We all have our favorite teams. We are most optimistic before the first kickoff. After all...our teams are undefeated.
Many wonder why certain teams seem to always get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to media coverage and votes in the polls. They have to lose their way out of the top 25 instead of win their way in.
Why does Notre Dame or Southern Cal only have to show up and the media wets its collective pants? Yet other teams must prove themselves worthy each season.
The media seems to constantly spin stories in their favor. Fast forward to ESPN following the opening weekend.
Chris—I see where Southern Cal was upset by San Jose St. in their opener. What do you make of it, Kirk?
Kirk—Well Chris, we need to look at more than the score. Remember, USC's QB had a troubling hangnail on his non-throwing hand.
Lee—Yeh, yeh. that's right! Don't forget he broke up with his girlfriend the previous weekend. That must have been devastating,
Chris—It was the first game of the season and.....
Lee—You got that right. Don't worry the Trojans will bounce back and be in it at the end.
Kirk—I agree. It shouldn't hurt USC in the polls too much.
Lee—True. They may drop a few spots, but they will recover quickly. Count on it.
Chris—Speaking of upsets, how about Florida Atlantic's stunner over Nebraska?
Kirk - That was a real surprise. Maybe Coach Pelini underestimated his opponent. Or perhaps Nebraska is a year or two away from returning to the big time.
Lee—Yeh, The Huskers can say bye bye to the top 25 for a while. In fact they had better watch out for Arkansas St next week.
It is obvious that the two upsets were treated quite differently in the fantasy vignette. This kind of coverage is more common than one would think; especially today when it is much easier to verify and challenge such bias.
Anyone who is the least bit familiar with the history of big time college football knows there are a handful of programs, which many consider the elite of the elite. These teams are almost always given the benefit of the doubt and often overrated.
Like it or not, most of the teams have "earned" their privileged position. For the purposes of this discussion I think the following definition of the elite of the elites would be acceptable by most.
---The program must have been a winner during different eras under different coaches and been consistently relevant on the national scene within living memory.---
Among the programs, I'd include in this select group are Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, and Oklahoma. I'm sure an argument can be made for other schools such as Texas, Nebraska, Tennessee, LSU, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami, Florida, Florida State, Penn St, Army, Princeton, Minnesota, Maryland, Stanford etc. Each of these teams fail to meet all the criteria of the definition.
Minnesota, Army, Princeton and Maryland have not been major players since the 1950s.
With the exception of their one national championship in the 80s, Georgia Tech has not been a national contender since Bobby Dodd retired. Tennessee has had a similar though not identical run since General Neyland left the scene.
The Florida three, Florida, Miami, and Florida State, are relative newcomers to the "big" time. Florida and Miami proved they could win under different coaches, but a run of 20 years hardly compares to the records of the likes of Oklahoma and Notre Dame. Florida State has yet to prove it can win under more than one head coach as well as being a winner over decades.
Stanford, Nebraska, Texas, LSU and Georgia, all fall short of the elite largely because they are overshadowed by more famous rivals. Nebraska had its run under Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne. Texas had Darrel Royal, and now Mack Brown.
Both programs pale when compared to the Sooners. Stanford, LSU and Georgia have each had their moments of glory. But compared to Southern Cal and Alabama, they are not even close.
For most of their history the Nittany Lions had to deal with playing the second fiddle independent to Notre Dame. They are now faced with being in the same conference as Ohio State and Michigan. Like Florida State, Penn State has had most of their success under one coach.
I hope this little treatise helps us better understand why Notre Dame's close win over Sister Mary's School for Deaf and Blind Girls is the lead story on ESPN instead of our school's upset of 10th ranked Michigan State.
There is always hope. Over time the select group does change. For example, Oklahoma essentially replaced Army. Perhaps if our school continues to be among the national powers for the next 50 years or so, some other team's fan can whine when our team's victory over the State Academy for the Sick and Lame is Sport Center's lead story.