Back when I was of college age and before, the autumn definition of shooting blind were the college football polls of the Associated Press (writers) and United Press International (coaches) wire services.
Unless they caught ESPN's SportsCenter or George Michael's Sports Machine, voters saw little beyond the game they were covering or coaching. It didn't matter if you had one of those newfangled VCRs and knew how to program it, even to pick up your cable channels. There just weren't that many games on TV. CBS began covering college football during the regular season in 1982. NBC did nothing in the regular season. Cable got into the action somewhat in the mid-1980s. Before the aforementioned shows, college football highlights were limited to ABC's College Football (year here), a Sunday show with the highlights of three or four games. Basically, voters went on habit, scores and the occasional phone call if they saw a score or series of scores that indicated there was a new team that might be worth notice.
I don't know how many of the four AP voters or the 11 USA Today Coaches poll voters who gave FIU Top 25 votes have seen an FIU game. I'm sure they've seen highlights. Maybe they're going off the theory that, early in the season, you're better off assuming quality of a 3-0 team from a talent-thick place like Florida than most other places. I find it interesting that FIU got more votes in the coaches poll and coaches see more games/teams than anyone these days. By Monday morning, FIU's coaches already will have seen more Louisiana-Layfayette football than some of L-L's boosters and vice versa.
The text message reaction from Mario Cristobal was predictable: "All focus on most important game -- Saturday vs. UL."
The happiest text message I got Sunday came from women's soccer head coach Thomas Chestnutt: "Won 2-1 against Oregon."
That might not look like text message Mardi Gras parade, but consider the context. I had talked to Chestnutt around 1 a.m. Saturday, about an hour after FIU suffered a 7-0 humiliation at the feet and heads of Oregon State at the Nike Invitational. FIU's no North Carolina, but it's a proud program that gets decent talent, certainly not used to playing the victim in such obliterations. Coming after several heartbreaking losses, that game could be the floor on which FIU crashed or bounced.
The captains called a players only meeting Saturday to discuss the Friday disaster before a light workout. Sunday, against Oregon, freshman Ashleigh Shim ran onto a ball from Chelsea Leiva about 25 yards out and gave FIU a 1-0 lead. Another Leiva feed into the area got handled by an Oregon player, resulting in a penalty kick. Chestnutt went with freshman Johanna Volz, an Oregon native -- "I think she's a kid who likes to step up when challenged in front of her friends and family" -- and Volz buried the PK for a 2-0 lead. FIU, which has blown two-goal leads this season, hung on for the win.
"We talked about wanting to gain some momentum going into conference play," Chestnutt said. "Today puts us off on the right foot going into next week."
The quotes might sound mundane. That's because I can't translate the relief I heard, as much relief as I've heard in years from a coach in any sport.
The men's soccer team had an early Sunday afternoon game against Georgia State in Atlanta. That meant having to leave before Saturday night's football game, a circumstance even coach Munga Eketebi didn't like. To add insult, FIU lost 3-2 Sunday.
Goals by freshman Arnthor Kristinsson and Quentin Albrecht (his team-leading fourth of the season) cut into 2-0 and 3-1 second half Georgia State leads, but FIU ran out of time. The men are 3-3-2 going into Friday's 7 p.m. home game against Marshall, the first Conference USA game.