OHIO STATE VS NORTHWESTERN 2018
Click here to read my predictions for the other three Power Five conference championships.
When asked how he felt about the upcoming matchup, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said, "I don't think anyone outside these doors would pick us to win this game. My mom and dad, I guess, would. I'm not even sure if my sisters would. But I don't need them. I just need the 74 guys who will put on the purple and white Saturday." Fitzgerald may be right, the odds are not in his favor. The Wildcats have been wildly inconsistent this season and have had a number of close wins that should have been blowouts such as Rutgers and Illinois.
OHIO STATE VS NORTHWESTERN LINE
If we're looking at Ohio State's weaknesses, we should probably begin with their slow offensive starts. In many of their big games, QB Dwayne Haskins and the Buckeyes' receiving corps have taken anywhere from the first quarter to the entire first half to find their rhythm. Many of the Buckeyes' Big 10 rivals, such as Penn State and Maryland have tried to take advantage of this, but only Purdue has succeeded. Unfortunately for Fitzgerald, the Wildcats have only played the Buckeyes twice since 2008 and haven't had a win against them since 2004. This inexperience is just one of many disadvantages Northwestern is facing going into this conference championship.
CLEMSON VS PITT 2018
Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers have their sights set on winning another national championship, but before the Tigers gain a formal invitation to the playoff, they will meet Pittsburgh in the ACC title game Saturday. The Panthers (7-5) earned their spot by winning the Coastal Division of the ACC with a 6-2 record.
ACC CHAMPIONSHIP 2018
The Tigers have been the stronger and more powerful team throughout the season with a number of huge blowouts against ACC rivals such as NC State, FSU, Wake Forest and Louisville. Of the all the Power Five conference championships, Clemson has the largest spread margin, but the Tigers would be making a mistake if they took the Panthers lightly. If Pittsburgh can play the Fighting Irish that close on the road, they should not be intimidated when they face the Tigers in the ACC title game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
BEST CFB DEFENSE 2018
There is nothing in Swinney's history to suggest that will happen with so much on the line for the Tigers. Look for Clemson's defense to limit Pickett's opportunities, and Lawrence should be able to have a big game. Clemson arguably is the best CFB defense in College Football Today.
TOP 4 COLLEGE FOOTBALL TEAMS
The College Football Playoff only allows the Top 4 College Football programs to compete in the College Football playoffs for the right to be crowned NCAA Football National Champions. This year, we feel that there are definitely more then four deserving College Football teams and we will be guiding the fans, coaches and players through our 8 team College Football Playoff format and how it would look in College Football Today. Below are links to all of our College Football Top 25 rankings at College Football Today and they have buttons to our news feed, where we make cases for many top 25 teams and why they should be in consideration for moving up or down in the standings.
What is Dynasty/GOAT discourse?
By Maddy Sperling
Unlike the famed stories of Rocky, Miracle, Robocop and Blade Runner, where the struggling, working class hero rises up to defeat the oppressive status quo of power, many popular stories today in both Hollywood and sports media center around already powerful and dominant individuals and groups grow and prove their superiority in the face of doubters.
For the last few years, we’ve seen several sports franchises make recurring back-to-back appearances in their respective championships such as the Patriots, the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Golden State Warriors, and whatever team Lebron is on. This often triggers a very reactionary series of arguments between fans and writers on social media and web articles calling a team/athlete overrated and broadcasters aggressively yelling stats and titles at each other.
I call this Dynasty/GOAT discourse, enduring and ceaseless arguments about whether an esteemed and accomplished athlete, coach or team deserves the title of GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). In the story of “the GOAT” their biggest obstacle to overcome is proving the naysayers wrong and establishing themselves as the undisputed greatest of all time, especially against legends of the past. However, unlike Rocky and the 1986 US Hockey team, these teams and individuals have already established a legacy of winning and often hold significant advantages over their opponents.
Despite being an Alabama fan myself, even I have to admit that with millions of dollars in annual revenue, the Crimson Tide has a huge advantage in recruiting, training, and coaching (e.g. Nick Saban’s salary) that most NCAA programs just can’t compete with.
By no means am I dissing any of these dynasties or diminishing their accomplishments, but I think it should be mentioned that some of these teams even resort to cheating to maintain their status of GOAT. And yes, that is Colin Cowherd calling Patrick Mahomes disrespectful for referring to Tom Brady as 'one of the greatest.'
Vs. The Underdog Story
While these dynasties and winning legacies seem to dominate national discourse, underdog stories are often limited to a certain area and only a few days of coverage and media attention. This past Saturday, an unranked Purdue trampled on the No. 2 Ohio State. This triumph by a 4-3 team was even more moving as the courage and strength the Boilermakers displayed mirrored that of Sophomore Purdue student Tyler Trent in his battle with cancer. However, following this stunning upset, the national conversation seemed to be centered around Urban Meyer and his future at Ohio State. Trent and the Boilermakers' story demonstrates exactly why underdog stories are so important and why they should not be pushed aside so that Colin Cowherd can talk about Tom Brady for the 700th time.
A true underdog story is not just a team predicted 15-points beneath their opponent, it's a team or individual that has overcome years of adversity through bravery and determination, and by adversity I don't just people trash talking you online. Think of the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series in 2016 after their 108-year drought. Baseball fans consider game 7 of the 2016 World Series one of greatest of all time in terms of drama and tension, and the subsequent celebration of more than five million people was one of the largest gatherings in human history.
Why We Need Underdog Stories
One of the reasons underdog stories are so appealing is because they’re super relatable and remind us that we can overcome obstacles in our lives that also seem impossible to us. Are we so numb to the status quo of power that we’d rather engage in stories about “dynasties” and people who dominate the game for decades than a team or individual who defied the odds and triumph over them? Is it just easier for us now to accept that the big guy wins and the little guy loses?
Even our president, who amassed significant support from middle and lower class Americans during his campaign, was born to a wealthy family, was always financially supported by both his family and the government and was even able to avoid the draft. Like The Patriots and Lebron James, Trump was still the son of wealthy parents who became a tycoon billionaire who then became even more wealthy and more powerful. The same goes for popular Country music, a genre that originally represented the plight of the working class man, has become increasingly about relishing in the comfort of middle and upper class life. Popular Hip Hop has also strayed away from its roots in shedding light on poverty and racial inequality in favor of luxury items and making arguments for why they deserve the title of industry GOAT over their rival. This is not to say that their stories are invalid or that they shouldn't be told, but I think it's safe to say that the world will always need underclass heroes to remind us that hope, faith and hard work do pay off and that any giant can still fall to an underdog.
Dynasties & Underdogs in College Football Today
This season in college football has seen a lot of surprising turns at the hands of plucky underdogs like Washington State, Purdue, Tennessee (who beat Auburn week 7), and many other teams that have been disrupting the college football hierarchy week in and week out. Unfortunately, in college football, only the top 4 teams, usually dynasty teams with NFL-sized budgets, get to compete for the chance to hoist the CFB National Championship Trophy in January. Hence, underdog discourse doesn’t hold as much significance when you look at the bigger picture. I think we can all agree that stories like UMBC and the college football freshman from a 2A schools in the middle of nowhere are more enjoyable and inspiring than another Lebron vs MJ debate.
New NCAA Transfer Rules
By Madeline Sperling
New Transfer of Power?
As of Oct. 15, D1 student-athletes no longer have to ask for permission from their current school to transfer and schools no longer have the authority to block transfers as well. Under this new “notification-of-transfer” model, student-athletes will have their names entered into a national database, and coaches from other programs can then reach out to gauge interest. A lot more power now rests with the student-athlete, not the program which previously had the option of placing stringent and unfair limits on which schools the transfer could consider.
This is one of two new transfers rules that have been both praised and criticized for its reallocation of power from the coaches to the players. The NCAA has long been decried for its unbending and often invasive regulations that dictate a student-athlete’s amateur status. When describinljog the previous D1 NCAA tranfer policy, person intimately involved in the legislative process said, "it's like if your ex-wife determined who is your next wife."
With these new eligibility rule changes, it would seem that the NCAA would be moving in the right direction in terms of allowing student-athletes more autonomy in their college career.
Scott Drew: immediate eligibility would turn college sports into the “wild, wild west”
The notion that immediate eligibility would turn college sports into the “wild, wild west” as Baylor coach Scott Drew put it, fails to recognize the fact that conferences can still place limitations “that are more restrictive than the national rule” (according to the Division I Council). What's more it implies that the only motivation a student-athlete would have for transfer is egotistical self-service (nice to know that these coaches hold student-athletes in such high esteem).
NCAA Redshirt Rules
The Four Game Redshirt Rule
But this compromised power of college coaches comes with a silver lining in the second eligibility rule change: players can now participate in up to four games in a season and still retain that year of eligibility. According to Miami (FL) athletics director Blake James, chair of the Division I Council, this new change aims to promote “fairness for college athletes.” While I am not saying Mr. James is being misleading, this rule also provides a whole new strategic advantage to the top powerhouse Division I programs. Teams like Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Clemson, and Ohio State who consistently end up with the top recruiting classes year after year can now utilize the 5 and 4-star true freshman in pivotal regular season matchups and even post-season bowl games.
So, How Will All of This Affect College Football?
Clearly, both of these rule changes present plenty of new opportunities for both student-athletes and coaches, there still remains the question of how they will influence NCAA on a macro-level. I wrote an article not too long ago about how a seemingly small rule change that aimed to reduce injuries and dirty tackling techniques resulted in the now-standardized 250-300 lbs as a prerequisite for offensive and defensive linemen.
So perhaps the critics of these new transfer rules are right in that transferring the power from the college football programs to the student-athletes is just another way for college football to more closely identify itself with the NFL. No doubt that in the next few years, controversies surrounding prominent D1 transfers’ decisions will dominate the mainstream sports media alongside discussions about NFL trade deals. Not to mention, the payday opportunity it creates for NFL agents looking to sign NCAA superstars long before they even enter the draft.
However, seeing these reforms as something that unilaterally affects prime time NFL-bound college football players is ignoring the fact they also give much needed liberty to the young men and women competing in the 21 other sports that aren’t football or men’s basketball. D1 student-athletes are subject to a mess of pervasive rules and many deal with abusive and manipulative coaches who, prior to Oct. 15 retained the right to prohibit student-athletes from transferring to any and as many of the 130 D1 programs as they wished.
The End of a Dark Era in College Football Coaching
One might even argue that if Jordan McNair had a proper and more convenient opportunity to transfer he might still be alive today. I know this might seem brash, but following McNair sudden death during a workout an investigation into the “motivational” practices employed by Coach DJ Durkin and his staff reported multiple instances of fear and humiliation wielded as weapons; extreme workouts that resulted in players vomiting and passing out; and a team divided into a group favored by coaches and another that suffered their wrath. Situations like this have also brought to light how confronting coaches about their abusive tactics is heavily repressed and even when years of complaints and allegations come to light, power wielded by coaches like DJ Durkin and Kevin Wilson is rarely put in check by neither the athletic department, the school administration nor the NCAA.
A New Beginning
By no means, I am saying that these transfer reforms are necessary because college coaches and trainers are all manipulative despots, in fact myself and my peers at College Football Today have praised top D1 coaches, such as Dabo Swinney,Bryan Kelly, Jim Harbaugh, Kirk Ferentz, Scott Frost, Craig Bohl and James Franklin for their ability to develop, support and inspire their student-athletes in football and in life after football.
And it is because there are so many amazing coaches out there that enrich the lives of student-athletes that athletes suffering from overwork and ridicule by their coaches should have the agency to transfer without interference from an abusive coach preventing them from reaching their full inspired potential under someone like Nick Saban. Contrary to Coach Painter's suggestion that it, "would lead to constant poaching and the business of instant gratification instead of growth and development,” this change in the system could serve to unofficially penalize abusive and damaging coaching methods and encourage college coaches to create cultures of respect and personal growth.
And yes, maybe these new transfer rules will allow for big-name athletes to enjoy bidding wars for their talents like an NFL free agent, but the truth is much of NCAA football is already identical to the NFL. In its corporate sponsorships, hundred-million dollar stadiums, lucrative fan merchandise industries and celebrification of its players, college football economically mirrors the NFL. But there is one tiny difference: the players at the center of the profit-driven machine are unpaid student-athletes that were once compared to slaves in an iconic episode of South Park. So don't you think arguing that student-athletes have too much power over coaches with multi-million dollar salaries is a little tone deaf, no?
OSU vs PSU - The "Cover Up Bowl" 2018
In anticipation, fans have been calling the upcoming Ohio State vs. Penn State game, “The Cover Up” bowl. While the staff that facilitated Penn State’s child abuse scandal are no longer there and James Franklin has ushered in a new era of Penn State football, many still feel that Urban Meyer deserved a harsher punishment for his alleged cover up of domestic abuse within his coaching staff. Off-the-field controversies aside, this game will have a decisive impact on the entire 2018 season. Both teams are currently undefeated, but also enjoyed easy opponents last week in Tulane and Illinois.
The first Ohio State-Penn State Match-Up was a Blood Bath
Historically, Penn State and Ohio State have a long-standing rivalry that dates back to 1912 when Penn State, coming off an 8–0–1 season in 1911, shut out Ohio State, 37–0. The entire game was a bloodbath with Penn State's Al Wilson getting knocked out cold and losing several teeth. Red Bebout (who later died in World War I) was severely lacerated from being stomped in the face. But this was 1912 so both men sucked it up and got back in the game.
With about nine minutes left in the game, Ohio State player was viciously laid out during a kickoff. Coach Richards screamed illegal blocking, but no penalty was called. He had had enough and walked his Ohio State team off the field, even as the judge informed him that he would be automatically forfeit the game before time expired.
So the Penn State players walked about the field as the hometown fans threw insults and debris at them. One PSU fan came down out of the stands and began to rush them, but was knocked him out cold with a single right fist by assistant coach Dick Farlow. Police rushed the field to surround the Penn State players and protect them as fans grabbed some blue and white bunting under one of the goalposts and set it on fire. The game was such an insult to both teams that it would be another 44 years until the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions would meet again. They would only play each other sporadically before 1993 when Penn State joined the Big Ten.
Paterno vs. Tressel vs. Franklin vs. Meyer
For an entire decade between 2001 and 2010, Joe Paterno and Jim Tressel enjoyed an intense in-conference rivalry. In fact, Penn State's "whiteout" tradition, which is being revived this Saturday, was born out of this rivalry in 2005, when Penn State upset the then-favored Buckeyes 17–10 in State College with the help of a of a loud and boisterous home crowd. All in all, Tressel finished this 10-year rivalry on top with 7 wins to Paterno's 3 (if you count the Ohio State wins vacated in 2010).
In the aftermath of Penn State's prolific scandal and the emergence of the Coach Urban Meyer era in 2013, Ohio State served Penn State's their worst loss, and most points scored against the team, since 1899 by beating them 63-14. Under Coach Franklin, Penn State has only beaten Ohio State once in 2016, but came incredibly close last year, only losing by 1 point. Here's a recap of this shoot-out below. Now the Buckeyes are the ones still reeling from a largely publicized scandal and Penn State is enjoying incendiary success with their relatively new coach James Franklin.
Penn State's Odds
First off, the game is going to take place at Beaver Stadium, giving the Nittany Lions the home field advantage. The last time Penn State hosted Ohio State, they beat the then No. 2 ranked Buckeyes 24-21, outscoring them 17-0 in the fourth quarter and taking the lead with 4:27 remaining on a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown. The odds were against them then and the odds are against them now, but statistically underdogs with big offenses like Penn State often deliver big upsets.
The Nittany Lions allowed 23 points by the unranked Fighting Illini last week, and nearly lost their season opener to App State, 45-38. By no means, is Franklin's defense vulnerable, but with only 3 returning starters, he's been doing a lot of swapping and shifting to develop his backups. So far, it's been working and if this game was later in the season, I probably wouldn't even question Penn State's defensive unit against Haskins and the Ohio State offense.
After their win against the Fighting Illini, James Franklin admitted to the press, “we have starters, and we have guys we’re rotating in, but I don’t know if anybody’s separated themselves from the pack. And I think that’s probably some our challenges there. Having a guy who you know is running the defense and can be an eraser for you in terms of making plays, we’re not there yet.”
Ohio State's Odds
QB Dwayne Haskins has been extremely impactful in his first four career starts, averaging 10.4 yards per attempt and completing 76 percent of pass attempts. He is currently ranked second in the nation with 16 touchdown passes, while only throwing a single interception. Aside from the likes of Alabama, there are few teams in the NCAA that could conceivably stop Haskins in the passing game.
Ohio State became the target of unrelenting moral outrage following their decision to keep Meyer as head coach, so they are probably doing everything in their power to make that decision count. Moreover, the 2016 loss to Penn State on the road was Urban Meyer's first true road loss as the esteemed head coach of Ohio State. For Coach Meyer, this game is about more than the rivalry or making playoffs, it's about his legacy.
Ohio State football should have running back Mike Weber and defensive tackle Robert Landers back this week against Penn State, but will still be without junior DE Nick Bosa due to his recent surgery to repair a "core muscle" injury. Bosa was considered to be a central part of the Ohio State defensive unit, and they will need every defensive weapon available against Franklin's highly productive offense.
Which ever way the wind blows, Penn State's offense is going to put Ohio State's defense to the test. But with two of the most productive offenses in the nation, it is going to be up to Penn State's rotation-heavy defensive unit to find their rhythm and stick to it in order to stop QB Dwayne Haskins if they want to pull of an upset. It's going to be a loud and high scoring shoot out between two teams who began their century-old rivalry with a literal bloodbath. Two Top 10 teams will enter Beaver Stadium on September 29th, 7:30 pm ET and only one will leave with an undefeated record.
This battle will also serve as a major recruiting showcase, as Penn State is expected to host several of its top targets from various classes. The winner of this matchup will move forward as the favorite to win a Big Ten title in December.
Is College Football More Popular than the NFL?
NFL vs. NCAAF: Economic Influence
It’s no secret that the NCAA selection committees leans towards programs with illustrious histories and powerful fanbases. Sometimes this is validated in top programs that have proven they’re worthy of the title. Other times, it can keep struggling big time programs in the top ranks at the expense of less influential programs with undefeated records. The argument that strength of schedule plays a big role in the decision process has validity, but it seems to be selectively applied based a team's economic influence.
With college football, these markets are the most stable in states and areas where NFL franchises wield little influence and vise versa. “But if the NFL and NCAAF air on different days, how would that affect viewership?” Well Mr. Football McFootball Face, contrary to what you might think, most people don’t spend their entire weekend watching football. Which is why there are NFL strongholds, college football strongholds, and battleground states, where viewership and influence fluctuate between NFL franchises and college football programs. Looking at the bigger picture, sure, there could be an equal number of college football and NFL fans out there, but the more an NFL franchise or college football program dominates in an area the more pervasive it becomes in the culture and social lives of the people who live there. This is economic influence and it's what the NCAA is trying to gain more of. Economic influence comes from viewership, ticket sales, merchandise sales and general fan engagement with a franchise or institution. The more people that watch a game in particular area, the more social engagement with the team goes on amongst the people of that area. Social engagement with the traditions of franchise/institution and news about the season contribute to rises in ticket sales and in turn merchandise sales. The more fans in a city or neighborhood wearing jerseys and socially engaging with related content on game day, the more viewers are drawn to the franchise/institution and the cycle repeats. Psychologically speaking, humans create a sense of belonging and will often conform to feel like a part of a community. The NFL and the NCAA earn the most revenue from places where buying fan merchandise and engaging with the local team is an easy way to fit in and get that sense of belonging.
How the AP Poll is Really Decided
Below are two maps from separate collections of data showing where the NFL and the NCAA wield the most commercial influence and where commercial domination is contested. The first map is from an ESPN fan survey taken in 2012, and the second is from an analysis conducted August 2017 by Ben Koos from the Comeback. In both cases, the NFL won but college football has clearly minimized the gap.
(above, courtesy of Ben Koo from The Comeback; below, courtesy of ESPN)
SEC Country and the rest of College Football Land
States where college football holds a football fan monopoly are shown in a deep red. These states have two defining qualities, the lack of a (satisfactory) NFL franchise and a deep-seated sense of nostalgia, sentimentality, and tradition associated with their college football teams. The deep-seated influence college football teams have in these areas is compounded by the fact that many alumni of these institutions remain in-state and raise the next generation of college football fans with a sense of sentimentality associated with their team. If you’re from one of these states, you probably already know the faux pas of planning your wedding or any big family event on a Saturday in the Fall. It is completely socially acceptable however to have Nick Saban riding an elephant hoisting the Coaches Trophy as your wedding cake that your bride will fill with Auburn colors as prank I assume is a part of some SEC marital ritual.
Why is Alabama Always Number 1?
While the college football programs in these states don’t need to compete with an NFL franchise, they almost always have intense, long-standing rivalries with neighboring college football programs that can get at times get unnecessarily heated. These rivalries appeal heavily to the football fans’ competitive nature and further compounds their personal identity with their home team. Because the personal significance of these teams run so deeply in these states, college football programs don’t even necessarily have to win to maintain their commercial value. The Tennessee Volunteers have won more than 10 games in a season since 2001 and are continually blown out by their SEC rivals, but that won’t stop a Vols fan from claiming superiority over another team for titles they won in the 90’s. Though college football's economic stronghold in these states remains stable even through losing slumps, there is a powerful incentive to rank them favorably and bring them to the BCS. It is much more financially advantageous for selection committees to push these teams into the forefront of the national CFB playoff conversation. When making BCS selections, a selection committee will usually ask the question, "will this fanbase buy expensive memorabilia and continue to engage in college football content through the off-season if they win the national championship?" With fans like these, the answer is always yes.
Best Rivalries in Football
NFL Territory: the rest of the country
On the other end of the spectrum, in metropolitan areas such as New York, DC, Denver, Chicago, Seattle, etc, NFL franchises dominate football fan markets and can take away significant viewership from any college football program that exists in the greater metropolitan area. The states where the NFL dominates are shown in a deep blue. Not unlike the deeply red states, football is a pervasive part of life for fans, and no matter how successful the local college football team is doing, local news coverage, sports bars, and football fans will always favor their beloved NFL team. If you look closely at the electoral map, you'll see that long-time rivalries make for deep-seated influence. Whereas, Ohio and Michigan are strong college football states with their intense rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois, who share a long-standing rivalry between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears, lean towards the NFL.
I have always lived in NFL cities. I grew up in DC where there was one Maryland fan for every 100 Redskins fans, despite the fact that Maryland was actually closer to DC than FedEx stadium in Landover, MD. Now I live in Fort Collins, CO and despite being miles and miles from Denver in the same city as a D1 FBS team with a brand new multi-million dollar stadium, more people wear blue and orange on Sundays than green on Saturdays. Being a college football fan in areas like this is difficult, because nobody plans their weekend around watching college football, so it's near impossible to catch every game of the season and still maintain a social life. Much like how college football programs conflate support and team spirit with a sense of identity and belonging through unique chants/catchphrases and sometimes odd traditions like petting a rock before a game, NFL franchise create this connection literally through their names. The New England Patriots is a reference to the area's celebrated history as the birthplace of the American Revolution, the Pittsburgh Steelers is a reference to the city's steel and mining industry, the 49ers is a reference to the California gold rush, etc, etc.. As such, there is little economic incentive in giving college football programs in California or Pennsylvania serious coverage in the national CFB playoff conversation. Sure, Penn State, USC, Pitt, UCLA, or Cal fans might rally together for a playoff run, but the NCAA is fighting a losing battle trying to compete in NFL strongholds, when they could be catering to places where people will buy a college football merchandise just to fit in.
The Battleground States
The states where domination of the fan market is contested between the NFL and the NCAA are shown in either light blue or light red. In these states, there are prevalent NFL franchises and college football programs whose popularity can fluctuate if they experience a losing slump. In the cases of Wisconsin and Indiana, the NCAA risks losing reliable sources of fan-based revenue to NFL franchises with more flash and overall stronger economic influence in the area despite its influence weakening in recent years. Thus, there is economic incentive to keep Wisconsin and Notre Dame in the national CFB playoff conversation. Yes, both teams have strong core fanbases and consume Notre Dame and Wisconsin Badgers content year round, but in order to redirect the attention of more casual fans from the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts, there has to be something to invest in, which is why the NCAA risks lost profits by cutting down or discounting these programs, even if they did struggle against Ball State or lose to unranked BYU. More than anything, the economic potential of Notre Dame's exclusive television contract with NBC is a cash cow that needs to be milked. Unlike NFL dominated states, the state of Indiana is no stranger to college football culture and can be tapped for a lot of profit if Notre Dame can at least appear consistent year after year.
Of all the NFL vs. NCAA "swing states" shown here, Texas and Florida are by far the biggest battlegrounds, as they are also two of the most highly recruited states in the country. Both states have multiple NFL franchises as well as a considerable number of big time college football programs. In these states is where you'll find those rare fans like Mr. Football McFootball Face who spend their entire weekend watching football, including their local high school football team as well. In cities like Miami, there is considerable fluctuation between the Dolphins and the Hurricanes. Both teams have celebrated pasts, like the Dolphins' perfect season in 1972 and Miami's multiple national titles during the Jimmy Johnson-era in the 80's, so they share an associated sense of nostalgia and sentimentality by the football fans of South Florida. For this reason, there is a big economic incentive to keep U of Miami nationally ranked, especially with the profitability of those gold chains.
NFL vs College Football
As more and more self-proclaimed "football purists" are rejecting the NFL, the NCAA has been given a new market of viewers who want more straightforward football but are accustomed to a certain level of production quality. Pandering to alienated NFL fans through cross-promotion and boosting the standings of previously well liked programs is effective in getting more casual football fans to engage with their favorite team. However, in doing so, the NCAA employs a lot of the profit-driven production gimmicks that actual football purists feel not only dilute the game of football but is unabashedly money-grubbing considering the student-athletes at the center of it all don't receive a dime of the profits. It's one thing for the NFL to sign players solely for public attention and have a corporate sponsor for every conceivable facet of the game because at least the athletes are being paid while they irreversibly damage their bodies. For the NCAA to adopt an identical business model is callously unfair to the student-athletes. Fans have been drawn to FCS and lower levels of college football as less diluted alternatives where student-athletes are just that, student-athletes.
Why am I writing about an NFL story on College Football Today?
Recently, I wrote a couple articles about the Urban Meyer scandal. Inmy first article, I referenced the issue of how domestic violence is treated in football and in the criminal justice system. Today, (coincidentally the first day of the 2018 regular season) the Milton, GA police have no incriminating evidence against LeSean McCoy for involvement in the home invasion, robbery and aggravated assault of his ex Delicia De Cordon whose friend had accused McCoy of brutal domestic violence back in July in a graphic Instagram post. Ultimately, the Bills nor the NFL will take any disciplinary action against McCoy.
To many, this may exonerate McCoy, but regardless of the lack of punishment or formal criminal charge, there is still reasonable doubt that the NFL running back is innocent. Law enforcement is still investigating the attack, and the Bills and the NFL are both investigating the incident and allegations as well. Meanwhile, McCoy has hired well-known defense attorney, Don Samuels, who also represented Ray Lewis in the double homicide case in 2000 and Ben Roethlisberger in 2010 when he was accused of rape.
The majority of domestic violence cases in the NCAA and NFL are swept under the rug by first the respective administration and then press who take whatever excuse they are given at face value and completely disregard the victim’s side of the story. There are detailed allegations of McCoy brutally beating his son and his dog, as well as Cordon herself, but as the NFL running back returns to work without any penalty, they are omitted from the popular narrative.
So here's the story...
How mainstream sports media is helping the NFL sweep this under the rug.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported about the “insufficient evidence” in McCoy’s case, and there is one line that feels almost laughably naive, given what we know about football coaches’ tolerance for domestic violence allegations:
“If Bills coaches and officials were alarmed about what the investigation would yield — and they have been in contact with people involved in the case — they would not have allowed McCoy’s selection as a captain to stand."
The bigger picture
Though McCoy, 29, has never been suspended in his NFL career, he was accused in 2016 of being involved in a bar fight which resulted in two men hospitalized. No criminal charges were filed against McCoy due to “insufficient evidence” and the NFL opted not to penalize the running back.
In 2013, a woman sued McCoy for assault, alleging he or his bodyguard struck her and shoved her off a party bus in New Jersey. McCoy was a member of the Philadelphia Eagles at the time and wasn’t suspended for the incident.
Police records show there were multiple calls for domestic disturbances to the home of Cordon and McCoy. None of which resulted in charges. The fact that law enforcement rarely make arrests on domestic abuse calls is something we should have learned from the Smith case, and it should not be cause to dismiss a domestic violence allegation. Of course, I am not definitively saying McCoy is guilty, but to say that there is no evidence that he ever physically assaulted Cordon or was involved in the violent robbery of the jewelry he wanted back from her is nonsense and offensive to victims of domestic abuse.
It is not just these administrations that aid in protecting those accused of domestic violence, it is also the responsibility of the press to hold those accused and those who protect the accused accountable. While it's easier to go along with what NFL and NCAAF administrations say and relieve the fear amongst fans, it is an injustice to the victims not to tell their story and not allow abusers and enablers to remain unchecked.
Today, 44 active NFL players have records of domestic violence, and 12 were invited to join NFL teams even as they were facing outstanding court cases based on alleged physical or sexual assaults, many committed against intimate partners. So congratulations to Adam Schefter, Ian Rapaport, and many other sports reporters for once again validating the NFL for protecting players accused of violent crimes.
A History of Football Rule Changes & Penalties
New NFL Tackling Rules Explained
There have been a lot of controversial rule changes this year in both the NFL and NCAA. Critics of these new rules see them as cursory attempts at minimizing injuries on the field, while simultaneously interrupting the game with constant penalties. At first I saw these criticisms as merely old-timers complaining about reform and change. However, as I looked more into the history and evolution of the NFL and NCAA rules, I found some striking irony in how rule changes and penalties made in the 1970s change the game forever.
In 1970, there was only one player in the NFL over 300 lbs, and there was only 3 in 1980. Compare this to a whopping 523 players over 300 lbs at the start of the 2010 NFL season. It’s not just weight either, in fact prior to the 1980s, most offensive linemen fell below 6’4.
So What Happened?
First off, in 1974 the NFL made blocking below the waist illegal when not against the ball carrier. The rule states:
Prior to his rule change the most common blocks occurred below the waist, which would have made being tall and top-heavy a huge disadvantage as you were vulnerable to getting their knees knocked out. What we know today as "chop blocking" or "cut blocking" below the knee was common practice in 1960s and before. I found some Big Ten footage from 1960 and if you watch the line of scrimmage it looks like a mess with 6-foot, 200-pound offensive linemen scurrying around and diving for their opponents' knees. Defensive linemen also did a lot more running, whereas today a defensive tackle's strategic responsibilities revolve around the QB and stay localized near the line of scrimmage.
The irony of it all...
A government study in 1994 found that NFL linemen had 52% higher risk of dying from heart disease than other football players. Herein lies the irony: in an attempt to minimize injuries through new rules and penalties, the NFL, NCAA and even high school football have created strategic system that prioritizes the physical size of a player over their health and well-being in the long run. Like the penalizing of below-the-knee cut/chop blocking, the NFL's new helmet rule, which prohibits players from lowering their helmet to initiate contact, has good intentions to try and minimize brain damage endured during a game. However, as we've seen before, win-driven football coaches will adapt and find alternative strategies and systems regardless of the potential harm it could inflict on their players.
By no means, am I bringing this up to fat shame or criticize linemen for their size. Many large players in the NCAA and NFL are in great shape, despite our preconceived, superficial notions of what health looks like. In fact, one of my favorite moments in football is when one of these larger players gets the chance to make an interception or recover a fumble for a touchdown. Linemen are often the unsung heroes of the game of football, and I think we all get a little inspired when we see a 250-300 lb man excitedly job into the endzone for probably the first time in his career. Pressuring players as young as high school to gain or lose mass amounts of weight at a time is incredibly dangerous as it leads to unhealthy diets and the overuse of supplements. I’m not saying any of these new rules for the 2018 will ultimately lead to a similar unhealthy trend, but reflecting on the history of football can reveal that rule changes and penalties may not be the effective way to minimize on-field injuries. This doesn’t mean there is no solution to the high frequency of injuries during games, it just means we need to think more critically and outside the box to find it.
UCF 2017-18 National Championship Claim
The Validity UCF's Claim
Since their victory over Auburn in the Peach Bowl, the UCF Knights and the entire city of Orlando, have unabashedly insisted that, as college football’s only undefeated team, they are national champions. One of the former BCS computers, the Colley Matrix, ranks UCF No. 1. It adds some validity to UCF’s claim.
Turn to page 108 of the NCAA’s football records. There you’ll see a list of “national champion major selectors.” These are national polls, computers, historians, and other rankings that the NCAA recognizes as contributing to the selection of national champs throughout the sport’s history.
It’s also significant because even 2017’s consensus champion Alabama has much more dubious claims on its list of past titles.
The hypocrisy of claiming a "Power 5 Bias"
Many may claim that denying UCF a championship for low level of competition is “Power 5 bias” but there are reasons behind it. Most college football teams, UCF included, only recruit certain areas in Florida, Georgia and California. In fact, UCF’s 2017 roster had only 13 players that weren’t from big time football states such as Texas, Florida, Georgia, California, Alabama, etc. Why is that UCF? Could it be that, to you, the level of competition in these states makes their players unequivocally better than the top standout players in other states? Hm? You call out college football for having a power 5 bias because they favor teams in more competitive conferences, but you follow the same principle in your recruiting.
If the level of competition doesn’t matter as much as you say, then make a statement and recruit outside the big time football states and 6-7A schools. Find recruits that are overlooked for the same reason you were overlooked by the CFB playoffs. Otherwise, your claim to a national championship is tainted by your hypocrisy of employing the same logic of this so-called "power 5 bias" in your recruiting.
Loss of Head Coach Scott Frost
Ok UCF, let’s say the BCS expanded it’s playoff system to 8 teams instead of 4. Do you really think you could have bested Ohio State or Wisconsin, let alone Alabama or Clemson? Sure, you bested Auburn in the Peach after they defeated Alabama in the Iron bowl, but you also allowed Memphis to score 55 points on your defense. What’s more, mere hours after that game ended, Scott Frost takes the head coaching job at his alma mater, Nebraska, while still agreeing to coach UCF through the bowl game.
Now let's see how UCF fares with their new promising head coach Josh Heupel. Adrian Killins Jr. is a powerhouse and so are many their players, but is it enough to maintain a winning record this year? We'll find out today in their opening game against UConn.
Madeline Sperling, Staff Writer
Urban Meyer Apology
Urban Meyer Suspension
On Wednesday, the Ohio State Board of Trustees came to a final decision on Urban Meyer's fate in the wake of a domestic abuse scandal involving his WR coach Zach Smith. I recently wrote about how Meyer's Twitter apology spoke to a greater issue in how NCAA institutions handle domestic violence, but I think Diana Moskovitz of Deadspin hit the nail on the head with this one:
"This is what any discussion of violence against women in the sports world looks like; it turns women into just another pawn, a thing to be debated in sports terminology of missed games, impacted statistics, upcoming schedules, and how it will affect a man’s career. Any concern for the safety of Courtney Smith and her family will discarded without a second thought."
Every time an accusation or lawsuit involving domestic violence or sexual assault against a woman arises in the world of sports, the crime itself becomes lost in a wave of reports and broadcasts solely focused on the perpetrator's career and how this will affect their franchise or program's success. This narrative set up by administrators who address their apologies to their fans and reinforced by sports broadcasters sets a precedent that getting caught is the real crime.
Both Urban Meyer and the OSU administration have repeatedly stressed the importance of setting an example for the young student-athletes in their program. However, this narrative that emphasizes a coach or athlete's career over everything else teaches these young student-athletes that the worst thing you can do is get caught.
Urban Meyer's insincere apology
In my previous article on the Urban Meyer scandal, I spoke briefly about the art of the public apology. Watching Meyer's formal apology reminded me a bit of that South Park episode where they made fun of BP CEO Tony Hayward's phony and insincere apology for their Gulf Coast Oil Spill. I realize there are legal ramifications of apologizing to Courtney Smith directly, but Meyer failed to even recognize her a victim and even went so far as to implicate himself as a victim. It's sad when the world is looking to you to say something sincere and from the heart, but all you can do is ambivalently read off a pre-written statement and deny culpability for your actions. The truth of the matter is that for years Courtney Smith and her children suffered greatly from abuse, harassment, and violent threats by a man who remained in a power position. Not only did Meyer fail to acknowledge Courtney Smith as a victim of domestic violence, but he redirected the question to insinuate that the upheaval and consequences suffered by him and the OSU administration was the real abuse. Watching Meyer going on about how deeply sorry he is to Buckeye Nation for putting them through this ordeal, it is clear this man doesn't believe he did anything wrong. He's just sorry everyone found out.
In their lenient decision, OSU make the distinction that it was not a 'cover-up'
In the Board of Trustees' public statement on Wednesday, the OSU administrators defended their decision to not fire Meyer because neither he nor AD Gene Smith participated in a cover-up. The university's official report read: “Although neither Urban Meyer nor Gene Smith condoned or covered up the alleged domestic abuse by Zach Smith, they failed to take sufficient management action relating to Zach Smith’s misconduct and retained an Assistant Coach who was not performing as an appropriate role model for OSU student-athletes..."
So what constitutes a "cover-up"? At what point does allowing a man habitually accused of abuse and harrassment to be a prominent member of a program responsible for mentoring young athletes covering up a potential scandal for the university?
It's overtly clear now that Ohio State values winning above all, and Urban Meyer is sorry he got caught. According to court documents, several police officers in two different states, two respected reporters, including one interview on camera, and now to Ohio State investigators, Zach Smith physically and emotionally abused his ex wife all while being comfortably employed by a top 5 FBS college football program. All this became public knowledge because she went to court to get a restraining order; in her request, Courtney Smith wrote that Zach Smith stalked her, threatened her, and hacked her email. All this woman wanted was to feel safe and raise her children in a safe environment, but neither Ohio law enforcement nor the OSU administration would help her. She did everything that people in abusive relationships are told to do, but she continued to be threatened, stalked and harassed by her abuser who remained a powerful figure at OSU and a mentor to young student-athletes.
DJ Durkin Maryland Football
How many athletes die from heat stroke?
Since 1995, an average of 3 high school or college football players die from heat-related illnesses.Ninety percent of those deaths occurred during practice. Many programs combat the risk of heat-related health problems with cold water immersion tubs, indoor practice facilities, and encouraging players to drink a lot of water.
I grew up in the DC Metro area, so I know how hot and humid it can get in the Summertime. Maryland, like any other college football program, knows the dangers of overworking in this kind of heat, as well as the signs and symptoms of heat stroke and how to treat it. So how did Jordan McNair’s case of heat exhaustion develop into a lethal case of heat stroke? In a press conference on Monday August 13th, the University of Maryland took full legal and moral responsibility for Jordan McNair’s death. On top of this, they have put head coach DJ Durkin on administrative leave following allegations of abuse from Durkin's staff, leaving many wondering if he will be fired before the start of the 2018 season.
How Tough is to Tough?
In the wake of Jordan McNair’s tragic death, many have posed the question, ‘how tough is too tough?” Though some reporters and opinion leaders have approached this issue critically, others with more traditional outlooks on football are quick to defend the rough and tough, no-excuses type of football coaching that they experienced as players and continued as coaches. However, those who see this question of “is there an issue with football culture” as an attack on their tradition of football fail to see what part of football culture is actually lethal: the unwritten rule that you can’t tell your coach that you don’t feel well. The celebrated tradition of coaches pushing players to their limits to make them the best athletes they can be is by no means under attack. Tragedies like McNair’s untimely death should be a wakeup call to athletic coaches of all levels to be more attentive and empathetic to the needs and safety of their players.
Where Do We Draw The Line?
This culture in football that discourages players from speaking up about how their feeling physically goes beyond just heatstroke. Many injuries suffered by football players are caused less by big impact collisions on the field and more by untreated and perpetual damage to their bodies. You don’t have to become Bob Ross to be an empathetic and thoughtful coach. However, allowing and even encouraging your players to be more forthright with their feelings, you can prevent things like heatstroke, injury, and sometimes even suicide.
How does Bobby Petrino still have a job?
Written By Madeline Sperling
Don't be Ignorant, Save a LIfe - Turtle Style
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