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College Football 2011: 10 Teams That Polarize the Nation

Justin CocchiolaCorrespondent IFebruary 10, 2011

College Football 2011: 10 Teams That Polarize the Nation

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    Like it or not, everything is better with controversy. Controversy is what draws people in. People that could care less about Michigan and Ohio State watch the game and cheer for one or the other. The same can't be said when Michigan State takes on Iowa. Why? Because people, for whatever reason, hate certain teams that dominate the sport.

    Everyone's guilty of it and if you deny it, then you probably have no interest in sports or you're kidding yourself. There are 10 teams in college football that drive the ratings, control that water cooler talk and make people who have no affiliation with a program, hate that program.

    It's what makes the sport fun to watch. Great teams with great traditions need to be great for college football to be great. So here's the list of 10 polarizing teams that have control over how great every college football season will be.

10. Florida State

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    Bobby Bowden is responsible for building a national power in Tallahassee. The football program was near extinction when he took over in 1976 and he put together a record of 302-85-4 at the school from 1976-2009.

    The Seminoles were one of the most feared programs in the country from 1987 until 2000. They won two national titles in that time span, had two Heisman trophy winners in Chris Weinke and Charlie Ward and finished in the top five in every single one of those seasons (14 straight years).

    Success like that draws support and hate from all over the country, and the good news for the future of college football is that Jimbo Fisher has this program moving in the right direction once again.

9. Oklahoma

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    The Oklahoma Sooners are one of the most successful college football programs in the history of the sport. Seven national titles, 43 consensus All-Americans, a member of the 800 win club and five Heisman Trophies fill the program with a shine that nobody can wipe away.

    When Oklahoma is good, which is almost every year, college football is better for it. Bob Stoops continues to add to the programs success and in 2011, the Sooners are the early favorite to win the national title.

    The reason they're lower on this list is because the Sooners don't seem to be as polarizing as a few of the other schools that will be mentioned. That being said, if this program comes rolling in to your college town, you'll likely be a little more amped than usual.

8. Miami

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    When this team is good, they actually have fans in the stands, but when they're bad, nobody shows. It's pretty typical of any Miami fan base, which has fans who love the team no matter what or the casual viewer who only cares when the team's successful.

    Honestly, this team probably has more haters than lovers. Nicknames like "Thug U," "The U" and their battles with Notre Dame called the "Catholics vs. Convicts" make Miami one of the more polarizing programs in the nation.

    The Hurricanes have won five national titles ranging from 1983-2001, have two Heisman Trophy winners and 35 consensus All-Americans in the program's history. On top of that, Miami has been a hotbed for NFL talent.

    The program is struggling now and they're under their third head coach since 2006, but Al Golden has a lot of talent on his current roster, so the pieces to stage a national comeback are in place.

7. Ohio State

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    The Ohio State University is a phrase that every player at every other school tries to use. Who would have ever thought the word "The" would be so coveted.

    "The" is actually part of the university's formal name. People that aren't affiliated with the school hate when it's said "The Ohio State University" because it seems smug or stuck up. Really, the problem is the Buckeyes probably dominate their school at football.

    Ohio State is one of five programs in the history of college football with 800 wins or more. They have seven national titles and seven Heisman Trophy winners. The school has 78 consensus All-Americans, one of the biggest stadiums in the country and one of the nation's best head coaches.

    The Buckeyes are always in play and have arguably the greatest rivalry in college football with Michigan. When these guys are bad, the sport is worse because of it.

6. Florida

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    The Florida Gators have been one of the most polarizing programs in the nation over the past five years, because they had a very iconic and polarizing leader in Tim Tebow.

    Tebow and Urban Meyer brought tremendous attention to an already successful program, and the two of them put together quite a run in a four year span.

    The Gators have three national titles, all since 1996 and two since 2006, and three Heisman Trophy winners. They also have controversy when Meyer toyed with leaving after the 2009 season and then finally left after the 2010 season.

    So many people were glad to see Florida look like an everyday program in 2010, largely because they're tired of seeing the Gators succeed. Tebow was one of the most beloved college football players of all time, but he did have a large amount of haters as well.  Tebow and Meyer helped rejuvenate the Gator program, and they made college football more interesting in the process.

5. Alabama

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    Thanks to Nick Saban, the Alabama Crimson Tide football program is relevant again. One of, if not the most successful program of all time, the Crimson Tide have 13 national titles, two since 1992 including one in 2009, but only one Heisman Trophy winner.

    They're in the 800 win group, have fielded 47 consensus All-Americans and are once again one of the best programs in the nation.

    Before Saban came to town, Alabama was an afterthought. They were on probation and Mike Shula was making the most of his situation, but they were your everyday run-of-the-mill program. Now they're a national power who's competing for a national title every year.

    As long as Saban is there, Alabama will be great, which helps the overall product of college football.

4. Texas

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    With four national titles, 850 wins, two Heisman Trophy winners, 53 consensus All-Americans and one of the best head coaches in college football, the Texas Longhorns come in at number four on the list of college football's most polarizing teams.

    When you think Texas football, two colors, white and burnt orange, come to mind. They're iconic, dominate, easy to love, easy to hate. The Longhorns are everything college football should be and when they're winning, so is the NCAA.

    Texas even has their own network coming out, thanks to ESPN. Mack Brown constantly brings in the best high school talent out of the state of Texas and around the nation. That's why the 2010 season was so shocking to see.

    Many loved the fact that Texas completely unraveled in 2010, but you can guarantee college football took a hit because of it. Without a dominate Texas, the Big 12 is less interesting, the Red River Rivalry is harder to play up and college football TV ratings take a hit when one of their best programs is struggling.

    There's no doubt about it. College football is more interesting when the Longhorns are winning.

3. Michigan

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    The winningest program in the history of college football has done everything but that in the last few seasons. When Michigan is bad, college football takes a big time hit. Why, you ask? When the program with the most wins gets talked about in a negative manner, it doesn't help the overall product.

    Michigan has 11 national titles, three Heisman Trophy winners, 77 consensus All-Americans and 884 wins all time. Add to it the "Go Blue" motto and the Wolverines have one of the biggest brands in sports.

    When this team is bad and constantly at the center of controversy, it just gives the sport a bad vibe. It's been a great run for Ohio State fans to see their arch rival struggle, but it wouldn't be surprising to see a few of them cheering for a turnaround, just so there can be a rivalry again.

    Michigan-Ohio State is one of the most anticipated rivalries in sports every year, but that has not been the case over the last three seasons, which puts one of college football's most heavily viewed games in a noon time slot.

    Brady Hoke has a big project ahead, but when a guy campaigns to get a job, that's probably a good sign that he wants to be there.

2. Southern California

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    The USC Trojans are one of the most iconic, polarizing, loved and hated teams in college football, placing them at number two on this list.

    They're close to the 800 win mark with 761 wins all time, but are undergoing a rough period in an otherwise dominant century so far with the Reggie Bush probation sanctions.

    The Trojans have 11 national titles, six Heisman Trophy winners (excluding Bush) and 78 consensus All-Americans.

    Adding to their controversy is second year head coach Lane Kiffin. Kiffin may already be the most polarizing figure in college football and 2011 will only be his third year as a head coach in the NCAA. Kiffin did a nice job in 2010 with having a young team motivated to essentially play for nothing and he has that same challenge facing him this year.

    When USC is good, they dominate media coverage because they're one of college football's biggest money makers. There's only one other team in college football that's more polarizing than the Trojans and it's their biggest rival.

1. Notre Dame

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    The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are the owners of the most polarizing team in the country. Why Notre Dame? It's simple. When teams like Tulsa beat the Fighting Irish, when they've been at their worst for the last few years, the coaches still say it's the greatest win in the program's history. 

    WHAT?

    Hearing those words leave Todd Graham's mouth after the Golden Hurricane's upset win over the Fighting Irish in 2010 was unbelievable to hear. If it had happened 20 years ago then yes, huge win. But it happened in 2010.

    Notre Dame carries the most prestigious luster of any program in the country for reasons like that. They have 845 wins all time, 11 national titles with only one of those (1988) coming within the last 34 years, seven Heisman Trophy winners and 96 consensus All-Americans.

    Their best years this century have come under Charlie Weis and Brady Quinn. Weis was media savvy and although he didn't have a lot of success post-Quinn era, Notre Dame was an interesting program that people could rally their love or hate around.

    Notre Dame is a traditional power, but they've almost become the program that you know about because your grandparents told you about how dominate they were in the good 'ol days.

    It's disappointing because a program with so much history should always be good, but the Irish have fallen on hard times. Brian Kelly has a tough task ahead of him, but it's one college football needs him to achieve.

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