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How NC State became the Champions of Life until September 2017

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Nov. 21, 2016: Tennessee head coach Butch Jones creates the Life Championship and awards it to his own team, which had entered the year as the SEC East favorite and did not win the SEC East.

Also Nov. 21, 2016: Everyone makes fun of the Life Championship.

Nov 26, 2016: Five days after winning the Life Championship, Tennessee loses it to Vanderbilt.

Dec. 26, 2016: One month after winning the Life Championship, Vanderbilt loses it to NC State in the Independence Bowl. So we updated the title belt:

The Wolfpack are now the Champions of Life for a glorious eight months. Think of the parades and book royalties. They'll defend the strap next against South Carolina, meaning the hardware has a chance to go straight back to the SEC East, which is definitely the most "Champions of Life" division at the moment.

NC State will be good next year, though. And while we were distracted by the win-loss record, NC State was good this year, too. Bill Connelly:

In 2016, NC State took on four teams currently ranked 13th or better in S&P+: Clemson, Louisville, Florida State, and Miami. The Wolfpack went 0-4 in those games, suffering two narrow losses and losing two others by a combined 55.

That they went 7-2 against everybody else makes this a hard season to interpret. A 41-17 win over Vanderbilt further verified the Wolfpack's upside.

Dave Doeren's Wolfpack entered the game 28th in S&P+ despite the 6-6 record, and their Monday performance will give them a chance at a top-25 S&P+ finish. That affirms the job Doeren has been doing; it also adds another twinge of regret for missed opportunities (an overtime loss to Clemson, a 24-20 loss to Florida State) and letdowns (a 33-30 loss to East Carolina and a 21-14 home loss to Boston College).

Regardless, Finley is a sophomore, four of his top five targets are scheduled to return, and a defense that allowed more than 30 points just twice all year will be extremely senior-heavy in 2017. State could be ready to improve even further in 2017.

So Philip Rivers memes might remain the face of the Life Championship for a while.

Also, hours before State won the gold, Jones commented on the reaction to the title:

That wasn't the part everyone was making fun of, but don't let this take away from NC State's moment.

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