Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Case Closed

Football season is finally here. The college football season starts Thursday night, the NFL pre-season wraps up Thursday night, and then the NFL regular season opens the following Thursday night, the 10th. I am ready. I'm tired of the only sports news being about tennis, golf, soccer, etc. Blah. Let's just go ahead and have the first coin toss and get this party started. Shall we?

ESPN (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Over the last couple of years, many of us have written articles (including a few by me - here and here), had debates, and rendered our opinions about what we believe is a pro-SEC bias by ESPN. The network has even been dubbed "ESecPN". Most of the football fans who feel this way cheer for teams from conferences other than the SEC, including the PAC-12, the ACC, the Big 12, and others. Some disagree with us, which is their prerogative. Most of these dissenters are, of course, fans of SEC schools.

Recently, ESPN released it's "Football Power Index 2015". The contents provide additional evidence to backup the pro-SEC bias theory. For instance, 5 of the top 10 and 8 of the top 20 teams are SEC schools. The next most represented conference is the PAC-12 with only 2 in the top 10 and 4 in the top 20. You can view the index in it's entirety by clicking here.

The index ranks 128 teams using a number of factors to predict each one's performance for the upcoming college football season. However, I will focus on only 2 - Tennessee (UT) and Florida State (FSU). My reason for doing so is because I am a FSU fan living in Tennessee.

Let's start with UT. The index ranks them #14 predicting their won-loss record will be 8.8-3.4. I'll add a slight adjustment for rounding, for simplification, making their "predicted" record, based upon a 12-game schedule, either 8-4 or 9-3.

English: Logo of the Southeastern Conference (...
English: Logo of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I don't think so, ESPN. Try again. During the 3 previous seasons, 2012-2014, UT has finished:
  • 2012 - 5-7 overall, 1-7 SEC,
  • 2013 - 5-7 overall, 2-6 SEC, and
  • 2014 - 7-6 overall, 3-5 SEC.
Their cumulative record during that time is 17-20. Plus, last year they had 0, none, nada wins over ranked opponents, and if it hadn't been for wins over 2 SEC cellar dwellers in their last 3 games of the season, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, they would have missed being bowl eligible for the 4th straight year. Yet, this so-called "power index" predicts they'll go 8-4, at worst, this year even though:
  • they play Georgia and Oklahoma at home,
  • they travel to "The Swamp" to receive their annual beating from the Gators,
  • they travel to Alabama and Missouri after both played in the SEC Championship game last year, and
  • they play Arkansas at home, who very easily could have won 4 more games last year and finished 10-2. Arkansas lost to Alabama by 1, and Texas A&M, Missisippi State, and Georgia by a touchdown each. All 4 of those teams were ranked in the top 10 when the games were played. Mississippi State was ranked #1 at the time.
So, forget about 8-4 or 9-3. I predict they'll lose all 6 of these games to finish 6-6.

Now, let's look at FSU. The index ranks them #19 predicting their won-loss record will be 9.6-2.8. Once again, I'll add a slight adjustment for rounding making their "predicted" record, based upon a 12-game schedule, either 9-3 or 10-2.

As an FSU fan, I would love to see that prediction come true, but I don't think it will. They have a new quarterback and have sent 29 players to the NFL in the last 3 years, which by the way is a NCAA record. It's hard to replace that much talent in one year. I think if FSU finishes 8-4, they will have had a good year, because I see the potential for 4 losses against Miami, Clemson, Louisville, and Georgia Tech. If they can somehow win those 4 games, win the ACC Atlantic Division, and reach the ACC Title Game, it will have been a great year.

As with UT, let's look at their record for the last 3 years:
  • 2012 - 12-2 overall, 7-1 ACC, won ACC Championship and won the Orange Bowl
  • 2013 - 14-0 overall, 8-0 ACC, won ACC Championship and National Championship, and 
  • 2014 - 13-1 overall, 8-0 ACC, won ACC Championship and qualified for the playoffs.
During this 3-year period, FSU's cumulative record was 39-3, including a 29-game winning streak. They also won 4 games over ranked opponents in 2014 vs. UT's 0. They won 3 straight ACC Titles and a National Championship, yet the index has them ranked 5 spots behind UT. Even though I think FSU is likely to have a down year this year, they will still be better than UT, so a power index ranking putting them behind UT is ludicrous. It is, in my opinion, the strongest piece of evidence yet supporting the idea of a pro-SEC bias by ESPN.

I'm sure I'll catch some heat over this article from the SEC faithful. I realize that sometimes the truth is hard to accept but the case is now closed.

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