Simpson: National media ignores USC
Editor's note: Marty Simpson earned four letters and started 44 games for the Gamecock football team. In this feature, he takes a look at a topic as an analyst, letterman and comedian.
The baseball team already had won one national championship and couldn't get Orel Hershiser to research the names of the Gamecock players well enough to pronounce them correctly during their second national championship. It pained me to listen to him discuss how high the UCLA pitchers were going to be drafted as we spanked the Bruins in 2010, and in 2011 all he wanted to talk about was how special it was for Florida to make the title game. Really, Orel?
Football season is even worse. 2011 hasn't been that stellar a beginning for the Gamecocks to most national media outlets. Basically all the preseason hype is working against the Gamecocks as the expectations were set so high that only blowout victories would satisfy them. The national media is buzzing with "the Gamecocks are overrated, and Florida is now the team to beat in the East."
This type of undeserved admiration thrown at the national powerhouse programs is part of what keeps those programs at the elite level. Years when these programs don't deserve such lavish praise and they get it anyway based on historical reputation alone, helps their national image and recruiting.
Why does the national media do this? Honestly, I don't know. It seems to me that the underdog story is what sells in Hollywood, but evidently this is not the case for media outlets. The status quo for national media outlets obviously is, "If a team is a traditional powerhouse program, make sure anything they do seems legit and make sure to thoroughly ignore any program that seems to be breaking into the inner-circle from the fringe."
One headline pops to mind: "Notre Dame Shocked!" After the Irish lost at home to South Florida. (As opposed to South Florida Defeats Irish!)
Honestly, sometimes I feel like negative attention would be better than the treatment CBS gives South Carolina now. The Gamecocks, for the most part, have been invisible to the national game of the week on CBS. The USC-Georgia match-up is one of the best rivalries in the SEC East and would make for a natural CBS game of the week. However, it has conflicted with their coverage of the U.S. Open tennis tournament so that game never is slated for that time slot. Meanwhile, Florida will play a handful of national network games of the week shown to every household in the country every year! Even last year as the Gators struggled to have a winning record they were on CBS multiple times.
The Gamecocks have not lived up to the preseason hype. They have not covered the spread in all of their games, having won their games by an average of just 8.3 points. However, I predict that when we look back on these three wins at season's end, we will be impressed.
East Carolina lost to the Gamecocks and to another top-15 team: Virginia Tech. The Pirates only lost to the Hokies by a late fourth-quarter touchdown and their schedule stacks up nicely for them. They will win eight or even nine games this year, and I predict that they defeat a quality ACC opponent, North Carolina, in two weeks. East Carolina definitely will go to a bowl where it will defeat an overrated Big Ten school.
What was the national media buzz after we soundly defeated a quality ECU team?
"Gamecocks passing game is terrible. The Gamecocks defense gashed by the Pirates. Are the Gamecocks for real?"
Georgia did get blown out by Boise State, no doubt. But Boise was a legitimate top-five team and played perfectly. Georgia is relying on many young players and that was its first game. Georgia and South Carolina had a knockdown drag out bloodbath in Athens, which the Gamecocks won.
What was the national media buzz after we beat Georgia, in Athens, for only the eighth time in over 100 years?
"Gamecocks were lucky to win. Georgia looked like the better team. Richt really had his players ready for the challenge. Look for Georgia to surprise folks this season."
The truth of the matter is Georgia is going to win 10 games this season and win the Outback Bowl by blowing out a quality Big Ten team.
Navy is also going to win nine or 10 games and win a bowl game and has one of the hardest offenses in the country to stop. This point is not in question. Many colleges won't even schedule Navy out of fear of losing to a military academy.
What was the national media buzz after we held on for a great win versus Navy?
"Gamecocks defense lackluster as they squeak by an 'inspired squad of midshipmen.'" (If anything at all was said, as this game was largely ignored as Oregon jumped over the Gamecocks in the polls with a quality win versus BCS perennial powerhouse Missouri State.)
When we look back in 12 weeks at these three wins we will see wins against teams that averaged 9-plus wins each and all go on to win bowl games. Mark my words on this.
Let's compare Florida's first three wins versus the Gamecocks' wins. Keeping in mind that Mark May of ESPN tweeted after the Gators beat Tennessee, "Gators best in SEC East." May went on to tweet, "Congrats to Vandy 3-0 Awesome." May has yet to tweet anything related to South Carolina.
Florida defeated Florida Atlantic and UAB before beating Tennessee. They beat UAB 39-0. Tulane beat UAB 49-10, the same 39-point margin of victory but scored more points than Florida. Tulane then lost to Tulsa 31-3! UAB ranks 109th in total passing yards, 115th in total rushing yards and 119th in total points scored! UAB is not even a quality game to put on the schedule much less a quality win.
Florida's second victory came against Florida Atlantic. Florida Atlantic lost to a Michigan State team 44-0 that lost to Notre Dame. Florida Atlantic has been out-scored 85-3 in two games.
Florida Atlantic ranks 119th in passing yards, 120th in rushing yards, 120th in total points scored, and 115th in points given up. They don't even rank as high as UAB in many statistical categories.
Florida did defeat SEC East rival Tennessee. Tennessee had beaten Cincinnati who had beaten Austin Peay and Akron. (Yay for Rocky Top!) The Vols had also beaten Montana before losing to Florida. Montana had beaten Cal Poly (yes, they have a football team evidently) and Eastern Michigan, the latter by three points.
Tennessee is the only team Florida has defeated that has a chance even to GO to a bowl game, much less win one. All the national media wants to talk about now is Florida this or the Gators that. "Do they really miss Urban? The mystique of The Swamp is back in Gainsville! Blah! Blah! Blah! Please stick a fork in my eye!" (I added that last part. No national media outlets requested to be poked in the eye with a fork... That I know of. But when I see tweets from Mark May like this it makes ME want to stick a fork in my own eye!)
Let's flip the tables now. Let's pretend for a minute that Florida played our three games and we played its games and we each had the exact same results.
Here is what would be said by national media outlets concerning South Carolina.
"The Gamecocks pounded two teams that aren't worth discussing and then beat a struggling Tennessee team that only had wins versus ho-hum competition.
Besides, the Tennessee victory is overshadowed by the fact that it was a home game and the Vols were surely untested prior to this match-up. While a decent win for Spurrier's Gamecocks, we'll have to wait and see how they do against Auburn and other SEC powerhouses before we are ready to stamp them contenders just yet."
And here is what would be said about Florida's three early-season nail-biter victories had they won the Gamecocks' first three games.
"The magic has returned to Gainesville! Gator fans everywhere will be happy to know that they have a team to pull for this year. While their defense has struggled at times, and the offense is clearly not clicking on all cylinders, the true mettle of this team was tested and came through the last three Saturdays.
The Gators' first three wins have come in impressive fourth-quarter comebacks. The fifth-year senior quarterback is a proven winner. Their defense has played well enough to give them a chance to win and also come up with impressive plays of its own.
The Gators had the National Player of the Week last week in defensive lineman blabbity-blob-McIngram and he clearly has a long NFL career ahead of him. But he's just another in the long line of NFL greats produced by the Gators. Special teams have done a great job as well, as the place-kicking has been outstanding.
Gator fans will hardly miss Urban this season as the team is poised to make a run at YET ANOTHER SEC Title presuming they can find a way to move the ball on either Alabama or LSU.
Stay tuned to CBS as Florida appears in the nationally televised game of the week at 3:30 on Saturday for the nine millionth time in the last 10 years.
Oh yeah, don't forget on ESPNU-360-Classic.com you can catch a rematch of last season's SEC Championship Game as Auburn takes on a struggling South Carolina team that hasn't lived up to expectations... Auburn is looking to get back into national championship form after not playing like themselves two weeks ago versus some hack ACC team that we don't mind ignoring either except when the Father-Son Coaching match-ups happen."
I realize this is a little far fetched, but, seriously, start following some of these national media types on Twitter and you will quickly find out that they are all hypnotized by their own hype machine.
The traditionally high-level programs are held in such high regard by the national media that it creates a sense of wonder and awe that may not be deserved based on merit. If South Carolina defeats Alabama the story is "Bama Loses" as opposed to "Gamecocks Play Flawlessly!"
Why does the national media treat the Gamecocks differently from the traditional powers in college sports? Is it about money? Is our market share just not a big enough impact in order to create the "kiss-up" mentality it has towards schools such as Florida, Alabama, or Oregon? Who really knows?
The only real evidence I have to offer is the Coaches Poll versus the AP Poll. Last week's game versus Navy saw us move up one spot from 11th to 10th in the Coaches Poll. Florida State fell to 14th in the Coaches Poll. So the coaches seemed impressed with the Gamecocks' win versus Navy.
In the AP Poll our Navy win caused us to drop two spots from 10th to 12th and saw two teams jump over us in Oregon and Nebraska, each with less than impressive opponents. (But more than impressive reputations nationally as powerhouse programs.)
Florida State dropped to 11th just ahead of South Carolina. Florida State's long-time prowess with the national media outlets enabled all those same writers to overlook five serious injured defenders as they go to Death Valley, a place they haven't won in 10 years.
Knowing that the national media will not get behind the Gamecocks even after winning back-to-back national championships, Ray Tanner has hit on something with his motto. I think the football team should adopt it.
Knowing the national media outlets are proactively going out of their way to ignore us, we need to simply rise above. We need to take one game at a time and play well enough to win. It's a simple formula. Then when the dust settles and smoke clears, let the results speak for themselves.
But in the meantime, copy and paste this into your Twitter "What's Happening Box" and hit enter.
Hey @mark_may, look over your shoulder. The Gamecocks are coming for you!
From coach to comedian: Marty Simpson is a former Academic All-Conference player for USC who scored the Gamecocks' first 6 points in the SEC. During 8 years as a high school varsity coach, Simpson led his team to the state finals and saw one player advance to set an NFL rookie record. Simpson now divides his time between his family, running a multimedia company named Blue-Eyed Panda and traveling the country performing stand-up comedy for clubs, churches, and corporations.
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