Daily Blog • August 20, 2014

Phil Steele’s
Capital One Mascot Challenge
Preseason Mascot Power Ratings

The 16 mascots have been announced and I have my preseason power ratings ready for the 2014 Capital One Mascot Challenge. I have used many different factors in compiling my rankings from total social media following to alumni networks to the opinions of my 8-year-old daughter, 20-year-old daughter and 82-year-old mother.

The factors are all weighted differently. For example, I place more weight on current social media presence and school enrollment than the volume of alumni networks as the challenge relies heavily on fans voting online and through social media channels. This year’s voting structure provides fans three ways to catapult their mascot to victory. By clicking “vote now,” fans earn one (1) point for their mascot. To go even further in expressing their enthusiasm, fans can complete weekly 50-point and/or 100-point challenges by posting clever entries on Twitter or Facebook using their mascot’s unique hashtag.

This year’s contest actually has THREE mascots that have won the title. Cocky of South Carolina won it in 2005, Zippy of Akron won it all in 2007 and Cy the Cardinal from Iowa State was the 2008 champ.

Voting opens Monday, August 25, 2014 at 12:00AM EDT and will continue weekly through Sunday, December 7, 2014.  Fans can visit www.CapitalOneMascots.com for all voting information as well as engage with the mascots and other fans at www.Facebook.com/CapitalOne and www.Twitter.com/CapitalOne.

Every year there have been underdog mascots that rise to the top and I will update the rankings weekly during the season with comments on each mascot’s 2014 performance. Below are my pre-season rankings for the 16 mascots in this year’s challenge:

1. South Carolina, Cocky 67.65
2. Ohio St, Brutus Buckeye 65.31
3. Michigan St, Sparty 64.87
4. Auburn, Aubie 62.31
5. Akron, Zippy 59.26
6. Iowa State, Cy 57.75
7. Minnesota, Goldy Gopher 56.03
8. Georgia Tech, Buzz 55.78
9. WKU, Big Red 54.68
10. Boise St, Buster Bronco 54.48
11. Syracuse, Otto the Orange 54.25
12. Arizona, Wilma T. Wildcat 53.85
13. Oregon St, Benny Beaver 50.93
14. UCLA, Joe Bruin 48.27
15. Arkansas, Big Red 47.80
16. Citadel, Spike 45.35

1. Cocky, South Carolina 67.65 Cocky was in the contest in ‘12 and dominated finishing the regular season unbeaten but suffered his first loss of the year in the title game to Raider Red. Cocky won the title in 2003 and has 131,000 plus Likes on Facebook. Despite not winning the title in ‘12 Cocky had the most impressive season.

2. Brutus Buckeye, Ohio St. 65.31 Brutus has the largest enrollment and alumni behind him and the most Twitter followers! In 2010 he was the #4 seed in the playoffs. Brutus was back in it in 2011 and this time lost in the first round of the playoffs to Buzz. He has Buckeye nation behind him and a national title contender to support.

3. Sparty, Michigan St. 64.87 Sparty is now in his 3rd straight year of the contest. In ‘12 he went 7-6 and was eliminated by Cocky in the playoffs. Last year he went 11-3 and was knocked out in the semi finals by Raider Red. Now playoff tested, he went from 6th best mascot in ‘12 to 3rd best in ‘13 and is gunning for #1 in this year’s challenge.

4. Aubie, Auburn 62.31 Aubie was in the contest in 2008 but did not make the playoffs. With experience he made the playoffs in 2011 and got all the way to the semifinals. Auburn’s football team was a combined 13-12 those two years and is now coming off the national title game and in the top 5 of the AP poll.

5. Zippy, Akron 59.26 Zippy competed one time in the contest in 2007 – finishing No. 1. Not only did Zippy win the contest as a rookie in the 2007 Mascot Challenge but was the ONLY UNDEFEATED mascot that year finishing 11-0 in the regular season and was the clear #1 seed for the playoffs, which Zippy won. Fear the Roo (Zippy is a kangaroo).

6. Cy, Iowa State 57.75 Defending champions must be reckoned with and Cy was the Mascot Challenge winner in 2008. Surprisingly he was back in the contest in 2011 but did not even make the playoffs. Cy is the only mascot from the Big 12 this year and should be well represented.

7. Goldy Gopher, Minnesota 56.03 Goldy is one of the 14 veterans in the challenge. In 2007 he finished 2nd overall just losing out to Zippy. In 2010 he did not make the 8 team playoffs. Goldy was towards the top vote getters when I conducted my office poll. On the field, the Gophers 8 wins last year was the most in 10 years.

8. Buzz, Georgia Tech 55.78 Buzz is this year's write-in winner. In 2011 Buzz made the playoffs, beating Brutus Buckeye then Arizona’s mascot but came up short in the title matchup. Expect GT fans to take advantage of all three ways to vote in this year’s challenge making Buzz a big time threat.

9. Big Red, WKU 54.68 I had Big Red #6 in the preseason last year who lived up to that billing going 5-1 to open but lost 3 close games in a row and actually finished #11 at 6-6. In 2010 & ‘11 contests Big Red finished with a 0-1 playoff record, combined. That experience should pay off this year.

10. Buster Bronco, Boise St 54.48 Buster was in the contest in 2008 and fared well earning the #3 overall seed in the playoffs but was upset in round 1 by #6 seed Testudo (Maryland). Boise State fans love their football team and proved in 2008 that they support their mascot as well. I think Boise will have a double digit win year in football and show strong in this year’s challenge.

11. Otto the Orange, Syracuse 54.25 Otto was in the contest in 2006 and finished 10th of 12 mascots. In 2007, Otto was one of the top 6 and made the playoffs. He was one of the first mascots to make appearances on ESPN commercials, so is well known.

12. Arizona, Wilma T. Wildcat 53.85 Wilma was in the contest 2 years ago and while she finished 6-6 that year, all 6 of her losses were to mascots that made the playoffs. Wilbur Wildcat was in last year’s challenge and finished just 5-7. Being one of only two females in the group gives her an advantage and she is my daughter Savannah’s favorite this year.

13. Benny Beaver, Oregon St. 50.93 Truth be told when Savannah was little she liked it most when I wore my Oregon State shirt with the Benny Beaver logo. Benny does not have much history in the contest competing in 2011 and not making the playoffs. Benny got lots of votes in the office poll and is #8 in Twitter and Facebook followers.

14. Joe Bruin, UCLA 48.27 Joe Bruin made it to the playoffs in the 2005 Mascot Challenge. However in his last two appearances (2008, 2010), he has failed to make it to the playoffs but both years, UCLA went 4-8 on the field. UCLA has a national title contender for a football team this year so there should be much more fan interest (and votes) for their beloved mascot.

15. Big Red, Arkansas 47.80 This is Big Red’s first year in the contest but when I posted on my Twitter (@philsteele042) that I was doing my mascot challenge power ratings, Arkansas fans let me know they were passionate about Big Red. Welcome to the contest and Woo Pig Sooie.

16. Spike, Citadel 45.35 While Spike is the least known of the mascots I will point out that FCS mascots have done well with Monte (Montana) winning 2 titles and Big Blue from Old Dominion winning 1. Last year, I had Monte rated #14 into the year but he rose as high as #4. Perhaps FCS fans band together for their representative.