: Appalachian State (c) at Georgia State [fifth defense of first reign]

Week 4 Results

  • Unified Big 12 Belt: TCU successfully defended against Texas Tech
  • Big Ten Battle Belt: Ohio State successfully defended against Western Michigan
  • MAC Battle Belt: Ohio State successfully defended against Western Michigan
  • Undisputed SEC Championship [Unified and Battle Belts]: Mississippi successfully defended against Vanderbilt
  • Southern Heritage Belt: Duke successfully defended against Georgia Tech
  • Southwest Heritage Belt: Texas A&M successfully defended against Arkansas
  • Sun Belt Middleweight Belt: Appalachian State successfully defended against Old Dominion

Week 5 Results

  • Undisputed ACC Championship [Unified and Battle Belts]: Florida State successfully defended against Wake Forest
  • American Battle Belt: Temple successfully defended against Charlotte
  • Big 8 Heritage Belt: Kansas State lost to Oklahoma State
  • Unified Big 12 Belt: TCU successfully defended against Texas
  • Undisputed Big Ten Championship [Unified and Battle Belts]: Ohio State successfully defended against Indiana
  • Unified MAC Belt: Northern Illinois lost to Central Michigan
  • Undisputed SEC Championship [Unified and Battle Belts]: Mississippi lost to Florida
  • Sun Belt Middleweight Belt: Appalachian State successfully defended against Wyoming

CONFERENCE BELTS: Week 4 Primer

The first defense of a Unified Conference belt this season saw it change hands, while the first champion-versus-champion game was a close game before the Big Ten Battle Belt holder took the MAC Battle Belt.  Week 3 was not without its moments.

Week 4 is action packed as Ohio State turns around to defend its newly-acquired MAC Battle Belt against Western Michigan; this will be the MAC’s last scheduled chance this year.  At least the MAC will have a chance next year as the Battle Belt of the Sun Belt was defended by Oregon do not have a scheduled game against a Sun Belt team over the next couple of seasons.

Mississippi will defend both the Unified Conference belt as well as the SEC Battle Belt when it hosts Vanderbilt; Vandy only held the Unified Belt twice and has not done so since 1983!  Meanwhile, TCU will defend the Unified Big 12 belt when the Horned Frogs visit Texas Tech.  There are also two Heritage Belt defenses [Southern and Southwest], as well as a Middleweight defense of the Sun Belt.  Week 4 will be busy.

Week 4 Unified Conference Belt Defenses:

  • Big 12: TCU (c) at Texas Tech [second defense of their first reign]
  • SEC: Vanderbilt at Mississippi (c) [first defense of their fifth reign]

Week 4 Battle Belt Defenses:

  • Big Ten: Western Michigan at Ohio State (c) [fourth defense of 19th reign]
  • MAC: Western Michigan at Ohio State (c) [first defense of second reign]
  • SEC: Vanderbilt at Mississippi (c) [first defense of eighth reign]

Week 4 Middleweight Belt Defense:

  • Sun Belt: Appalachian State (c) at Old Dominion [second defense of first reign]

Week 4 Heritage Belt Defenses:

  • Southern: Georgia Tech at Duke (c) [second defense of second reign]
  • Southwest: Texas A&M (c) at Arkansas [seventh defense of seventh reign]

Week 3 Results

  • ACC Battle Belt: Florida State successfully defended against Boston College
  • American Battle Belt: Temple successfully defended against Massachusetts
  • Big Ten Battle Belt: Ohio State successfully defended against Northern Illinois
  • MAC Battle Belt: Northern Illinois lost to Ohio State
  • Unified SEC Belt: Alabama lost to Mississippi
  • SEC Battle Belt: Alabama lost to Mississippi
  • Battle Belt of the Sun Belt: Oregon successfully defended against Georgia State

The End of the End? How Alabama Lost and What it Means for the College Football Landscape

You’re an underdog.  You go into the game  essentially carrying the pride of your home state on your shoulders.  And, despite the pressure and seemingly impossible chances, you pull out a landmark victory for your program.

But, enough about South Alabama’s victory over San Diego State.  I want to talk about Alabama’s loss to Mississippi.

Now, I choose those words carefully.  Alabama LOST.  It is not to diminish what Mississippi did, which is WIN.  But, it is a fact that one team wins and one team loses; this is not soccer, after all.  And Mississippi did what they needed to do to win the game; good on them.  Besides, we’re not in the business of saying x-team lost and NOT y-team won [see this and this].

But the focal point of Alabama’s loss is related to how they played last night and more worthy of examination than what Mississippi did to win the game.  But, to give fair light to the latter…

Mississippi made plays with what they were given.  In any game, teams are handed situations with which they must handle.  Sometimes you are handed favorable situations and your tasks are much easier and the path absent of large hurdles.  In other cases, teams find disavantages and more obstacles with which to overcome.  Mississippi fell into the former — their job was made much easier thanks to Alabama miscues.  BUT, you still must capitalize on those “gifts.”  And that is what good teams do; that is what the Rebels did!

Look at the Florida-Florida State game in 2014.  The Seminoles continued to give the Gators gifts.  On three of tFSU’s first four possessions, Jameis Winston threw interceptions, giving Florida an excellent opportunity.  And what came of that?  Two field goals, plus another field goal [after a Seminole punt], and then a pick-six for Florida State.  A game that ended up 24-19 in favor of the Garnet and Gold could have easily been a runaway for Florida.  Instead, the Gators could not take advantage of the easier path presented to them and Florida State overcame their more difficult path.

Back to last night, Mississippi did what Florida [v. Florida State] could not; take advantage.  Again, that is what good teams do and Mississippi proved that they are at least good enough to take those opportunities and make the most of it.  And that is why Mississippi won the game.

But, how did Alabama (equally) lose the game?  And, what does it reflect on the state of the current great dynasty of college football?

Alabama lost based on a couple of factors.  First and foremost are the turnovers.  The very first one was self-inflicted — an Alabama player stumbling into returner ArDarius Stewart, which caused Stewart to fumble the football.  This was NOT a play directly caused by Mississippi; this was self-inflicted.  It made it easier for the Rebels and while Alabama’s defense stood tall, the score was still 3-0 right out of the box.  The other fumbled kickoff was all Mississippi; they directly caused the fumble and made the recovery.  All credit to them on that one.

What about the interceptions?  Again, Mississippi defensive backs caught the picks [and honestly dropped a couple of others], so it is not necessarily “self-inflicted.”  But, one can point to the decision-making of the Alabama QBs.  Cooper Bateman’s interception was on an ill-advised throw downfield.  Jake Coker’s first pick occurred when he stared down OJ Howard and CJ Johnson made a play on the ball.  Coker’s second interception was a back-foot throw that was completely unnecessary.

In all three cases, Mississippi defenders made the plays that they were supposed to make.  But in each of those three interceptions, the Alabama QBs made the job for the defenders easier than necessary.  The third pick was perhaps the most telling of what Alabama’s larger offensive issue may be.  It appeared that Coker did not go through his progressions; on that play he had players open in the shorter field.  And, given there was plenty of time remaining, that deep ball was completely unnecessary.  And yet, like the Johnson pick, Coker seemed to not just focus in on one player, but when pressured attempted to force it to that one player.  He deserved to get picked for that throw.  It was panicky and was not a great example of quality decision-making.

Ah, man!

Ah, man!

In the long term, that is an issue.  Bateman did not play poorly, and I think that had they stuck with Bateman, the read-option was going to open up the running for the QB.  ESPN highlighted how Mississippi collapsed on the running back, which would have allowed the QB to take off towards the left side of the field.  It was there, but the change at QB was made, and probably the better decision.  After all, Coker did make plays, both with his arm and his feet.

But, Coker’s ability to check down seems to be absent and that appeared to hurt Alabama last night.  There is a reason he did not beat out Blake Sims last season and the QB race this season was (and probably still is) unsettled.

Still, there is another offensive issue — the lack of a deep threat.  Look at how many times Alabama went deep and how, in each case, there was no true separation.  This is reinforced by 5.0 yards per pass attempt rate.  By not being able to stretch the field, it will make things tough on the run game.

For what it is worth, the run game is still solid.  Mississippi has a strong front line and did well shutting down the rushing attack early.  But, Alabama still averaged 5.1 yards on the ground and Derrick Henry still got his yards (23 for 127 and a touchdown).  But, I was still impressed with Mississippi’s defense.

Mississippi’s offense, on the other hand…I was less impressed with this.  Yes, some will point to the 6.7 yards per play average and that is fair; the Rebels got 433 yards on 65 plays.  BUT, 139 of those yards on two plays.  Two fluky plays.  The first was the high snap (which was bobbled), ill-advised desperation heave, ricochet off an Alabama defender right into the hands of a Mississippi receiver play.  That is about as fluky and lucky as you will see…66 yards to the house.  And that was on third down!  That’s not Mississippi racking up yards on Alabama; that’s a fluke.  Call it what it is.

The other play was the 73-yard pass that was reminiscent of the 2013 Iron Bowl play where Auburn tied it up.  When it looked like Chad Kelly was going to run, he pulls up at the last second and lobs a pass to a wide open Cody Core.  It was a great play and it really sucked in the Alabama defense.  However, what makes it “fluky” is not the borderline illegal forward pass; he was behind the line of scrimmage so it was legal from that perspective.  The problem was the linemen downfield, something that DID make the play illegal.  It is what it is; a penalty that the refs missed.  No different than the numerous holds that take place on any given play.  However, that such a penalty is NOT reviewable and the illegal forward pass IS reviewable is a “fluke” in the system.  Or, at the very least, it is a hole in the review process.

[NOTE: there was another game on Saturday where this same scenario occurred; player threw the ball when the were close to crossing the line.  O-linemen were downfield, but was not called.  the game where it occurred is escaping me, but i want to say LSU pulled it on Auburn].

Two plays — one a clear fluke and the other one where a (correct) penalty was not flagged.  Take those two “explosive” plays away and Mississippi averaged 4.67 yards per play.  Not as impressive as some make it out to be.  It is why I believe it is the defense that will carry the Rebels forward and NOT the offense.

Again, this is not to say that Mississippi did not earn the win.  They most certainly did.  Take those two plays away and who knows what would have transpired afterwards.  The point is that despite FIVE turnovers and nearly every break going the way of Mississippi, Alabama still had a chance to win it.  Alabama had their momentum crushed numerous times and yet STILL was able to come back.  Alabama (the team) could have folded like Alabama (the fans), but down double digits three different times and yet Alabama came back.  Despite all that, Alabama found themselves in it at the end.

But, here’s where the issue comes into play.  Either Mississippi is a really good team and Alabama is STILL really good to be able to stay in the game and have an honest chance [or three] to win this game.  OR, Alabama is no longer as good as usual and Mississippi beat a mediocre team even though they allowed that team to hang around.

The reason I bring that up is because various analyst are attempting to paint Mississippi as a legit BCS “Playoff” contender while also painting Alabama as being “past its prime.”  USA Today’s Dan Wolken argues that Alabama’s dynasty is replaced with “doubt” while Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde notes that the loss marks the beginning of the end for the dynasty.  The crux of the arguments appear to be that Mississippi is THAT good and Alabama is not as good.  But, if the Rebels beat a team that is on the decline, is Mississippi really that good?

If the “not as good” argument is referencing the recent championship teams, then yes the argument is valid.  However, if the argument is relative to this season, then I think it is wrong.  Alabama is still a good team and is STILL a team that can get into the “Playoff.”  But, this is also not the same championship-caliber teams that were seemingly invincible as in those three championship seasons.  I would say that this year’s Crimson Tide is more like the 2010 team; still a good team, but one that is not as complete as 2009 or 2011.

“But wait, aren’t you contradicting yourself?”  No.  What I see is an Alabama team that went through a few years where they were CLEARLY above everyone else.  Now, I see a team that is ahead of most of the other teams, but is closer to the norm.  I see a team with flaws that is still good enough to overcome them, but are also in a landscape today where other teams are good enough to exploit them [unlike before].  I see a more level playing field.  I see an Alabama team that does NOT compare to the 2009, 2011, or even the 2012 teams, but is still a very solid team that is still capable of running the table.

But, to say that this is the beginning of the end, as Forde did, misses the trend that even he notes — this is actually the end of the end.  The beginning of the end started in 2012 when Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel went into Tuscaloosa and unleashed a new demon onto the Alabama defense.  Remember, that game was a week after Alabama dispatched LSU and everyone thought it was clear sailing for the Tide.  That offensive style has been the equalizer to what Nick Saban built at Alabama.  It is one with which he is still struggling to adjust completely.  We saw that in 2013, 2014, and to a certain extent in Weeks 2 and 3 of 2015.

The beginning of the end of the dynasty started then.  Dynasties are defined by when one team separates itself so clearly from everyone else.  Now, Alabama does not have the clear delineation.  The Tide are still a great club, with as strong a front-seven there is in college football [secondary is a little suspect] and a strong running game.  But, the difference between the Tide and everyone else is no longer clear.  Mississippi and Alabama are now just among the same elite class rather than one ruling over the other.

Saturday night was the end of the end.  It showed that Alabama still is good enough to be a top team, but they are not the clear, dominant team of years past.  They can still get into the “Playoff,” but they are more in the pool with other top contenders rather than enjoying their own hot tub.

After watching Ohio State struggle and Alabama lose, it is clear that we are in an era of competitive balance where perhaps a new team/conference will emerge.  In other words, everyone is super.  And when everyone is super, no one is.

CONFERENCE BELTS – Week 3 Primer

Another week, another title changed hands.  This time it was BYU pulling another miraculous late-game victory and taking the Mountain West Middleweight Belt from Boise State.  Originally, we overlooked BYU and did not note that as a title defense for the Broncos.  It was and it ended up being costly.  BYU will defend the title this season when they take on San Jose State in November.

As for this week, every in-play Battle Belt is up for grabs this week while the first Unified Conference Belt title defense of 2015 will take place in Tuscaloosa.  There will be a champion versus champion game in Columbus when Northern Illinois visits Ohio State.

Week 3 Battle Belt Defenses:

  • ACC: Florida State (c) at Boston College [22nd defense of current reign]
  • American: Temple (c) at Massachusetts [second defense of current reign]
  • Big Ten: Northern Illinois at Ohio State (c) [third defense of current reign]
  • MAC: Northern Illinois (c) at Ohio State [third defense of current reign]
  • SEC: Mississippi at Alabama (c) [fifth defense of current reign]
  • Sun Belt: Georgia State at Oregon (c) [first defense of current reign]

Week 3 Unified Conference Belt Defenses:

  • SEC: Mississippi at Alabama (c) [second defense of current reign]

Week 2 Results

  • ACC Battle Belt: Florida State successfully defended against South Florida
  • American Battle Belt: Temple successfully defended against Cincinnati
  • Big Ten Battle Belt: Ohio State successfully defended against Hawai’i
  • Mountain West Middleweight Belt: Boise State lost to BYU
  • SEC Battle Belt: Alabama successfully defended against Middle Tennessee State

Conference Belts – Week 2 Primer

Week 2 continues with Battle Belt match-ups including a new champion defending its title for the first time.  There is only one Middleweight Belt up for grabs this week.  The first Unified Conference Belt will be defended next week.

Week 2 Battle Belt Defenses:

  • ACC: South Florida at Florida State (c) [21st defense in current reign]
  • American: Temple (c) at Cincinnati [first defense in current reign]
  • Big Ten: Hawai’i at Ohio State (c) [second defense in current reign]
  • SEC: Middle Tennessee State at Alabama (c) [fourth defense in current reign]

Week 2 Middleweight Battle Belt Defenses:

  • Mountain West: Boise State (c) at BYU [7th defense in current reign]

Week 1 Results

  • Battle Belt of ACC: Florida State successfully defended against Texas State
  • Battle Belt of American: Penn State lost to Temple
  • Battle Belt of Big Ten: Ohio State successfully defended against Virginia Tech
  • Battle Belt of MAC: Northern Illinois successfully defended against UNLV
  • Battle Belt of SEC: Alabama successfully defended against Wisconsin
  • Southern Heritage Belt: Duke successfully defended against Tulane

CONFERENCE BELTS: Reigning Champions for 2015

With the resurrection of the Conference Belts, it is time to set a primer for the upcoming season.  Well, the season technically already started, but still.  Here is the list of the current belt holders and their upcoming matchups, if at all.  Displayed is each title holder and, in brackets, is the next scheduled opponent and date of defense.  If there are no scheduled title defenses then it will be marked so [this will only be the case for Battle Belts, Middleweight Belts, and Heritage Belts].

UNIFIED CONFERENCE BELTS

  • ACC: Florida State [versus Wake Forest on 3 October]
  • American: Cincinnati [versus UConn on 24 October]
  • Big 12: TCU [versus Texas Tech on 26 September]
  • Big Ten: Ohio State [versus Indiana on 3 October]
  • Conference USA: Marshall [versus Southern Miss on 9 October]
  • MAC: Northern Illinois [versus Central Michigan on 3 October]
  • Mountain West: Boise State [versus Colorado State on 10 October]
  • Pac 12: Oregon [versus Washington State on 10 October]
  • SECAlabama [versus Mississippi on 19 September]
  • Sun Belt: UL-Lafayette [versus Arkansas State on 20 October]

CONFERENCE BATTLE BELTS

  • ACC: Florida State [versus Texas State on 5 September]
  • American: Penn State* [versus Temple on 5 September]
  • Big 12: Arizona [no scheduled defense in 2015]
  • Big Ten: Ohio State [versus Virginia Tech on & September]
  • Conference USA: Oklahoma* [no scheduled defense in 2015]
  • MAC: Northern Illinois [versus UNLV on 5 September]
  • Mountain West: Oregon* [no scheduled defense in 2015]
  • Pac 12: Boston College* [no scheduled defense in 2015]
  • SECAlabama [versus Wisconsin on 5 September]
  • Sun Belt: Oregon* [versus Georgia State on 19 September]

* – title held by non-conference team

CONFERENCE MIDDLEWEIGHT BELTS

  • Conference USA: Boise State* [no scheduled defense in 2015]
  • MAC: Central Florida* [no scheduled defense in 2015]
  • Mountain West: Boise State [versus BYU on 12 September]
  • Sun Belt: Appalachian State [versus Old Dominion on 26 September]

* – title held by non-conference team

HERITAGE BELTS

  • Big 8: Kansas State [versus Oklahoma State on 3 October]
  • Big West: Boise State [versus Utah State on 16 October]
  • Southern: Duke [versus Georgia Tech on 26 September]
    • NOTE: Duke defeated Tulane on 3 September to retain the title
  • Southwest: Texas A&M [versus Arkansas on 26 September]
  • WAC: Boise State [versus Hawai’i on 3 October]

Quick Hitters

  • Boise State is currently carrying five belts, winning the WAC belt after defeating Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl last season.  Oregon is next with three belts
  • Boise State will have two belts on the line when it faces Hawai’i on 10 October — the Battle Belt of the Mountain West and the WAC Heritage Belt
  • Oregon defends the Battle Belt of the Sun Belt for the first time since winning it from Arkansas State in 2012.  Had Oregon not defended it this season, the Ducks would need to vacate the title.
  • this is the second straight season that neither the Conference USA Middleweight Belt nor the MAC Middleweight Belt were defended.  unless Boise State [with the C-USA Middleweight Belt] or UCF [with the MAC Middleweight Belt] defend it in a bowl game, they will end up vacating the belts after next season; neither are scheduled to play a qualified team in 2016.
  • a couple of teams have a chance to become eligible for their conference’s Unified belt — UCF [versus Cincinnati]; Iowa State [versus Oklahoma]; Kansas [versus Texas]; West Virginia [Oklahoma and Kansas State]; Buffalo [versus Northern Illinois]; Utah State [Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada, and San Diego State]; Utah [Arizona State, Oregon, and Washington]; and South Alabama [versus Arkansas State].
  • In some cases, teams need a certain opponent to meet them in their conference title game.  Boston College can should they face North Carolina in the ACC title game, as can Nebraska should they face Indiana in the Big Ten championship game.  If Arkansas wins the SEC West, they could qualify should Florida win the East.  Likewise, South Carolina can qualify by winning the SEC East and facing off against Auburn.
  • Other teams need to win scheduled games AND win their conference championship game against a particular opponent.  Memphis has an opportunity should they defeat Houston and face UCF in the American title game.  Middle Tennessee would need to defeat four teams — Louisiana Tech, North Texas, UT-San Antonio, and then draw Rice in the C-USA title game.
  • Colorado can qualify for the Pac 12 Unified Title, but it’ll take work.  The Buffaloes need to defeat Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, Southern California, Stanford, and UCLA before possible facing Washington for the Pac 12 crown.
  • The Mountain West COULD see either Hawai’i or San Jose State qualify…but not both.  Hawai’i would need to defeat Air Force, Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, and then hopefully face off against Colorado State in the Mountain West title game.  San Jose State needs to beat Air Force, Boise State, Nevada, New Mexico, and San Diego State followed by a MWC title game against Utah State.  Since Hawai’i and San Jose State are in the same division, only one could possibly qualify this season.

Resurrection of the Conference Belts

Back in 2013, we here at Uncle Popov came up with “Conference Belts,” a concept rooted in the awesome College Football Belt project that (apparently) began in the mid-1980s.  The idea behind the latter was to have some sort of title that could be actually won on the field within the parameters of the scheduled season; a title that is perpetual and rolls over with each season.  Currently, TCU is the College Football Belt holder [and three-time champion] and will defend that belt tonight against Minnesota, itself a former belt holder (1981…for one game).

The concept makes sense.  We can come up with our own point systems and ideas of promotion and relegation, but we have no way to truly implement that system and directly alter the college football landscape.  The belt concept allows for the declaration of champions within the framework already established.  And so, in 2013, we expanded upon the College Football Belt concept and applied it to conferences.

However, while the belt was placed on initial holders and current holders were noted, the system was not an easy one to order.  For one, the history was painstakingly pieced together manually and left room for possible omissions [say, overlooking a time when the champ actually lost, or counting tie as a loss].  Furthermore, there was no way to easily update the defense of the belts and the various stats involved.  And so, the concept died shortly after birth.

But alas, there is still air in those lungs!  And the conference belts are being resurrected!  After coming up with a way to pull information and games using various Excel formulas, we were able to create a seemingly more reliable method to chart the history.  And, by extension, we are now able to input current games and see how defenses go.  SO, as long as we do not get bored with it or overwhelmed with other projects, the conference belts should continue to live on here at Uncle Popov.

Now, before we revisit the criteria for the four different types of belts, a note.  The system and formulas used to get to this point are by no means perfect.  The historic scores and results are derived from College Football Reference and we are operating under the believe that their data is accurate.  We attempted to use media guides for teams, but two issues.  FIRST, it is a tedious process to do so.  And SECOND, guides differ in how they record year-by-year results.  Some have scores on either side of the opponent [e.g.,  55 Auburn 44]; some had scores separated by a dash and appearing after the opponent’s name [e.g., Auburn 55-44]; some used “at” or “@” to show the game is on the road [e.g. at Alabama 44-55], while others capitalized when it was a home game and used lower case for road games [e.g. AUBURN 55-44].  There were various ways to display the date of the game while in a couple of cases there were no dates at all!  There were even cases of score discrepancies for the same game between two different teams’ media guides!  Thus, having it all organized in on location like College Football Reference was better overall, even if there were occasionally a mistake in score.

Another issue was the MAC.  College Football Reference did not classify the MAC as a “major conference” until 1962, despite the fact that the conference began playing football in 1948.  Thus, it was necessary to dig through media guides and piece together the historical scores.  This was further complicated by the fact that Western Reserve would eventually merge with Case University to form Case Western, which while does still play football does NOT have the history of Western Reserve prior to the merger.  So, Western Reserve’s schedule needed to be “triangulated” using the media guides of other MAC schools, as well as any university that might have played Western Reserve during that time.

It is hoped that the lineage of all belts are as accurate as possible.  The full history of games used here stretch back to 1896, when the antecedents of the Big Ten Conference were created.  Below are the criteria for each of the four conference belts — Unified Conference; Conference Battle; Middleweight; and Heritage.

UNIFIED CONFERENCE BELTS

RULES:

  1. to qualify, a team must be a current member of the conference and have defeated all other teams of the conference that were members at the time they joined the conference.  first team to complete this task becomes the initial belt holder
  2. title defenses can only take place between two eligible members, with one obviously being the belt holder
  3. both regular season games AND bowl games count in title defenses, as do conference championship games and the College Football Playoff
  4. a title can change hands only due to a loss that occurs on the field
    1. games forfeited by the NCAA after the fact will still be judged based on the on-the-field result
    2. ties are judged as “split decisions” and the title holder retains possession
  5. teams that leave the conference lose access to the unified belt; if they leave with the belt, the team will relinquish the belt and the next two qualified teams will compete for the vacated title

DEEPER EXPLANATION: The Unified Belts are belts that only teams in that particular conference can win.  To qualify, a team must be a member of that particular conference and have beaten all teams that were members of the conference at the time that they joined.  So, for example, the Big Ten (formerly the Western Conference) started with Chicago, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin.  For Illinois to become eligible for the Unified Big Ten Belt, they would have to log a victory against each of the other six members.  Once new members joined, say Ohio State, Illinois would NOT be required to beat the Buckeyes in order to become eligible.  Ohio State, however, would have to defeat all members of the conference at the time of admission, which for them also included Indiana and Iowa, but NOT Michigan [more on that in a second].

But, what about if a team leaves a conference before a remaining member has defeated that team?  Well, that departing team is taken off of the list of teams needed to conquer before eligibility.  For example, when Arizona State left the WAC, New Mexico had yet to beat the Sun Devils.  But, because ASU was no longer a WAC member, the Lobos gained “forgiveness” for that team.  It was also the last team they needed to defeat, therefore making New Mexico eligible for the Unified WAC Belt at the beginning of the 1979 season.

Ah, but what about Michigan?  The Wolverines left the Western Conference only to rejoin later.  If a team leaves and rejoins a conference, they must then beat any additional teams that joined (and remained) during their absence.  This was the case with Marshall and Northern Illinois in the MAC, as well as Temple with the Big East/American.  However, in the case of the latter three, none became eligible during their initial run.  Michigan did become eligible before they departed.  For the Wolverines, they still needed to become eligible once again.

Now, what decides which team first gains the Unified Belt?  Simple — the first team to defeat all conference foes becomes the initial belt holder.  So, for the Unified Big Ten Belt, the first title holder was Chicago University.  The Maroons then needed to wait for other teams to become eligible in order to defend their title.  It took three years before Michigan became eligible and won the Unified Belt in their first match-up.  From there, the more teams that become eligible, the more opportunities for defenses.

What happens if a team leaves a conference with the belt?  It is “vacated” and then the belt is put up for grabs in the next matchup of two qualified teams.  When Louisville left the American Athletic Conference, they held the Unified American Belt.  So, it was vacated and awarded to the winner of South Florida versus Connecticut.  The Bulls defeated the Huskies and thus South Florida took control of the vacated title.  This was the most logical way to resolve this dilemma.

Finally, should a conference fold or cease to support football, the Unified Belt is converted into a “Heritage Belt” (explained below).  This was the case with the WAC after it ceased football operations beginning with the 2013 season.

CONFERENCE BATTLE BELTS

RULES:

  1. the initial belt holder is determined by the first outright champion of that particular conference
  2. title defenses occur anytime the game has both (A) the title holder; and (B) at least one member of that particular belt’s conference.
    1. if the title holder is a conference member, then they defend it at all times.
    2. if the title holder is NOT a conference member, then they defend it any time they face an actual member of the belt’s conference
  3. for actual conference members, titles are defended ONLY during the regular season.  for non-members, it is defended during both the regular season and bowl games.
  4. titles can only change possession due to a loss
    1. games forfeited by the NCAA after the fact will still be judged based on the on-the-field results
    2. ties are considered “split decisions” and the title holder retains possession
  5. games against lower tier opponents are non-title matches
  6. if a team drops football or goes down to a lower tier while holding a Battle Belt, the belt is “vacated” and will be awarded to the next outright conference champion
  7. if a non-conference belt holder is inactive in defense of the belt for three consecutive full seasons, they will vacate the belt to the next outright conference champion

DEEPER EXPLANATION: The Battle Belt is one that is defended more as a “any time; anywhere” type of title.  While it initially starts off in a conference — given to the first outright champion in the conference’s history — it can actually be held by non-members.

The team in possession of a Battle Belt must defend the belt any time there is at least one conference member playing in that game.  Since a conference member that holds the title meets that qualification, every game that they play while in possession of the Battle Belt is a title defense.  So, when Alabama gained control of the Battle Belt after the 1933 season, they initially defended against SEC foe Sewanee.  But later, they also defended it against a non-SEC team — Clemson.  They held onto it until the Tide lost to Mississippi State in 1935.

However, since non-members can win a conference Battle Belt, the belt can actually leave the conference.  In 1944, Notre Dame defeated Georgia Tech and took possession of the SEC Battle Belt, thus causing it to leave the conference.  While Notre Dame did successfully defend it a few times, they did not defend it in 195, 1955, and 1956  Thus, the Fighting Irish vacated the belt and it was claimed by the 1956 SEC winner — Tennessee.

There are stipulations about when the belt can be defended, depending on the title holder.  Conference members do not defend the title during bowl games, unless the bowl game is against another conference member.  This is to keep the title from drifting out to a team that rarely plays members from that conference.  However, non-members must defend during bowl games against conference members.  This is to help increase the chances for the belt to re-enter the conference, as was the case when UCLA won back the Pac-12 Battle Belt from Georgia in the 1978 Bluebonnet Bowl.

If a conference folds operations or ceases to support football, the Battle Belt is officially retired and no longer up for competition.

CONFERENCE MIDDLEWEIGHT BATTLE BELTS

While the Battle Belts are great, especially for the big conferences (i.e. BCS conferences), it is not so great for other conferences.  The Sun Belt Battle Belt has never been successfully defended by a Sun Belt team as initial belt holder North Texas lost in their only title defense versus Oklahoma in 2003.  Though the Sooners did vacate it (after one successful defense), Arkansas State was bestowed the battle belt only to promptly lose it to Oregon.  Oregon is entering its third season holding the belt, but has been inactive over the past two seasons [the Ducks will defend the belt against Georgia State this season].

Thus, to compensate for this, the four of the “Group of Five” conferences [other than the American] were bestowed Middleweight Belts.  These belts, which reigns begin with the first outright conference champion, are defended similarly to the Battle Belts with one exception — Power Five schools are ineligible.  So, while in 1997 CUSA Middleweight Belt holder Southern Miss lost to Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Penn State and Texas A&M, those losses did not count since those teams are not classified as “Middleweight” teams.

This helps keep at least keep a form of the Battle Belt within range of these smaller conferences.  As of now, the American Athletic Conference will not be granted a Middleweight belt as their demotion from the “Power Five” has not adversely affected the conference…yet.

HERITAGE BELT

RULES:

  1. the initial belt holder is determined by the first outright champion of that particular conference
  2. rules follow those on the unified conference belts until the conference ceases operation or no longer supports football at the FBS tier.
  3. last team possessing the conference unified belt becomes the first to carry the heritage belt
  4. any former member of the conference is eligible for the heritage belt regardless of if it was a member at the same time as the current holder
  5. there is no penalty for inactivity

DEEPER EXPLANATION: The Heritage Belt was born out of the demise of the WAC.  When we first began compiling this data, the WAC was still a football-playing conference.  With its demise, it seemed fitting that something be done to carry on the memory of the Western Athletic Conference.  So, it was determined to convert the unified belt into a heritage belt.

But then, it was also determined to do the same for a few other conferences.  This includes conferences that no longer exist [the Big 8 and the Southwest Conference], as well as ones that dropped football [the Big West and WAC].  It also includes the Southern Conference, a conference that was home to teams that eventually formed the SEC and the ACC.  While the Southern Conference continues to support football at the FCS tier, it seems appropriate to give a heritage belt to a conference with such a long and storied pedigree.  It also means that many FCS teams are eligible for the belt.  The start date for the Southern Conference Heritage Belt is 1982, which is when the conference moved down to Division I-AA.

The Heritage Belt is one that is contested between ANY former member of the conference.  This is true even if two teams were not members at the same time.  Boise State defeated Arizona to win the Heritage Belt even though the Broncos were WAC members long after the Sun Devils left the conference.  This also means that teams from the FCS could potentially win the belt.  That is especially the case with the Southern Heritage Belt, where West Virginia defended the belt against William & Mary in 2013.

A decision was made to NOT give the Big East a heritage belt as the American Athletic Conference maintains the history of the conference.

Creating Their Own Controversy: How the College Football Playoff Messed Up

The teams are not yet announced.  And yet, the College Football Playoff [sic] has already messed up.

Moving from two teams to four teams was the right move.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have not felt compelled to watch as much college football this year as i have in years past…and i LOVE college football.  The notion that a playoff of any kind would make the regular season matter less and turn people away is absurd.  In most years, Baylor would not even be up for discussion.  Maybe a few disgruntled Bears fans, but the BCS would be about Florida State and either Alabama or Oregon.  And, despite the fact that people would not like it, everyone knows those would be the three teams in discussion.

But, with four spots open, games became more intriguing.  Seriously, how fun was it to watch everything unfold since Friday night [despite the blowouts]?  As stated before, games matter.  Previously, yes games matter but when those games occurred mattered more.  Results in November — win or loss — carried a lot  more weight under the BCS system than results in September.  Why?  Because the BCS took the polls at face value, and the polls were based on the previous week’s results rather than a culmination of the season to that point.  It was severely flawed.

But the College Football Playoff figured it out.  They stated that they were going to re-rank teams every week.  It is what many wanted, even if they did not realize it.  This way, every game matter including the previous week’s results; including Thursday nighters in September.  And hopefully when the Committee emerges, they stick to that and do not allow yesterday’s results tip the iceberg too much.

Yes, Ohio State’s win was impressive; perhaps one of the most impressive of the year.  But what about the fact that they faced six defenses that ranked 90th or worse and six offenses that were 100th or worse?  And that Virginia Tech loss?  Horrible.

Or that Oregon, despite having to battle against some high-powered offenses, also face the 104th [twice], 113th, and 124th ranked defenses?

Or that Alabama is ranked 60th in pass defense despite not facing many prolific passing attacks?  And, they can’t seem to cover the long ball!

Or the entire Baylor-TCU debate, where both faced mediocre defenses and though the Bears beat TCU, in comparison the Bears loss to West Virginia was worse than the Horned Frogs’ loss at Baylor.

Hopefully all of that is taken into consideration.  But one thing that the CFP never really considered…

Power Five.

Four Slots.

The entire purpose was to move away from the controversy of leaving deserving teams out.  And yet, the system set up to replace the detested BCS simply multiplied that controversy in its inherent structure.

Forget the fact that there is no set criteria like in the other real playoffs in the NCAA, where conference champs get automatic bids.  That there are five conferences that are being considered for four spots means that even if we take the conference champs only, one conference is going to be left out.

Hell, since the Big XII decided to change its own rules, it is possible that if Ohio State gets in then TWO conference champions will be left out!  Actually, because of the co-champion, two champs are likely to be left out anyway.

Now, we can pile on here that it is possible for non-champs to get in meaning that it is conceivable that three conference champions are left out!  Think about that.

It is crazy to consider that we moved from the BCS to get away controversy only to have controversy follow us like a lost puppy.  It is crazier to think that whatever decision is made is going to be more controversial because of the fact that more teams are being affected and “left out.”  Again, in the BCS era, we are typically only talking about three teams at most.

This year?  Yes, it appears three are safely in.  But really, we could even debate the merits of Alabama, Oregon, and yes even Florida State.  Add to that Baylor, Ohio State, and TCU and we are left an exponentially greater controversy because the net of debate is cast wider.

The CFP is a step in the right direction and one that many anti-BCS’ers have been pining for — at least an And-One system.  But, by not have a set of criteria to go by and by inventing the Power 5 conferences to compete for only four spots, we are left with more controversy.

Imagine that…a world where the BCS is actually less controversial.

Schoffel of Shit: The Continuous Victim Playing by Florida State

Victim playing is the attempt to self-victimizing in order to bring pity and sympathy onto the manipulator.  Perhaps more than any other season, we are seeing an increase in victim playing in the FBS tier of college football.  And no other team self-victimizes more than the Florida State Seminoles.

After the made-for-TV announcement of this week’s College Football Playoff [sic] rankings, many across the country were surprised to see Florida State ranked fourth.  Even those who criticized the Seminoles and their lackluster play all season were taken aback by the positioning.  How can an undefeated team be behind three one-loss teams and be in danger of not making the pseudo-playoffs?

This position only increased the screaming of victimization.  Ira Schoffel, a longstanding writer on the Seminoles beat and now with the website Warchant.com, quickly penned an article taking the entire victim playing scheme to a whole new level.  It has now moved into full-blown politicization and lobbying territory.  Some quick highlights from the article.

  • The ratings are corrupt and absurd.  It is a “Runaway Committee.”
  • Struggling to win games is not a measure of a team.  A win is a win and tFSU is undefeated…so…
  • Other sports do not take into account performance.
  • Because there is a “Power 5” alliance, it should matter.
  • The BCS would have had the Seminoles second, but that’s bullshit, too.
  • Because of parity, it is fair to look at more than just win/loss record, even though looking at a team’s struggles is not relevant.
  • Recent history has never had an undefeated team “from a power conference” lower than number one when “every other team has a loss.”  All key terms.
  • Oh, and he is not into conspiracy theories.

Did I miss anything?  So, essentially, everyone is out to get the Seminoles because there is a Runaway Committee that should not just look at wins and losses but should ignore how a team “controls” games because other sports don’t do it and that “Power 5” [and thus conference perception] should matter and that just because recent history has not done it then it should not start now.  Oh, and it is not a conspiracy theory.

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.  Or, it is all becoming figure skating.

Let me first hit the Jimbo Fisher comment about figure skating.  College sports, especially college football, has long been akin to figure skating…only more radical.  And by radical, i do not mean awesome.  It has all been a show; who looks better.  Yes, records matter, but to some extent — at some point — they don’t.  Since Schoffel likes obscure examples, allow me to use one to explain context.

China and football???  Together!?!?

China and football??? Together!?!?

China has a gross domestic product of just over $13 trillion.  Compare that to Liechtenstein, which has a GDP of $3.2 billion.  Now, you’re probably thinking three things.  First, where the hell is Liechtenstein!?  Second, holy crap China’s economy is huge!!!  Third, what does this have to do with Florida State?  Well, Liechtenstein is a tiny country in Europe, yes China’s economy is huge, and it is all about context.  China’s “wins” are huge, but when you break it down you’ll see that the per capita income for Chinese is $9,800; 121st in the world.  Our Liechtensteiner friends take home on average $89,400!!!  Number two in the world!  Context matters.

Maybe China v. Liechtenstein loses some of you; like tFSU v. Mount Union.  Perhaps Germany v. United States would be a better comparison.  Two economies of large size both in similar regions…or “conferences.”  Or hell, we can keep China with all of their “wins” and compare it to a U.S. that despite a few recent losses is still strong.  Even though China is poised to overtake the U.S. according to one measure [purchasing power parity], plenty of other measures still hold the U.S. as stronger.  In fact, there are a few countries — Germany and Japan in addition to China — that are referenced as being stronger than China based on per capita income.  Hmm, three countries ahead of China.  Interesting.

Anyway, back to football.  The “figure skating” comparison has always existed because we have needed to differentiate between teams since not every team plays each other.  It is why Marshall was not even close to being considered for the Top Four.  Performance matters.  Perhaps the better analogy is diving, where performance AND degree of difficulty matter.  But nevertheless, performance has always matter.  Why should it be any different now?

Not All Records Are Created Equal

Now, moving on…Schoffel’s article.  The argument, of course, is that Florida State is the only undefeated team is THAT ALONE should be reason enough to place them at number one, or at worst number two.  This is an easy argument to make since the Seminoles are the only undefeated team in the country.  However, before last week’s “basketball game,” the Marshall Thundering Herd were also undefeated.  Yet, Marshall was ranked 24th going into that shootout with Western Kentucky.  Why?  Context.  In this case, it was the quality of opponents that kept Marshall out.  All of the talk from tFSU about being “the only team to finish every game” was false; they would later add on the “from the Power conferences” to better qualify it.  But still, it was a measure of context.  Marshall was not only behind one-loss teams, but also behind two- and three-loss teams.

Here is what Seminole fans don’t want to discuss.  Marshall was 24th!  Now, if you want to argue that the ACC and C-USA are completely different conferences, that is fine.  But you are bringing in perception — you are bringing in “figure skating.”  Sorry, “diving.”  Marshall finished their games; they beat the teams they were supposed to, just like Florida State.  Yet, the Seminoles were third. If winning matters, then the Thundering Herd could be second behind number one Florida State.  But it is not all that matters…hence 24th versus [at the time] third.

Now, what about that perception.  The perception is that Marshall plays a weaker schedule so of course they won.  But, they were not just winning; they were DOMINATING.  With the exception of the UAB game [RIP], Marshall won every game by an average of 31.2 points.  Think about that…yes, they faced weak competition but they were winning as a team would against weak competition!  Now, if we are going to ignore Florida State’s struggles because we shouldn’t worry about how teams control games, should the same not apply to Marshall?  Or, if we are to look at tFSU and say they struggled but against good competition you will struggle but still win; then why not say that Marshall beat the weak teams because that what happens?

Now, of course Marshall lost and the comparison is moot.  And I am by no means saying Marshall and Florida State are the same.  But, given that Marshall was relegated to an afterthought based on perception, why can the same not apply to Florida State?  Why was Marshall undefeated and behind one-, two-, and three-loss teams and very little was said about it, but moving tFSU behind a one-loss team is a conspiracy?

The Power Five Argument

Perception!  And that perception extends to the concept of the “Power 5 Conferences.”  This entire notion of a Power 5 is a self-fulfilling assignment where by saying that these are the “Power 5” we simply assume that these are far and away the best teams.  They are the Power 5 so we assume they are the Power 5 and thus top high school recruits will go to those schools to assist in maintaining the Power 5 mirage.  And fans are led to believe this and thus non-P5 schools play an inferior brand of football.

The Power 5 argument was employed by Schoffel as a way to separate the top programs.  However, he believes that this “Runaway Committee” is ignoring the Power 5, which were created “for a reason.”  No, they are not ignoring it.  The problem is that there are five conferences with vastly differently levels of competition.  This is not an ACC sucks; SEC is better argument.  But, to assume that all Power 5 conferences are the same is erroneous.

The Power 5 argument only works when separating out now one-loss Marshall from one-loss Alabama or Oregon.  But you have to go back to context and when comparing teams how you finish games is just as important as the fact that you “finished” the game [by the way, every team “finishes”…some finish better than others].  Now, I do believe that too much is made of Florida State’s struggles.  But, that is still relevant when comparing them to the other teams competing for the Top Four.  Just like how Marshall was perceived as being behind 23 other teams, it is fair to judge the Seminoles based on their performance.  This is not a question of quality of opponent; it is the struggle.  If we were examining last year’s Florida State team, there would be absolutely no question that they would be number one.  That team dominated every team it faced in the regular season and its position was clear.  This team?  Not so much.

The Committee is not ignoring it.  If anything, it is saving the Seminoles because if Florida State was not in the “Power 5” they might not even be ranked despite an unblemished mark.

The CFP and Other Sports

Finally, let’s look at Schoffel’s crazy analogies to other sports.  I’ll let Schoffel speak for himself.  In assuming it is “crazy” to punish a team based on performance and thus placing an undefeated “Power 5” team behind three one-loss teams, he notes the following:

In tennis, Rafael Nadal doesn’t forfeit his spot in the finals of a tournament if he needs five sets to win every early round match. In boxing, Floyd Mayweather doesn’t lose his title if he’s behind on the scorecard but delivers a 12th-round knockout.

In college basketball, teams are selected for the NCAA Tournament based on who they’ve played, where they’ve played them and whether they’ve won or lost … not whether they controlled the games.

In the NFL, playoff seedings are decided entirely by win-loss records. Same with MLB, the NBA and NHL.

Okay, first we need to kick out professional team sports.  These sports do use win-loss records, but do so that also benefits division winners.  It is what a shitty NFC South team is going to make the playoff.  It is also why in the NBA, for example, the Boston Celtics hosted the Atlanta Hawks in 2012 despite the Hawks having a better record.  It is also why, this past NBA season, a sub-.500 Hawks team got into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference while the 48-34 Phoenix Suns stayed at home.  Professional sports operate differently and records matter to a certain extent.

Yeah...this entire article is probably a stretch.

Yeah…this entire article is probably a stretch.

Now…tennis?  The comparison is not the same.  Nadal is in a tournament with guidelines that specify that the winner advances.  There exist a structured understanding that the winner advances.  Now, a better comparison would have been performance in a tournament affecting rankings.  Well, in fact, that does as well.  Novak Djokovic is number one followed by Roger Federer.  Djokovic has more tournament wins and a better match record than Federer so that makes sense.  However, the difference between 3, 4, and 5 is interesting.

Raphael Nadal is third with four tourney wins and a match win percentage of 81.3 percent.  Fourth is Stan Wawrinka with three tourneys and a win percentage of 69.6 percent.  So that ordering makes sense.  But then comes Kei Nishikori at five.  He has the same number of tourney wins as Nadal [in three more tournaments] and a better match win percentage than Wawrinka.  Yet, he is fifth.  Why?  Tournament performance [and in which tournaments].  Despite the same number of wins as Nadal and a better win percentage than Wawrinka, the Japanese tennis star is ranked behind both…by quite a lot.  So, even using the tennis example does not fit.

What about boxing?  Again, doesn’t fit.  A knockout signals victory.  At that point, losing every round does not matter.  The performance will matter if there is no knockout victory.  But, until that time, performance does matter.  That twelfth round is not until 12 January.  Besides, rankings in boxing are ALL about perception and how fighters perform in the ring.  That, and getting the matchup that promoters want.  Maybe that is what Schoffel meant by bringing up boxing.

And then there is college basketball.  Of all sports, this was the wrong one for Schoffel to bring up because it fits so well.  To assume that the NCAA tournament selection committee does not take into account performance undermines Schoffel’s credibility.  The thing is, I am sure that he is better than that.  He’s been writing about Seminole athletics — not just football — for quite some time.  He is correct that for college basketball it matters who they play, where they play, and the outcome.  But “control” of the game — performance — matters.  Beating Chaminade by three is not the same as beating them by twenty-three.

And, look at how seeding is done.  Last year, the four number one seeds went to teams ranked first, second, fourth and fifth [according to the Coaches’ Poll; AP poll was top four teams].  One of those teams — Arizona — did not even win its conference tournament.  That third ranked team was Louisville, a team ranked fifth in the AP poll.  Any idea what their seed was?  Second?  Nope.  Try fourth!  Iowa State, which won the Big XII tournament and finished ranked ahead of Kansas, was seeded below the Jayhawks!!  The Cyclones even had two more wins [and two fewer losses] than Kansas.  This happens every year.  I mean, let us not forget in 2006 when 11th ranked George Washington with one loss [coming in their conference tournament] was seeded eighth!  EIGHTH!!!

College basketball seeds based on perception, rankings be damned!  Yes, record matters.  But so does a host of other factors.  It is why Michigan was seeded ahead of Duke despite a worse record [percentage wise] or Baylor ahead of Oregon despite having more losses.

The New Reality of College Football…And How to Fix It

Schoffel quotes Mark Schlabach who notes that “we celebrated Notre Dame’s close wins in 2012.”  Well, that is part of the problem.  We assumed that simply because Notre Dame was undefeated that we should ignore how they were undefeated.  This is not to say that 2014 Florida State is 2012 Notre Dame; I think the Seminoles are a good team and much better than that 2012 Irish team.  But Schlaback, and by extension Schoffel, believes that we should continue with the old ways and apply those today rather than facing the reality that birthed with this new system.

The greatest problem is not that Schoffel is critiquing the new system.  There are still flaws that need to be addressed, namely criteria.  But, Florida State being ranked behind one-loss teams is actually not one of those flaws.  It is actually a move in the right direction.  In the FCS, still the real playoffs for Division I, teams are seeded based on a number of factors, including win-loss record but also perceptional variables.  It is why North Dakota State is seeded higher than Jacksonville State despite both having one loss and the Gamecocks’ lone loss coming against an FBS team [Michigan State].

Being able to parse out team performances is something that is a welcomed change to a system that long had question marks about how decisions were made.  We have covered here ad nauseum the illogical nature of polls.  This committee is the new reality of college football.  For years we as college football fans bitched about how the pollsters do not take things into context while the computers never made sense.  Now, the committee is putting things into context, much like college basketball.

Consider the discussion surrounding Ohio State.  The unfortunate injury to J.T. Barrett has an effect on the decision makers on the Committee.  I like that.  I think in the end that the loss to Virginia Tech should keep the Buckeyes out, but I like that when discussing their merits there is some reservation in putting them in the Top Four.  That makes sense and is something very few [if any] of the pollsters realistic pondered.  Furthermore, consider the Baylor-TCU debate.  That game is being placed in context.  A collapse by the Horned Frogs on the road was a big win for Baylor.  However, Baylor lost to a lesser team.  While head-to-head should not be ignored, I like that we are examining it in greater context and other factors.  Hell, UConn beat Central Florida.  Do people really think that the Huskies are better than UCF?

Plus, also consider that the committee releases its seeding every week.  This is something that the basketball selection committee does not do.  If anything, THAT should be questioned more than the CFP selection committee.  With basketball, there is actually no clue until they magically appear from behind the current and say, “well, there ya go!”  Relatively speaking, this process is more transparent.

If anything, the one thing that needs to be fixed is the clarity on the criteria for making the playoffs.  In all other real playoffs, winning a division or conference gets you automatically into the playoffs, with some at-large/wild card bids sprinkled about.  The criteria for guaranteeing a spot is understood; the system and structure is set.  The CFP lacks that and is an area for correction.

The majority of Florida State fans are upset because of this new reality, one that does not care about preseason polls and what happened last year; one that looks at the games in context rather than just superficially.  As tFSU fans worry, they need to remember that for a few weeks, Alabama was on the outside looking in.  But, Alabama had not done enough in the minds of the committee; Alabama still had key games ahead.  And Alabama knew that if they took care of business, they would be in.  Being fourth for the Seminoles is a reflection of RIGHT NOW and should they beat Georgia Tech, then they would have taken care of business.

It’s time to stop playing the victim game.  This is the new reality and it is time everyone wakes up to it.

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.