I’ve been noticing a growing trend as of late that has only become more prominent since the inception of the College Football Playoff. Fans and media alike are beginning to grill college football players and coaches after games that those players and coaches win.
I suppose it’s always been that way to a certain extent, but this past weekend, I saw it spill over to the front page — especially in the Big Ten.
Penn State head coach James Franklin felt the need to defend himself and his team this past Saturday after a close win over Army. His frustration appeared to be directed at those who focused on betting lines and spreads. He talked about how he doesn’t pay attention to lines and doesn’t know any coach who does.
I believe him. If there is a coach who does, that’s a problem.
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Winning college football games is hard, especially at the FBS level. Yes, you have 128 teams, but all of those teams are loaded with scholarship athletes — the best amateur football players in the country. Some players are better than others, but when you are talking about a level of talent that allows you to go to school for free, the differences from player to player are, for the most part, negligible. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about the SEC or the MAC.
For this reason, it seems like we see less blowouts every year. If and when they happen, they are usually the results of better coaching and a dramatic difference in depth in terms of those elite players who do stand out from the rest.
Coaches and players never prepare for games hoping to win by a certain amount. They prepare to win. Sometimes wins are ugly, but a win is still a win — and it’s not a loss. The nature of college football at the FBS level — with its “figure skating” mentality of deciding who is the better team based on how they look while performing — doesn’t allow us to simply appreciate wins.
Think about this for a moment: Boise State and the games the Broncos win are often discounted on a national scale due to the caliber of competition they face. People assume that winning games against (former) WAC and Mountain West teams is easy. It’s not like they are playing Power 5 squads every week. They SHOULD beat those teams, right?
Now think about this: Over the last 25 seasons, only seven teams from the Group of 5 (mid-majors) have finished with undefeated seasons. That’s thousands of rosters of players, taking the field over two and a half decades, trying to win every game — and only seven did so. Why?
Because winning college football games is hard.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers are currently 2-3. They are, by all accounts, having a tough season. Injuries, coaching miscues and yes, a Hail Mary, have all come into play. Regardless of who or what is responsible, Nebraska fans aren’t happy. They are just a few months removed from firing a coach who fell out of bed and won nine games each season. Many said they didn’t fire him because of the games he won (which makes sense), but instead due to his attitude and the games he didn’t win.
As it stands, the Huskers have a soft-spoken, polite coach with a positive attitude at the helm of their program. He has already lost one less game this season than his predecessor averaged each entire season during the course of seven years.
Does this mean he is a bad coach? Does this mean Nebraska is a bad football team? No and No.
What it means is that winning college football games is hard.
Again, 128 teams in FBS. Only one team can win the national championship. The odds are extremely stacked against your team being the one that raises the trophy at the end of the year.
Be upset about the losses. Cheer for your team and hope they do well. Want them to win. But don’t ever expect them to win by a certain amount in a certain way and call it a failure when they don’t. That makes it hard on you, the players, the coaches and the other fans.