The Terrelle Pryor in the NFL Debate… Size Isn’t Everything

June 14, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

On February 6th, 2008, every high school football senior in the country with hopes of playing at the next level had to make a decision. It was National Signing Day, where those recruits commit to the college program they wish to be a part of.

Every recruit, that is, except one.

A quarterback out of Jeannette, PA, by the name of Terrelle Pryor thought he was special, and that the rules of everyone else didn’t apply to him. And so, while everyone else was announcing their intentions for the fall, Pryor decided that he would not make his announcement until more than a month later, on March 19th.

We should have seen it coming then.

Terrelle Pryor has fallen right in line with many other phenom talents who are targeted at a too-early age as the next great athletic superstar. Throughout their formative years, when most kids are learning very important life lessons about maturity, responsibility, and accountability, these teenage “superstars” are instead being told they are ‘special’. Exceptions and excuses are made on their behalf for their mistakes, and before you know it, they are shut off from the rest of the world, living within the bubble of “I am better than everyone else.”

Think about the recent antics of other children (which is exactly what they are) who were thrust far too soon into the limelight that is sports stardom – LeBron James and Bryce Harper quickly come to mind. All of these amazingly talented athletes may be physically prepared for the rigors of top-tier athletic competition, but none have shown the maturity necessary to cope with those rigors, and none have demonstrated an ounce of consideration for anyone around them, DESPITE the fact that they all play TEAM SPORTS.

Still, we hope with each new kid brought to us by ESPNU or as the ‘next great thing’ that THEY will be different. We continue to blindly believe the myth that age naturally brings wisdom and maturity, when so many before them prove time and again that is just not the case in sports. We believe that a kid who hasn’t even gone to prom yet can manage a multi-million dollar lifestyle, when most adults aren’t capable of it.

And with every new revelation made about the misdeeds of Pryor and his cohorts while at The Ohio State University, it becomes more evident that he has continued to behave as though the rules just did not apply to him. HE was the superstar, and everyone else should be grateful that HE is a part of their system.

So it came as a surprise to no one when he once more ducked out on accountability and consequence by running away from the NCAA.

Once again, while his so-called ‘team’ will be suffering the wrath of the NCAA, Pryor gets to just walk away, untouched by sanctions that will largely (if not entirely) be levied specifically because of his actions.

Terrelle Pryor is special, and the rules don’t apply to him.

Does that sound like someone an NFL General Manager, Head Coach, or FAN would want on their organization?

Character issues to the side now (which are more than enough to turn any NFL GM off to the prospect of Pryor as a member of their organization), there are plenty of reasons from a performance standpoint that would ALSO be reason to look the other way when Pryor and new agent Drew Rosenhaus come knocking at your team’s door.

Yes, Terrelle Pryor is a physically gifted athlete. He undeniably has the build required to play in the NFL, and is an all-around athlete. His combination of size and speed are what got him noticed in high school, and what led the Buckeyes to an amazing 33-6 record during his three-year tenure with the program.

But for Pryor, the REAL story is not in the wins, but in the losses. His poor decision making ability in many of those games led to very costly turnovers, some of which decided the outcome of games.

When Pryor is leading a juggernaut team against the bottom-feeders of the NCAA, it is easy for him to look good. The talent of the team around him, and the support of a stifling defense that was the hallmark of Ohio State football under Jim Tressel, all compensated for Pryor’s inability to make good decisions.

He extends plays far too long, creating opportunities for the defense to force turnovers, and he forces passes into areas that should not be tested. That is why his ratio of barely more than two TD passes for every interception pales in comparison to TRULY successful quarterbacks of recent years such as Cam Newton (4.3 TDs to every INT), Sam Bradford (5.5 TDs per INT), or even fellow Buckeye Troy Smith (4.2 TDs per INT).

With very few exceptions, any time that Terrelle Pryor found himself in a pressure situation with the game resting on his shoulders, he failed to deliver. Instead, he USUALLY committed a costly mistake which actually hurt his team more than if he had done nothing at all.

And to top it all off, the projection for his pro potential is not even at the position he played in college. You see, everyone knows that he can’t hack it as an NFL QB, so they are instead HOPING that his size, speed, and strength will make him a successful weapon somewhere (anywhere) on the field.

So if I were General Manager of an NFL franchise, and was presented at the supplemental draft with the opportunity to draft a low-character, poor decision making, selfish, prima donna attention-seeker who will have to learn an entirely new position because everyone already knows he cannot be successfull at the only position he has experience in, my answer is a resounding ‘NO THANK YOU!’

The best thing for Pryor AND for the NFL would be for him to spend a few years in either the CFL or the UFL, developing some strong character traits, and proving to the world that he is more than just hype and bad publicity.

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The Suspended Players Starting A Bowl Game Debate… Bowl Games Really About Benjamins

January 4, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

The 2010 college football regular season is in the books, and it has made me realize one thing—I miss Tim Tebow!

Since the universally admired Florida quarterback departed for the NFL, college football has been a parade of negative headlines. The pre-season NCAA probe into illegal contact with agents, the Cam Newton inappropriate benefits controversy, and the Reggie Bush Heisman relinquishing melodrama were all tabloid quality mainstays of the media that defined college football in 2010. So it should come as no great surprise that the 2010 Bowl season should be overshadowed by yet another scandal.

Five Ohio State players, including QB Terrelle Pryor, have been busted for selling championship paraphernalia and receiving improper benefits at a tattoo parlor. The NCAA investigated the matter and ruled that all five players must be suspended for the first five games of the upcoming 2011 season (Ohio State is appealing the ruling to reduce the suspension). Although the case against the players was fairly straightforward, and the action against them swift, it left many pondering the question, “Why didn’t the NCAA suspend them from the Sugar Bowl?”

The answer is simple, but discomforting to many. College football is all about the money.

At one time collegiate sports were a bastion for the STUDENT-athlete, but for most schools those days are long gone. Football programs are revenue generators and major attracting forces for potential clients… I mean students. There is so much wealth and revenue wrapped up in college sports that today’s game no longer tries to hide its commercialism.

Just looking at the names of bowl games clearly illustrates the profit driven commercialism of the modern “amateur” game. Bowls names, such as the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Bowl and the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl have virtually no connection with the sport other than a cooperate sponsorship, and that is to say nothing of the formerly sacred bowls – such as the (Discover) Orange Bowl, (AT&T) Cotton Bowl, and Rose Bowl (Presented By VIZIO) –which have sold out their naming rights to maximize revenue. Even the national title game bears the imprint of big business with its new moniker the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.

My point in all this name nonsense is that there is nothing wrong with a sport making money, but it seems that the NCAA is in a ludicrous state of self denial continuing to purport the antiquated image of non-professional, uncompensated athletes in the profit driven big business of sports. We see it time and time again in college sports. Each year it seems that more and more college stars are revealed to have accepted some sort of illegal benefit or to have had in appropriate contact with an agent. Why? Because college sports are all about money.

It is that fixation with money that clearly drove the decision to ban the Ohio State five from games next season and not this year’s Sugar Bowl… correction that’s the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The absence of these five players, especially Pryor, would have hurt the competitiveness of Ohio State and in turn undermined the competitive validity of the gme. Watching a Pryor-less Buckeye team take on the Arkansas Razorbacks is a far less compelling game to watch. A less exciting game makes for poorer attendance and poorer ratings. Poorer ratings make for weaker commercial endorsement and the profitability of the whole bowl game decreases as a result.

Paul Hoolahan, Sugar Bowl CEO, validated my argument in his statement about lobbying to keep the suspensions from impacting the bowl game when he said, “I made the point that anything that could be done to preserve the integrity of this year’s game, we would greatly appreciate it… That appeal did not fall on deaf ears, and I’m extremely excited about it that the Buckeyes are coming in at full strength with no dilution.”

He is right. A punch-less Ohio State team would have undermined the entire bowl. Although I believe Mr. Hoolahan was looking at it from purely financial eyes consider the fans stake in the game. Fans that purchased Sugar Bowl tickets did not do so to watch backups play, they came to watch the REAL Ohio State take on Arkansas. Anyone who has ever bought a ticket to watch a sports team play only to find that their favorite superstar attraction is missing, for whatever reason, understands the disappointment I am describing. Recently I purchased tickets to watch the Miami Heat play. Had LeBron James been M.I.A. I would have been S.O.L., and would have been very upset about it. It would definitely impact my future ticket purchasing decisions, and the Sugar Bowl is no different.

Last, I’d like to consider the suspension itself. Players were punished, in essence, for selling their personal effects and getting discounted tattoos. TATTOOS! To channel my best Allen Iverson, we are not talking about cheating or a crime or the game that they go out there and die for and play like it’s their last. We are talkin’ about TATOOS. I simply don’t see the need for such drastic measures over something so very inconsequential. Does anyone really believe that Ohio State has a competitive advantage in signing recruits because of discounted tattoos?

These five guys are being punished enough. The NCAA would only hurt the sponsors and the fans by suddenly taking a principled stand against minor infractions. Where were all these so called principles when the naming rights for bowl games went up for bid anyways? The punishment is fine the way it is. It will be a deterrent to future devious tattoo discounts and will make Ohio State be more accountable for their athletes. But enough is enough; let them play in the Sugar Bowl.

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate… Bucks, Badgers In High Stakes Big Ten Matchup

October 14, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

Over the past four years, the SEC has been the premier college football conference. It has claimed the last four national championships, and there has been an SEC program at the top of the rational rankings every week since December 7th, 2008. But with Alabama’s loss to South Carolina last weekend all that came to an end, and now it is the Big Ten’s Ohio State Buckeyes that sit atop college football’s mountain.

Behind junior quarterback and Heisman hopeful Terrelle Pryor the Buckeyes have rolled to a 6-0 record, including an impressive win over the Miami Hurricanes. The team now sits in the driver’s seat for the race to the national championship game.

But how long will the run at the top last?

Even the BCS, which provides the only ranking that REALLY matters, is projected to have Boise State, not Ohio State, as the number one team after the first standings are announced. Meanwhile, Ohio State, who is ranked number one in all of the major polls, could actually find itself as low as fifth in the BCS standings.

But a win on the road at Camp Randall Stadium over the eighteenth ranked Wisconsin Badgers could be all it takes for Ohio State to jump into the BCS lead.

As for the Badgers, who have not beaten Ohio State since 2004, a victory over the top-ranked Buckeyes would catapult them back up the rankings and into the BCS conversation, a welcome outcome after the fell at the hands of undefeated Michigan State two weeks ago. And, Home-Sweet-Home is right where the Badgers want to be for this matchup, as the team boasts one of the nation’s best home records since the last victory over Ohio State (40-4).

So, what will be the key matchup this weekend?

Wisconsin’s running backs, John Clay and James White, are leading a rushing offense that averages more than 240 yards per game (the eleventh best in the nation), while Ohio State’s rushing defense has only allowed 78 yards per game (the fourth best in the nation).

If the Badgers hope to pull off the upset Clay and White will have to find a way past Cameron Heyward and the rest of Ohio State’s defensive front.

It will be a classic Big Ten matchup between two of the conference’s powerhouse programs, with the winner staking a claim as a frontrunner team for a conference on the cusp of supplanting the SEC as the premier collection of football universities.

It is the game of the year for the best conference in the country.

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The 2010 NCAA Basketball Best Conference Tournament Debate – Expect Big Things from the Big Ten

March 5, 2010

Read the debates by Sports Geek and Loyal Homer.

What do you call it when you combine the front-runner for Player of the Year, one of the best tournament coaches in the NCAA, a team that has only been ranked OUTSIDE of the top-10 for a total of one week, and four of the top fifteen teams in the country?

I don’t know about you, but I call it the setting for the best Conference Tournament in College Basketball!

Where can you find such a marvel as this? I’ll give you a hint –Not even the Big East, Big XII, SEC, or ACC can lay claim to that combination of talent, strength, and depth. That’s right, you can only find it in one place – the Big Ten!

Player of the Year – Evan Turner

This conversation begins with two players, Kentucky’s John Wall and Ohio State’s Evan Turner. Assuming both leave college early for the NBA Draft at the end of the season, they will certainly be chosen as the top-two picks overall, and their projections are absolutely deserved! However, in the conversation of who has been better between the two this season, the conversation ENDS with only one – Evan Turner.

Turner’s Big Ten-leading production surpasses that of Wall’s with 19.5 points per game (as opposed to Wall’s 17), and rebounds (9.4 for Turner to 4.1 for Wall). As impressive as those statistics are, though, they are not the sole reason why Turner is more deserving of the Naismith Award. Simply put, the 6’7” guard from Chicago plays one of the best all-around games seen in the NCAA in many years, and his combination of speed, shooting accuracy, and play-making ability on both offense AND defense have helped turn an otherwise NIT-bound Buckeye squad into possible Final Four contenders.

Best Tournament Coach in the NCAA

With the exception, perhaps, of North Carolina’s Roy Williams, no coach has been more successful in tournament play over the last 10 years than Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans. Having earned a National Tournament berth in every NCAA tournament since 1998, Izzo has racked up five Final Four appearances, including two trips to the National Championship and one National Title (2000). Izzo finds a way to win.

Once again in 2010, Izzo and the Spartans find themselves in the thick of both the Big Ten and the National hunt.

If not for three consecutive losses (due primarily to the ankle injury and subsequent loss of their leading scorer and 2009 Big Ten Player of the Year, Kalin Lucas) early in February, the Spartans would undoubtedly be ranked among the top-ten teams. Instead, they sit just outside that group at #11. However, with the seemingly invincible Tom Izzo at the helm and a healthy Kalin Lucas on the court, this Michigan State team is every bit as dangerous as the higher ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and Purdue Boilermakers.

Permanent Top-Ten Residents

Speaking of those Boilermakers – They have been a dominant presence in the NCAA all year long. After earning a preseason ranking of #7, Purdue has maintained a steady top-ten performance all year long, falling no lower than #13 in the national rankings (and only staying there for one week before climbing back into the top-ten). As owners of one of the top records in the nation, the 24-4 Boilermakers have already claimed impressive top-ten victories over the likes of Tennessee and West Virginia. They finished their non-conference schedule with a perfect record, and of their four Big Ten losses on the year, three have come against top-fifteen teams (Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State).

While the recent loss of their star forward, Robbie Hummel, may prove to be a major setback for the Boilermakers as they prepare for their postseason, teammates and fellow standouts E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson both appear ready to pick up the extra load and help carry the Boilermakers into March Madness.

Rounding Out the Pack

Although Ohio State, Michigan State, and Purdue seem to be likely contenders for the Big Ten crown, a great deal of attention must be paid all the way down the Conference lineup.

Headlining the “rest of the pack” are the Wisconsin Badgers, who sit ranked at a lowly #15 in the national AP Poll (not bad for the fourth place team in the Conference). The Badgers have proven just as talented as their higher-ranked counterparts, having already defeated all three of them each once this season.

Behind the Badgers, you have Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Michigan, all of whom have also notched victories against the top teams within the Conference. Why, even the last place Nittany Lions of Penn State proved last night that they could hang with the big boys of the Big Ten, as Michigan State needed to rely on last minute free throws just to pull out a two-point win in East Lansing!

Time and again, the Big Ten has proven that any team within their conference can win on any night. Throughout the entire 2009-2010 season, the best Conference in college basketball has proven to be the most competitive, a trait that will surely translate into the best Conference Tournament!

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate – Forget the NFL, College Has the Best Matchup of the Weekend!

September 11, 2009

Read Sports Geek and Loyal Homer’s arguments on which football game this weekend will be the best to watch.

Recently, The Sports Debates discussed the topic of which 2009 college football game would be the most important of the season. My opinion then (and still today) was that the matchup in Columbus between the USC Trojans and The Ohio State Buckeyes would be the most important game for the entire year.

That game takes place this weekend, and is THE game that you simply CANNOT miss!

Sure, the NFL kicks off this weekend, but let’s be honest… the implications from the outcome of a game during week one of the NFL season are minimal. Every team still has 15 more games to prove they deserve to be in the playoffs.

That is not the case for Ohio State or USC. This game for the Buckeyes and the Trojans is essentially the same as a playoff game, with the entire season on the line for BOTH of these teams when they take the field on Saturday evening. The team that wins will be rocketed into BCS National Championship discussions (especially following Oklahoma’s loss to Brigham Young last weekend). For the team that loses, all National Championship hopes are lost, and the BEST they can hope for is a conference championship and a BCS appearance in the Rose Bowl.

The games during the first weekend helped to set the stage for a very interesting matchup. Southern Cal, behind true freshman quarterback Matt Barkley, completely dominated their opponents, the San Jose State Spartans, with a final score of 56-3. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, were involved in a nail-biter against the Midshipmen from Navy, which had the opportunity to tie the game in Columbus with less than three minutes to go. The Buckeyes did manage to escape the game against Navy with a ‘W,’ but it raised questions in many minds about how they would fare against a much more talented USC team.

When the rankings came out this week, they reflected those sentiments exactly, with USC moving up to the number three spot and Ohio State dropping to number eight, despite their win.

There is a lot at stake for both teams in this game, and both need this win badly.

The matchup at quarterback will also be very interesting to watch. It is not often that a sophomore is considered the veteran quarterback in a top-ten matchup, but such is the case for Terrelle Pryor and Ohio State. Having played as a true freshman last season, Pryor knows exactly the pressure that Barkley will be under in Columbus.

Will Pryor’s “experience” be enough to give him and his Buckeyes the edge they need, or will the talent of the USC star-in-the-making be too much for The Ohio State defense to handle? Will the Buckeyes be able to break their recent streak of losses against top-five teams, or will USC march into the Horseshoe and prove that they can win outside of the comfy confines of the Coliseum? Which team will carry the pride of their conference? Who is the contender, and who is the pretender?

I will definitely enjoy the kickoff to the NFL season, but I am most looking forward to the playoff atmosphere of the college season in Columbus on Saturday!

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The Best Team Not to Win it all Debate, College Edition – The 2006 Buckeyes

September 1, 2009

Read Sports Geek and Loyal Homer’s arguments about which college football teams of the past decade were the best that did NOT win a championship.

It all started in 2005.

On Saturday, September 10th in Columbus, Ohio, The Ohio State Buckeyes were on the verge of defeating the Texas Longhorns, led by quarterback Vince Young. Despite a dropped touchdown pass by Buckeyes tight end Ryan Hamby in the third quarter, and a missed field goal late in the fourth quarter by Buckeyes kicker Josh Huston, Ohio State still carried a six-point lead into the final five minutes of the game. What followed became the prelude to a story that would conclude months later in one of the most exciting college football games in history.

With less than five minutes on the clock, Young led Texas downfield to a game-winning score that officially put Texas on the map as being a BCS contender that year. Young and his Longhorns would go on to an undefeated season, a Big 12 Championship, and a national championship against the reigning 2004 champions, the favored USC Trojans.

But what about the Buckeyes?

After the loss against Texas, they finished 2005 with a record of 10-2 – including a 34-20 victory over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl – ending the season ranked fourth in the nation. Many programs would consider that a WILDLY successful year, but that was not the case for the Buckeyes. What started as a year with championship expectations ended with the Buckeyes watching from home as a team they SHOULD HAVE beaten hoisted the trophy above their heads.

Many fans (and I am sure many players) watched the ’05 national championship and thought “It should’ve been us.”

When the 2006 preseason rankings came out, and Ohio State was ranked number one, the Buckeyes realized they had an opportunity for redemption. Many talented players returned on offense, including quarterback Troy Smith, wide receivers Ted Ginn, Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez, and running back Antonio Pittman. Their defense was led by defensive end Vernon Gholston and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins. They also had some exciting young talent on their team in running back Chris (Beanie) Wells and linebacker James Laurinaitis.

Smith and Ginn were both considered Heisman favorites, and Ohio State, a team normally lauded for its dominant defense, was actually favored because of their explosive offensive potential.

Their schedule in 2006 was no cakewalk. Early in the season they would have to travel into Austin for a rematch against Texas (preseason #3). Also on the horizon were games against Penn State (preseason #19), Iowa (preseason #16), and Michigan (preseason #14). Despite that schedule, the Buckeyes were riding high on talent and expectations.

Following the first week of the season, Texas leapt ahead of Notre Dame in the national rankings, which set the stage for an early-season #1 vs #2 matchup. Ohio State, with bad memories of the 2005 season still on their minds, traveled to Texas for their first test as the top team in the nation, and they left Texas with a 24-7 victory.

Two weeks later, the Buckeyes trounced #24 Penn State by a score of 28-6, and the following week travelled to Iowa, where they handed the #13 Hawkeyes their first loss of the season 38-17. Over the next six games, Ohio State outscored their opponents 232-37, and were rolling toward a BCS Title invitation.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Wolverines had managed to climb their way up the rankings thanks to an 11-0 season, setting the stage for one of the biggest rivalry games ever to be played. When Ohio State hosted Michigan on November 18th, it became the first time in the storied history of the greatest rivalry in college football that both teams would take the field undefeated, ranked as #1 and #2 in the country. This would also be the second time that the Buckeyes had to put their record on the line against the number two ranked team. In a game which lived up to all of the pre-game hype, Ohio State emerged victorious by a score of 42-39.

In the weeks that followed, Florida emerged as the team that would compete against Ohio State for the BCS crown, but most discussion about the game centered on how much the Buckeyes would win by, rather than IF they would win (except in Florida, of course). Expectations increased once again when quarterback Troy Smith was named the Heisman winner for 2006.

Then came the kickoff for the championship. Ted Ginn, Jr. ran the kickoff all the way downfield for a touchdown, which appeared to seal the deal on the inevitable outcome of the game. But, during the touchdown celebration, Ginn injured his ankle and was unable to finish. Without Ginn at receiver, the previously explosive Buckeye offense suddenly became impotent. The end result was a devastating 27-point Florida victory. Since the Gators no longer had to worry about the threat of speedy Ginn, their defense was able to hold a team that averaged more than 35 points per game over the season to only one touchdown in the entire game.

The 2006 Ohio State Buckeyes were the best team in college football. They defeated four top-25 teams, including Texas and Michigan both of which were ranked second in the nation at one time. They were led by a Heisman winning quarterback, and 18 players on that roster have since gone on to the NFL. The performance during that game left little doubt that Florida played the better game, but Ohio State in 2006 was still the better team. Who knows what would have transpired if Ginn had not injured his ankle, but the 2006 Ohio State Buckeyes are the best team of the past decade to not win a championship.

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