There Is Not And Never Has Been A 'Big 4' In Florida

Three years after a ridiculous billboard went up in downtown Tampa, USF is even further away from the "Big 4" that they were never part of in the first place.

It's a Big Game between two of the Big 4(TM) teams in Florida! Bulls fans... it's the one you've been waiting for!

Check out how excited our head coach is for this Big Game between Big 4 (TM) schools on our home turf:

Of course Jimbo Fisher and Skip Holtz each took over their respective programs the same year, so I guess that means the 'Noles are staring down a... laser pointer? An open jar of ghost pepper salsa? Perhaps a metal door knob after walking on shag carpeting with socks on for a few minutes?

But hey, let's get to the players. They've gotta be ready to compete with their fellow Big 4 (TM) member.

Well, I guess that means we'll make sparing use of the song we play every damn time we kickoff. So that's a positive, amirite?

But hey, as a fellow member of the Big 4 (TM), I'm sure FSU is just as honored to be taking part in the grand tradition of games with their fellow Big 4 (TM) member from Tampa:

So on Saturday our long and rich football history with our neighbors four hours to the north continues, so get ready to soak up the excitement in Tampa Bay! I mean just because ticket prices have dropped like a rock on StubHub doesn't mean any of the enthusiasm for this game is waning. It's a Big 4 (TM) matchup, and a rivalry game!!

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

This isn't a rivalry game, and we're most likely going to get smashed. And instead of hype and all the ridiculousness that surrounds people trying to create meaning where it doesn't exist, let's focus on the facts on the ground. FSU is a top-five team with loads of talent that has inspired its fans and seems to have a bright future. They should be celebrating -- things are shining once again after a rough end to the Bobby Bowden era. It took a few seasons, but Jimbo Fisher has done and said all the right things, and his team on the field shows the results of his work.

Meanwhile, USF is coming off a 5-7 season, and has already lost to Ball State and Rutgers this year with what appears to be very marginal talent, despite having 24 seniors on the roster. It has also tied itself to its head coach for five more years and $10 million after the 2012 season ends, thus there is no flexibility in the short-to-intermediate term. I absolutely am not in favor of firing Skip Holtz, but I also am not in favor of tying up more years and more millions of dollars in a coach that has yet to have success here when no one else was pining for his services.

You know why I dug the billboard picture out? Because it remains the best example of my alma mater and its athletics leadership putting the cart before the horse. Of emphasizing the big, flashy PR victory over the ones that matter. Take away the crassness of inviting yourself to a "club" where everyone is far more accomplished and deserving than you, and you're left with the results since that victory at Doak Campbell. Three years after that billboard went up, we're an afterthought in our own subpar conference, and the team that we couldn't wait to show the world that they're our peer is in the mix for another national championship. Karma is a bitch.

You know what every other team on that billboard has? National championships. Ten of them all together, and they each have at least two. You know what else they have? CONFERENCE championships. More of them than you can count. We have been competitive for our own conference title in late November exactly once in team history, and that was seven years ago, and that was a stretch to begin with.

Am I excited for this game? Absolutely. I have many friends that attended FSU, so the tailgating and atmosphere will be fun. And it's wonderful to get to compete with a national championship contender on your home field. But it also highlights the broadness of the chasm between the programs at this point. Don't let the 17-7 victory three years ago fool you; it's as broad now as it was when the Bulls were in Conference USA. Rivalries aren't made by geography, proximity, or by handing out trophies after games. They're made by programs of equal stature and standing competing at something close to an equal level over decades. And to that end, we're not even close. Not with FSU, or Florida, or Miami when they get their act back together, or anyone playing at the top level of college football.

Like most Bulls fans, I am looking forward to seeing old friends, tailgating, and having a great time this weekend. There is nothing like college football to bring a community together, and the chance to share it with so many people I care about is going to be great. But I am looking forward to the game with all the enthusiasm of a root canal. We weren't afraid to shout it from the mountaintops when we were up and they were down, so I can't even begrudge my FSU friends and their impending taunts on Saturday. We've had it coming.

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