The Terrelle Pryor in the NFL Debate Verdict

June 16, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

We got things back up and running this week with a passionate debate about Terrelle Pryor and his possible future in the NFL. Pryor is a polarizing athlete who most folks have a solid opinion about one way or another in regards to his future, and his immediate future apparently includes a spot in the upcoming NFL supplemental draft. Most sane people believe he isn’t worth a first round pick (Drew Rosenhaus obviously is not included in this group), but that was not the focus of this debate.

I asked Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan to debate, if they were NFL general managers, whether or not Pryor was worthy of a roster spot on an NFL team.

Bleacher Fan has had somewhat of a front row seat to Pryor over the past three years (being a resident of Ohio), beginning with Pryor putting off his announcement of where he would take his talents until over a month after signing day. Bleacher Fan effectively paints Pryor as a spoiled, selfish, prima donna, which is the impression that many fans outside of Buckeye Nation possibly already had of Pryor before all of this controversy started.

Putting aside the character issues, Bleacher Fan then questions the impact Pryor can make on an NFL team. Some NFL analysts are not sure he can cut it as a quarterback, so there is speculation thanks to his size he may line up at another position (possibly a receiver). That is because his passing numbers, despite his win-loss record, pale in comparison to some of his contemporaries.

Babe Ruthless, though, commends Pryor on his hiring of Rosenhaus (who exemplifies what Babe is all about), and really simplifies the debate by saying that there isn’t much risk by offering a mid to low round pick for Pryor.

Babe also questions how Pryor all of a sudden got labeled as being such a bad guy. Sure, he is the face of this ongoing Ohio State scandal, and he has driven all kinds of various cars from a local dealership, including this beauty that he drove to one of the last meeting he attended as a member of the Ohio State football team. He is going to have that stigma attached to him probably for the rest of his life. But there are worse things.

I count myself as someone who wasn’t necessarily in Pryor’s corner during his time in Columbus. I was never blown away by his numbers, or by his performance on the field as a quarterback. I nonetheless recognized, and still recognize, the fact that the guy is a tremendous athlete.

It is also important to note that with the ongoing NFL lockout (perhaps you’ve heard), there hasn’t been any OTA’s or any contact between players and coaches (at least on record). However, there have been workouts organized by the players. And while rookies such as Cam Newton have been getting acquainted with their teammates and are adjusting quite well, we really don’t know what kind of shape Pryor is in. He could be out of shape, or he could be in excellent shape, since he spent much of the spring running from the NCAA (BA-ZING)! All we have to go on is a few tweets from Chad Ochocinco, and is that supposed to be convincing?

What helped decide the debate, though, was a point raised by Babe Ruthless – What is there really to lose on taking Pryor, if it is done with a low pick? Obviously, no team is going to risk a high pick on this “project,” but why not a sixth or seventh-round pick? Is next year’s draft outlook for any team severely altered by losing a seventh round pick? It’s a LOW risk HIGH reward move, and because of that, Babe Ruthless wins the debate.

Terrelle Pryor would be worth a low round supplemental pick, and should be offered a chance to come in and compete for a roster spot. If he makes it, there will be all kind of extra publicity for the team. If not, then there is no big loss.

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The Terrelle Pryor in the NFL Debate

June 14, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

We took a little break, but TSD is back (thankfully, my co-writers weren’t “childish” and “ignorant” about my sinus infection and really bad cough). There were several topics that we could have tackled in our debate this week, such as “What is the best LeBron James joke”, but we decided to take a deeper look into the situation involving former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

After signing with Drew “Next Question” Rosenhaus yesterday, Pryor has officially terminated his amateur status, which made yesterday an extremely difficult day for Sports Geek (kidding, of course). Pryor promises to get some interest in the upcoming NFL supplemental draft, as he indicated he has no interest in playing in the CFL.

My question for Bleacher Fan and Babe Ruthless is simply this:

If you were General Manager of an NFL team, would you give Pryor a shot at making the roster by picking him in the supplemental draft?

Bleacher Fan will argue that Pryor should not be given a shot, while Babe Ruthless will argue that Pryor warrants a legitimate opportunity.

Take a look at it from all angles and give me your best argument on what to do with Pryor.

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The NCAAF Conference Division Structure Debate Verdict

September 17, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer.

Today I have been tasked with deciding whether or not the Big Ten did the right thing during the recent realignment by putting Michigan and Ohio State in different divisions. Of course, I was hoping to be the judge for the “Should a conference with 11 (soon to be 12) teams be called the Big Ten?” debate, but I’ve been told that we’ll be waiting on that debate until we start I believe that would be an easier verdict to write, but I’ll play the hand that I’ve been dealt and decide whether or not the Big Ten made the right decision.

As both writers alluded to, rivalries are an integral part of the college sports experience and they are very important to fans at all levels of athletics. Given that, I don’t think there is any way Big Ten leadership could have made a decision that would have pleased all the Michigan fans and/or all the Ohio State fans, let alone college football fans around the country that look forward to the Michigan-Ohio State tilt every season. However, my verdict is not allowed to say “They were hosed either way, so officials did the best they could.”

Bleacher Fan makes some interesting arguments as to why the Big Ten’s decision to put Michigan and Ohio State in separate divisions was the wrong one. He thinks the Big XII’s model, to put its historic rivals in the same division, is the way to go. His best point brings up the possibility that Ohio State and Michigan could meet in the last week of the regular season in a completely meaningless, vanilla game because they know they’ll be matched up against each other the following week in a meaningful conference championship game. While any big-time, historic rivalry will probably always have a bit of fire in it, several consecutive years of back-to-back Ohio State-Michigan games would wear on the teams, fan bases, pundits, and recruits.

However, Bleacher Fan loses me when he writes about “an Ohio State-Michigan game for all the marbles.” Perhaps it would be for all marbles in the eyes of Ohio State and Michigan fans, but nationally it would probably, over time, devolve into a division championship game. Also, in the conference’s thinking, an Ohio State-Michigan “divisional championship” game might take the luster off the cash cow they hope the conference championship game will be for them. Bleacher Fan definitely made compelling arguments for and against his position.

Loyal Homer, true to his character, believes the Big Ten made the right decision in splitting its major rivals across divisions. He is a fan of the SEC model where care seems to have been taken to split nationally significant rivalries across divisions. He confirms the point inadvertently made by Bleacher Fan that putting your rivals in the same division can lead to a lackluster conference championship game, at least from a national standpoint. While this may seem like an insignificant issue to the fan bases of the two rival teams, in the grand scheme of conference alignment it may be the most important issue. He correctly points out that the Big XII championship game, in the eyes of many, is played in October between Texas and Oklahoma rather than in December.

This is a tough verdict. Honestly, I am not sure I like a lot of the consequences of conference realignment and I see and understand both arguments here. However, Loyal Homer wins the argument because history has dictated Ohio State and Michigan are often the two best teams in the Big Ten. If they can eliminate each other before the championship game, is there really any point to having a championship game at all? Congrats, Loyal Homer, and enjoy your prize – a pair of Denard Robinson’s shoelaces!

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The Eyeballs versus Computers Debate – Objectivity Is In the Eye of the Mouse-Holder

November 11, 2009

Read the debate intro and the arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan.

What came first, the sports or the hype? Who knows?! What I do know is that both exist and both need each other to maintain. Hype is perfectly legitimate and necessary to set viewer expectations (pay attention to hype for next Monday’s NFL game on ESPN – is it possible to “sell” the value of Baltimore and Cleveland?) and set the stage for the appearance of drama… even if the whole charade only lasts for half of a quarter. Hype drives sports, and sports rely on hype.

The catchall “sports media” is responsible for creating hype, and therefore value. The Sports Debates is guilty of it as well. Each week the writers here contribute what we believe will be the best game of the coming weekend, and present our arguments backing up that presumption. It is less overt hype, but hype nonetheless.

I have no problem with hype. However, there is value to the comment in the argument from Bleacher Fan that the hype machine tends to overinflate value. That is, rather than excite for a coming reality (the upcoming New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts game will be excellent, for example), hype has been twisted into a warped tool designed to create false value, driven by inherent bias. While Loyal Homer is correct that eyeballs see the details – the eyeball test evaluates teams based on intangibles like hustle and headiness that a computer may never grasp – they also come with bags of unavoidable bias. Therefore the best method for evaluating a college football team involves computers, and a debate win from Bleacher Fan.

In theory the eyeballs seem to be the best method to judge a college football team. The polls seem to get more right than they get wrong, regardless of Bleacher Fan’s astute observations about recent poll missteps. However, it is really not just eyeballs being used to judge a team, who those eyeballs belong to matters as well. A lot. One expert is better at evaluating teams than another. For example, I trust Sports Illustrated writer Stewart Mandel much more than I trust ESPN’s Lou Holtz. Duh. The voting and polling system is fraught with errors from voters who do not deserve the vote (many of the voters on this list of the original voting cast from the 2005 Harris Poll do not deserve a vote because they do not watch and follow college football), do nothing to retain the vote, are not screened for football knowledge to evaluate if they deserve a vote, and in some cases still get a ballot sent to them after they have died, as was the case with the Heisman trophy.

It is not that college football is just wedded to an antiquated approach to things – hence the reason eyeballs are still thought of as a legitimate way to judge the best teams in college football. It is that the entire organization seems immune to criticism when making blatantly obvious mistakes.

Bleacher Fan makes an excellent point, too, about the various types of bias that ultimately obscure the vision of voters. Size matters. Er, rather, MARKET size matters. The more mediums, locations, and distribution channels content can be bought, sold, and distributed, the better for the sports media organizations. Eyeballs exist in this paradigm as well… as in, “how many eyeballs are watching the game, reading the story, or telling their friends to tune in?” And, the more money a sports media organization has, the more biased nimrods they can include on college football hype shows. It is a vicious cycle.

Loyal Homer’s basic argument – that humans are able to be more objective than computers – does not hold water with me. While it is true that eyes can perceive hustle plays that demonstrate why a team goes from good to great, human eyes are never alone. They are unquestionably accompanied by history, bias, geography, allegiance, friendships, appreciation for that coach that always returns your calls or gives you the soundbyte you need, etc. I remember covering a high school baseball team one rainy Spring. After making an in-person visit to practice to grab some quotes and get the low down on the team, my car got stuck in the mud trying to escape the rainy baseball facility. The head coach, coaching staff, and a number of players ran over to push my car out of the mud. I will never forget it. Their kindness was the focus of my next column. While I am not communicating that their kindness bought them long term favor in my eyes, that team got the benefit of the doubt when rumors floated past my ears.

While I do not agree that numbers “cannot be influenced by bias or self-serving interests” as Bleacher Fan stated, computers do offer a certain level of objectivity that lends itself to a better overall product. Sure, people program computers… and computers often reflect the human bias. But, that is why the world has committees!

Weirdly, I personally still believe in the bowl system as being a good thing for college football. I also believe it is a legacy that started small, but has compounded and is – short of an act of Congress – a permanent part of our sports culture. But, when it comes to determining the national championship contenders, perhaps some things ARE better left to machines.

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The Eyeballs versus Computers Debate – What Is the Best Way to Evaluate a College Football Team

November 10, 2009

Read the arguments from Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer about what the best criteria is to judge the ability of a college football team – computer rankings or the “eyeball test.”

History affectionately refers to the team as the 2002 Ohio State “Luckeyes” (it is even in the Urban Dictionary!). Somehow, someway – much like this college football season with the Iowa Hawkeyes… until last week against Northwestern – the team seemed to find exciting and improbabld ways to pull out a win. For the Luckeyes it was a last second pass from Craig Krenzel to the Michael Jenkins against Purdue, or a pass interference call to extend the national championship game and give the Luckeyes the chance to win the game and the season.

The Luckeyes never passed the eyeball test used by fans and savvy members of the media. The method is simple – watch a team and surmise if the team is talented enough to make an impact in the conference or national title race. Does the team do the “little things” well? Does the team play with consistency? Does the team control the line of scrimmage and make key catches to get beyond the stick on third down? The 2002 Luckeyes did… and the computers do not measure that. Until senior quarterback Ricky Stanzi was injured last week, the 2009 Iowa Hawkeyes did as well.

Iowa is a curious case this season. Until the surprising and unfortunate loss at home last week to Northwestern the team was ranked fourth in the country. The computers were very fond of Iowa because of the strength of schedule from its opposing teams. Iowa opponents have tallied a combined 49-35 record this season. While on the surface it may appear as though the Hawkeyes luck through some wins – like many believe the team did in week one versus Northern Iowa – the truth is that the team has played some very talented teams and won more than it lost.

Like the Luckeyes, the Hawkeyes (Lawkeyes??) simply did not pass the eyeball test. But, the computers did love the Luckeyes, and even gave the team a shot against Miami in the title game – eventually. The Luckeyes finished up as national champions. The Hawkeyes’ final chapter from this season is yet to be written, but the team has played excellent opponents and still has the opportunity to make a BCS game with a win over Ohio State – of course – this coming weekend. And, the computers love the strength of schedule.

OR, do the computers have it all wrong? It seems, watching the Hawkeyes play, that the team is just downright lucky against some vastly inferior opponent. Stanzi threw five interceptions against Indiana a week before the Northwestern loss, but the team still managed pull off an incredible come-from-behind victory. The computers just evaluate the wins and losses and strength of schedule. Fans and media can use their eyeballs to determine if a team is able to play with the other elite teams in the country. Many believe teams like the Luckeyes and Iowa are not up to the test.

Therefore, what is the best method for evaluating the quality of a college football team?

Loyal Homer will argue that the best method for evaluating a team’s quality in college football is with the old, tried and true eyeball test. Bleacher Fan will argue that the objective computers more fairly and accurately evaluate the quality of a team.

Perhaps more than any other debate or any other commentary about the BCS, this debate captures true insight into the value of the old way college football functioned and the new way college football now functions.

Fans, media – what is to be trusted more, your eyeballs or the computers? Let the debate commence!

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The Terrelle Pryor Growth Debate – It is Time for Pryor to Take Control

October 30, 2009

Read the debate intro, Sports Geek’s argument, and Bleacher Fan’s argument.

Court is in session… the verdict is in… no appeal on the docket today… just my verdict!

As I stated in my intro, the debate sides were represented by two native Ohio residents who both happen to be Michigan Wolverine… er… I mean Ohio State Buckeye fans! They follow the program closely and are somewhat frustrated by this season’s squad, especially the lack of progress shown by quarterback Terrell Pryor. For all of the hoopla surrounding Pryor’s recruitment, it is safe to say that for whatever reason, he has not – to this point – lived up to the hype. Thus, a really compelling debate topic!

It is important to note that Jim Tressel has not suddenly forgotten how to coach and teach a young man how to play the quarterback position. He has won a national championship and been to two other championship games at the Division I level. His credentials speak for volumes. Sports Geek believes the “only person to blame for the struggles of Terrelle Pryor in Columbus is Terrelle Pryor.” Sports Geek breaks down Pryor’s rushing numbers in the first eight games of the season, calling into question Pryor’s confidence and his decision making.

Bleacher Fan, on the other hand, breaks down the comparison between Pryor and former Texas quarterback Vince Young, detailing how Pryor does not have as much talent to work with when considering the players that surrounded Young and former Buckeye quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith. Bleacher Fan writes that the coaches must find a successful way to fully maximize Pryor’s talents and that the onus is on the running backs and receivers to take pressure off of Mr. Pryor.

I do not believe there is a simple solution to winning games with Pryor under center. Perhaps the critics will soften on Tressel and Pryor both if tOSU finishes the season strongly. In the meantime, I am awarding the victory of this debate to Sports Geek.

As I have stated, both of the debaters are closer to the situation than I am. But, from what his Honor has seen on TV and read in these arguments it is apparent to me that Terrelle Pryor is trying too hard to become a drop back passer. He is trying so hard that he is hurting his team. The fact that Pryor has been sacked 13 times for over 100 yards is a little disturbing. Rarely do guys with Pryor’s enormous athleticism take that big of a loss. I get the impression that Sports Geek believes Pryor does not study film as much as he should. It is almost as if Sports Geek is implying that Pryor is thinking “I need to prove I can be a drop back passer to make it at the next level.” Is Pryor putting himself above the team?

It is also important to note, as Bleacher Fan did, that Pryor is still very young and it his potential is not maxed out. He still has loads of potential and a chance to live up to the expectations. But, as of October 30, 2009, he has not. It is up to him to reverse the trend.

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The Terrelle Pryor Growth Debate – It Is Not the Coaching, It Is the Player

October 29, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher Fan’s argument that Terrelle Pryor is not being properly used by the Ohio State coaching staff.

Craig Krenzel and Troy Smith. What do these two former Ohio State quarterbacks have in common? Well, the common trait is NOT finesse, grace, smarts, or speed. The common trait is that the coaching staff – led by head coach/chief play caller/chief vest wearer Jim Tressel – squeezed every last droplet of ability out of both players. Are fans and observers really supposed to believe the Tressel simply forgot how to coach, misdiagnosed a player’s ability, or benefited from existing talent in Krenzel and Smith?

Loyal Homer asks Bleacher Fan and I to ponder why supposed phenom quarterback Terrelle Pryor is struggling so visibly as quarterback of the Buckeyes. It is easy to blame the coaches, the schemes, the strategies, the opposing defenses, and any number of excuses. However, excuses do not excuse, as my Dad used to say. The only person to blame for the struggles of Terrelle Pryor in Columbus is Terrelle Pryor.

Terrelle Pryor’s game, for all of the preseason/pre-career accolades the youngster received, is not dynamic. The promised dual threat QB has been decidedly solitary in his game plan execution. Pryor so believes in being a drop back passer – knowing that his greatest potential upside in the NFL comes from being a good pocket quarterback – that he refuses to tuck the ball and run when that is the best outcome for his current team, The Ohio State Buckeyes. The statistics belie Pryor’s focus:

  • Navy: Pryor rushes just six times for 30 yards.
  • Southern Cal: Pryor rushes ten times for 36 yards.
  • Toledo: Pryor rushes 12 times for 110 yards (though the opponent IS Toledo).
  • Illinois: Pryor rushes 11 times for 59 yards.
  • Indiana: Pryor rushes 16 times for 63 yards.
  • Wisconsin: Pryor rushes ten times for 35 yards.
  • Purdue: Pryor rushes 21 times for 34 yards.

See the trend? As the season wears on Tressel has called more quarterback running and option plays because Pryor has chosen to stand in the pocket rather than use his legs to pick up yards and important first downs. The called running plays are also much less effective and more predictable than Pryor simply taking what the defense gives him. See the 3.5 yards per carry against Wisconsin and the 1.6 yards per carry against Purdue.

Pryor should be running the ball whenever he has an easy opportunity to pick up yards. That easy opportunity comes more than six or even 16 times a game when considering the increasing number of called runs from Tressel. Somehow a player with Pryor’s running ability and strength has been sacked 13 times this season with a total loss of yards exceeding 100! Too often Pryor is trying to out maneuver defenders in the backfield in a futile attempt to create time when the better play is to step up in the pocket and take the few yards available.

The irony to Pryor’s talent dichotomy is the more he runs when the defense gives him space, the more open receivers will open up downfield. The current approach has yielded just over seven yards per throw and a whopping nine interceptions. Better recognition of the defense and situations combined with improved decision making is can reverse the trend. The problem is that for Pryor a major disconnect exists between his perception of a situation and reality.

In a recent interview with Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Doug Lesmerises Pryor said,”Some offensive teams, they don’t get to their peak until midseason. Sometimes you get down, but you’ve got to jump back up and get confident again. I feel real comfortable this week. I think we can light up the scoreboard.”

Confidence is good. Misplaced confidence is dangerous. Terrelle Pryor needs a dose of reality – he is underperforming.

Perhaps his personally dismal performance against Purdue – 17-31 for 221 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs and 21 rushes for 34 yards – was the wakeup call Pryor needed. He played much better in the next game against Minnesota, and even delivered an uncharacteristically vulnerable – and therefore inspiring – speech to his team. During a meeting for the offense prior to the Minnesota game Pryor took the floor and said, “I’m sorry for not approaching things the way I should.” A dose of reality?

Now, back to the list of Pryor’s rushing stats, since the team’s most recent game against Minnesota is not yet listed:

  • Minnesota: Pryor rushes 15 times for 104 yards.

The Minnesota game featured fewer called running plays for Pryor and more comfort in taking advantage of the gaps in the defensive coverage to pick up easy yards with his feet.

One of the big lessons from Pryor’s struggles is that confidence is earned… or it is empty. Empty confidence is how American Idol stays in business with those terrible, delusional singers at the beginning of each season. Earned confidence results from studying and making smart decisions. If Pryor simply studies and makes smart decisions he will never have to worry about performing up to expectations and “being” a leader. He will showcase his immense physical gifts and the team will simply follow.

For any quarterback, everything boils down to choices. Does Pryor choose to be Ohio State’s quarterback and use the fullness of his gifts? Or does Pryor choose to be an NFL prospect at the expense of his teammates and the fans? Time will tell if Pryor has actually turned an important attitude corner. One fact is certain – the only thing holding back Terrelle Pryor is Terrelle Pryor.

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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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The Future of the Home Field Advantage Debate – Don’t Erode the Tradition of College Football

August 27, 2009

Read the debate intro, Bleacher Fan, and Loyal Homer’s arguments about the value of moving college football games from a home field to a neutral site.

Without tradition, college football would be radically different. The dew-soaked grass would not smell the same in the first week of September. The echoes of a fight song would not ring in our ears. The debates about the BCS would not keep our interest piqued year round. Tradition is a vital component to college football, the not-so-secret ingredient that makes the strange mixture of clashing colors and sounds and passion so intoxicating when the leaves begin turning.

If it is impossible to remove tradition from college football, how can such a traditional element like the home game become jeopardized in the favor of making some extra bucks? When did money begin to trump tradition?

Bleacher Fan correctly, and clinically, details all of the financial reasons why an athletic department makes the decision to move a home game to a neutral site. It is a concise, well-argued side of the debate.

Loyal Homer makes some excellent points, too. Neutralizing the home field advantage is a dangerous idea. Sure, it is easy for smaller schools to accept a neutral site game because they need more money to grow he program. It is easy for larger schools to accept a neutral site game because they can dominate the stands. The problem is that, year after year as smaller schools agree to these games in lieu of a home game, they are yielding to the erosion of tradition. They are raking in the cash, but building no tradition. The picture of a “successful” college football program will radically change because the key indicator of success will be finances, not tradition. If that transition becomes more real every year, the college football we all know and love will disappear.

To answer Bleacher Fan’s query about whether or not Rice needs a football tradition – Rice does need a football tradition. The powerhouse that is Texas football was not built over night. Nor was it built overnight in Florida, or Oklahoma, or Ohio State (though it sure seems like it was torn down overnight in Ann Arbor). I think it is difficult for Bleacher Fan to argue, on one hand, that Rice can play a game in Moscow and it will not make a difference, but also argue on the other hand that they have every right to sell all of their tens of thousands of allotted tickets. If no one cares where the game is played, how can they possibly have a shot at filling the seats with their loyal homers?

College football, if they are insistent on finding larger venues to rake in more cash, should follow the lead of the ACC and SEC with their Chick-fil-A College Kickoff. The 2009 version of the game features Virginia Tech of the ACC taking on Alabama on September 5 at the Georgia Dome – a neutral site. I have no issue with this setup because it is clearly taking a page from college basketball with their unending series of pre-season tournaments. A branded, neutral experience where the expectations are originally set as a neutral game between two regional teams with fans that travel? That is a formula for success, something where the organizers, the teams, and the fans all win. How common is that?

But, preserving home field, on the whole, matters most. As the college football season length has expanded the last couple of years, it has become possible to change the first game of the season into a College Kickoff type game. The revenues created are a bonus because five years ago athletic departments were not relying on them. But each college football team in the country should play at least six home games, if possible, in a 12 game year. Why? I will answer that question with a series of rhetorical questions that is sure to drive Bleacher Fan nuts:

  • Should Penn State forgo a home White Out for any reason?
  • Should Tennessee miss out of 100,000 people screaming Rocky Top six times a year for anything?
  • Should Notre Dame skip the chance to touch the “Play Like A Winner Today” sign for any reason?
  • Should Clemson give up running down the hill and touching Howard’s Rock for any reason?
  • Should Texas A&M skip yell practice with the 12th man for any reason?
  • Should Auburn skip the Tiger Walk for any reason?
  • Should Ole Miss fans not crowd The Grove on home game Saturdays for any reason?
  • Should Nebraska fans miss out on The Tunnel Walk?

None of those traditions – and those only scratch the surface of what college football tradition is about – were built over decades with passion and loyalty. A few years of teams increasing the number of neutral site games is enough to destroy them all.

Tradition matters. Loyal Homer wins because college football is on a slippery slope right now. A handful of neutral site “pre-season tournament classic” type games are one thing. As smaller schools start giving up their right to a home game simply to make extra bucks at the expense of tradition, college football as we know it is forever changed. A football league that constantly fights for the extra already exists in the form of the NFL. We do not need two of those.

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The Future of the Home Field Advantage Debate – Could Neutral Sites Ruin College Football?

August 26, 2009

Read Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer’s arguments about the value of moving college football games from a home field to a neutral site.

There is nothing quite like this atmosphere. The long, winding St. Johns River nestles up against the banks of Jacksonville, Florida and splashes against the bustling shopping destinations on Jacksonville Landing. Around most of the US the air is becoming a bit crisper. For Southern football fans the last weekend in October is filled with something quite different – anticipation for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. (Shhhh… we’re not supposed to call it by that name anymore.) It is one of the great, traditional football games fans enjoy. It is also not “technically” a home game. The site of the game, Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, is 342 miles from Athens, Georgia – and only 73 miles from Gainesville, Florida. Neutral site? Georgia fans do not seem to think so. Which begs the question… why does the game get played there?

I am sure that, as the question was coming out of your mouth, you surmised that the answer was money. The teams split tickets right down the middle and both rake in the cash from it. The two teams met for the first time in Jacksonville in 1915, when Georgia put an old fashioned Bulldawg whoopin’ on Florida, winning 37-0. (Interestingly, while Georgia leads the overall series 46-38, they have only won three times since 1989. Sic ‘em? Not lately.) The game has a tradition – and a revenue stream – unlike many other regular season games. But, is it “right” that the game between two schools with such passionate fans play at a “neutral” site?

It sure seems like it is happening more and more. College football games are leaving friendly home field confines and finding a new home at a site where neither team lives. The competing schools split the gate revenue. Bigger schools love it because they will only move a road game against a smaller school (heck, it was a road game and now they are sharing revenue… why not?) or a big game that will bring a crowd (see Oklahoma-Texas and a litany of other examples). A recent example is Ohio State agreeing to move their game against Toledo (you know, the Michigan killers) to Cleveland Browns stadium. Cleveland Browns stadium has hosted a neutral site college football since 2004, and will work to retain a college football event in the coming season (SOME team has to play football there… it certainly will not be the Browns – zing).

In even more recent news, the Rice Owls have agreed to move their home game against the Texas Longhorns in 2010 to a neutral site, Reliant Stadium. As reported by Austin American-Statesman writer Suzanne Halliburton, the decision will help Rice to “nearly double their total revenue” from ALL of their home games (based on a financial projection using 2008 revenue). With that kind of coin on the way, it seems like a good decision for both Texas and Rice… right?

Today’s question is: Should this trend of college football games being moved from home games to neutral sites continue?

Bleacher Fan will argue that games can and should move to bigger venues to rake in the extra money while Loyal Homer will argue that college football is damaged when removing the games from the home stadium becomes an irreversible trend.

The coin is flipped, and Bleacher Fan is set to kick off.

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