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Jeremy Fowler: ‘ACC Still Perceived As Basketball League’

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Jameis Winston (Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Jameis Winston (Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Generally speaking, college football Media Days are great for fans and horrible for reporters. If you’re a fan, you watch with keen interest as the coach of your favorite program gets peppered with questions for 15 minutes. If you’re a reporter, however, you sit there for hours listening to the same monotonous, mind-numbing message.

“You know, it was pretty light on storylines,” CBSSports.com college football columnist Jeremy Fowler said on The John Feinstein Show. “To be honest, I don’t know that we learned a ton. Everybody’s got the same message: everybody is healthy, happy to be here and ready to win and is going to have a huge season. So you kind of have to wade through some of the normal coach speak and B.S. and try to find a story line.”

Much of the Big Ten chatter centers on Ohio State and Michigan, even though Michigan State – the reigning conference champion and Rose Bowl winner – might be the best team. Fowler felt that the Wolverines – from head coach Brady Hoke all the way down to the players – were “kind of ornery,” which might be a good thing given Michigan’s decline in the last three years from 11 wins to eight wins to seven wins.

“They seem to be sick of it,” Fowler said.

The Big 12 and ACC, meanwhile, traded barbs, with the ACC criticizing the Big 12 for its lack of a conference title game. The Big 12, however, doesn’t feel it needs a title game because it has a true round-robin schedule in which each team plays one another.

“It’s debatable on both sides,” Fowler said. “Really, the playoff in the next three years will show if the Big 12 made a mistake or not (by not having a conference title game). They need a sample size to see if it’s going to help them or hurt them, and they kind of made the case that it could do both depending on the year.”

On the one hand, with nine league games and no conference championship, the Big 12 could “cannibalize” itself and keep its teams out of the playoff. On the other hand, maybe the ACC should just worry about its own conference.

“This is the time of year where everybody can brag on their own conference and rag on everybody else,” Fowler said. “Really, it’s about playoff posturing and positioning right now. You’re trying to pump your league to help the perception.”

And the ACCs perception ain’t all that great. Yes, Florida State winning the national title helps, but the conference is still – in the words of John Feinstein – Florida State and the 11 dwarfs. Need proof? The Seminoles won their conference games by an average of 40 points per game last season.

“It’s still perceived as a basketball league – with good reason,” Fowler said. “Those teams are still dealing with that stigma until they change it. But part of the problem right now is that everybody is assuming Florida State is going to run the table again. Well, that’s actually probably not good for the ACC because that doesn’t (suggest) depth.”

Indeed, for the ACC to be considered elite, it also needs Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech playing at a high level.

“To have a really strong league, you need two to three teams that have a chance to be dominant,” Fowler said, “and (in the ACC), you don’t have that yet.”

Nevertheless, Florida State is the preseason No. 1 in the Coaches Poll, followed by No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Oklahoma State, No. 4 Oregon and No. 5 Auburn. Ohio State, UCLA, Michigan State, South Carolina and Baylor round out the top 10.

Fowler takes these predictable rankings with a grain of salt.

“Everybody falls back to what they know,” he said. “Michigan State, to me, is a better team than Ohio State right now because they won their conference last year, their defense is always good and they return a bunch of players on offense. And yet, Ohio State gets the higher ranking just sort of by default. That’s what people fall back on.”

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