Florida State Wins and ESPN Drops Diabolical Plan to Undermine the Seminoles

I meant to write this Monday, but other articles were more important.  The National Media often over-react to results  early in the season.  In some ways, that is a good thing.  It's certainly preferable to people sticking to their pre-season ballot, disregarding actual on-field play in favor of enforcing their own preconceived notions.  But the flip side of this is that even those in the media willing to allow early season results shape their opinions, their focus is results only.  That's better than nothing, but they can do better.  A prime example of this is Miami v. Florida State.  Miami beat FSU by 4 points and the game was ultimately decided on the final play- a 4 yard dropped pass to Jarmon Fortson.  The writers deemed Miami "back."  Apparently, just four points separate a program from being "back" from not being back.  Then Miami beats Georgia Tech soundly, in Miami, after having  a bye week.  They are way back.  Florida State had a bad hangover game against Jacksonville State.  The program is in shambles.  Going into their contest against the #7 ranked BYU cougars, not many gave the Noles a chance. 

A Florida State program is going to go and be outclassed by better athletes, better playmakers, from that BYU program. I think that man-to-man coverage has been a problem of Florida State's for years now. They don't have the personnel to do it. This is not the 1980's. And I think that max Hall with all those weapons; Dennis Pitta, Mckay Jacobsen, Harvey Unga, all the way down, I think that they are going to exploit this defense and I think it'll be a sign of Florida State and a sign of the times of needing to kind of transition and become modern on the defensive side._ Todd McShay, director of ESPN's Scouts INC.

Various other experts from ESPN, CBS, Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, and College Football News all had the Noles losing by three touchdowns or more, to BYU.  The chasm between Miami and the Nole team they defeated by less than a touchdown just two weeks earlier, was unbelievable.  Did the media simply look at the Win/Loss and not how both teams played?  That seemed to be the only explanation.

Fast forward to the Noles beat-down of #7 BYU in Provo, 54-28 (Noles pulled their starters up 54-21).  It was a game few watched because it was on the Versus network.  But some media did notice...

The reaction first came from ESPN's college gameday crew, minus Lee Corso.  Chris Fowler and Desmond Howard sat stunned at the desk as they talked to Kirk Herbstreit, who didn't watch the FSU game because he was calling the TTech v . Texas game.  But he did see a few highlights and watched the scores roll across.  Fowler had said the game would be closer than the experts think, but the rest of the gameday crew that morning said that BYU would win by 3+ touchdowns.  After the game, they changed their tone.

Fowler:   A stunning story in Provo Utah as Florida State, boom, BYU got punctured. FSU went in there and destroyed the Cougars.  Christian Ponder was outstanding, very efficient at quarterback, Florida State's defense got after BYU and overwhelmed them with speed. I don't think we saw this coming. I mean, incredible.

Kirk:  No, no not at all. I thought Florida State would limp in, not have the ability to stay up with [QB] Max Hall and the execution of the BYU offense. And to my surprise, boy they showed up, I think they were tired of hearing about BYU. Seeing the highlights and watching the scores come in and as much as they dominated this game. I think they were tired of hearing about BYU and decided to show who had the true athletes. They stepped up and that is a monumental win for the '09 season as they look at the rest of the year and what still has to go.

Fowler: Noles are a very close call from being undefeated to Miami and they take down a BCS buster,

John Anderson (jumping in from sports center): It was a route and then some.

Reece Davis (from College Football Final): The Seminoles looked like, they looked like Old School Florida State. 54-28, BYU just gets obliterated.

Kirk: this is what's great about the early college football seaosn. Florida State shocks the college football world with their performance with a real edge and attitude about them. If they do that every week, I don't know if there is a team on their shedule that can play with them.

Fowler: i don't know if there is a team in the country that can play with them. Shocking.


It kept on late Saturday night, Via Twitter. 

In response to my question on ranking FSU relative to BYU: 

BFeldmanESPNI think u got to rank them ahead.. they have the same record and they hammered them at their place.

Then it came Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated, one of the least biased Gators around:

Andy_Staples@TomahawkNation Depends. Is it the #FSU that whooped #BYU or the one that almost lost to Jax State?

To that, I responded that I'd choose to evaluate their two games against 1A competition, in which they had more than two days of practice.

Andy_Staples@TomahawkNation Fair enough. Then yes, they're pretty good. And Greg Reid is an absolute baller.

Andy_Staples@TomahawkNation FSU was ahead of BYU on my ballot.

The younger, non-tv crowd seemed to get it:  embrace the win and how a team is currently playing, but don't make sweeping judgments about a program after only three games.  I generally find that the non-TV guys pay more attention to the happenings of college football and are less concerned about popping 15-second soundbites. 

Another Sports Illustrated Writer, Stewart Mandel also took note:

Underrated: Florida State (AP: No. 18; coaches: No. 25)

The Seminoles came within a last-second end zone drop of beating Miami in Week 1. It was pretty clear that night they were two evenly matched teams, yet they remain nine spots apart in the AP poll and 12 in the coaches. At least AP voters had the sense to rank FSU ahead of BYU. The coaches still have the 'Noles five spots behind a team they just drubbed 54-28 on the Cougars' home field.  http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/stewart_mandel/09/20/Mandel.overtime/1.html


College Football conscious ESPN  Radio host Colin Cowherd also took note on Monday:

A premiere program_ Colin cowherd


As did Matt Hinton of Dr. Saturday (Yahoo Sports)

Bye-bye, BYUbirds.
Last week's hot dish is this week's lunchmeat, and Brigham Young got their milk money stolen on their own turf by the maddeningly erratic heavy Florida State. The bloom is off the BCS-bustin' rose, and Max Hall's quietly budding Heisman hopes are fertilizer after a three-interception outing. And now that I've filled my metaphor-throttling quota for the week: This was an ugly, ugly game, is my point. Homefield advantage, all the momentum on their side -- with no discernible momentum of any kind propelling the Seminoles -- weren't enough to overcome five Cougar turnovers and, honestly, what looked like a pure speed and talent advantage on the part of Florida State. Christian Ponder is no Chris Rix, and for the first time this season I mean that in a good way. (Are the games where the 'Noles actually show up to play football the games where Bobby Bowden's alert and on top of it, or the games where he just naps under the bench for the entire second half? Legitimate question.)  http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/blog/dr_saturday/post/Mid-Major-Monday-Boise-and-Fresno-bring-back-th?urn=ncaaf,190943#remaining-content


But its back to Sports Illustrated for perhaps the best realization of the problem with pollsters over or under-reacting:

A tale of three teams:

Oklahoma (No. 9), BYU (No. 20) and FSU (No. 25). That's how they're ranked in the Coaches' Poll...in exactly the opposite order of their head-to-head victories. Unfortunately, without the Coaches' ballots we really can't figure out why it worked out this way. However, we can look to the AP with its public ballots and get some sense of what is going on.

In the AP, we see: Oklahoma (No. 10), FSU (No. 18), BYU (No. 19). So many AP voters are making the same decisions but not quite as drastic. Even after FSU soundly beat BYU 54 - 28 in Provo, 8 voters have BYU ranked but not the Seminoles, and in all, 19 voters (out of 60) still ranked the Cougars over the Noles. Leading the way is Dave Matter of the Columbia Daily Tribune who ranked BYU No. 11, but left FSU unranked.

Following this train of thought, 48 voters now have Oklahoma ranked over BYU. That's up from three people last week. This isn't completely surprising considering how badly BYU lost at home, but the Sooners and the Cougars now have the same record and BYU won the head-to-head. It's hard to justify a spread like Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal who ranks Oklahoma No. 7 and leaves BYU unranked.

Riding the train full circle, it's also surprising that only 12 voters have FSU ranked over Oklahoma. After all, all three teams have one loss. BYU beats Oklahoma on a neutral field. FSU beats BYU on the road. You would think most people would put FSU over both BYU and Oklahoma, but it isn't even close. Could Oklahoma's lopsided victories over Idaho State and Tulsa really warrant the Sooners earning so much respect? Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle feels strongly enough about it to rank the Sooners No. 8 while leaving the Seminoles and BYU unranked.

When I say "surprising" above, I don't mean that I'm surprised that the polls shook out this way. After all, many voters have used the classic method of only shifting teams a limited distance with each ballot for years. What does surprise me is that people still think this is acceptable years after the AP provided guidelines to the contrary and sites like Pollspeak have been shedding light on these antiquated voting styles. (Coaches are not provided with these guidelines, by the way.) These voters are still using wishbone ballots in the era of the spread and west-coast voting.


More USF stuff later today.

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