Last week around the ACC, the buzz was all about respect and a new sense of cooperation between the league and its members (specifically the football schools). Jumping off from these ideas, Hokie Mark and I chatted about what it all means, and what these ideas may develop into over the coming years. Check out the conversation below:
Mark: Earlier this off-season, Bob Stoops of Oklahoma made sports news with his statement to the effect that SEC football superiority is largely “propaganda.” Now Florida State‘s Jimbo Fisher has come out and said that the ACC is not far behind the SEC and that “perception is a huge part of it.” Is this just coach speak, or are OU, FSU and others in the ACC really close enough to dethrone the SEC?
John: College football coaches are, to a point, politicians, in that they’ll say whatever needs to be said to stay in the good graces of their fans/constituents. Stoops also said in the last month that the BCS was terrible after what happened to his team last year — ignoring all the times his team benefited from that same flawed system. Point is, he’ll say whatever’s necessary to make it appear like it’s not his fault that his team has fallen short of expectations. Fisher is in a similar boat, but has also just come off a season in which the ‘Noles largely met preseason expectations (ACC title, Orange Bowl). Both do have a point, however.
The college football season is largely shaped by the preseason polls, and whether or not a team appears in them regularly determines whether they’re in the title conversation at the end of it. So the bias toward the SEC has actually created a situation where the league gets off to a running start against the competition. That’s not to say the top teams in the SEC aren’t better than the top teams in other conferences (they are, for the most part), but they do get a slight leg-up on the perception front, which is half the battle in college football.
What about you, though? Obviously your team’s been in the national title conversation more often than mine has over the past decade, so how does it feel being discounted when you’re near the top of the polls?
Mark: Not at all, John. I’m one of those guys who thrives on not getting respect — it makes me want to prove it. And I think for the most part the Virginia Tech football team is the same; when they are disrespected, that’s when they are most dangerous. I know the Key Play has “Beat Bama” t-Shirts for sale, and Hokies everywhere seem to be running with the #BeatBama hash tag. So even though we are prohibitive underdogs, I’m quietly optimistic that Beamer & Co. will have “a little something” for Alabama.