Daily Blog • September 23, 2014

Phil Steele’s
Capital One Mascot Challenge
Week 5 Power Ratings

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 Week 5 rankings for the 16 mascots in this year’s challenge:

1. Cocky, South Carolina 76.48 – Another mascot foe, another easy win for Cocky last week, even though it was his closest contest of the season, “only” winning by a margin of 72-28%. This week is a matchup I have been anticipating, as Cocky takes on Zippy, who has only lost once in her 2 years in the contest. Get out your popcorn for this battle of the titans.

2. Aubie, Auburn 71.94 – I had Aubie rated #4 in my preseason rankings and as expected, he has opened up the year at a perfect 4-0. It is interesting to note that Aubie’s mascot foes this year combined for a 1-15 record and this week he takes on the 1-3 Buster Bronco. Aubie has a great shot at moving to 5-0 and remains at #2 in the rankings.

3. Zippy, Akron 70.58 – It was good to see Zippy rebound last week, taking on my #9 rated mascot Buster Bronco and beating him 67-33%. Zippy has 1 loss in 2 years in the contest; that was 2 weeks ago, a tight 51-49% loss to Joe Bruin. A huge matchup this week vs Cocky means a win by Zippy could have her moving up to #1 in the mascot challenge poll.

4. Joe Bruin, UCLA 65.73 – Despite the fact that Joe Bruin entered the year at #14 in the preseason rankings, he has a few impressive wins, including handing Zippy her first and only loss in the mascot challenge in Wk 3. That bumped Joe Bruin to #4 and made him a small favorite vs Buzz going into Wk 4. Their battle was close as you would expect but Joe Bruin prevailed 53-47% to remain unbeaten and with 2 wins over mascots that are ranked in my top 6.

5. Benny Beaver, Oregon St 61.94 – I rate this week’s matchup vs 3-1 Buzz as probably the most tightly contested battle on the board. Benny Beaver comes in a perfect 4-0 but the four mascots that he’s faced have combined for just a 1-15 record on the year—and Benny Beaver barely got past Big Red of Arkansas 51-49% last week after previously squeaking past Cy the Cardinal 52-48%. While Benny moves to #5 in my rankings, this will be his first true test of the season and we’ll find out what Benny Beaver is really made of.

6. Buzz, Georgia Tech 61.93 – Buzz was #5 in my mascot rankings last week but came up short in my mascot matchup of the week; in a battle of unbeatens he lost to Joe Bruin in a tight race, 53-47%, dropping him from #5 to #6 this week. Buzz has a chance to move right back up though, as he takes on another tough matchup this week with #5 Benny Beaver, another unbeaten mascot.

7. Spike, Citadel 61.66 –I’ve mentioned before, but unlike the old BCS formula—which did not allow for margin of victory—I look at it closely. Spike walloped Goldy Gopher 95-5% last week to move up to 3-1 with his lone loss coming from the powerful Buzz, and that was just a 51-49% margin. Spike tweets to @PhilSteele042 frequently and even though The Citadel is the only non-FBS school represented, Spike gives the maximum effort every week. Originally I had him at the bottom of the rankings, but Spike has cruised all the way up to #7.

8. Big Red, WKU 60.74 – It’s unusual for a mascot to win and then drop a little in my rankings, but that’s what happened to Big Red this week. Big Red beat Brutus Buckeye 51-49% but looking closely, his 3 wins were against mascots that have a combined 0-12 record this year and his loss was to a 2-2 mascot. This week Big Red takes on another winless mascot, and the reason for his drop is not so much his own performance but the continued climb up the polls from Spike.

9. Otto the Orange, Syracuse 58.46 – Otto jumps up the rankings this week, after his 78-22% win over Sparty. Of all the mascots in the lower half of the rankings, Otto is the only one that has a win over a mascot from the upper half, with a win against Big Red of Western Kentucky, 51-49%, in the opener. Otto does have 2 losses to top 6 mascots in Spike and Buzz but at 2-2, a W will move Otto into the upper half of my rankings if he can upset Joe Bruin this week.

10. Big Red, Arkansas 55.28 – While Big Red was just #12 last week and lost, he actually jumps up to #10 in my mascot rankings. It may seem strange but a couple of mascots above him lost and if you look at Big Red’s losses, they are to my #2, #3 and #5 mascots; not to mention he owns a victory over Buster Bronco, one of the mascots he passes in the rankings this week. Big Red looks like he could turn into a playoff contender this year as the schedule will likely get easier after playing 3 of the top 5 mascots to start the year.

11. Buster Bronco, Boise St 54.48 – Buster Bronco opened the season strong with a win over Cy the Cardinal but has now dropped 3 in a row. Taking on Zippy proved to be a tough task and Zippy provided the knockout punch, winning 67-33%. Facing Aubie any week of the year will be tough and Buster Bronco also has Cocky on deck. Should Buster pull a couple of upsets, he’d find himself in the upper half of my rankings; maybe taking a few lessons from his school in the upset department.

12. Cy, Iowa St 53.77 – As expected, Cy got crushed by Cocky, but gave Cocky his toughest test of the year so far, losing 72-28%. Cy has taken on 3 of the top 5 mascots and could pull a surprise with a winnable battle vs Big Red of Western Kentucky, who’s only a 54-46% favorite this week.

13. Brutus Buckeye, Ohio St 49.45 – At least Brutus Buckeye showed signs of life. Considering Brutus plays for the college with the largest enrollment and Twitter followers, I had figured that Brutus Buckeye would be one of the top mascots this year, slotting him at #2 in my preseason rankings. In his first 3 matchups (all losses), Brutus played 3 of my top 5 mascots. Last week he took on my #8 mascot in Big Red of Western Kentucky. With the step down in competition level he had his best showing to date, losing 59-41%. Looking ahead, the next 2 weeks will prove to be tough as Brutus is taking on 2 more top notch mascots in Spike and Buzz. Hopefully one of these days Buckeye nation will awake and help Brutus out a little.

14. Sparty, Michigan St 49.35 – Sparty was one of the toughest mascots in the contest the last couple of years, but it must have been a poor offseason because he’s surprisingly started 0-4 this year. In the first 3 contests, he lost to mascots that are currently in the upper half of my mascot meter, but last week vs the 1-2 Otto the Orange, he was taken apart, 78-22%. It’s interesting to note that none of the Big Ten mascots have a win this year as they’ve combined for a perfectly poor 0-12. That said, with Sparty’s matchup against Goldy Golpher this week, a Big Ten school will finally get a win.

15. Goldy Gopher, Minnesota 47.95 – Goldy Gopher has not had a great start to the year going 0-4, with all 4 of his opponents ranked in the upper half of the mascot meter. This week he takes a step down in class against the 0-4 Sparty. Despite both mascots having a 0-4 record, I give Goldy Gopher a shot at beating the underperforming Sparty this year; it will be interesting to see which mascot can begin to get his season turned around.

16. Wilma T. Wildcat, Arizona 47.94 – Wilma has really struggled in the contest this year with her average loss coming at a 78-22% margin. She finds herself #16 in my poll but there is hope for Wilma T. Wildcat. Her first 4 losses have come against my #2, #3, #5 and #6 mascots—plenty of other mascots would end up 0-4 as well. This week Wilma gets to step up and take on a mascot from the lower half of the standings in Big Red from Arkansas; we’ll see if she can pick up her first win of the season.