Spring Game Attendance Signals That Football isn’t …

OSU
OSU

The Buckeyes saw nearly 100,000 people attend its' Spring Game. I'd say football is doing fine.

There were almost 100,000 people in Ohio Stadium yesterday and there wasn’t even an actual football game being played. There wasn’t even a Rolling Stones concert either. On the turf of the Horseshoe in Columbus, Ohio Saturday the Ohio State Buckeyes played the… Ohio State Buckeyes.

That’s an awful lot of people for a game that means little other than “who solidified himself as a starter at said position.” To be sure, the defending national champions have holes to fill and Spring Football is where coaches start to recognize just who is capable of being the “next man up.”

At two other Big Ten schools, Nebraska and Penn State, the Spring Game crowds were around 77,000 and 68,000 respectively. At Michigan, where prodigal son Jim Harbaugh has returned, the Wolverines had 60,000 in attendance.

Top schools in the Southeastern Conference like Auburn and Alabama saw Spring Game attendance marks around 60-65,000 as well. For them, that’s not really anything too surprising.

What’s hard to make sense of is that football is supposedly a dying sport. From concussion lawsuits, players behaving badly off the field and an overall condemnation of the game from more and more parents, you’d think the game was in rapid decline.

Tell that to the tens of thousands that attended Spring Games this season already.

The game of football isn’t struggling nearly as much as many think it is but there are worse times ahead. Participation in many states across the country is declining as more and more parents fear for the future of their children. Far be it from me to tell parents how to raise their children but I want parents to be educated and I don’t want them to done so with a biased approach.

Both soccer and hockey are facing concussion problems yet we hear little about those statistics and the reason for that is simple. Any time you are the top dog everyone wants to knock you off of your perch. That’s where football finds itself today.

The National Football League has problems. It has a former player off to jail for life with a murder conviction and it has players being arrested from everything from marijuana possession to domestic violence. Yet, it finds itself as the premier professional sport in North America. No sport is watched more by more people and of different genders and ethnicity than any other right now.

With the growth of fantasy football as well, the NFL is doing fantastic business so how can it or college football possibly fail?

If you follow football closely, then you may have noticed a new trend defensively that is making the game a little bit safer. What many call “Hawk tackling” because of the Seattle Seahawks’ use of it, the method of tackling aims to take the head out of the process. The style actually takes its’ roots from rugby where as you know, there isn’t any equipment used by the players.

There are still big hits and great tackles, but the form is much safer in terms of potential head injury. Will it make such a difference that the game is ultimately without problems? Of course not, but at the very least all levels of football are addressing the concerns of safety whether traditionalists like it or not.

Football isn’t going anywhere anytime soon as we can tell from the attendance at Spring Games, but it still has plenty of issues to address.

 

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Odds Makers Release 2015 Heisman Trophy Futures

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With the NBA entering its final stretch to the postseason, college basketball closing in on March Madness, the NHL winding towards the Stanley Cup playoffs and Major League Baseball preparing to open its season in just over a month, many sports fans and bettors might not have college football at the top of their list.

Nevertheless, odds makers never slow down and never put any sport to bed for more than a few hours. This week, the 2015 Heisman Trophy futures were released by on large online bookmaker. The season does not even begin until the latter part of August, but there is nothing like getting a head start and finding a player or players with some value on this futures board.

Last season the prestigious award was won by Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota. The junior quarterback won in a landslide but already has entered the 2015 NFL draft.

As is usually the case, the player at the top of the list with the shortest odds to start the Heisman Trophy futures is a quarterback and this year it is TCU Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin.

The athletic Boykin is a dual threat who can beat defenses through the air with his arm or on the ground with his legs.

After the talented Boykin is Ezekiel Elliott a running back for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Bettors might be indecisive when it comes to backing the talented runner considering there are three of his own teammates on the newly released futures list that will be bet on as well.

Ohio State has three quarterbacks on the list. Braxton Miller is 25 to 1. Miller was supposed to be the starter last season, but injured his shoulder prior to the start of the season and was lost for the year. J.T. Barrett is at 25 to 1 as well. He replaced Miller only to become injured himself late in the season. Cardale Jones is sitting at 15 to 1. He replaced Barrett and helped lead the Buckeyes to the National Championship.

Rounding out the top five with the shortest odds is Dak Prescott the dual threat quarterback for the Mississippi State Bulldogs, Leonard Fournette a running back for the LSU Tigers and Paul Perkins a running back for the UCLA Bruins.

2015 Heisman Trophy Futures

  1. Trevone Boykin (TCU) +750
  2. Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State) +800
  3. Dak Prescott (Mississippi State) +850
  4. Leonard Fournette (LSU) +1150
  5. Paul Perkins UCLA) +1200
  6. Nick Chubb (Georgia) +1200
  7. Cody Kessler (USC) +1300
  8. Derrick Henry (Alabama) +1400
  9. Samaje Perine (Oklahoma) +140
  10. Cardale Jones Ohio State) +1500
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Sports in America Twenty Years From Now

Soccer
Soccer

Twenty years from now I see soccer becoming the dominant sport in America like it or not.

Welcome to 2035! Jump on board the time machine with me as I give you my thoughts on what sports in America will look like 20 years from now.

The biggest change overall will be the rise of soccer. If you read my column regularly then you know this just destroys me but it’s what I see happening. The world is a smaller place now because of technology and social media and the most recent World Cup proved just how crazy Americans are getting over soccer.

The vast majority of the fan base right now is kids, teens and twenty-somethings with smatterings of older adults thrown in here and there. If you advance things 20 years, that means the current fan base will be a prime mixture of fans in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.

Soccer has long been treated as a red-headed step-child in America but with the fear police assaulting football, I see it growing by leaps and bounds.

Speaking of football, I have a gut feeling participation nationally will continue to drop as parents keep their kids from playing for health reasons. Far be it from me to tell any parent how to rule over their child but I believe much of what has happened to “make the game safer” has largely been blown out of proportion.

I also believe that college football will actually become bigger than the National Football League. I feel this way because the NFL will continue to lose viewers. Recent polls have shown that men over 50 is the largest demographic that is no longer watching pro football.

That speaks volumes because if they stop watching then their kids will become less interested as well. The pro game in general has become a shell of its’ former self with the violence of the game all but removed and defense becoming an after-thought as everything favors offenses today.

If the NFL moves teams to Europe I also predict that will quicken the pace of its’ demise.

LeBron

The NBA will need to have more personalities twenty years from now as LeBron will be long gone from the court.

My crystal ball sees the National Basketball Association staying popular but it faces some challenges. First and foremost the game must have personable stars that provide the face of the league. LeBron James is clearly that face today but Michael Jordan set the bar so high I wonder if it is unreachable. I have yet to see a player with Jordan’s ability to be an assassin on the court and be friendly off it has been unmatched.

I also think the NBA will shorten its’ season. We are seeing a rise in star players spending more time on the bench for rest and for minor injuries. Fans will demand this going forward.

Major League Baseball will continue to see Latin players flood the rosters. This is not a bad thing in any way. MLB’s biggest issues will be keeping the games as short as possible as well how to deal with pitching injuries that are on the rise. Don’t be surprised if MLB contracts a few teams in an effort to keep competitive balance high.

I also see contraction in the National Hockey League where some teams just aren’t filling seats. The NHL will finally have some personalities and players that will draw fans in that haven’t normally been there in the past. The game itself is in good shape, but it will need to do more to draw in those fringe fans and I think it will once Gary Bettman is no longer the commissioner.

Al in all, sports will continue to dominate our lives but I see changes coming and for me personally I’m not real crazy about them.

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Restoring Paterno’s Wins is No Cause for Celebration

Paterno
Paterno

Joe Paterno had his 112 wins restored but in the end does it really matter?

Ya know what? I don’t know every fact there is to know about what happened at Penn State University when Jerry Sandusky was there abusing children. In fact, there are very few among us who know everything but at least I’m willing to admit it.

Yesterday, the NCAA, who completely botched the investigation from the start, restored 112 wins to the record of Joe Paterno. Those wins had been stripped from the school and Paterno as punishment for the Sandusky Child Sexual Abuse case. With the restoration of those wins, Paterno now has 409 career victories which once again makes him the leader in total wins among college football coaches.

As you might imagine, there was great joy throughout Happy Valley when this announcement came down.

Let me tell you exactly what I know. First, the NCAA screwed this whole thing up from the very beginning and once-again proved when there are criminal activities involved they need to step aside until the authorities can do their jobs. Secondly, there is no disputing that Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulted many children. Perhaps more than we’ll ever know.

Sandusky

Jerry Sandusky is where is belongs but could he have been there sooner had Paterno used his power in the proper way?

He used his power as a football coach to coerce and dominate over kids. He’s in prison where he belongs.

Third, Joe Paterno did not do enough to end Sandusky’s reign of terror and there is no denying this. To say Paterno “did enough” when he contacted Athletic Director Tim Curley is laughable if only this were a laughable situation.

Curley was a former Paterno player who had been positioned by Paterno himself to become the AD. To suggest that Curley was going to act without input from Paterno who was Penn State, is ridiculous.

But let’s strip of all that away though. The culture of football being the horse the moves that cart at many universities is true, especially at Penn State but take all of that away for a second. A boss is told that one of his top assistants is committing horrible crimes and that boss then reports this to his own boss.

Chain of command right? Once the boss did his job by telling his own superiors, his job was done right?

This is the argument by those who have always defended Joe Paterno. He did his duty to report the witnessed crime to his superiors and then moved on to other things. In the world outside of college campuses where a football or basketball coach is a god, this is appropriate behavior.

Unfortunately, Paterno abused his power by not using it. If you think for one minute that Paterno didn’t hold court over that university then your blind. This doesn’t mean that Joe Paterno was not a good man, a good coach and a father figure to many because he was and that shouldn’t be forgotten.

The problem is that Paterno made one, awful choice. He chose to stand pat and let those “above him” handle a situation that he could have handled it himself. Paterno would have even added to his legacy if that were possible by choosing what’s right over loyalty and probably some disbelief.

The wins restored are being celebrated as a justification of Paterno doing nothing wrong. This isn’t true. They have been restored because the NCAA couldn’t find its’ way out of a paper sack and screwed this thing up from day one.

Lost in all of this is not how fans of the Nittany Lions are reacting to the restoration of 112 wins. What is lost is the regard for the victims who once again see themselves being shoved aside by the very same things that kept their stories from being revealed in the first place.

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Putting the Wraps on College Football With Three …

Patterson
Patterson

Gary Patterson and TCU have every right to be upset especially after the team that replaced won the title.

By now you know the Ohio State Buckeyes are the champions of college football. While many will tell you this is the first-ever undisputed championship, you won’t catch me saying that.

Let’s remember that this team got into the playoffs simply because the committee wanted to avoid choosing TCU ahead of Baylor. By taking the Buckeyes, that meant neither the Horned Frogs nor the Bears were going into the playoffs so a lot of controversy was avoided. TCU had been listed in the top four for several weeks and in the last poll before the final rankings were released.

Both TCU and Ohio State had one loss. The Frogs lost a high-scoring shootout to Baylor 61-58 in Waco while the Buckeyes lost to 6-6 Virginia Tech in the Horseshoe.

Then bowl season came around and we all wondered how TCU would respond in their match-up against Ole Miss. Would they still be hanging their heads wondering about what might have been or would they prove to the committee that they should have been in rather than Ohio State?

Ask the Rebels which TCU team showed up…

The point is this; The Buckeyes are a worthy champion having defeated Alabama and Oregon and I certainly can’t say TCU would have accomplished this. But the fact that the one team that wasn’t in the top four rankings until the very end won the title tells me the playoff must expand to an eight-team field.

Barrett

If J.T. Barrett recovers well, I expect him to get the nod at QB for the Buckeyes in 2015.

I believe it will eventually but probably not for several years at the earliest.

Five Questions Heading Into 2015

1. Can the Buckeyes make it two in a row? You bet they can. With Urban Meyer as head coach, a plethora of top new recruits and a lot of guys back from this past season’s team, there is no reason OSU can’t win back-to-back titles. The schedule is very favorable with the only troublesome road trips at Virginia Tech in the opener and at Michigan in the finale.

Obviously the biggest issue is at quarterback. It’s a good problem to have but Meyer is going to need to commit to Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett or Braxton Miller fairly soon. My gut feeling is that they go with Barrett as long as the leg heals properly.

2. Who bounces back for the SEC? Southeastern Conference expert Paul Feinbaum had a funny tweet yesterday and I’m paraphrasing a bit. “The Big Ten wins the National Championship in football, while the SEC has the top team in basketball. Something isn’t right.”

There’s no question the folks down South are hurting right now. While overall, their run of consecutive national titles still reigns supreme, but the fact they couldn’t even muster a team into the title game has left many feeling blue.

There isn’t a team in the SEC that doesn’t have question marks however. Both Alabama and Auburn will feature new quarterbacks and LSU is undergoing numerous changes on the defensive side. The SEC East should be better overall but whether they have a title contender is uncertain.

There’s no question the SEC will bounce back but there’s no clear cut evidence of who rises to the top just yet.

3. What is a “good outcome” in Harbaugh’s first year at Michigan? If you ask Wolverines’ fans they’ll tell you nothing short of a Big Ten title will suffice but that isn’t fair. Michigan will be better, there’s no way they won’t be with the staff Harbaugh has assembled and the attitude he’s already installing.

The defense last year in Ann Arbor was actually pretty darn good but the offense was the real problem. Harbaugh has to find a capable QB and a running game as well. I believe eight or nine wins is a very acceptable first year. Anything more is a bonus.

 

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Odds on Next Year’s College Football National …

Meyer
Meyer

Can Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes repeat as champions?

The confetti from Monday night’s College Football Championship Game hasn’t even fallen to the ground yet and already we are looking ahead to who the tops teams in college football will for the 2015 season.

Below, you will find the latest odds on the teams favored as well as a reason why I think they could win the title and a reason why I think couldn’t.

Ohio State 5/1 -Why? Because regardless of who starts at QB they will have a solid playmaker. Why Not? Hangover. Will the hunger be there for another title run?

TCU 15/2 -Why? They have 10 starters back on a prolific offense including their QB. Why Not? They are clearly in the crosshairs now of every opponent.

Alabama 9/1 – Why? It’s Nick Saban and the cupboard is far from bare. Why Not? Who steps in at QB to replace Blake Sims?

Baylor 14/1 – Why? The Bears bring a lot of guys back and Art Briles has proven he can flat-out coach. Why Not? Bryce Petty is off to the NFL and a step down is only natural to project.

Auburn 18/1 – Why? The addition of Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator will bring added stock to the defense. Why Not? Nick Marshall moves on and can his replacement be as good at QB?

Oregon 16/1 – Why? Why Not? New QB and trips to East Lansing, Seattle, Tempe and Stanford await.

Michigan State 16/1 – Why? Why Not? Home date with Oregon plus trips to Ann Arbor, Lincoln and Columbus.

USC 18/1 – Why? The Trojans should have more depth this season and QB Cody Kessler returns. Why Not? Trips to Tempe, South Bend and Eugene will not be easy.

LSU 18/1 – Why? Les Miles returns a lot of guys who will have valuable experience and provide depth. Why Not? Simply put, it’s quarterback play. It has to be better.

Florida State 20/1 – Why? It’s the ACC and the Seminoles will reload. Why Not? The loss of Jameis Winston and Rashard Greene may be too much to replace.

Notre Dame 20/1 – Why? The Irish have a lot of guys back and will ride the wave of a bowl win. Why Not? The schedule is daunting with Texas, Georgia Tech, and USC at home and road games at Clemson and Stanford.

Oklahoma 20/1 – Why? Bob Stoops always has good recruiting classes so the cupboard is full. Why Not? Will the QB play improve and can Stoops shake off a couple of regular seasons?

Clemson 25/1 – Why? This could finally be the year the Tigers get past the Seminoles and their huge bowl win provides great momentum. Why Not? Clemson always seems to slip up where it shouldn’t. Can they avoid that?

Georgia 25/1 – Why? The SEC East is still struggling and can be had by the Bulldogs who have many players back. Why Not? It’s Mark Richt! He hasn’t gotten over the hump to this point so why would I expect any different?

Long Shots I Love

Georgia Tech 50/1 – The defense has improved and the offense is a royal pain in the rear to prepare for and defend.

Penn State 100/1 – James Franklin has a very good QB returning and his recruiting class is among the top in the country.

 

 

 

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Bucks and Ducks Battle Tonight for the NCAA Football Title

Mariota
Mariota

Marcus Mariota's legs may be more important than his arms tonight.

You’ve probably heard this little trivia tidbit by now but in case you haven’t here it is… Following the first-ever NCAA Basketball Tournament in 1939, the two teams that met for the title were Oregon and Ohio State. The Ducks would claim their one and only national championship in men’s basketball.

Now, these same two universities meet in the first-ever college football playoff title game and again, the Ducks enter having won zero national championships in football. Both teams enter at 13-1 and both won their respective conference titles.

Each school offers intriguing storylines as the game kicks off tonight. Who do I like and why? Read on.

College Football National Championship

Ohio State (+7) vs Oregon (O/U 75) -

By the Numbers: Points per game Ohio State 45.2, Oregon 46.3… Points allowed per game Ohio State 21.2, Oregon 22.5

Jones

The Ducks will look to frustrate Cardale Jones early tonight in Dallas.

Why Ohio State Wins: As good as Oregon Head Coach Mark Helfrich has been, Urban Meyer is a master game-planner who rarely is out-prepared by his opponent. Meyer’s experience heading into this game is significant as well and should be an advantage to the Buckeyes.

The defensive line for OSU has been dominant all season and eventually overwhelmed the Alabama offensive line. The Oregon offensive line is very good and is more aggressive than they are given credit for so this should be an excellent match-up.

I think the Buckeyes defensively have recognized the fact they will give up yards to Oregon but can they limit the Ducks in the red zone where Oregon has had some struggles? I think the Buckeyes can also bank on the fact that they aren’t going to turn the ball over as many times as Florida State did and that’s important for their confidence.

Why Oregon Wins: There is going to be no secret as to what the Ducks are going to do. They will go at a high rate of speed and they will not relent. If they can find some success early running the football against a good OSU defense then that will make Marcus Mariota all the more dangerous.

The loss of wide receiver Darren Carrington due to suspension is going to hurt a lot but if the Ducks can find someone to step up that isn’t necessarily expected to then the Ducks will be fine. That’s a tall order however and I’m worried about this situation which is why I think they look to the ground game even more often.

Defensively, the Ducks must stop the run and force the game into the hands of Cardale Jones. Alabama was unable to do that and what was even worse is that the Tide weren’t able to contain Jones when he ran either. If Oregon can force Jones into some early mistakes and force him to play from behind then things can swing in their favor dramatically.

Trends: Ohio State is 5-0 straight up in their last five games… Oregon is 5-0 SU in their last five games… The total has gone OVER in 12 of Ohio State’s last 13 games… The only common opponent for each team is Michigan State and both trailed by at least a touchdown before coming back to win by double digits.

Key Injuries: OSU QBs Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett/OUT, Oregon CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu/OUT

The Pick: I was liking the Buckeyes all week but now I like them even more with Carrington out for Oregon. Don’t be surprised to see a defensive game for most of the first half before the offenses settle in but either way I love Ohio State and the UNDER.

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