This passage from Stewart Mandel:
In many ways, the Hokies are the anti-Boise. I know it's hard to take much umbrage with a team that wins 10 games every year and has three league titles in the past six seasons. But when it comes to the truly big games -- be it LSU in 2007, Alabama in '08, Boise this year -- they spit the bit. Their biggest nonconference win in the last seven years was their last-second miracle against Nebraska last season. On the one hand, Frank Beamer deserves infinite credit for building that program practically from scratch and for finding ways to win games and championships the last several years with almost no offense to speak of, but at some point, you've got to win at least one big one, don't you?
led me to a conclusion for the five people who love college football and European club football: Virginia Tech is Olympique Lyonnais. Both teams come from humble origins, historically speaking. Both teams have dominated a league that is reasonably good, but not as good as rival leagues. Both teams have had a hard time translating their success in their leagues into victories over superpowers, repeatedly coming close and then failing in the effort to make a reputation-defining win. Both teams produce a good amount of talent that then moves on to bigger leagues.
Going a step further, isn’t the ACC a reasonable facsimile of Ligue 1? Ligue 1 is a good league, but not on the level of the English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, or the Bundesliga. This is not because France lacks the resources to produce and support top teams. France has a larger population and bigger economy than Spain or Italy. However, the French have never taken to club football in the same way that their Mediterranean rivals have. (Paris has only one major club, which is unusual in comparison to Madrid [three teams in the Primera] and Rome [two teams in Serie A], let alone London [five teams in the EPL].) The French affection for rugby is often offered as the reason for lukewarm support for football. Do you see where I’m going with the comparison to the ACC?
And since I’m on the topic, why don’t I finish off the rest of college football:
SEC/English Premier League – this is obvious. The biggest, richest league, primarily because the level of passion is off the charts. Great atmosphere at most of the venues. More powers in this league than in any other. Still, the chauvinism of fans of teams in this league can be a little much to handle.
Big Ten/Serie A – another obvious pick. Major traditional powers, many of which are not performing at their historical levels. Issues in recent years with beating teams from the EPL. Questions about whether the style of play has evolved at the same pace as its rivals.
Big XII/La Liga – dominated by two successful teams, one of which is performing at a top level right now and the other of which has been noted for failings in big games since the start of the aughts. Those top two teams have successfully lobbied for an unequal division of television revenues so they can capitalize on their popularity, much to the chagrin of the other teams in the league.
Pac Ten/Bundesliga – dominated by one southern team that seems to be the one team in the league that does very well outside the league. Has a second team that wears green that produces entertaining games because the green team is focused on scoring points with little care about the defensive aspects of the game. (The major distinction: the Bundesliga is the best run European league, financially speaking. The Pac Ten was the worst until its new commissioner.)
Big East/Eredivisie – an afterthought in terms of winning major titles, but a cradle of coaches for the bigger leagues.