Every Friday, the Friday Five will rank something in the world of college football -- anything and everything from the logical to the illogical. This week, we rank the five fan bases who were most vocal about their displeasure in 2016.
After a brief hiatus to allow me to recover from the 2016 season, Friday Five has returned to you. Every day, hundreds upon hundreds of readers would assault me with the same question.
“When is Friday Five coming back?”
OK, so maybe it was just my editor asking me on Friday morning if I was turning one in that week, but he was persistent, and he does impressions, so it sounded like a lot of different people.
Anyway, it’s back now, and I’m revisiting a topic that proved pretty popular around this time last year. I’m going to rank the five fan bases that were the angriest with me during the 2016 season. I never intentionally try to tick anybody off, but when your job involves offering your opinion as often as mine does, you’re bound to touch a nerve here and there.
Thankfully, the anger seldom burns too hot. There’s always one in every crowd, sure, but the majority of hate is the civil kind. Or at least as civil as one can be when they’re calling you an idiot or a moron.
So let’s rank the five fan bases that called me an idiot or a moron most often.
5. Baylor: To be fair, a lot of Baylor fans were mad at a lot of people this season, and in most cases, it was the wrong people they were mad at. Plenty of times that person was me, and all I was doing was writing about the situation taking place within that athletic department, and sharing my opinion that it was all awful. It’s one thing when you’re dealing with a program that’s ignoring NCAA rules. It’s another entirely when considering the things that took place within the Baylor athletic department, and the blind eyes turned by so many.
4. West Virginia: The funniest part of West Virginia fans being mad at me this year was that they were mad at me for something I didn’t even do. In August, before the season started, CBSSports published a story listing the best college football team in each state. The list was compiled by my colleagues Chip Patterson and Robby Kalland. I had nothing to do with it.
The two of them chose Marshall as the best team in the state of West Virginia. I didn’t agree with their choice, though I could understand the reasoning behind it.
Well, that didn’t matter to quite a few West Virginia fans, as I was guilty by association. Things only got worse when the season began, because West Virginia started the year with a 5-0 record. I didn’t completely buy into the Mountaineers hot start. I was skeptical about the offense, and the schedule, and I wasn’t shy about sharing this opinion. At the time, I said I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mountaineers finished the season with as many as five losses.
This angered many, who put this insult on top of Chip and Robby’s post, and I was branded a West Virginia Hater.
Of course, while West Virginia did not lose five games, it did lose three games down the stretch, including key games against the two best teams in the Big 12: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. And once the dust settled, the only teams with a winning record that it beat were BYU (9-4), Kansas State (9-4) and Baylor (7-6), so it was a good but not great team that took advantage of its schedule, and beat the teams it should have. Which was exactly what I was saying about it when it was 5-0.
3. Navy: The hate from Navy fans all stems from my Fornelli 50 rankings, which ran throughout the season. If you aren’t familiar with the rankings, they’re compiled using a mathematical formula of my own creation. My personal opinion has nothing to do with the rankings.
Well, the math in my formula wasn’t a big fan of Navy.
Even after the Mids started the year 9-2 with wins over Houston, Notre Dame and Tulsa, they were generally ranked in the late 30s or early 40s, behind teams like Houston and Tulsa. As you’d expect, this confused and angered a lot of Navy fans who were all too willing to tell me that my formula sucked, and that only an idiot like myself could design it. My explanation for why the formula hated Navy so much was that Navy’s defense was Not Good.
In a lot of major statistical categories, Navy’s defense ranked in the bottom 10 of the country.
And it caught up to the Mids down the stretch, as that 9-2 start ended with a three-game losing streak, including a loss to Army. In the end, Navy was 9-5 and ranked No. 48 in my formula, not much lower than it had been the whole time.
2. Clemson: The hate from Clemson fans also stems from my Fornelli 50 rankings. Clemson was another team that just didn’t get the proper amount of respect from the math. While it was typically in the top 10 all season long, week after week, Clemson would find itself ranked behind Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Washington, and Louisville for a while. It drove Clemson fans nuts, and I heard about it every week.
It was also one of those times where I openly disagreed with my own formula -- which happens with a few teams every season -- yet this was not enough to calm down Clemson fans.
The greatest insult came at the end of the season. Even after Clemson beat Alabama to win the national title, my formula kept Alabama at No. 1. The Tide had just built such a big lead in most categories that a last-second win in the title game by Clemson wasn’t going to be enough to overcome that deficit. As you can imagine, Clemson fans did not take kindly to this!
I do have to say, though, that for as angry as they were with me at many different times this year, Clemson fans were the most polite about it. Lot of passive-aggression coming out of South Carolina in my direction this year.
1. Tennessee: This all started due to a Friday Five before the season even began. If we go back in time to August, we’ll remember that when preseason polls were released, Tennessee was a top 10 team. I found this to be quite ridiculous. Not because I didn’t think Tennessee didn’t have a talented team, nor because I felt it didn’t have a chance to be the best team in the SEC East.
I just felt it was overrated because while the possibilities were there, the Vols hadn’t actually done anything on the football field yet to warrant such a high ranking.
Tennessee fans, that crazy creamsicle-colored community, lit my ass up for it. My Twitter mentions were set ablaze, and let’s just say that while some of the Vols fans yelling at me were doing so in humorous fashion, many more weren’t being as kind as Clemson fans. It was insane.
I remember one fan who actually threatened to get me fired through another Tennessee fan, as he warned me that the Tennessee fan base was very powerful, and had ended careers before. Whose career, I don’t know, but I’m still here.
Its fire only grew through the first month of the season as Tennessee started the year 5-0, but things quieted down quite a bit after the Vols lost four of their final seven games. Tennessee would finish the season ranked No. 24 in the Coaches Poll, 14 spots below where it started the season.
It’s almost as if it had been overrated.