The 2009 College Football Most Important Game of the Season Debate – Red River Showdown

August 10, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument that Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech is the most important game of the season and Bleacher Fan’s argument that USC at Ohio State is the most important game .

Every year, there are big games in college football. There are games that get the people talking at work the week of the game. There are games that get The Sports Debates talking about as soon as possible. This week, we are going to take a look at a game that each of us the writers believes is important for various reasons. The game that I have chosen to label as the most important of the season is the annual Red River Rivalry between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns that takes place the week of the Texas State Fair.

This year, the game will be played October 17th in Dallas. And there’s a decent chance that both teams will be undefeated going into that game. It will not be the first time, and it probably will not be the last time the game involves two undefeated teams. It was the case last year, when Texas knocked off then #1 Oklahoma 45-35.

This year’s contest promises to be the most important game of the season. In the preseason coaches poll released last Friday, Texas is ranked second and Oklahoma is ranked third. Both teams return Heisman trophy contenders in Longhorn quarterback Colt McCoy and Sooners quarterback, and reigning Heisman winner, Sam Bradford.

The winner of this game has an inside track to the conference championship game (and potential BCS berth) as the winner of the Big 12 South conference. The winner does not always win the division though. If you will recall from last year, Texas didn’t win the conference. I think we can all agree that Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma are a little ahead of the other contenders at the point, due to who they have returning at the skill positions. The winner of this game will have a leg up on the other in the race to the BCS Championship game. Anything less than a berth in the championship would have to be considered a disappointment for Texas or Oklahoma, right?

I also think it is a big game for Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, who no longer deserves to be called “Big Game Bob.” He needs this one to help remove the stigma of people thinking Oklahoma can longer win the big game. Losing to Florida, West Virginia, and Boise State in BCS bowls the past three years have somewhat dampened his reputation. A win over an archrival would keep the fans and alumni happy and help get the media off his back. He is certainly not on the hot seat, but it is time for him to take his team to the top again. This could be the year.

Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek both have their reasons for choosing their games as the most important games. But when all is said and done, the battle in Texas is going to go a long way in charting the course for the rest of the college football season. It is a day that Loyal Homer is thoroughly looking forward to. I have a date with the recliner set up for that day!

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The 2009 College Football Most Important Game of the Season Debate – Under Pressure!

August 10, 2009

Read Sports Geek and Loyal Homer’s argument about which football game of the 2009 college season will be the most important, and why.

With teams like Florida (yes, I am calling out Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow, and the rest of Gator Nation) choosing the cupcake path of least resistance to hopefully ensure their spot in BCS play, there are other more respectable schools that have chosen to prove their worth through a trial by fire… and the entire nation of college football fans appreciate their boldness and daring!

As a result, we will be treated to two matchups, before we even see the third week of the season, which will shape the BCS picture for the entire year. The first of these games features #5 Alabama on the road against #7 ranked Virginia Tech, September 5th. The second is a September 12th rematch of last year’s hyped matchup with #4 Southern Cal travelling to Columbus to take on #6 ranked Ohio State.

Both games feature top-10 teams, each from a different major conference. In each case, the teams involved have some a chip on their shoulder, and each team has an opportunity to position itself for very early BCS consideration. Both are “can’t miss” games and both should be very entertaining. But in the discussion of which is most important, one of those two games emerges as the clear choice.

While the Alabama-Virginia Tech game provides both teams with an opportunity to prove that last year’s success was more than just luck, it is the USC-Ohio State matchup with much farther reaching implications.

For going on ten years, Ohio State and USC have been the respective kings of their conference. Ohio State has won at least a share of the Big Ten championship for four consecutive years (many expect 2009 to be a fifth), and a total of five conference titles since 2002. USC has had similar success, winning at least a share of every Pac-10 title since 2002. Both have also played in multiple BCS Championship games during that time frame, with Ohio State winning the title in 2002, and USC taking the crown in 2004.

While fans of the Trojans and Buckeyes are happy to see their teams annually compete in BCS matchups, extended periods of dominance like those seen by Ohio State and USC can have a secondary impact which is not good. People may be happy to credit those programs with long-term success, but they begin to doubt the relative strength of the competition those teams face. As a result, the Pac-10 and Big Ten have come under much fire in recent years for being sub-standard conferences.

What has given the Big XII and SEC so much leverage in recent seasons is the increased level of competition within the conference. How can Texas (for example) dominate the Big XII year in and year out when teams like Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas Tech, Kansas, or Missouri, continue to also perform at exceptionally high levels? Within the SEC, Florida, LSU, Alabama, and Georgia are regularly discussed in BCS conversations.

But in the Big Ten (for example), it is Ohio State, then Penn State, and then everyone else. None of the teams have provided any real level of competition to elevate the play of the conference. Michigan, who USED to be the class of the Big Ten, has not beaten Ohio State in six years, and has recently lost to Appalachian State and Toledo. The Big Ten has also failed to perform during Bowl games, turning in a record of 1-6 last year, and a record of 8-20 in Bowl Games since the 2005 season.

As for the Pac-10, it has not been much of a conference at all since Pete Carroll came to town. As head coach for the USC Trojans, Carroll has compiled an astonishing record of 85-15, complete with seven conference titles in only nine years at the helm.

This lack of depth has diminished the credibility that a Big Ten or Pac-10 schedule once had. Last week, Mark Schlabach of even went so far as to say that the ACC is a better conference, placing them at third on his conference rankings with the Pac-10 (fourth) and Big Ten (fifth) in tow.

So what, exactly, is at stake?

For the winner – They will be able to claim a QUALITY win over a very talented opponent. That team will have staked their bid for the National Championship game before teams like Florida, Texas, or Oklahoma have even had an opportunity to get their clothes dirty. They will be in full control of their own destiny, and will have a relatively uncontested path towards yet another conference title, complete with a probable BCS invitation.

For the loser – The damage done to the reputation of the conference may be insurmountable. This game will serve as further proof that the losing conference is very deserving of the criticism they have received thus far. The “best” that the conference has to offer was not good enough when matched against another quality non-conference opponent, and the entire conference will suffer.

Talk about PRESSURE!

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The 2009 College Football Most Important Game of the Season Debate – ACC Football Seeks Respect, Leadership

August 10, 2009

Read Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan’s argument for their most important game of the upcoming 2009 college football season.

If you’re a loyal reader of The Sports Debates (and why wouldn’t you be?) you may recall our recent questioning of the Big East as a football conference and whether or not they deserved an automatic BCS bowl game for their conference champion. That topic generated a great deal of additional debate after the verdict was rendered, and the primary argument from those defending the honor of the Big East was that the ACC sucks too, so, lay off the Big East. While I still do not believe that is a valid argument within the context of the Big East-BCS debate (e.g. “that other guy punched someone in the face so I can punch someone in the face, too”), it is fair to call into question how deserving the ACC is. The facts indicate that the ACC has struggled for respect as a football conference. They have performed below expectations in BCS games, selecting the conference winner is not important enough for fans to actually attend the championship game, and since Florida State’s precipitous fall from grace (both on and off the field) the conference has lacked true leadership from a dominant team.

This season, 2009, is the season that turns that around for the ACC. That’s why the most important game in college football’s 2009 season is on October 17th when Georgia Tech hosts Virginia Tech. These two teams are the best in the Coastal Division, with the best offense and defense in the entire league, respectively. In fact, Georgia Tech’s offense and Virginia Tech’s defense were the talk of the ACC’s media week… and with good reason.

The Rambin’ Wreck are destroying defenses with a “fresh” offensive look, as engineered by second year head coach Paul Johnson (you know, the coach that turned Navy into a respectable team). When executed properly, it is a very difficult offense to stop – especially with all-ACC running backs like the stocky and powerful Jonathan Dwyer and the lightning fast Roddy Jones. Bruising backups Anthony Allen and Lucas Cox, combined with the quick Marcus Wright and Embry Peoples, make for the deepest backfield in all of college football. Any combination of those runners may be in the game at the same time, and all have big play potential. Plus the triple option is a tough offense to prepare for (especially considering I did not even mention quarterback Josh Nesbitt). The media writes entire articles only on a team getting READY to play this offense. (Something to watch for: the triple option may be to the ACC what the spread offense is to the SEC. If teams have a hard time stopping it, look for more teams to run it in the near future.)

The decidedly unenviable task of stopping this multi-faceted attack falls to the Virginia Tech defense, led by the great defensive coordinator Bud Foster. Foster’s defenses are known for toughness and discipline (that whole lunch pail thing), and he’ll need to coach up every last element of each for the Hokies to outlast the Yellow Jackets. The inclination to make a play on defense is a sure-fire way for a player to overrun an option play. Foster must teach discipline and focus in addition to the usual toughness that all of his defenses have. Last year’s defense finished the season with a BCS bowl win over Cincinnati and ranked seventh overall in team defense (ninth in scoring, 14th in rushing and 16th in passing). If any defense can take on the increasingly seasoned triple option attack at Georgia Tech, it’s the Hokies’.

Power in the ACC will shift with the outcome of this game. If Georgia Tech wins, the triple option is the story of the season in the ACC and Georgia Tech is positioning itself as the conference superpower. If Virginia Tech wins, they will further cement their status as the ACC’s benchmark for success and the league’s domain team.

Last year Virginia Tech hosted the game in Blacksburg and won by a field goal. This year the Hokies must go on the road and play in Atlanta in the thick of their ACC conference schedule. This crucial game is sandwiched between Boston College and North Carolina. If the Hokies win, it is a big time, legitimate win on a national scale.

Not only will this be an excellent and compelling matchup within the first six weeks of the season, this game has extremely important ramifications. The winner could go on to dominate the conference and win a BCS bowl game. For the ACC to regain a modicum of respect amongst the college football elite teams and talking heads, they need to field at least one dominant program. No pundit or fan buys the idea that the ACC suffers from excessive balance. The oft-talked balance looks a whole like mediocrity. This game could change the critical tone.

Bottom line, if the ACC proves itself worthy, college football as a whole improves. Sure, Texas will be good, Florida will be good, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will draw attention, BYU could spoil the BCS party, and Ohio State or Penn State could earn respect this season. But, we all know those teams are good, and will be good for years to come. This is a pivotal year for the ACC as a football conference. They need to earn respect now. Planting the seeds of respect this year will catapult the ACC to respectability. That’s why the “Battle of the Techs” is the most important game in college football this year. It may potentially sound the football death knell for a long established conference, or bring the fight back to the ACC, and respect back to the gridiron – instead of just being the South’s OTHER conference.

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