With the Heels winning their first five against a formidable schedule, the light blue bandwagon filled up at a remarkable pace. Those that jumped ship last season have resorted to fighting for their discarded bandwagon seat as if last year never happened.
Bandwagon, or if you prefer - fair-weather fans, are a dime a thousand in sports so the masses returning to the light blue is no surprise, and a welcomed sight. As the Heels move in the rankings, those masses will ebb and flow like the tides. (Since Carolina lost big to the Illini, I am sure it's low tide for some already.)
But unlike the masses, I am with Matt Doherty when he spoke of not wanting the Heels to be ranked in the polls. Aside from the fact that the polls mean nothing until late March (and that is only in the cases of those teams on the NCAA bubble), rankings only serve to increase pressure on players and coaches and create ridiculous expectations from a respective team's fan base. Being ranked high looks good and is certainly impressive to everyone including prospective recruits, but make the NCAA Tournament and play deep into March and April on a regular basis and recruiting takes care of itself.
So as the Heels recover from a whipping in Assembly Hall to the two-time defending Big Ten champ Illinois, their ranking will drop. Their confidence should not. Playing in a tough environment is a valuable experience for everyone involved in last night's game. Though we all like to learn from a win rather than a loss, playing in a hostile arena against a tough team will pay off later in the season. Sure, racking up wins against weaker teams on neutral courts is good for the final record, but you cannot simulate the environments Carolina will face later this season by playing in a half empty Coliseum. Even in defeat, last night's experience is priceless as the youngest team in America moves forward.
On to the football front, and speaking of rankings ... Let's say you finish 6-2 in the conference and tied for second place. You dominate the team you tied for second. You whip the team that finished fourth. You whip one of two teams tied for fifth. You play a tough non-conference schedule while others feast on cupcakes. Despite all that, your best bet for a bowl game is as the ACC's fifth or sixth ‘place' representative in either the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte or the Seattle Bowl way over on the left coast. And, it's not out of the question that you could be out of luck all together!
Anyone think the Virginia Cavaliers don't have a right to be ticked off?
Since those in charge of college football are still living in the Stone Age (and against a playoff system), why not, for the sake of those teams not included in the "elite of college football," make who you play matter and force those cupcake eating teams to ramp up the level of competition they face rather than penalize the teams that play tough games when the bowl invitations come out. A simple beginning point would be to force the bowls to take teams in order of conference finish unless a rematch from during the season would occur. In that case, a bowl must take the team next in line.
Or, why not expand the BCS standings to include the number of teams eligible to go bowling. Then, as with the four current BCS bowls, each bowl has a predetermined ranking of teams it selects determined by the bowl's payout. For example, the Gator gets the ninth and eleventh teams, the Cotton gets the tenth and thirteenth and so on. That way, you lose the boring conference tie-ins and you have the most deserving teams to get in the bigger games thus allowing the players to reap the benefits of their on the field success. After all, that's what college athletics are about, right? [insert rolling eyes filled with $$$ here]
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