Friday Five: The most disrespected programs in college football
In this week's Friday Five, we rank the five college teams that never get the respect they deserve
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 teams which never seem to get the respect they deserve.
Disrespect is a common theme among football teams. Coaches love to tell their teams about how their opponent or the media doesn't respect them. Nobody thinks they're good enough, and nobody believes in them except the people in whatever locker room the speech is being given in.
Most of the time it's paranoia, or it's just straight-up lies. Nick Saban would tell his players that nobody believes they can beat Chattanooga if he believed it would help them win the game.
Yet, while a lot of the disrespect is manufactured, or misconstrued, it does exist. We see it on an annual basis. Some teams, no matter what they do, can never seem to get outsiders to believe in them.
They get taken for granted, whether by college football fans, the media, or even their peers.
For this week's Friday Five, I'm ranking five schools that just don't get the respect they deserve these days.
5. Notre Dame: I can see the double-takes so many of you are doing right now, as you believe this must be some kind of mistake, but it isn't. It's just difficult to comprehend because, for years, Notre Dame was annually one of the most over-hyped teams in the country. Whenever it did anything well, there was an army of supporters ready to declare that Notre Dame was good.
The echoes, they had been woken up!
The thing is, though, because the Irish were hyped up so often, it's become a sort of defense mechanism among college football fans who aren't Notre Dame fans. Any time you're told something good about Notre Dame, your natural reaction is to just roll your eyes and think "here we go again." I mean, even after the Irish went 12-0 during the regular season in 2012 -- beating Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford, Oklahoma and USC along the way -- so many people were convinced they were a fraud. Then, after getting their butts kicked by Alabama -- because Alabama doesn't do that to every damn body -- in the title game, there was the familiar refrain of "I told you they sucked all along."
But they didn't. And they haven't for a while now. The Irish may not be on the level that they were back when they were winning national titles on a regular basis, but they're annually one of the most talented teams in the country, and they once again have a good coach at the helm. If anything these days, they aren't over-hyped as much as they're over-looked as a playoff contender.
4. Utah: This is a situation I understand. While Utah was a very good program when it remained in the Mountain West, its adjustment to the Pac-12 was a bit difficult to say the least. The Utes went from a team that had won 33 games from 2008 to 2010 to a team that won 18 games in its first three seasons on the Power Five level, including a record of 9-18 in Pac-12 play.
But the Utes have turned a corner since then.
Utah was a loss to USC away from winning the Pac-12 South last season, and was even ranked in the top five early in the season, before fading slightly and finishing the season at 10-3.
Heading into 2016, though, I don't think Utah gets enough credit. I know it has to replace a major part of its offense in Devontae Booker, but this is a season in which the Pac-12 is wide-open. Stanford is the clear favorite, and should be, but there aren't many people who consider Utah to be a legitimate contender within the conference this year.
There should be.
3. Michigan State: Sparty fans tend to play the disrespect card a bit too often, and that's due in large part to their coach, Mark Dantonio, relying on it. There's a reason for it, though, because Michigan State still doesn't really get the respect it deserves.
This is a team that has won three Big Ten titles in the last six years, and has won at least 11 games in five of the last six seasons. For most of the last decade, the Spartans have surpassed in-state rival Michigan to join Ohio State as the other alpha dog in the Big Ten.
Yet, every year, there are plenty of people who believe this will be the season that Michigan State falls back to reality.
You're definitely going to see it in 2016. While the Big Ten's media poll hasn't been released yet, most pundits are predicting that the Spartans will finish third in the Big Ten East this season. It's understandable given everything they lose from last year's team -- which won the Big Ten and was selected for the College Football Playoff.
Where the disrespect comes in is that the two teams that will be chosen ahead of Michigan State are Ohio State and Michigan. The former has to replace more key players from its team than possibly any other team in history, while the latter hasn't a conference title since 2004 and has never won a division since the conference expanded.
2. Oklahoma State: This is something that didn't even dawn on me until recently. Last month, I decided to create a hypothetical soccer-style system of promotion and relegation for college football. I divided the Power Five conferences up in new conferences based on nothing but their performance over the last five seasons. The teams with the best records were all paired together in the top league.
Oklahoma State was one of the teams in the top league, ahead of schools like Wisconsin, USC, UCLA and Florida. I wasn't expecting it.
And that's the crux of Oklahoma State's existence within the national consciousness.
The last few years when trying to figure out who the best team in the Big 12 is, the schools that are mentioned are Oklahoma, TCU and Baylor. Then there's some discussion as to whether or not this is the season Texas is BACK.
Oklahoma State is rarely mentioned. This year the Big 12's preseason poll has the Cowboys finishing a distant third behind Oklahoma and TCU. We seem to forget that this is a team that has won at least 10 games in four of the last six seasons, and has only finished lower than third in the Big 12 once since the conference went to 10 teams.
I'm not saying we need to pick Oklahoma State as a favorite in the Big 12, or as a playoff contender, but we should probably at least start mentioning it more as far as contenders in the Big 12. It's earned at least that much.
1. Mississippi State: The SEC West is a difficult division to predict, because there are so many strong teams in it. There's one easy thing to do though, and that's predict Mississippi State will finish last in the division.
The media did it last season, and the Bulldogs finished 4-4, tied with Texas A&M, and ahead of the team the same media predicted to win the SEC -- Auburn.
They did it again in 2016, predicting that the Bulldogs will finish last in the West this season, and they weren't even close to sixth place. I understand it, because it's hard to replace Dak Prescott, and again, the SEC West is difficult.
But the thing is, Mississippi State hasn't actually finished last in the SEC West since 2009, and even then it was tied with both Arkansas and Auburn at 3-5 in conference play. While the Bulldogs may not be a national title contender, it just feels like nobody ever really wants to take them seriously, either.
They aren't a great team. I'm not here to claim that they are. It's just they aren't a team that deserves to be penciled in for a last place finish every year, either.
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