Saturday Showed That the Noles Have the Heart of a Champion

As shining gold helmets and white jerseys swarmed young Corey Robinson in the corner of the end zone, my eyes flashed to the scoreboard. Notre Dame 33 Florida Sate 31 – 13 seconds remaining. My hands moved instinctively to the top of my head and clasped on top of one another as my gaze then wandered to the visiting sideline which sat just before me. As Notre Dame players sprinted in all directions, expressions of pure jubilation plastered upon their faces, thoughts that had not run through my head in quite some time suddenly presented themselves. How long would I sit in the stands of Doak Campbell Stadium contemplating the Seminoles demise that night? What would it feel like to have the streak end at 22? How terrible was it going to be to lose again? Memories from recent years of FSU struggles began to resurface. Marcus Sims fumbling on the goal line in the final seconds at Georgia Tech in 2008. Jarmon Fortson dropping what would have been the game winning touchdown as time expired against Miami in 2009. Mike Glennon throwing a 4th down and goal touchdown to take down the previously undefeated Seminoles in 2012.

These were the thoughts that invaded my brain as Everett Golson dumped the ball off to his most prominent receiver for a touchdown in the closing seconds of the epic clash between top 5 opponents this past Saturday. The thoughts that ran through Jameis Winston’s mind at that same moment were utterly different and incredibly composed. “When they had the touchdown, we were like ‘It’s 17 seconds. They gave us too much time. We about to go down here and score,'” Winston said in a post game press conference. “How crazy that would have been if we would have scored in 17 seconds.” Although he overestimated the amount of time that would have been on the clock had that drive ever taken place, Jameis Winston’s mindset in that moment was unfaltering. As the Seminole faithful slumped in shocked silence, Jameis Winston stood tall and filled with resilience.

And then came the rumble of the crowd. It started with the student section and slowly began to ripple outwards. Noles fans who had planted their faces into the depths of their palms just seconds earlier now lifted their heads with hope. Nearly 83,000 breathlessly looked towards the corner of the field where the referee stood ready to inform the crowd of why Notre Dame’s touchdown was being taken off the board. Offensive pass interference.

******

It had not been a pretty first half for Florida State. Notre Dame had come out of the tunnel with focus and precision. From the opening moment of the game til the clock struck zero at the end of the second quarter, the Seminoles had been outplayed by the Irish. Golson had been on point. The ND offensive line had been staunch. The Domers’ defense had been unrelenting, pressuring Jameis Winston to no end and allowing a measly 15 rushing yards from the Seminoles. Brian Kelly’s extremely aggressive play calling had paid off in almost every situation, and when it hadn’t, the Noles couldn’t turn the opportunities into points. Jameis Winston had played quite poorly and FSU had been dominated. The Seminoles were fortunate to only be down 17-10 at half.

When the teams came out for the second half, however, something had changed. Jameis Winston seemed to be on a mission. There was a determination within his being that he put on display for the entire nation to see. Winston knew that if the Seminoles were going to defeat the Irish that night, he would need to be nearly perfect. And that he was. In a second half performance for the ages, Winston completed 93.75% of his passes. He had 181 yards and a touchdown, and went 13 for 13 before throwing his first (and only) incompletion of the final two quarters. Jameis Winston looked every bit the role of the Heisman Trophy winner.

Winston was not in this alone, however. Although the Seminoles only mustered 50 total rushing yards by game’s end, the running backs were running with blind rage in the second half. They were hitting the holes with fury and putting forth a second effort that led to several drives ending in touchdowns. The offensive line came out and played an incredibly inspired second half, making the adjustments necessary to give Winston the extra second he needed to find his open receivers. By the end of the 3rd quarter, the Florida State defense had also transformed into an impressively difficult unit to surpass.

Despite the vast improvement across the board for FSU, Notre Dame did not drop off. For every punch Florida State threw in the second half, Notre Dame punched back. For the first time since the 2013 National Championship, FSU faced an opponent who could stick with them when they were competing at their highest level. This was a match up of titanic proportions. Two teams were playing their best ball and were making it clear that they were about as evenly matched as two squads can be.

For all the credit that is due to Jameis Winston for his flawless second half, Everett Golson deserves an equal amount of credit for his ability to put a team on his back and carry them to the finish line. If there ever was a QB who is a clutch and impressive winner, it is Everett Golson. No matter the amount of pressure that was placed on Golson, he was completely devoid of panic. Even in the most desperate of moments, when he was forced out of the pocket on 4th and 18 with the game on the line, Golson was able to complete a nearly impossible pass to keep his team alive. Everett Golson heroically drove his team down to the goal line and was on the verge of putting the Irish ahead with little time left. But then, offensive pass interference.

******

After Everett Golson’s final pass of the game on 4th and goal from the 17 yard line sailed into the arms of an FSU defender, Jameis Winston took a knee to seal the victory for the Florida State Seminoles. The Seminoles’ sideline rushed to the middle of the field, where they converged with anxious members of the media. As ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi approached Jimbo Fisher for a customary post-victory interview, an incredible scene unfolded in front of the eyes of the 12 million viewers who were watching the game on TV. Jameis Winston, who had just just been celebrating with his teammates in the end zone, made a beeline for his head coach. When he reached Fisher, he immediately embraced him and excitedly exclaimed “Let’s enjoy this one right here, baby! Let’s go! I love you man. I love you.” Jimbo Fisher, though also happy to be within the victorious moment, quickly saw the situation for what it was. He pulled Jameis in close and gave him some incredibly relevant advice:

“Now here’s what you’ve got to do. Calm down. Don’t give them that over exuberant look. Act very passive right here and get people back on your side. You understand what I’m telling you? Humble. Humble pie.”

After hearing this sentiment, Jameis Winston, the young man who supposedly cannot seem to take advice from anyone, nodded his head understandingly and went off to congratulate his teammates and do his best to stay out of the spotlight. Jimbo Fisher, on the other hand, was immediately engaged by Tom Rinaldi. Just before the formal interview with Rinaldi began, Jimbo looked at the reporter and confidently told him “Never count us out.”

In another corner of the field, the always humble Rashad Greene was interviewed by a different reporter. He was notably excited, but also perfectly collected, the exact way a team’s non vocal leader should be. He was asked about the emotional pregame speech that he had given to the team. True to the star wide receiver’s form, he did not divulge too much or make any effort to take credit. Greene finished the interview with class, and made his way to the locker room.

In the background, the Warchant boomed resoundingly as the Seminoles present at Bobby Bowden Field rejoiced. The players made their way through the tunnel, where they were applauded by adoring fans of all ages. The post game scene in Tallahassee that night was one of pure joy, and it was all made possible by one call. Offensive pass interference.

******

Offensive pass interference. The catalyst. The savior.

Offensive pass interference. The reason for the #2 Seminoles victory over the #5 Fighting Irish that night.

Except for the fact that it wasn’t. 

Since the clock hit triple zeros on Saturday, all that anyone has talked about in relation to FSU’s victory over Notre Dame is offensive pass interference. No matter the topic of the FSU v ND discussion, it always comes back around to the call that changed the outcome of the game. It is not just the media who is guilty of this unwavering focus. It is not just Notre Dame’s head coach Brian Kelly. It is all of us, Seminoles fan included.

Florida State did not beat Notre Dame on Saturday night because of a “controversial” offensive pass interference call. Florida State beat Notre Dame on Saturday night because it is a team composed of winners. Florida State beat Notre Dame on Saturday night because they have the heart that is necessary to become a champion.

In 2013, the Noles had championship caliber heart, but did not have a need to put it on display until they faced Auburn in the national championship game. Up until the national championship, the Seminoles were doubted by everyone because they “hadn’t been tested.” The college football world feared that the Noles did not have the heart of a champion. And then, on the grandest of stages, the 2013 Florida State Seminoles football team proved to the world that they had all the heart that a team needs to win a championship, and then some.

In 2014, the Seminoles have not been as fortunate as to be able to mask their true strength until the final game of the season. The Noles have already had to display the incredible amount of heart that they have on several occasions. Against Clemson, and without Jameis Winston, FSU fought back for an overtime victory when any chance of a win looked to be implausible, if not impossible. Against NC State, the Seminoles clawed back from a 17 point 1st quarter deficit to blow the doors off an NC State team who was playing at a level far above their norm. And most recently, the Florida State Seminoles found a way to win against a Notre Dame team that was every bit their equal. The Noles were outplayed for the majority of the game and had their back pressed against the wall. But when it counted most, when the outcome of the game hung in the balance, FSU rose to the occasion and came out victorious.

In 2014, the Noles have been “tested.” They have been taken to the brink and have shown us all that they can win no matter the circumstance. They have shown heart. Yet, all we can talk about is offensive pass interference. In the aftermath of the Notre Dame game, the doubt surrounding this Seminoles team has only grown stronger. Florida State remains at #2 in the polls  behind Mississippi State despite having just beaten a top 5 opponent in Notre Dame who showed themselves to be a true contender worthy of the nation’s respect. Experts everywhere continue to doubt if the Seminoles could beat an SEC West team in the College Football Playoff. FSU message boards and forums are in melt down, panicking mightily over the prospect of the Noles even beating Louisville, let alone winning a National Championship .

In 2013, when the Auburn Tigers found a way to win close like no other team had ever done before, we all lauded them as a team of destiny. The Auburn Tigers were winners. They had heart. In 2014, when the Florida State Seminoles win close game after close game under similar circumstances, they are doubted. Rather than talking about the fact that Jameis Winston has put himself back in the Heisman discussion due to his incredible winning mentality, we talk about a flag that took away Everett Golson’s shot at glory. Rather than focusing on the entire team’s ability to rally together during the toughest moments and come out on top, we target in on the fact that the Seminoles are just not as good as last year. Rather than singing the praises of Jimbo Fisher for intensely supporting his players and inspiring them to fight for the victory, we analyze the conduct of Brian Kelly as he remains adamant that his team deserved to win.

In a season where there is clearly no dominant team in college football, we are all looking for Florida State to perform like they did last year. We are not focusing upon the team’s ability to win, but rather focusing on the fact that we want them to “win better.” The 2014 Florida State Seminoles are not the 2013 Florida State Seminoles. They do not dominate the competition in every aspect of the game. They do not make it look easy. But they do win.

In the end, winning is all that matters. It is not about how you got there, it is about if you got there. It is not about offensive pass interference, it is about the final score.  In a season where there seems to be an incredible amount of balance between all of the contenders, it is certainly not a sure bet that the Seminoles will repeat as champions. That being said, when you have a motivator like Jimbo Fisher, a talent like Jameis Winston, a leader by example like Rashad Greene, and a squad of winners like FSU does, as the head coach said himself: “Never count us out.”

 

Thoughts From My Dad: FSU v ND Edition

For quite some time now, my father has had a popular email chain in which he expresses his feelings on everything that has happened in college football in a given week. Starting this Sunday, I will be posting his musings each week so that everyone can share in his entertaining take. Here are his thoughts following the epic showdown between Florida State and Notre Dame last night. Enjoy! 

  • FSU-Notre Dame was as evenly matched a football game as I have witnessed in a long time. It would have been more fun to have won on a Jameis TD pass than a penalty but we FSU fans will take it. Make no mistake, that was a penalty that begged to be called. While I often get down on ACC refs, give credit to the official who had the courage to call it rather than abdicate  his responsibility under pressure. It is my policy not to give you what you can get from the media. If you want to read a great column on the game, go to Yahoo sports and read Pat Forde’s piece. It contains the quote of the week: “Bottom line, this Notre Dame team isn’t very good at cheating. They got caught in the classroom – which is why five players aren’t in uniform this season – and they get caught on the field”. If Notre Dame goes undefeated the rest of the way, they deserve to make the Final Four. They will have to beat Arizona State, Louisville and USCw but I think they can do it.
  • I give you a lot of opinions. Let’s expend some bullets on Where I Was Right and Where I Was Wrong.
  • Where I Was Wrong: I told you before the season that Notre Dame was a 9-3 team and overrated by the media. Pass the crow. Kelly is a great coach and I have an enlightened respect for Notre Dame. Kelly could have been a little more gracious in defeat but I guess he was very disappointed. By the way, the ND fans that came down for the game were one classy bunch of people. They rival Oklahoma fans.
  • Where I Was Right: I gave you two upsets for yesterday. I told you that if Clint Trickett was hot, WVU would beat Baylor. Clint was scorching! I told you Kansas State would upset Oklahoma. As predicted they are back in the race for the Final four.
  • Where I Was Wrong: I told you Oklahoma State would upset TCU. They got slaughtered. What was I thinking?
  • Where I Was Right: I told you that Florida was a team with a good (but not great) defense and that the rest of the team was so bad that they would be lucky to be bowl eligible. Last night’s performance was as bad as their loss last year to Ga. Southern. They played a Mizzou team that is mediocre on their good days and were losing 42-0 in the third quarter when the fans began to chant “Fire Muschamp”. The story gets worse!  Mizzou had a total 119 yards on offense. Their QB, Maty Mauk, had a dismal night. He accounted for 20 yards and had one picked off. The Gator defense was fine. The UF offense was dreadful with six turnovers. Driskell had four turnovers. The OL imploded and allowed 6 sacks and 3 hurries. Special teams allowed two TD returns. When I told you that Muschamp would be fired, it was not with glee. I join most FSU fans who would like to let him settle in for three more years. I was just telling you about a lack of talent on that roster. Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley said a while back, “What should be done eventually must be done immediately”. Let’s see if he follows his own dictum.
  • I am beginning to believe that the SEC championship game will feature Bama against the UGA Bulldogs.
  • Do not expect Jameis’ stellar performance last night to get the media off his back. The haters will continue to hate. Wear the black hat well, my Seminole friends!
  • Since the Heisman voters will not vote for Jameis this year even if he earns it on the field, I would be content to see it go to Everett Golson.
  • It is looking like FSU may face another 10 win Duke team in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte.
  • If the SF Giants win the World Series, Buster Posey will be awarded his third WS ring at the age of 27. What an accomplishment for a wonderful young man and loyal Seminole. Go Giants!

Guest Post: Mingo’s Week 7 NFL Picks

by Alexander Dominguez 

With Bill Simmons on a temporary suspension, courtesy of The Worldwide Leader, I have taken it upon myself to give you, the fan, a weekly NFL picks column. Keep in mind, I am 2-9-1 thus far this season betting football games, so some sound advice would actually be to place a few dollars against my picks in the coming paragraphs and secure yourself some extra Christmas money to spend on gifts for relatives you don’t particularly like. But, the year is young. Eventually my luck has to turn, right? If Kevin Federline can go from “backup dancer” to “The Dude Who Banged Britney Spears When She Was Hotter Than Molten Lava,” I can certainly go .500 against the spread this week.

On to the picks.

New York Jets @ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-10)

After the debacle in Kansas City, many (myself included) thought the Patriots were done. This was the end of an era. Brady was too old, Belichick was too stubborn (I still maintain that trading his best offensive lineman, Logan Mankins, one week before the season began was and remains an absolutely preposterous move), and team owner Robert Kraft was too cheap (still quite accurate). The undefeated Cincinnati Bengals were going to come into Foxborough and steamroll the Patriots, opening up the door for the inevitable “Jimmy Garoppolo should be the starting quarterback” talk, and also opening the door for my head to explode, Fembot-in-Austin-Powers style.

Final score of the last two Patriots games (Cincinnati at home, Buffalo on the road): New England Patriots 80 Opposition 39.

So, what the hell happened? To be honest, I don’t have the slightest clue. The offensive line still stinks. Their best receiver still remains a converted quarterback out of Kent State University who was thought of so highly coming out of college that he was not selected until the 7th round of the draft. Do I still think the Patriots can win the Super Bowl? I’m not sure. One thing I am sure of, however: I cannot take Geno Smith getting less than 14 points in a divisional road game.

THE PICK: New England Patriots -10

Cincinnati Bengals @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-3.5)

Cincinnati has most of the necessary ingredients required to be considered a Super Bowl contender. They have an elite defensive line that causes pressure up the middle and from the edge. They have the modern-day Bobby Boucher in Vontaze Burfict patrolling the middle of the field at linebacker. They have one of the best receivers on the planet in A.J. Green, as well as one of the most electrifying players in the NFL at running back in Gio Bernard. Unfortunately, as of this writing, their quarterback still remains Carrot Top.

As an aside, would Indianapolis win six games this year if Andrew Luck was playing quarterback somewhere else? I say no.

THE PICK: Indianapolis Colts -3.5

Tennessee Titans @ Washington Redskins (-6)

Make no mistake about it: this game is an unmitigated disaster. Not one minute of my Sunday will

be spent watching this abortion of a game. The Redskins shouldn’t be favored by six points over anyone. Repeat: ANYONE.

THE PICK: Tennessee Titans +6

Miami Dolphins @ Chicago Bears (-4)

I don’t think the Miami Dolphins are as bad as everyone thinks they are. I don’t think the Chicago Bears are as good as everyone thinks they are. Sometimes, it’s just that easy.

THE PICK: Miami Dolphins +4

Cleveland Browns @ Jacksonville Jaguars (+6)

The AFC North is one of the toughest divisions in football. The Bengals, Ravens, Browns and Steelers are all essentially the same team. They can play with anybody on any given Sunday, but they can also lose to anybody on any given Sunday. Count me among the people who thought that there would be actual rioting in Cleveland if Johnny Manziel was not named the starting quarterback of the Browns by week two. Instead, Brian Hoyer (Brian Hoyer!) has led the Browns to a surprising 3-2 start, with quality wins over the Saints & the Steelers.

I have probably watched more of Brian Hoyer than is safe, reasonable or necessary. I remember him at Michigan State (he stunk), I remember him as the backup quarterback behind my beloved Tom Brady on the Patriots (he stunk), and I also remember betting against the Browns in every single game Brian Hoyer started last year before his knee exploded (he proceeded to go 3-0 as a starter, to the surprise of no one who knows my betting history). I have no clue as to how Brian Hoyer is succeeding in the NFL, but I will be rooting for him moving forward.

THE PICK: Cleveland Browns -6

Seattle Seahawks @ St. Louis Rams (+7)

The Seahawks are coming off a brutal loss at home to Dallas, while the Rams blew their wad in a spirited effort at home against San Francisco. The Seahawks have Russell Wilson at quarterback, he of Pro Bowl and Super Bowl fame. The Rams have Austin Davis at quarterback, who sounds like he should be the lead character in Varsity Blues 2. The Seahawks have one of the best defenses in the league, if not THE best. The Rams defense could best be described as porous. The Seahawks have one of the best running backs in the league in Marshawn Lynch, while the Rams employ something called a Zac Stacy at running back.

So, who in their right mind would take St. Louis and the points in this game? That question is precisely why I am taking St. Louis and the points in this game. When the general public zigs, I zag. This isn’t rocket science.

THE PICK: St. Louis Rams +7

Carolina Panthers @ Green Bay Packers (-7)

The Packers have made their bones off of covering enormous lines/beating the snot out of crappy teams for years. Unfortunately for them, the Panthers are not a crappy team. Although Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have inexplicably turned into the most lethal wide receiver combination in the league, and Aaron Rodgers is unquestionably awesome, Carolina seems to always play up/down to the level of the competition. If they are playing the Oakland Raiders on a random Thursday night, you can bet your ass that they will be eking out a 24-20 victory while making Derek Carr look like Joe Montana in the process. When they go against the elite of the NFL though, they almost never get blown out. I also think this is the game where Kelvin Benjamin goes from promising rookie to “Kelvin Benjamin: Elite NFL Receiver,” due to the fact that Green Bay’s best cornerback (Sam Shields) was a crappy receiver once upon a time at the University of Miami (FL). Giving Cam Newton seven points is too much.

THE PICK: Carolina Panthers +7

Atlanta Falcons @ Baltimore Ravens (-7)

This is another truly awful game. After predicting that the Falcons would make a playoff push in the preseason, they made me look like Albert Einstein by beating New Orleans in the first week of the season. Unbeknownst to me at the time, New Orleans turned out to not be particularly good at playing the game of football. Atlanta has proceeded to look like absolute garbage for the last month. They can’t block for Matt Ryan, the defense routinely gets torched (both on the ground and through the air) and Antone Smith (who hasn’t been relevant since my junior year at Florida State, which was all the way back in 2008) appears to be their only offensive threat at this point.

What the hell happened to Atlanta? It seems like decades ago they were playing San Francisco in the NFC Championship game at home, when in reality it was less than two calendar years ago. On the other hand, I have absolutely no feel for the Ravens. They look like Super Bowl contenders one week, while looking like petrified dog crap the next. Is Joe Flacco the worst quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl? I say yes. I will not be watching one second of this game.

THE PICK: Baltimore Ravens -7

Minnesota Vikings @ Buffalo Bills (-4.5)

The Buffalo Bills shouldn’t be giving 4.5 points to anyone. They aren’t necessarily an awful football team, but Kyle Orton is most certainly an awful quarterback. Kyle Orton is neither a game changer nor a game manager. He doesn’t have arm strength, he isn’t particularly accurate and he can’t scramble. Frankly, it’s troubling how he has remained relevant in the NFL for over a decade. This is a game where I’m not necessarily picking the Vikings, I’m just picking against Kyle Orton.

THE PICK: Minnesota Vikings +4.5

New Orleans Saints @ Detroit Lions (-3)

This will be an entertaining game, if nothing else. Both defenses are suspect, while both offenses can move the ball and put up a ton of points. I keep waiting for the Saints to turn their season around and rip off a string of four or five wins in a row but at this point, I just don’t know if it’s feasible. They may just not be a good football team. Drew Brees and Sean Payton are up there in any discussion of best quarterback/head coach combination in the league, but New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan negates any advantage that the Brees/Payton combination offer the Saints. If someone in Corporate America were to be as bad at their job as Rob Ryan is at his, they would probably have to send the receptionist an unprovoked private pic while simultaneously puking on the Boss’ wife at the company Christmas party to even approach the work Ryan has done with New Orleans’ defense. With all of that being said, I just can’t will myself to pick the Lions and Matthew Stafford giving points.

THE PICK: New Orleans Saints +3

Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chiefs (-4)

Philip Rivers is good at football again! Has anyone had a weirder career than Rivers? Since he has come into the league, he has gone from franchise savior, to bum, to franchise savior again. He has also played an AFC Championship game with a torn ACL and has sired seven children.

The Chiefs looked like the best team in football in their dismantling of the New England Patriots a few weeks back. They have an emerging tight end in Travis Kelce, one of the best talents in the league in Jamaal Charles and an elite defense. They also have quite possibly the worst set of wide receivers in the league and Alex Smith as their quarterback.

THE PICK: San Diego Chargers -4

New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys (-6)

This line feels a little high. The Giants are coming off a loss to the Eagles where they had approximately 100 yards of total offense, while the Cowboys went on the road to Seattle and beat the team that many consider to be the best in football. These teams always play close games. Look for Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to fill Victor Cruz’ role of hauling in 8 catches for 76 yards with 0 touchdowns, submarining my fantasy football squad in the process.

THE PICK: New York Giants +6

Arizona Cardinals @ Oakland Raiders (+4)

The Arizona Cardinals are fairly good at football, while the Oakland Raiders are one of the worst teams of the last 5 years. Arizona could be favored by 14 here and I would still take them. Moving on.

THE PICK: Arizona Cardinals -4

San Francisco 49ers @ Denver Broncos (-6.5)

Game of the week. Winner of this game probably solidifies themselves as the Super Bowl favorite. San Francisco (at St. Louis) and Denver (at New York Jets) both played poorly last week, with both teams most likely looking ahead to this week.

As a man who has been both betting and rooting against Peyton Manning for years, I have learned to never bet against Peyton Manning in a night game.

THE PICK: Denver Broncos 6.5

Houston Texans @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5)

This game STINKS.

THE PICK: Pittsburgh Steelers -3.5

Alexander Dominguez is a professional agitator and raconteur living in Watertown, MA. He is a cubicle monkey by day and a poker player by night.

It’s Time For FSU and its Fans to Embrace the Role of the Villain

I never thought I would see the day when Florida State University’s football program would be the most hated team in all of sports. I know FSU has never been the most popular entity in college football. Between the infamous decade of the “Criminoles”, the way legendary coach Bobby Bowden was purged from the program which he built, and the schoolboy antics of Seminoles players ranging from Deion Sanders to Chris Rix, it is fair to say that there has been a sizable group of FSU haters for quite some time now. When the Noles took home the crystal football last January, the number of people who could be counted on to cheer against FSU only grew. That is standard procedure. People always dislike you when you are at the top.

Where the Seminoles sit in the public eye today, however, is a completely different story. This is not your classic Miami Heat Big Three, Tom Brady’s Patriots, Saban’s Crimson Tide type of disdain. The Seminoles are suffering from something much more grave.  Nine months after bringing a third National Championship back to Tallahassee, Florida State University’s football program, administration, fan base, and city of residence have collectively become the proverbial punching bag of the sport universe. Sports fans everywhere, even the ones who entertain only a slight interest in college football, have come to hate the Florida State Seminoles.

Don’t believe me? Approach a fan of any college football team besides FSU. Ask them what their opinion of the Seminoles is. Then ask another. And another. Keep going until you have an appropriate sample size. I can guarantee the consensus will look something like the following:

Jameis Winston is a rapist.

Florida State University is corrupt.

The Tallahassee Police Department will do anything to protect FSU football players.

Jimbo Fisher doesn’t care about the fact that Jameis Winston is a terrible person, all he cares about is winning. 

FSU fans are a bunch of enablers who blindly support Jameis Winston and their school even though both are guilty of horrific crimes. 

How did we get to this point? How did Florida State become the cesspool of college football? When did the negative eye of the sports world focus squarely upon Tallahassee, FL?

Well, it all began with Jameis Winston. This is an important point for Seminoles fans to acknowledge. The Noles would not be in this position at all had Jameis Winston found a way to be more mature. When Jameis told reporters that he wanted them to hit him in the head with their microphones if he ever got “Johnny Manziel disease” way back in August of 2013, I’m sure none of us envisioned the tumultuous ride of insubordination he would take us all on. In his career at Florida State, Jameis Winston has been thoughtless, insensitive, silly, and sophomoric. In other words, he has acted like nearly every other 20 year male at Florida State University. But when you are such a high profile athlete, the most high profile athlete in your entire sport, you are held to a higher standard. More accurately, you are expected to hold yourself to a higher standard. Jameis Winston has not done that during his time at Florida State. He certainly deserves criticism for that being the case.

Immaturity by a star player, however, does not bring this type of scorn upon an institution. The only thing that brings this type of scorn upon an institution is a calculated effort to describe that institution in a manner that breeds negativity. Like it or not, we live in an era where our thoughts and opinions are harnessed and controlled by the media. If the media wants the public to believe something, it is likely that it will become fact.

This is exactly what has happened with Florida State University and Jameis Winston. The media has had an agenda to cover all issues that are even vaguely related to FSU in a manner that shows the school in a negative light. The most notable example of this is the coverage of the sexual assault allegations against the Heisman trophy winner. Jameis Winston was simply accused, he was not charged. Although there are indications of mishandling on the part of FSU and the TPD in this case, there is also a bevy of evidence that points towards the allegations against Winston being false. Yet since this case has been closed due to lack of evidence that could lead to a conviction, we have heard nothing from the media about the latter, and only about the former. While the conflicting statements, shaky testimony, and questionable law practices that can be attributed to Winston’s accuser and her legal team have garnered little to no media coverage, a possible mishandling by FSU and TPD has been the talk of the town. The New York Times (saw that one coming) and Fox Sports launched “groundbreaking” stories last week about FSU’s cover up of the Winston case. In reality, both of these articles contained very little new information. The Fox Sports article rephrased things that have been public knowledge for quite some time in way that made them seem more notable and The New York Times article found a way to focus upon BB gun fights as if they were acts of terrorism that went unnoticed. Neither article seemed to pack a crushing punch, yet they were soon picked up by ESPN and their cohorts and treated as if they did exactly that. Vague allusions to FSU engaging in a despicable cover up ran rampant on the air waves, and it wasn’t long before the public wholeheartedly believed that Florida State University and the Police Department of Tallahassee were composed of pure evil, much like their star QB.

Then came the autograph scandal. Jameis Winston was found to have 950 + items with his autograph on them authenticated and up for sale online. Many items were very similar and were signed in the same place, seeming to indicate a planned autograph signing for a dealer. Sounds pretty damning, right? Not when you look at the history of autograph investigations as they pertain to NCAA Football. Last year, high profile players such as Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney, Taj Boyd, Teddy Bridgewater, and Braxton Miller were all investigated for having similar amounts of sequential autographed memorabilia online. Proof of payment in exchange for these player’s autographs was non existent. Of all the players that were investigated, only Johnny Manziel received a suspension (half a game against Rice), and that was because evidence existed that pointed towards Manziel doing multiple bulk signing for dealers that amounted to nearly 4,500 autographed items. Since no money was found to be exchanged in return for these bulk signings, the punishment was minimal. Fast forward to 2014, when Georgia’s Todd Gurley is suspended indefinitely for similar autograph charges. The difference here, however, is that a dealer implicated Gurley for taking money in exchange for these autographs. While the media certainly covered the issues as they related to Gurley and Manziel due to the fact that they were suspended, it was very difficult to find anything about the investigations of the other aforementioned players. Even in the case of the Gurley and Manziel coverage, much of it centered around the moral issue with college players being penalized for using their likeness.

When the Winston autograph story broke, however, it was not given the same treatment. Winston has yet to be suspended for this issue, yet it is recieving as much or more attention than the Gurley or Manziel instances. There is no talk of whether players should be allowed to be paid for their autographs in reference to Winston, only condemnation for being involved in another scandal. In combination with the news that he will face a student conduct hearing, which is something we have all known was coming for quite some time, Winston is dominating ESPN and the other network’s headlines once again. And just like in the past, Winston has yet to be implicated for anything at all in either matter.

Darren Rovell, ESPN’s lead author for all things involving Jameis Winston’s signature, has shown himself to be inconsistent on his reporting of this matter. As you can see from a Twitter exchange I had with Rovell last night, he has no problem switching the focus of his story as long as it makes Jameis Winston look bad:

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Then, in a later Twitter exchange with former Nole and current ESPN employee Danny Kanell (who has, for his own right, had no problem sticking up for FSU throughout this ordeal),  Kanell shoots down Rovell’s argument, only to have Rovell cite a completely different figure, and then be shot down by Kannel  once again:

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Let’s not just focus on Darren Rovell and ESPN, although the mother-ship has been the most egregious aggressor of the media outlets, as Bleacher Report has also thrown their hat into the ring of FSU hate. The funny thing is that Bleacher Report isn’t even trying to disguise their articles as anything but bold faced loathing. Check out this article headline, referring to this weekend’s FSU v Notre Dame showdown:

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In this article, the author is quoted as saying:

“We usually treat the Irish with disdain when it comes to football.

Not this week.

Notre Dame is playing Florida State this Saturday night, and the national mood is that we have had enough of the Seminoles because of this Jameis Winston affair. FSU’s handling of Winston has been abominable. The Tallahassee Police Department did a lot of harm to the FSU players and the school’s reputation with its handling of the case. The school did a lot of harm itself.

The Seminoles are more unlikeable than Notre Dame.”

Seems fair enough, right? The media has declared Jameis Winston guilty and FSU as a bunch of conspirators, so America has no right to cheer for them. While we are at it, why don’t we just suspend Jameis Winston for the rest of the season? Oh wait, Bleacher Report suggested that too:
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A nice quote from the above article:

“On Saturday, Florida State, the defending national champ, will play undefeated Notre Dame. The winner becomes a strong favorite to get into the College Football Playoff. The loser does not. But Florida State needs to make a real statement first and do one thing:

Suspend Jameis Winston. Now.

It’s the only thing to do for Florida State; it must take a moral stand for football and society. And if Florida State lets Winston play? Then that makes a statement, too—a dangerous one. In fact, Florida State already did the wrong thing in allowing Winston to play this past Saturday against Syracuse…

So no, there is no proof that Winston did anything wrong. The state attorney did not file charges. Why suspend Winston then?

To stand up for what’s right. So far, the school appears to have schemed in a way that prioritizes football over the cries of a woman who says she was violated.”

Well that seems quite logical! Jameis is guilty, and so is Florida State University. Bleacher Report certainly shares that opinion with the rest of the media and, by now, the rest of the world. What is even more amusing, however, is how the media is failing to cover the serious issues that are arising with players in the SEC. Let’s take a look at Robert Nkemdiche, the former #1 overall recruit who has become one of the best players on a top three Ole Miss team. This week, a photo of Nkemdiche smoking out of a bong started circulating the web:
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This is not Nkemdiche’s first instance of trouble. We are talking about a kid who, along with his brother (who is also an Ole Miss player) was recently sued for $2 million for his role in knocking out another student at an on campus party along with five other Ole Miss players. Nkemdiche was suspended for spring practice, but has not missed a game yet this season.

Or maybe we should look at the curious case of Kurt Freitag, a sophomore tight end for the Alabama Crimson Tide. A search of Kurt’s dorm room earlier this week by narcotics agents yielded a tidy 112 grams of marijuana and $4,600 in cash. No charges have been found to have been filed in this matter to this point.

These seem like headline stories, don’t they? Players for major SEC programs are being caught in the act of a crime and are not being disciplined. Yet we do not see these stories anywhere on ESPN, and they are buried far down in the college football pages on sites like Bleacher Report. Can you imagine if Jameis Winston was implicated in either of these issues? ESPN, and subsequently Twitter, would explode.

There is a double standard in sports media right now. The major outlets are going at FSU’s throat, and there is nothing that the Seminole fan base can do to stop it. There is, however, something that Noles fans can do instead: Seminoles fans everywhere can embrace the hate. Trying to express the FSU fan’s viewpoint on any and all of these issues has become a completely futile effort. There is no way to win with that methodology. There is only one way that FSU fans will win in the current college football environment. It is the Noles against the rest of the sports world, and the only thing to do now is to unite as one.

I have heard a great deal of talk about Seminoles boycotting ESPN’s College Gameday this coming Saturday. That is the most ineffective path I can imagine. Given how ESPN has so easily spun every issue that involves FSU up to this point, how much difficulty would they have turning FSU fans’ lack of attendance at Gameday into a lack of support for the Seminoles as a whole? I can envision the quote from Chris Fowler now: “Clearly all the controversy surrounding this team has taken a toll on their fan base. The support is not nearly as strong as it used to be.”

Rather than boycotting Gameday, the better strategy would be to show up in full force and actively protest the network that has had it out for Florida State University. Bring the #BlameJameis signs. Find a way to get posters criticizing ESPN inside. Hell, let’s sit in silence the whole time and then pull a Hunger Games style three finger protest:

And then, when game time rolls around, show up loud. Louder than the crowd has ever been. Hopefully Jimbo will send the Noles out in the black uniforms and the fans can act like those of the Oakland Raiders who sit in the black hole and revel in their image as the villain. Hopefully the crowd can rally themselves and bellow a resounding “Just Win, Baby!” Show the world that the Seminoles know that the rest of the world is against them, and that they couldn’t care less.

If you poke the beast enough times, you are bound to get bitten. It is time to show the rest of the sports world that they messed with the wrong team.

Treon Harris, The New York Times, and the Fate of College Football

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Get ready Seminoles fans, it is coming.

Another New York Times article is rumored to be on its way. Based on the statement FSU released today, it is a good bet that when the newest NYT article hits the mainstream, it is going to another attack job on Florida State University. In the wake of an all too public battle between Jameis Winston’s lawyers and the lawyers of Winston’s accuser, it is no surprise that we are going to see the media once again take any and every opportunity they have to add sensationalism to the dumpster fire that is the current landscape of college football.

Before we speak about the impending NYT article that is bound to be the talk of the sports world when it is released, I think it is imperative to examine a story involving FSU’s  rivals down in Gainesville. On Monday morning, the University of Florida suspended Treon Harris, the Freshman QB who had come off the bench to lead the Gators to victory against Tennessee just two days earlier, in the midst of an accusation of sexual assault against Harris by a female student of the university. No charges had been filed. No legal action had been taken. Treon Harris, by all standards of the due process of law and the constitution of the United States of America, was an innocent man. Yet the University of Florida took action, not only suspending him from all football activities, but from the university as a whole.

It did not take long for the media to get involved. Just minutes after the suspension was handed down, articles started flooding the internet praising UF for their swift and efficient handling of the matter. Of course, the focus quickly shifted from the issue at the root of the matter, Treon Harris being accused of sexual assualt, to comparing UF’s handling of this matter to the manner in which FSU handled the Jameis Winston case. The headlines began to shift from “Harris suspended” to “University of Florida is doing everything right, while Florida State University did everything wrong.” All the while, the media chose to ignore the fact that Treon Harris had not yet been proven to have done anything wrong. Yes, he had been accused of sexual assault, but nothing had come to public attention that gave an validity to this accusation. Similar to the Jameis Winston case, Treon Harris was being presumed guilty until proven innocent.

On Friday, however, a bombshell dropped. Or at least I thought it was a bombshell. The accusation against Treon Harris was withdrawn by the accuser. Treon Harris, a kid who had been publicly shunned by his University just days earlier despite not being charged of any crime, was now free of even being accused of any crime.  Treon Harris remained suspended by the University of Florida until 5 pm Friday evening. Where is the the outcry against this injustice? How is it being deemed acceptable that a University took action against a student simply because of word of mouth?

Similar to the Jameis Winston case, we will probably never know if sexual assault occurred between Treon Harris and his former accuser. But by all standards of the law and common sense, it is only fair to treat this situation for what it is: a non issue. Unless unexpected further details emerge in this case, it is clear that Treon Harris was wrongly suspended by the University of Florida. With this being clear, should we expect the media to recant its praise of the Gator administration’s handling of this issue? Not a chance. The politically correct media will continue to laud UF for being cautious. “After all, it is better to be safe than sorry,” they will say. They will completely ignore the fact that one of the most basic American rights, that you are innocent until proven guilty, has been blatantly violated to the detriment of a kid who should be worrying about an upcoming game against LSU rather than about when he will get to move back into his dorm and start going to classes again.

In the end, if we were to look objectively at the handling of the Jameis Winston case by FSU and the handling of the Treon Harris case by UF, it is quite obvious to me that it was Florida State University, not the the University of Florida, who got it right. FSU never suspended Jameis Winston in the wake of the sexual assault accusation. They had no reason to. Jameis Winston had been accused, not charged. He was an innocent man by the letter of the law. No charges ever were filed against Winston, and to this day he remains a legally innocent figure in reference to the sexual assault allegations that were levied against him. Given that this is the case, it is a good thing that FSU never suspended Winston in reference to this matter, because any suspension would have been unequivocally unjust. The University of Florida did just the opposite. They suspended Treon Harris out of fear. They let the current politically correct, media driven climate of college football control them, and it ended up unjustly affecting a young man’s life. He had not been charged. He has no longer even been accused. Yet he was suspended, and will not play against LSU on Saturday despite the fact that he has been reinstated by the University.

Now, what are we to expect when the New York Times releases yet another article about FSU’s handling of the Winston case? Given the media coverage of the Treon Harris matter, it would be silly to anticipate anything other than a scathing expose. While I truly have no idea as to what exactly will be included in the NYT article, the fact that FSU got out ahead of the article with that letter to the public signals that the school is gearing up to be in defense mode. The letter that the university released contains a very detailed and clear timeline of events in relation to the Title IX investigation that is taking place as a result of the Winston matter. The timeline contains several telling points that will be used by both sides of the litigation. In Winston’s favor, the timeline seems to indicate that Winston’s accuser testified at the student conduct hearing against the two witnesses of the sexual encounter (Chris Casher and Ronald Darby). Since neither one of these students were expelled, it seems to be clear that the hearing concluded that the accusers testimonial was not convincing enough to be consistent with an apparent rape. This seems to work in favor of Winston as the Title IX investigation continues. On the other hand, the fact that FSU did not report the matter to the Title IX office immediately will be expressly highlighted by the accuser’s lawyers, despite the fact that the timeline also clearly indicates that the accuser refused to cooperate with any Title IX investigation for nearly a year after being requested to do so by FSU.

Once again, this matter has reverted into a he said, she said. This case has become a revolving wheel. It is exhausting. It is very clear that we are at the point in this case where one legal team is positioning themselves to obtain a payout of some sort. There is no better way to make this desire into a reality than to win in the court of public opinion. If this New York Times article is as much of an attack job on FSU as I expect it to be, the legal team of the accuser will have everything falling into place exactly how they drew it up. Given the public’s reaction to the Treon Harris situation, immediately presuming him to be guilty of sexual assault despite a complete lack of proof, do you really expect the public to take the impending New York Times article to be anything but fact? If the media can so easily convince everyone that a Freshman QB who had been thrust into the spotlight only hours earlier was at fault, how much trouble are they going to have damning a University that has been the center of controversy for almost a year now?

The current state of college football, and football in general, troubles me. It is becoming less about what happens on the field and more about what happens off it. Sportscenter has become half highlights and half TMZ. It is all about the drama, and the public is eating it up. When the Treon Harris story broke, it was almost as if the media was excited. There was another African American QB they could skewer. It was another opportunity to take a shot at the number one team in the land, even if they had nothing to do with the matter at hand.

Do not expect this type of coverage to end any time soon. There is always going to be another controversy to cover, even if the media has to spin up that controversy themselves. Controversy leads to more viewers, and more viewers lead to more money. So when this NYT article comes out, be ready Seminoles fans. FSU is going to be the center of attention once again, and I certainly don’t expect it to be in a positive light. The media could be covering the wrongful suspension of Treon Harris and demanding that the University of Florida make amends for their actions, but they would rather rehash an issue that has to do with Florida State and has been covered to no end. That is a sad endorsement of what the sports world has come to today.

 

 

The SEC Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

This past weekend was the craziest weekend of college football I have witnessed in my lifetime as a fan. Eleven of the top twenty five teams suffered losses in the tumultuous span between Thursday, October 2 and Saturday, October 4. Five of the top ten teams were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten. Of the five power conferences in college football, none took bigger hit than the PAC 12, which saw all four of their ranked programs get beat before the weekend had ended.

Although the plight of the SEC this weekend was not quite as bad as that of the PAC 12, the results from Saturday’s games were certainly not ideal for college football’s banner conference. The SEC saw two of their three teams in the top ten lose to SEC squads that were ranked lower than them, in addition to another top fifteen squad that was taken down by a higher ranked SEC member. It was a weekend in which we saw carnage occur within the SEC.  The perennial bottom feeders of the conference found their way to the top, and all but one of the legacy programs, who were predicted to dominate the college football landscape this year, now have a blemish on their record. Needless to say, when I woke up on Sunday, I expected to see headlines such as “SEC powers suffer majorly in wild weekend of college football” or “This weekend showed us that the SEC is not the perfect conference”. Instead, I woke up and found the following headlines plastered all over the web:

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Wait, what? “How does every one of the SEC’s best programs besides Auburn having a loss translate into a positive situation for the conference?” I thought to myself as I clicked from website to website. Surely, I reassured myself, the rankings could not demonstrate the same blindness as these headlines. Surely, I was wrong. Here are this week’s rankings, as compared to last week’s:

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So you mean to tell me that by having two of it’s three highest ranked teams lose within a single week, the SEC’s relative position in the rankings improved?  How is this possible? How can a conference have it’s so called best team, a team that just hours earlier was the sure fire national championship favorite, take a loss and be thought to have become a “stronger” conference because of it? Why is it never acknowledged that the carnage within the SEC may be a result of the conference actually being WEAKER than everyone anticipated? These are questions that are worthy of being examined, and upon analysis, point to the fact that the strength of the SEC is being completely overblown by everyone and their mother. Here is why:

The SEC East is one of the weakest divisions in all of college football.

Seem like an extreme statement? It’s not. The SEC East has no undefeated teams left. The only two ranked teams in the division are #13 Georgia and #23 Missouri. Georgia may actually be a solid team, as they have a very strong win to their name against Clemson (although Clemson was a much weaker team at that time, as they did not have Deshaun Watson at the helm). That being said, Georgia lost in their only road game so far this season, getting beat by a very poor South Carolina team that has already lost to Texas A&M, Missouri, and Kentucky. Georgia still has five very lose-able games coming up, and it would not be a stretch to say they will finish with more than two losses and still win the SEC East. Who is going to take it from them? A Missouri team that lost at home to a dismal Indiana? A Kentucky squad that that is being advertised as a world beater after taking down South Carolina, but found a way to lose to a UF team without an offense? What about UF? They showed flashes of life by beating Tennessee by one point, but that comeback was led by Treon Harris, who is now suspended for an impending legal matter. Tennessee, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt have all been eliminated for all intents and purposes by losing two or more conference games in the first half of the season.

So in all likelihood, it will be a Georgia team that wins the East. But does anyone really see Georgia playing a schedule that features away games at Missouri and Arkansas in addition to home games against Auburn and Georgia Tech and not adding at least one more loss to their docket? I know I sure wouldn’t bank on them winning out. With all of this being the case, the media would still love you to believe that the SEC East is relatively on par with the Big 12. In actuality, the SEC East is about equivalent to the ACC Coastal. I know this sounds egregious,  but when I put the current standings from both divisions on top of one another, do they really seem all that different?Screenshot 2014-10-06 at 2.38.53 PM
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There is no way of telling if the state of Mississippi is for real…yet.

Let me get this out there first: If this was any other conference besides the SEC, the rise of two teams that have had a historic lack of success would indicate that the conference is becoming weaker at the the top. Since this is the SEC, however, the rise of Ole Miss and Mississippi State is immediately verified as a signal that these two teams are legitimate title contenders and that the conference is getting even stronger.

Do not get me wrong, I have been extremely impressed with both Ole Miss and Miss St up to this point. Mississippi State has been dominant, although I question just how strong their “blockbuster” wins are. A road win at LSU is always an accomplishment, but this year’s LSU team is not anywhere close to what we are used to from that program. LSU has been utterly dominated in both of their defeats at the hands of Miss St and Auburn, and their wins come against Sam Houston St, Louisiana Monroe, New Mexico State, and a Wisconsin team that was just beat by Northwestern. Needless to say, I would not consider LSU to be a great win. Miss St’s other victory comes at home against Texas A&M, a team that was clearly the most overrated in the country coming into this week. TAMU was given their lofty ranking solely based on their domination of South Carolina, who has now been ousted as one of the weaker power five teams in the country. Should Mississippi State be applauded for beating down both LSU and Texas A&M? Absolutely. Should they be considered a title contender? Not yet. A win against Auburn next week, and I am willing to throw them in the picture. But in my mind, wins against two teams that were vastly overrated just because they are in the SEC West do not justify a #3 ranking.

Now let’s move on to Ole Miss. I am definitely willing to call their win against Alabama a “blockbuster” victory. There is no questioning the talent of Bama. They are a very good team and have the best coach in the country. So when the Rebels beat the Tide this past weekend, they definitely got my attention. Other than this victory, however, what else has Ole Miss proven? Outside of Alabama, they have beaten Boise State, Vandy, Louisiana Lafayette, and Memphis. Those are not exactly marquee victories. What if the victory against Bama was an abnormally strong performance for Ole Miss? What if it was just an upset, and not indicative of the true quality of the team? We will find out more about Ole Miss this weekend when they play at Texas A&M. Yes, Texas A&M is still overrated, but a Rebel victory against the Aggies would go a long way towards proving to me that their win against Bama was not just a fluke.

I am not trying to say that I do not think that either of the SEC teams from Mississippi could actually be for real. It is way too early to tell if they are going to be contenders. Given the upcoming schedule of TAMU, Tennessee, LSU, and Auburn for Ole Miss, and Auburn, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Alabama (after a tune up against UTM) for Mississippi St, it is not out of the realm of possibility that both of these teams will have three losses just five short weeks from now. It is also possible that they could both be undefeated. The truth is, we have no idea what will happen with both of these teams in the coming weeks.

With this in mind, doesn’t this meteoric rise to a tie for the #3 spot in the AP poll seem like a bit of an overreaction for two teams that have a nearly nonexistent track record of success? What if two in state rivals outside of the SEC had started their seasons’ the way that Ole Miss and Miss St have? Let’s take Virginia and Virginia Tech for example. Lets say that Virginia started the season by beating a highly ranked UCLA team and then went on to defeat Richmond, Louisville, BYU, Kent State, and Pitt (in reality, they lost close to UCLA and BYU, but won the other four). In this parallel universe, lets also say that Virginia Tech started the season by rolling off victories in their first six games against William and Mary, a highly ranked Ohio State team, East Carolina, Georgia Tech, Western Michigan, and UNC (in reality they lost to East Carolina and Georgia Tech, but won the other four). Where would you envision Virginia and Virginia Tech being ranked if this situation had played out? It is arguable that wins against UCLA and BYU  for Virginia would be equivalent to wins against LSU and Texas A&M for Miss St. It would also be viable to say that wins against Ohio State and East Carolina would prove more about the quality of Virginia Tech than a single win against Bama does for Ole Miss. Yet would it even be slightly possible that Virginia and Virginia Tech would both be in the top five had they started 6-0? Absolutely not. These teams from Virginia, both of which have had more historic success that the Mississippi teams, would be lucky to be in the top fifteen if they had 6-0 starts. But because Ole Miss and Mississippi St play in the SEC, no one questions their immediate elevation to the ranks of the top three teams in the country. That is a bit absurd, if you ask me.

Auburn may be as good as advertised, but does it really matter?

There is no denying that Auburn has looked like one of the best teams in the nation up to this point. They deserve credit for following up last year’s run to the national championship game with a great set of performances to lead off the 2014 season. They clobbered a decent Arkansas team in the second half to open the season. They took care of business against two cupcakes in San Jose St and LA Tech. Sandwiched in between those games was a gutsy road win on a Thursday night against a Kansas St team that is probably a bit underrated. Then they went ahead and absolutely dominated Les Miles’ overrated Tigers this past weekend. That is quite the resume and, in combination with last year’s success, indicates that Auburn is the real deal. The only problem is that their schedule is a gauntlet. Of their final seven games, Auburn faces five opponents currently ranked in the top fifteen. But how much of this gaudy strength of schedule is due to SEC bias? When we look back at the end of the year, will this stretch of Auburn’s schedule seem nearly as daunting?

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Based on what has been pointed out in this article thus far, I think it is fair to say that it will not. We have no idea what will happen with the Mississippi teams. Texas A&M looks ripe to fall apart. Georgia’s potential to be a three loss team has already been discussed.

In the end, it will probably come down to a battle between Auburn and Alabama once again. It is not difficult to see Auburn going 5-1 over their next six, or to see Alabama going 6-0. This would set up another “titanic battle” for the SEC West, and would probably result in both Auburn and Alabama getting into the four team playoff. Given that only a couple of the SEC title contenders will have tested themselves out of conference (Georgia against Clemson and Auburn against Kansas St), how much will we truly know about the two SEC teams that will inevitably make it to the playoff? If we look at the current state of college football, it is quite obvious that the only way two SEC teams do not get in is if the champion of the conference has two or more losses. If this does occur, and a team like Alabama gets in with two losses, how do you explain that to the teams that are left out? Let’s say Michigan State wins out and ends up a one loss conference champion, and still gets left out in favor of a two loss Bama, what do you think the reaction will be? Or, in the other scenario, let’s say that Michigan State gets left out in favor of putting in two SEC teams. Does that seem fair?

In the end, it does not matter how many points I make that indicate the SEC may not be as wonderful as it is presumed to be. Despite the fact that this conference may cannibalize itself and that some SEC teams that are ranked loftily now will be nowhere to be found come the end of the season, the SEC is going to get one or more teams into the playoff. Maybe those teams will deserve to be there. Maybe they will not. There is really nothing anyone can do to stop the SEC from having a marked advantage. The bias exists and is not going away any time soon. Let’s just hope that FSU and other teams keep winning, because the only way we are going to keep the SEC bias from growing is for a team from outside the SEC win the National Championship for the second year in a row.

The 3 Things Noles Fans Won’t Hear on ESPN in Week 6

There is bound to be a great deal of talk about the Seminoles this weekend, despite the fact that they play a game against what is probably the worst Power 5 football team in the country in Wake Forest. When you are the number one team in the land, that is just how it goes. You are constantly going to be in the conversation, even if the conversation has nothing to do with you. If you are the number one team and you play in the SEC, that conversation will likely be abound with praise from the ESPN analysts. If you are FSU, praise is not likely to be on the forefront of very many of said analysts’ minds. With this in mind, here are three things that you will likely hear someone on the ESPN networks say this weekend, as compared to what they probably should be saying:

 

1. How good is FSU?

What ESPN Will Say: Florida State is struggling unnecessarily and does not belong in the playoff conversation at this point.

What ESPN Should Say: It is way too early to talk about the playoffs, but if we are going to do so, FSU is as deserving as anyone. 

Talking about who is in and who is out of the impending four team playoff is absolutely silly at this point. If we are being logical, there are not going to be more than two undefeated contenders by seasons end, let alone four. When we get past Week 10, this conversation takes on some validity. As of now, however, the only reason to talk about it is to drive ratings. Needless to say, this discussion will continue on ESPN, and you will continue to see many of the top experts leaving the undefeated National Champions out of their current playoff predictions. In doing so, many of these experts cite the fact that FSU has played poorly up to this point in the season. This is flat out untrue.

Has FSU been less dominant up to this point than they were last year? Yes. Are they performing worse than any other top 10 team in 2014? No. In fact, if you look at the results thus far this season objectively, it is difficult to peg any team besides Florida State as the best in the country. Here’s why:

  • Going into Week 6, Florida State is the only AP Top 10 team with more than one Top 30 win (#21 Oklahoma St and #28 Clemson). By comparison, only Oregon (#10 Michigan St), Auburn (#23 Kansas St), Texas A&M (#27 South Carolina),  and UCLA (#26 Arizona St) have one Top 30 win. Alabama, Oklahoma, Baylor, Notre Dame, and Michigan St all have zero top 30 wins. This will all change this weekend (for the better or worse for nearly all of these teams), but up this point, it is unfair to say that FSU has not played like one of the best teams in the country. The quality wins (one of which took place without Winston) plus a 15 point away win against a previously undefeated NC State team, indicate that FSU has faced a tougher challenge up to this point than any other team. They have emerged from these challenges unscathed, and it is thereby not a stretch to consider the Seminoles the top team in the country. This is all without taking the fact that FSU is the defending National Champion into consideration.

*Note: As I write this, Oregon trails #30 Arizona at home 17-14 late in the 3rd quarter.

 

2. How much will Jameis Winston’s off the field actions affect his draft stock?

What ESPN Will Say: No star QBs  currently in the NFL had the issues Jameis Winston has had in college. There is no way he will be able to succeed with these blemishes on his record.

What ESPN Should Say: If Jameis Winston does not have any criminal trouble for the rest of his time at Florida State, it is likely that he will be a Top 5 pick. 

ESPN wants you to believe that Jameis Winston has already ruined his shot at being a star in the NFL. Mel Kiper has dropped him out of the first round in his mock drafts. Todd McShay constantly brings up the point that every NFL star QB that is in the league right now kept their nose clean during their time in college. Once again, this is flat out false. To demonstrate just how false a statement that is, I only need to say two words: Cam Newton.

Cam is a former Heisman Trophy winner. He was the Number 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. He was the Rookie of the Year in the NFL. He is a two time Pro Bowler. He has multiple endorsements, most notably as the face of Gatorade. Yet we rarely hear about Cam Newton’s transgressions during his time at three different colleges before he entered the NFL. ESPN never talks about the fact that Newton was arrested in his second season at the University of Florida for stealing a laptop from another student, a laptop that he tried to throw out of a window when it was found in his possession by the police. He was also caught cheating twice during his two year tenure at UF, leading to his transfer to Blinn College for a year of JUCO ball. Newton’s father also admitted to soliciting over $100,000 from Mississippi State in order to have Cam play for the Bulldogs instead of for Auburn, an incident that led to Auburn declaring him ineligible for a grand total of one day.

I am not trying to skewer Cam Newton for these incidents. He matured and became a better man because of his struggles, and we are seeing him succeed mightily at the next level. There is no reason to think that Jameis Winston can’t do the same thing. Don’t count him out of being the number 1 overall pick in 2015 or 2016.

 

3. How does 2014 FSU compare to 2013 FSU?

What ESPN Will Say: FSU is nowhere near as good as they were last year. 

What ESPN Should Say: FSU hasn’t been as dominant in 2014 as they were in 2013 up to this point, but they have the potential to be even stronger than they were last year by season’s end. 

The Noles lost a lot from last year’s team. Timmy Jernigan  isn’t clogging up the middle anymore. Kelvin Benjamin isn’t skying for TDs (at least not for FSU). Christian Jones isn’t tearing off the edge. Devonta Freeman isn’t scampering down the sideline. Most of all, Lemarcus Joyner, the undisputed team leader, isn’t there to guide the team through adversity.

FSU is still adapting to playing without these players, and to not having Joyner as their leader. The team is more mistake prone and is not hitting on all cylinders. That being said, we have seen every aspect of the game executed at an exceptional level by the Noles at one point or another this season. We have just not seen them executed exceptionally together. FSU has an incredible amount of young talent that is still getting their first look at playing time. This is a more talented squad, in fact, than the one the Noles had in 2013. The only thing that remains to be seen is if that treasure trove of talent can be translated to on the field domination. It hasn’t happened yet, but if this year’s team gels at any point like last year’s team did from the get-go, the rest of the country better watch out. The potential is there.  The leaders are there. As fans, the only thing to do is hope for one of these leaders to emerge and for things to click sooner than later.  If that does occur, ESPN will have no choice to acknowledge FSU as the favorite to win it all.