The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate… Historical Rematch Embraces Role Reversal

September 10, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Loyal Homer.

While ESPN will likely be spending its time this Saturday morning touting Florida State’s Visit to Norman, Oklahoma as a title fight rematch from 2000, the reality of this game – this upcoming weekend’s best, by the way – is in the seemingly divergent paths these programs are on… in stark contrast to their predecessors a decade ago.

The Oklahoma Sooners have some questions surrounding their presumed dominance of the college football landscape. The Sooners have had many 10+ win seasons in the past decade, but the program has had blemishes, too, and is also coming off of an 8-5 season it would just as soon forget. After struggling with Utah State unexpectedly in the first game of this season, it is fair to the Sooners have a great deal to prove to fans and pundits alike.

Ten years ago, it was the Seminoles that were the dominant program teetering on the edge of regression. While the Sooners have filled those shoes thus far in 2010, the Seminoles have quietly stepped into the underdog role Oklahoma relished in 2000.

Sure, the Florida State Seminoles were picked to win their ACC division and even the conference title in some circles. But expectations are still, amazingly, low for this team in its first season without Bobby Bowden and Mickey Andrews at defensive coordinator. Christian Ponder is widely regarded as one of the better quarterbacks currently in the game (much like former Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel was in 2000). The team seems to have found some athletes and speed threats like it had in past seasons when the team was dominant. It has only been one week, but this Florida State team just SEEMS different. The players are walking with more confidence and swagger. They seem to believe they can win anywhere at any time. It is exactly the kind of contagious mentality the Sooners used in 2000 to knock the kings of college football of their mountain in the BCS national championships game.

So here we are with the underdog Seminoles hoping to knock off the established power program and reassert itself as a major player in college football. Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher has rightly stated that this Saturday’s game is an indicator of where his team’s building process is. He is right. But if the team wins, Florida State automatically gets launched into the conversation as a great team again. They will skyrocket up the polls, and Bobby Bowden’s new book will take a nose-dive in sales on Losing, in this case, is almost easier than winning. A win brings back all of the old, unreasonable expectations. Fisher must be mentally prepared to handle that.

A not completely irrelevant subplot to a game that is full of intrigue before the teams even hit the field is the awkward reuniting of the Stoops’s brothers, Bob – Oklahoma head coach – and his brother Mark, his former defensive coordinator – now in the same position at Florida State. The two playfully discuss in the media what it was like to grow up as competitive people and the all of the interesting and disposable throwaway stories that are written before big game. Friendly and awkward rivalry or not – both men want to win. There is no competition like that which exists within the confines of a family. This is no rivalry game, but both men will prepare for it thoroughly… probably a bit more in depth than Utah State and Samford.

Oklahoma should win this game. The Sooners are ranked higher, have higher expectations, and a host of outstanding, blue chip professional prospects. The Seminoles are fighters again, clawing their way back to national respect. In many ways, this game will decide the status of each program. Are the Seminoles really on the rise? Are the Sooners really in decline? This game is more than just a non-conference matchup, it is a serious benchmark for the health and prominence of these two programs. I can’t wait to find out what happens.

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate – What Did ‘U’ See?

September 25, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s and Loyal Homer’s arguments about the which game this weekend is the one that you CAN’T miss.

Here’s what I saw

It was 6pm on April 29th, 2010, and I was sitting at my office when my phone rang. It was Loyal Homer, who was very upset because the television show That’s So Raven (which, according to Loyal Homer is the BEST show on television) had been preempted for some “stupid Jonas Brothers thing”. Since Sports Geek was waiting in line somewhere for tickets to the upcoming Adam Lambert concert, I got the call.

After a minute of talking Loyal Homer down from the ledge, the conversation shifted to the topic of how impressed Loyal Homer was that I just KNEW that the Miami Hurricanes vs Virginia Tech matchup back on September 27th, 2009, was going to be the best game of that weekend.

And that was it. The next thing I knew, the FlashForward was over and I was back at my office writing this article.

It got me thinking, though… Why on earth would I select the Miami vs. Virginia Tech game? The ACC hasn’t been very competitive on a national scope in recent years, and Miami hasn’t been relevant since the 2001 and 2002 seasons (unless you count post-game brawls as being relevant). So what if Miami won their first two games of the season, both against top-25 opponents. Who cares that Miami is back in the top-ten? As for Virginia Tech, what good comes from being the reigning ACC Champions if you follow that up with a week one loss against Alabama, and BARELY squeak by Nebraska in week three of the following season?

UNLESS it was a sign that the ACC is once again becoming a power conference in college football!

Think about it. The ACC currently has four teams sitting in the top-25 rankings, including Miami, who just last week moved to ninth in the nation (and don’t forget Georgia Tech, who WAS ranked in the top-25 until their loss to Miami last weekend).

As for Miami and Virginia Tech, they are turning out to be the class of the ACC this season, and the matchup on Saturday afternoon will likely be the difference maker in who ultimately represents the ACC in the BCS in January. When you consider what Miami and VA Tech have collectively accomplished already, it leaves little doubt that this is not the same caliber of ACC programs that we have all gotten used to seeing over the past few years.

Miami and VA Tech have played a total of five different opponents this season, and of those five opponents, FOUR were ranked in the top-25 nationally. How did they do against those programs? Miami sits at 2-0, and VA Tech at 2-1! That means that Virginia Tech and Miami ALONE have already defeated more top-25 teams (3-1 against the top-25) than the entire Big XII (only ONE win against the current top-25 teams) and the SEC (only TWO wins against the top-25).

Unlike the schools of the SEC and Big XII, the ACC actually challenged themselves this year with very aggressive scheduling. Miami’s first four opponents are each top-25 teams, as are three of VA Tech’s first four opponents. So far, both schools have risen to that challenge, and both have proven that they deserve to be back in the discussion of which are the best schools in the nation.

The best football in the country is being played in the ACC right now, and with the best two schools in that conference facing off against each other on Saturday, THAT is the game that you do not want to miss this weekend!

That was what I saw… What did YOU see?!

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate – Conference Powerhouses Do Battle in Atlanta

September 4, 2009

Read Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan’s argument for what the best game of the weekend is.

After nearly eight months of pain and suffering, college football is back!!! Finally!!! Kickoff weekend is here and I could not be more excited. I was excited for the two games last night (South Carolina-North Carolina State and Boise State-Oregon). But, those two games were a big letdown for me. The four teams combined to score 37 points! Not very good at all and definitely not very exciting! Some teams may have that in the first half this weekend (Florida???). The most exciting thing to happen last night was after the Boise State-Oregon game! Anyway, that is over and done with (unless you are a running back for Oregon), and now we can focus on the upcoming weekend. After looking over the strong slate of games, I believe that the matchup between #5 Alabama and #7 Virginia Tech is the most intriguing.

The matchup is featured in the the second annual Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game that takes place at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia. Perhaps more than any other game this weekend, this game has two teams that have not only a realistic shot at BCS game, but also a possible BCS championship bid in sight – even if it is somewhat of a long shot!

Virginia Tech, the reigning ACC champion, comes into the game ranked in the top 10 in almost every single poll. The buzz in and around Blacksburg is that this could be the Hokies’ best team since 1999. That was Michael Vick’s freshman year. But, Virginia Tech is inexperienced at running back after the season ending injury to stud running back Darren Evans. The ACC really needs a win from Virginia Tech. The ACC has taken a hit across the country, even from readers of this website, and a win by the Hokies would go a long way to start rebuilding the image of the ACC. No one has consistently stepped up to challenge the Hokies in the conference in recent years. If Virginia Tech wins, they would likely ascend into the top five, and would once again be relevant in the national championship picture early in the going.

The Crimson Tide jumped back on to the national stage last year with an impressive season, though it was dampened somewhat with season ending losses to Florida in the SEC Championship game and to BCS buster Utah in the Sugar Bowl. But, head coach Nick Saban, love him or hate him, has to be commended in how quickly he has brought the Crimson Tide back to superiority. The Tide will be replacing a quarterback and have new starters on the offensive line, but they return nine starters from the defense, including the very bulky Terrence “Mount” Cody!

You can bet the Georgia Dome will be filled mostly with Saban Nation, though Virginia Tech historically also travels well. To add to the buzz, ESPN’s College Gameday will be on the scene at nearby Centennial Park. With a primetime showing, the game will be a major draw on television. If you want to pick one game out to watch Saturday, then you cannot go wrong with a battle between Frank Beamer and Nick Saban! Enjoy the game!!!

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The Big East in the BCS Debate – Big East, or Big Least?

July 15, 2009

Read the debate intro, Loyal Homer’s argument that the BCS does not deserve an automatic BCS bowl bid, and Bleacher Fan’s argument that it does.

Well, nothing brings out passion like a nice college football debate, and this debate is no different. Even before the first argument was published, folks were all “atwitter” about whether this was a valid debate topic. When reviewing the Big East’s record from recent seasons, it’s obviously a debate topic.

This is a difficult verdict, because the debaters concentrated on one year, 2008, by which to judge the Big East’s contribution to the BCS and college football. This approach further reinforces the “what have you done for me lately” mentality that plagues American sports culture, and college football fandom. So, for this verdict, I’ll acknowledge recent history, then add in some historical context.

Bleacher Fan brought up last year’s bowl season, claiming that the Big East was impressive because 75 percent of their football schools (six) made bowl games. I completely reject this as a valid metric for two reasons. First, there are 34 – 34!!! – bowl games on the docket for the 2009-2010 season. That means 68 teams need to be “eligible” for bowl games. Plus, even Conference USA had 50 percent of their teams bowl eligible. It is not a stretch to discern that many of the teams who played in bowl games year were not deserving. Second, the ACC had 10 bowl teams last year, and many of the Big East defenders who have commented here and on our Twitter timeline are claiming that the Big East is not as bad as the ACC. However, “they suck, so we can suck to” is not a valid argument.

Last season did not yield many quality non-conference wins for the Big East, either. The only true quality win by anyone in the Big East was South Florida’s win over then-ranked #11 Kansas. A good win. But, compare that to the other top teams in the conference:

  • Cincinnati: The conference champ lost to ACC winner Virginia Tech and #5 ranked Oklahoma, their only two opportunities for quality non-conference wins all season.
  • Pittsburgh: Opened their season with a non-conference loss to Bowling Green and needed four overtimes to defeat a 3-9 Notre Dame team.
  • West Virginia: Their only quality non-conference opportunities were Colorado and East Carolina… both of which they lost.
  • Rutgers: Another Big East bowl eligible team lost to Fresno State, North Carolina (their only quality non-conference opportunities) and even lost to Navy.

Contrast that mess with what a non-automatic BCS bid conference like the Mountain West did. Their champ, Utah, defeated an Oregon State team that the week prior beat #1 in the country Southern Cal, and defeated Alabama – handily – in a BCS bowl game. Ouch to the Big East. Not a good recent record for the conference to make a stand.

But, it can’t all be about 2008… though it’s hard to deny that the Big East is not just following a trend.

Some history. How has the Big East done through the history of the BCS (read: quality non-conference games). Here’s the list since the inception of the BCS in 1998:

  • 1998 Conference Champ: Syracuse (8-3) loses to Florida 31-10 in the Orange Bowl. 0-1
  • 1999 Conference Champ: Virginia Tech (now ACC) (11-0) loses to Florida State 46-29 in the Fiesta Bowl. 0-2
  • 2000 Conference Champ: Miami (now ACC) (10-1) beats Florida 37-20 in the Sugar Bowl. 1-2
  • 2001 Conference Champ: Miami (now ACC) (11-0) beat Nebraska 37-14 in the Rose Bowl. 2-2
  • 2002 Conference Champ: Miami (now ACC) (12-0) loses to Ohio State 31-24 in the Fiesta Bowl. 2-3
  • 2003 Conference Champ: Miami (now ACC) (10-2) beats Florida State 16-14 in the Orange Bowl. 3-3
  • 2004 Conference Champ: Pittsburgh (8-3) loses to Utah 35-7 in the Fiesta Bowl. 3-4
  • 2005 Conference Champ: West Virginia (10-1) beat Georgia 38-35 in the Sugar Bowl. 4-4
  • 2006 Conference Champ: Louisville (11-1) beats Wake Forest 24-13 in the Orange Bowl. 5-4
  • 2007 Conference Champ: West Virginia (10-2) beats Oklahoma 48-28 in the Fiesta Bowl. 6-4
  • 2008 Conference Champ: Cincinnati (11-3) loses to Virginia Tech 20-7 in the Orange Bowl. 6-5

One national championship is pretty good. But, the Big East has never – NEVER – received an at-large BCS bid for one of their teams. To contrast, the Big 10 (seven), SEC (five), Big 12 (four), Independent (three), Pac-10 (two), WAC (two), and Mountain West (two) have all received them. The only other conference with an at-large goose egg is the ACC.

And the overall 6-5 historical record is average, and far below average when considering that three of those wins (including the championship) belong to a program that is no longer in the conference.

The resume is unimpressive from the Big East, both recent history and a deeper dive into the BCS. Is it enough to jettison the conference from the ranks of the BCS automatic qualifiers? Yes. So I must award the victory to…


While Bleacher Fan offered many, many excuses for the Big East, Loyal Homer had one valid point that stood out: Attendance figures are dwindling for Big East football programs. Though a small but steady slide is apparent, recent performances, combined with a poor history against the best competition in college football, has not won fans back. Attendance is important because it translates to the strength –and willingness to travel – in the diehard fan base. Additionally, losing the heart and soul of Big East football tradition to the ACC has completely reversed expectations for Big East football. When Connecticut does well (starting last season 5-0) the collective national voice is “surprised.” There is no team that is expected to dominate year in and year out – a respect requisite in college football.

When the BCS charter expires in 2014, the committee must take a long look at whether the Big East belongs among the ranks of the automatic bids. According to the arguments presented here, they don’t.


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The Big East in the BCS Debate – What Have You Done For Me Lately? A Lot, Actually…

July 14, 2009

Read the debate intro and Loyal Homer’s argument that the Big East is not good enough to warrant an automatic BCS bowl big.

Let me clear the air right now with a very definitive statement – The Big East is one of the six best conferences in college football.

First, a note to Loyal Homer: One team does not a conference make! As an SEC fan, you should have known better than to argue otherwise. The SEC is not considered a conference favorite because of just one team. Instead, the success of LSU, Florida, and a cheating Alabama have propelled the SEC into the recent limelight.

To place the worth of the entire Big East on the shoulders of their preseason favorite, who just didn’t live up to expectations last season, is a misguided argument (although West Virginia still finished the season at 9-4 and ranked in the top 25 – not exactly a disappointment).

By your standards, I guess you would also argue that the SEC should not be allowed an automatic BCS bid. Their top preseason team last year, the Georgia Bulldogs, was ranked number one in the nation, but did not live up to expectations. Instead, they finished outside of the top 10 with a meager 10-3 record, only one game better than the “pitiful” Mountaineers (who, by the way, had a new head coach and lost star running back Steve Slaton).

The question today is not about the preseason favorite within the Big East. It is about whether or not the Big East is still one of college football’s top SIX conferences, and whether or not it still deserves an automatic BCS bid every year.

Sports Geek, in raising the question, brings up several interesting points, and claims they point to a “fall from grace” for the Big East. Those points include the departures of Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College to the ACC, only to be replaced by the University of South Florida, Cincinnati, and Louisville.

With all due respect to our esteemed judge for this debate… Sports Geek could not be more wrong.

To begin, it is laughable to say that the Big East misses Miami right now! Consider that ‘The U’ (since leaving the Big East) has not finished better than 7-6 since 2005, actually posted a losing record in 2007, and lost to the only top 25 team they played last year (a blow-out against the Florida Gators). That is not exactly a boast-worthy performance, and I’m sure the ACC isn’t hanging any Hurricane performances on their refrigerator right now.

As for the Big East’s replacements, let’s consider what they’ve done which actually ADDS to the Big East’s credibility:

  • South Florida – In 2008, they defeated #13 Kansas, and were undefeated in inter-conference play. They finished the season at 8-5, which is a better record than Miami and is just slightly less impressive than the results of Boston College (9-5) and Virginia Tech (10-4).
  • Louisville – In 2006, Louisville finished the season ranked in the top 10 with a record of 12-1, their only loss coming by way of a then-undefeated Rutgers, also a Big East team.
  • Cincinnati – Finished in the top 25 in 2007 AND 2008, posting records of 10-3 and 11-3 respectively.

I would consider each of those performances upgrades over Miami!

As for the rest of the Big East, here are some other points to consider:

  • Bowl Eligibility – Out of the eight teams in the conference, six of them were bowl eligible in 2008! That’s 75% of the conference! No other BCS-conference can make that statement, as the Pac-10 (50% made bowl appearances), Big XII (58%), Big Ten (63%), SEC (67%), and ACC (67%) all had much lower participation rates!
  • Bowl Performances – The Big East turned in a very impressive bowl record of 4-2 last year! That’s a greater win percentage than the ACC (2-6), the Big Ten (1-6), and the Big XII (4-3). In fact, only the Pac-10 (5-0) and SEC (6-2) turned in better bowl performances than the Big East last year.

The fact remains that the Big East produced a greater percentage of winning records than any other conference in college football, and performed better than all but two conferences in bowl play.

Based on those statements, a non-BCS conference in college football cannot argue they are more deserving of an automatic BCS bid than the Big East.

On the other hand, perhaps the ACC should be a little worried!!!

The Big 10 Evolution Debate – No Respect Until Another Team and a Championship Game

July 2, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher Fan’s argument that the Big 10 should avoid adding another team.

Before I begin, I just want to say that I, like Sports Geek, am also looking forward to the college football season… or football in general for that matter. Don’t get me wrong, I love baseball. It still remains the national pastime to me. But, it’s tough to beat those fall weekends every year.

On to the debate…

The Big 10… or as I call it, the WEAK 11, most definitely needs a championship game. And to do that, they need to add another team to make it feasible to split the league up into divisions like the ACC, Big 12, and SEC do.

Let’s take a look at the SEC. In my opinion it’s the best conference in college football from top to bottom (right, Bleacher Fan?). I live right in the heart of SEC country. I’m almost exactly in the middle of Athens, Georgia and Gainesville, Florida, so I follow the SEC very closely.

The SEC added a conference championship game back in 1992, with Florida playing Alabama. Since its inception, Florida has played in the game a total of nine times. I think it’s safe to say that the Florida Gators have drastically increased their national profile since 1992. Three national titles (1996, 2006, 2008) go along way toward establishing a following like the one the Gators currently enjoy. Playing in the championship game helped them become a usual suspect when discussing the national championship.

Let’s use the 1996 Florida Gators as an example. Quarterback Danny Wuerffel’s Gators lost at the end of the regular season to rival Florida State 24-21. However, after defeating Alabama (in Gene Stallings‘ last season) 45-30 in the championship game, they were able to get the rematch with the Seminoles thanks to the University of Texas’ upset of Nebraska in the inaugural Big 12 Championship game. Arizona State, which was ranked #2 in the nation at the end of the regular season, was contractually obligated to play in the Rose Bowl (and that is a debate for another day)! Ohio State knocked off Jake Plummer’s Sun Devils (the late Pat Tillman was also on this team), while the Gators absolutely destroyed the Seminoles 52-20 in the Sugar Bowl, thus allowing the Gators to jump all the way to the top of the polls to claim the championship!

Without the conference championship game, it is highly unlikely the Gators would have had a chance to play for the NATIONAL championship.

I also think the Big 10 needs to add another team to restore its national reputation as a powerful conference in football. Fair or not, the whippings Ohio State has taken in the 2006 and 2007 BCS Championship games really put them, and the conference, in a negative light.

Adding another team to the Big 10 also brings in another market to the conference. Yes, the ACC conference championship game hasn’t exactly been a big draw, as Sports Geek noted. But, adding Virginia Tech, Miami – and especially Boston College – has brought more markets to the conference and will also help the conference members recruit new areas. Imagine the Clemson Tigers getting headlines in the local Boston papers for playing the Boston College Eagles.

I really see no downside to adding another team. Are the members of the Big 10 scared of this? They have been coasting by on their cupcake schedules long enough. They need a conference championship game to give them a true test. It’s time they step up so they can be considered one of the elite conferences!


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