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].


  • 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]


  • 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 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


  • 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.

The NBA’s Sweet Sixteen: Restructuring the NBA Playoffs

The NBA Playoffs tip-off today with four games, including top overall team Golden State taking on the New Orleans Pelicans.  All the matchups seem pretty solid.

Well……except in the East.  On Sunday, the Brooklyn Nets and the Boston Celtics face off against the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers respectively.  No one expects these to be much of a contest…not even Nets coach Lionel Hollins.  If these go six then most will be shocked and dismiss the Hawks as flukes and the Cavs as choking.  Go ahead and write the East’s one and two seeds into the next round…do it in marker!

Of course, matchups like that lead to some wondering why the hell a team like the Nets, who finished the season 38-44 [0.463], is even in the playoffs.  These question especially arise when you look out West and see a 45-37 Oklahoma City team sitting at home.  Can’t something be done about that?

Most point out that the structure of the NBA, with two conferences further divided into three divisions each, creates this situation.  And, really, there is no better way to divide the teams.  I mean, are we really going to move to a baseball or football format where there are two conferences that span the country?  Imagine the Clippers and Lakers both being in Los Angeles but being in opposite conferences!

Well, short of doing that, there is something that can be done now — simply take the sixteen best teams regardless of division.  That’s what we want, yeah?  But, what would something like that look like?  Is it even feasible?


Well, before answering those two questions, there exist a better question — is it even necessary?  Think about this: every year when the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Selection is announced one of the first topics of discussions is who got snubbed?  Which “deserving” team was left out and which team should NOT be in the tourney.  But, in all honesty, do those complaining about Team 69 really believe that they will go all the way?  Maybe they make it past opening weekend, but it is likely that a snubbed team was snubbed for a reason.  So, the discussion about snubbed teams and undeserving teams is more about just…talking.  It brings hype and interest to the tournament because pretty soon no one remembers the snubs.

Seriously!  Can you recall which teams were snubbed last year?  Hell, can you remember which teams were snubbed this season?  Exactly.

What does this have to do with the NBA?  Simple.  Are a couple of bad teams from one conference getting into the NBA Playoffs really coming at the expense of a team that was a championship contender?  Essentially, aren’t we just trading one mediocre team for another?

Still, the “is it even necessary” needs to be asked and to answer it we need to see how often it actually occurs.  Looking at the past decade, there have been only nine teams that could have been replaced by teams with better records from the other conference.  In two seasons — the 2006-07 season and the 2011-12 season — there were no teams that were “snubbed.”  In 2007-08, there were two teams that were snubbed; all other seasons had only one team snubbed.

So, we established that it happens nearly every season, though it is typically only one team.  Also, it should be noted that in every case over the last ten seasons that it was an Eastern Conference team that got in at the expense of a Western Conference team.  However, it is not simply replacing the worst playoff team with another team that would equally be “8th”…or “16th” as it would be.  In most cases, the snubbed team would be “seeded” higher than the undeserving team.

For example, as the playoff team with the worst record, the Nets could be considered 16th.  However, if Oklahoma City were to replace them, the Thunder would actually be 14th.  Last season, replacing the Atlanta Hawks with the Phoenix Suns would have seen the later go in as the 13th team.

Here would be the year by year exchange:

  • 2014-15: Oklahoma City (14) instead of Brooklyn
  • 2013-14: Phoenix (13) instead of Atlanta
  • 2012-13: Utah (15) instead of Milwaukee
  • 2011-12: none
  • 2010-11: Houston (14) instead of Indiana
  • 2009-10: Houston (16) instead of Chicago
  • 2008-09: Phoenix (13) instead of Detroit
  • 2007-08: Portland (16) instead of Atlanta; AND Golden State (12) instead of Philadelphia
  • 2006-07: none
  • 2005-06: Utah (16) instead of Milwaukee

So, given that there is usually one snub each year, it does seem like going to the best 16 makes sense.  One other consideration is the disparity between the eighth seed in one conference versus the other.  For example, Golden State, the NBA’s best team by record, will face a Pelicans team that has the 13th-best record.  On the other hand, Atlanta, as the Eastern Conference’s top team, faces the Nets, which sport the 17th-best record in the NBA.  Taking the 16 best teams regardless of conferences could potentially avoid this disparity.

(Re)Creating the NBA Playoffs

So…what would this look like?  Well, before i delve into that, keep in mind the following: what lies below assumes that while the Conference structure remains intact, the divisions are abolished.  It is possible to take into account the divisions and award them the top six seeds regardless of record.  However, i wanted to simplify this and only look at the conferences.  Conference champs should be rewarded; division champs should not [remember Denver would have been a seven or eight seed in 2005-06 had it not won the Northwest Division].

Anyway, I think that there are actually a couple of options.  First, let’s do the simplest yet least geographic method before examining how we could overcome crazy “red-eye” series; rank them 1 to 16 and match ’em up!

What would the 2015 NBA Playoffs look like if we ranked the 16 best teams and just slotted them accordingly?  Well…here is the list:

  1. Golden State [0.817]
  2. Atlanta [0.732]
  3. Houston [0.683]
  4. Los Angeles Clippers [0.683]
  5. Memphis [0.671]
  6. San Antonio [0.671]
  7. Cleveland [0.646]
  8. Portland [0.622]
  9. Chicago [0.610]
  10. Dallas [0.610]
  11. Toronto [0.598]
  12. Washington [0.561]
  13. New Orleans [0.549]
  14. Oklahoma City [0.549]
  15. Milwaukee [0.500]
  16. Boston [0.488]

A couple of notes before we look at the matchups.  First, the tiebreakers for the conferences were used to separate teams such as Memphis/San Antonio and New Orleans/Oklahoma City.  In the case of Chicago and Dallas, i gave the edge to the Bulls due to point differential in head-to-head games [they tied the season series at 1-1; Bulls won their game by four points while the Mavs won by three].  Also, notice that Cleveland, a favorite for many to come out of the East, is seventh!!

Now, here is what the brackets would actually look like:

2015 NBA Sweet Sixteen?

2015 NBA Sweet Sixteen?

It would be interesting to see this play out.  Imagine instead of an Eastern Conference finals between the Hawks and Cavs that it actually comes in the quarterfinals!  But what about Golden State?  Yes, they now play the worst playoff team [by record] but that travel…over 2600 miles one way.  Imagine that it went seven games.  And then, imagine that the Bulls upset Portland…1800-plus miles.  And then we have a 12-5 upset and the Wizards somehow make it to the Semifinals…2400 miles or so.  AND THEN…the Hawks are waiting in the Finals.  Well, hope you are using frequent flyer miles because that’s another 2100 miles!

Well, keep in mind that Golden State already has the potential of traveling over 1600 miles to each of its three (potential) Western Conference opponents; New Orleans will be the furthest at over 1900 miles.

But, what would other years look like?  Let’s take a look:

2014 NBA bracket

2013 NBA Bracket

2013 NBA Bracket

2012 NBA Bracket

2012 NBA Bracket

2011 NBA Bracket

2011 NBA Bracket

Before moving on, a quick note, while the 16 best teams are in the playoffs, the top two seeds went to the Conference champions.  There needed to be a reward for winning the conferences.  I debated giving the top two teams from each conference the top four slots, but opted against it.  In the brackets above, the only season where a Conference champion leapfrogged teams with better records was 2014 where the Indiana Pacers actually had the fourth-best record in the NBA.  If i would have carried this out for the entire study period, it would also happen in 2007, 2008, and 2010.

Overall, the challenge is not prominent every year and more subject to certain scenarios playing out.  For example, in the top-half of the 2013 bracket, there is no avoiding an East-West semifinals, one where it could be Brooklyn versus a team in Los Angeles [side note: what a fun first round matchup in LA!].  Nevertheless, it seems like the Golden State issue is more of an anomaly than anything else.  Furthermore, with modern transportation and the way the NBA spaces out games in the early rounds, there should be enough “travel” days to allow players to rest and adjust.

But, there is also that issue of the 2-2-1-1-1 format, where the higher seed has the first two home games then the lower seed with the next two home games, followed by alternating home court over the last three games [if necessary].  Even a six-game series is going to be quite a bit of travel.  An argument could be made that with this sort of tournament that the 2-3-2 format might be best.  But, the criticism is that IF the series was tied at two games of a 2-3-2 format then the lower seed has the home advantage in game five.  In fact, in 2013 NBA owners voted unanimously to change the NBA Finals format away from 2-3-2 and to the 2-2-1-1-1 format that was used in all other rounds.  So, they may not be interested in going that route.

Solutions?  There are three.  First, they could go to a 3-2-2 format where the higher seed plays the first THREE games at home.  Yes, the lower seed still gets that pivotal game five at home, but if you cannot defend your home court through the first three games then you deserve to be 2-2 in the series.  The question, of course, is about the fairness of possibly giving the lower seed only one home game in a series [even if they sweep].  Well, it could be used only for the first round before going to the 2-2-1-1-1.  OR, you could just deal with it!  Remember, before there was the five-game series in which the format was 2-2-1 and meant it was possible for the lower seed to only have one game.

Speaking of that, we could return to a five-game series.  But…….while it is a solution it is doubtful that owners would go for it.

So, other than altering the format, what else could be done to ease travel concerns?  Well, there could be a “selection” of teams.  In this case, it is not about “merit” so to speak.  I mean, Duke getting a number one seed is about merit and accomplishments rather than geography.  Imagine the Spurs getting a higher seed simply because of their recent history!  And then, imagine the outrage.

The “selection” would be based on geographic matchups.  But, this does not mean that Golden State should start off with the Clippers or Portland.  The best idea would be to “pod” teams so that there are similarities among a group of teams and then matchups could be determined from there.

For example, with 16 teams there can easily be four groupings of four teams.  If done based solely on winning percentage, the 2015 groupings could look like this:

2015 tiers

The Conference champs are automatically placed into Tier One [in the study period, no conference champ fell into Tier Two anyway].  Tier One teams face Tier Four teams based on geography while Tier Two teams are matched between Tier Three teams.  Tier One and Tier Two teams are seeded one through eight based on winning percentage, though the Conference champs still get seeds one and two.  The Tier Three and Four teams would be seeded based on their matchup.

From there, the NBA in conjunction with the playoff owners, can determine the matchups.  It could be a situation where the top two seeds take the two lowest teams based on proximity.  So, Golden State might start with Milwaukee instead of Boston since the former is closer to Oakland than the latter.  Or, it could be the lowest team in Tier Four from the Western Conference — Oklahoma City.  However, there are scenarios where there may NOT be a team from the same conference in the opposing tier [for Tier Four, that was never the case in the study period].  There is a possibility around that — ensure that at least one team from each conference is in Tier Four.

Regardless of how it is done, it would go in order of record.  So Golden State would be matched up first, followed by Atlanta and then Houston; the Clippers would get the leftover team in Tier Four.  Then, Tiers two and three would be matched up.  It could be done similarly to Tiers One and Four, or it could just do it by record and not worry about distance.  But, this “selection” may want to take into account quarterfinal matchups.  So, some manipulation of the middle matchups could happen.

Here is an example of what a bracket under these conditions might look like.

The 2015 bracket using Tiers

The 2015 bracket using Tiers

In this case, the Warriors were matched up with the Thunder while the Hawks get Boston.  Houston draws Milwaukee and the Clippers still wind up facing the Pelicans — I guess Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis are destined to meet!  The Tier Two-Tier Three games saw Memphis still facing Washington.  But, San Antonio now faces Dallas in what some may argue is tougher matchup than should be.  Cleveland gets the Bulls while Portland is on the short end by having the long distance series with Toronto.

Here is a comparison between seeding based on records and seeding based on tiers:

comparison of 2015


In the end, the NBA Playoffs are an exciting time regardless of the debate over the deserving-ness of a team over another.  No one is going to complain about any of this come June and the NBA Finals [though, people may complain about the participants themselves].

Still, for those that want a change to the selection of teams for the playoffs, there is hope.  While the NBA and its owners might not ever move to a system like the one outlined above, what this article shows is that it is possible to create a format that takes the 16 best teams into the postseason.  It would take some major changes, including canning the divisions, but it is possible.

And that’s all we want…possibilities!

A Bit of the Bubbly: False Outrage over Lewis Hamilton’s Champagne Shower

I wanted to call this article “A Golden Shower.”  BUT, i think some might take it the wrong way.

On the other hand, that is exactly the angle that i am going for.  Maybe all the uproar about Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton spraying champagne on a “grid girl” is just pissing about nothing.

For those that do not know, Lewis Hamilton is a bad ass.  He is a two-time champion, including the defending F1 champ, and has made it to the podium in all three stages of the 2015 season.  The British racer is good and he knows it.  But, not that U.S.ians know anything about him…or F1.

Nevertheless, he has become newsworthy not because of his awesome, but because of this:


Well, that looks like fun.  A nice-looking Chinese woman receiving a champagne shower from a mischievously grinning Hamilton.  Good times all around.

Oh wait…

Apparently, some group named Object has objected [ha!] to Hamilton’s showering of the hostess.  According to the Daily Mail, the head of Object Roz Hardie stated the following (emphasis added):

The photographs appear to show that the woman is not just being splashed, but that the champagne is being very specifically directed into her face, which does not look like a voluntary piece of horseplay on her part. . . . It is surely a very difficult position to be a grid girl and she would have had little option but to stand there and take it. That is something of which he should be aware. But instead, he appears to have abused her position.  . . .  It’s unfortunate that a great victory has been marred by what appears to be selfish and inconsiderate behaviour.

Well, then.

Let’s start with the obvious.  Object is an organization that apparently attempts to call out attempts to objectify women.  So, it is not surprising that this previously (largely) unknown group would OBJECT to Hamilton’s actions.  That is not what interests me here.

To me, the outrage seems somewhat false.  Or, at the very least, the outrage is superficial.  And, i think that it is superficial on two levels.

First off, i am always a bit uncomfortable when i read and hear about a group complaining about the objectification of one sex over another.  It does not mean that women are not constantly objectified as sexual OBJECTS, but there is a tendency to ignore similar objectification of men.  Further, there is ignorance of the “be a man” shaming that is targeted at men when they do something that is not, well, “manly.”  Yeah, i know, it is not “sexual” objectification, though there are elements of it.  But the objectifying and role-assigning of men is just as big a problem as the objectifying of women.  These should be equal issues.

Anyway, why nothing about the men being sprayed with champagne?  Why nothing about men taking a full load into the face, like this shot of Hamilton unloading on Sebastian Vettel’s face at the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix:

oh yeah, give it to me!

oh yeah, give it to me!

Or hell, even from this year’s Chinese Grand Prix, the same race with the “controversial” post-race celebration, were Vettel and Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg take it to the face:

men take it

oh yeah…double shot!

Hmm.  Now, compare that to the shot of bubbly into the hostess’s “face”:

side of head

Now, granted, this pic she is seen turning her head.  And, the last in the series of pics on The Daily Mail‘s website shows it more in the face.  But, it appears mostly in the side of the head.  If anything, it was a dick move by Hamilton to unload in her ear.  THAT is likely why she did not “enjoy” it.

But, i think there is something more significant here.  And, i think the above pictures reflect that.  You see, apparently Hamilton did this before in the 2014 Spanish Grand Prix.

big ups to Lewis Hamilton's website, which hosts this picture

big ups to Lewis Hamilton’s website, which hosts this picture

But, one has to wonder how often this happens.  Or, in other words, if anyone truly notices the grid girls.  I mean, this women stand there and are shown off as “objects” who are to fawn over these conquering men…these champions.  They were background OBJECTS.  They were just there.

And then, Hamilton involves them into the celebration.  He is the one that brings them into the fold.  Ignore as props, he now celebrates with them as he does his fellow competitors.  If anything, why not credit him with actually acknowledging the grid girls’ existence?

Well, that is a bit silly…just like this controversy.  Because, groups like Object, if they really cared, would have called out Formula 1 long ago.  You see, having these women stand up there like props is objectification.  And, if anything, that should have sparked their anger loooooooooooooooong before a bit of the bubbly in the ear.  Instead, by becoming angry about a normal celebration that long included only men seems to be a bit of misguided anger.  It appears as though they never cared about these women — though, surprisingly they should have all along — until these photos hit the press.

I am not buying into this controversy.  If groups like this wanted to be upset, then that outrage should be towards the use of grid girls to begin with and not with a girl getting a champagne shower to the side of the head.  Not that i think the grid girls should be removed — i honestly do not care if they are there or not — but it would appear that would be more worth their effort than getting angry about the champagne.

If anything, Hamilton was an ass for unloading into her ear.  C’mon!  Who the hell does that!?

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, 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.

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!

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.


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


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


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


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


  • 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


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


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