Which favorite is most likely to lose?
Only one team can win it all, and it's not always the top team
On paper, picking Florida to win its’ first College World Series title looks like a no-brainer. The Gators have been ranked at or near the top of the polls all season. They were battle-tested week after week against Southeastern Conference opponents. They are certainly talented with nine Major Baseball League Draft picks, a group which includes four first-team All-SEC honorees, including first-rounders catcher Mike Zunino and pitcher Brian Johnson, and second-round selections in shortstop Nolan Fontana and reliever Steven Rodriguez.
Most of all, the Gators have played in Omaha in each of the past two years, and boast the experience no other team in the field can claim with the exception of two-time defending champion South Carolina. Florida had 18 letterwinners return from last season’s club that advanced to the CWS Championship Series against South Carolina. Of that group, there were seven position players who saw plenty of time on the field even if they weren’t starting, and nine pitchers.
The Gators are hot heading into the CWS, too. In the postseason, they are batting 30 points above their season average of .284, and scoring 8.2 runs per game – almost three runs more than in the regular season.
However, the pace has to slow down eventually, and for even the best teams, that usually happens in Omaha.
Florida has two of the nation’s top pitching staffs in their bracket in Arkansas (2.90 ERA) and South Carolina (3.06 ERA). Arkansas pitching is at its’ best right now, compiling a 2.00 ERA in the postseason, while the Gamecocks have allowed just 7.3 hits per nine innings, which is third-best in the nation. USC also ranks 13th in Division I with 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
Kent State is no slouch either. One of two CWS darlings (along with Stony Brook), the Golden Flashes have given up three runs in four of six postseason games.
But probably the biggest reason the Gators are vulnerable in Omaha is their tendency to hit home runs – 1.15 per game, which ranks third in the nation – including eight in the postseason. However, balls weren’t exactly flying out of TD Ameritrade Park Omaha (335 feet down the lines, 408 feet to center and 375 feet in the power alleys) in windy Nebraska last year, and what typically would be a home run in other stadiums may just be another fly ball out.
--Amy Farnum, NCAA.com
Florida State Seminoles
Florida State has been the best team in the nation on many occasions throughout the years. The Seminoles just haven’t finished the job. This season marks the 21st time FSU has made the College World Series, leaving empty handed all 20 times prior. The program is easily the best to never win a national championship, having been named a national seed this year for the eighth time since 1999.Many think it could be different in 2012 after FSU defeated Stanford in the Super Regional by a combined score of 35-8 to advance to Omaha. Those 35 runs came against a first-round draft pick and a third-round draft pick on the mound.
This is also the same team that went 0-3 at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro only three weeks ago. So which team will show up this week at the College World Series?History tells you the latter.
The Seminoles have gone 26-40 at the CWS -- a win total that is 11th of any team nationally. Usually a team needs a good start to win a national title. The Noles haven’t done that. They’ve dropped three consecutive CWS openers and five of their last six. The last opening win came in 1999 against Texas A&M.
That bodes well for Arizona on Friday.
Florida State proved it can hit last weekend and has rebounded from that ACC Tournament performance with five consecutive postseason wins by outscoring opponents 50-12.
The .282 team batting average is sixth among the eight teams in Omaha and ranked 112th in the nation. Junior Jayce Boyd led the ACC in hits and average (.389) while James Ramsey leads the team with 13 home runs. Was last weekend a mirage? Perhaps the Seminoles caught a team from the West Coast in unfamiliar surroundings and took advantage? After all, FSU hadn’t tallied 10 runs in a contest since its game against Maryland on May 5.So many pieces were lost off last year’s team, can freshmen pitchers Brandon Leibrandt and Mike Compton carry the Noles to their first title?
It’d be quite a story. The last team to win a national title from the ACC was Wake Forest in 1955.History just isn’t on Florida State’s side.
--Douglas Kroll, NCAA.com