The Best 2009 Bowl Season Debate – Big Ten Redemption

January 11, 2010

Read the arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek about which conference had the best bowl season in 2009.



I am shocked that college football is over (I miss it already)!

With the end of the college football season, though, comes the final bit of analysis to close out 2009 where we must determine which teams and which conferences had the most success during the bowl season. There were several conferences which put forth outstanding results this year, including the WAC (proving with yet another BCS victory that they can hang with the big boys), the Mountain West (4-1 overall record) and the Big East (4-2 overall), and the SEC (winning two BCS games, including a fourth consecutive national championship).

However, only one conference defied all expectations, and won ALL of its biggest games, on the biggest stages, against the toughest opponents – The Big Ten!

During the 2009-2010 bowl season, the Big Ten was one of only two conferences (along with the ACC) in which every one of its opponents came from another BCS-Conference. The Pac-10, Big XII, SEC, and Big East, contrarily, each had at least one game scheduled against a non-BCS school from the Sun-Belt or MAC, for example. In addition, four of the Big Ten matchups came against higher ranked opponents, all of whom were ranked in the top-15, and two of which were BCS games.

With all due respect to the Mountain West’s impressive bowl record of 4-1, the conference accomplished that record by playing the WAC (two games), Conference-USA (one game), and Pac-10 (two games). Its teams did not face any teams from the Big East, SEC, Big XII, Big Ten, or the ACC. Likewise, the Big East had a record of 4-2, but those games were played against Conference-USA (one game), the MAC (one game), the ACC (two games against one of the WEAKEST BCS conferences), and the SEC (two games). In addition, only two each of the Mountain West and Big East opponents were ranked among the top-25 teams in the nation.

BCS matchups also carry additional weight, because they feature the best that each conference has to offer. Winning games against unranked MAC opponents is not quite the same as winning games against ranked opponents from the SEC or Big Ten. Consequently, BCS victories carry more weight because they earn more credit for the conference.

Of the five BCS matchups, only one game was won by a conference OTHER than the SEC (Florida in the Sugar Bowl and Alabama in the National Championship) or the Big Ten (Ohio State in the Rose Bowl and Iowa in the Orange Bowl). With those results it is difficult to argue that the Mountain West or Big East had the best bowl performances, despite their impressive overall bowl records, because their premier teams lost on the biggest stage against the other premier teams in college football. In fact, the Big East lost its BCS game AGAINST the SEC. Likewise, the ACC, Pac-10, and Big XII also lost BCS games.

Because the SEC and Big Ten both won two BCS bowl games, is it logical to move down the hierarchy of remaining bowl games, beginning with how each conference performed against each other, before deciding the best performance as a conference overall.

There were two bowl games which pitted the SEC against the Big Ten, and each conference won one game. However, the Big Ten victory came in the Capital One Bowl (where #13 Penn State defeated #12 LSU) while the SEC victory came in the Outback Bowl (where unranked Auburn needed overtime to squeak past unranked Northwestern, which has not won a bowl game in 60 years). In the only game between a ranked SEC team and a ranked Big Ten team, it was the Big Ten that emerged victorious.

Last, the Big Ten went 4-0 against ranked opponents in the bowl season, while the SEC went 3-2 against ranked opponents, including that loss to the Big Ten. In each of those games against ranked opposition, the Big Ten was expected to lose. Yet, in each of those games the Big Ten defied the odds and came away victorious. With a win against #15 Miami (ACC), in addition to the aforementioned victories over #12 LSU (SEC), #9 Georgia Tech (ACC), and #7 Oregon (Pac-10), the Big Ten had a perfect record against four of the best teams in the country!

The Big Ten has been much maligned of late for struggling in bowl games. Although the criticism has been warranted in previous seasons, it was not the case in 2009-2010. Instead, the Big Ten faced arguably the toughest bowl schedule in the country, walking away with not just a winning record, but an UNDEFEATED record against ranked opponents, two BCS wins, and a whole lot more respect than it had entering the bowls season.

Congratulations to the Ohio State Buckeyes, Iowa Hawkeyes, Penn State Nittany Lions, and Wisconsin Badgers for bringing victory (and restoring pride) to the best conference in college football!

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The Best BCS Bowl Debate – Do You Smell The Roses?

December 21, 2009

Read the arguments from Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan.



The writers here at The Sports Debates had a relatively interesting discussion behind the scenes concerning this debate. We all have reservations about the teams that are playing in the games we are arguing in favor of. Being from the South, it is not very often that you will see me arguing for a game involving teams from the Pac-10. But I am all about watching the best game, and after looking at the five BCS games, I have come to the conclusion that the Rose Bowl is the BEST BCS game.

Ohio State, for all the criticism it takes from Loyal Homer behind closed doors for its inability to win the big game, closes out the decade as one of college football’s top programs. I give credit for that. Ohio State has won six Big Ten titles this decade, and the appearance in the Granddaddy of Them All will be their fifth consecutive BCS appearance. It looked like this season’s team would not make it to a BCS game, as they had two losses by midseason. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor and head coach Jim Tressel have been fighting off critics all season. The criticism reached such a fever pitch that The Sports Debates actually had a debate on the use of Pryor earlier this year. I have never been one to just love the Ohio State brand of football, and yet, after late wins over Penn State and Iowa, here they are again! A solid defense and an opportunistic offense behind a playmaking quarterback is a recipe for a ten win season. A win over the Ducks locks up a top ten finish… AGAIN… and really raises expectations for the 2010 season.

Meanwhile, the Ducks also took the scenic route to Pasadena. We all remember the LeGarrette Blount incident in the first game of the season. I remember watching that game and thinking, “This team is terrible.” But to head coach Chip Kelly’s credit – someone who deserves some coach of the year consideration – the team righted the ship, and here they are! Highlights of the season include an absolute whipping of USC and a thrilling win over rival Oregon State in the Civil War. To people on the East coast, you might not be familiar with Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, but he is the real deal. I admit I was late on his bandwagon, but I watched him pick apart Southern Cal to the tune of nearly 400 yards. That game convinced me of his talent. Somewhat quietly, I think, he threw for over 2,000 yards and ran for over 650 yards with a combined 27 touchdowns. Assuming he comes back, he could be mentioned as a preseason Heisman Trophy contender next season. It will be interesting to see how he does against a tough Buckeye defense.

The Buckeyes against the Ducks! Is it the sexy, glamorous matchup that fans outside of these two fan bases want to see? Probably not! But it is a game involving two teams who play very different styles of football. It is an opportunity for both teams to try to get some national respect. And after all, it is the Rose Bowl!

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate – It’s Conference Championship Time Already?!

November 13, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument and Loyal Homer’s argument about the which game this weekend is the one that you CAN’T miss.

What do you call it when the first and second place teams face off in a game to determine who the champion of their conference will be? I call it a championship game, and that is precisely the setting for Saturday’s matchup between the #15 Iowa Hawkeyes and the #10 Ohio State Buckeyes!

The Big Ten often takes some heat for not having a formalized “championship” game (even by many of the writers on this site). Hopefully, this de facto championship matchup will help to quiet some of those naysayers, because the word “championship” does not have to be present in the title of a game for it to have a championship feel (and outcome). Simply put, this will by far be the BEST game to watch this weekend, because it will decide a BCS invitation.

Ohio State and Iowa both sit atop the Big Ten standings with conference records of 5-1. That means that the winner of Saturday’s game in Columbus will be in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with only one more game remaining on the season. That GUARANTEES the winner at least a share of the Big Ten Conference crown for the 2009 season. Since both Ohio State and Iowa close the season against relatively weak opponents (Michigan and Minnesota, respectively), though, the likelihood is that the winner of this matchup will finish the season as sole champions of the conference. In addition to guaranteeing at least a share of the Big Ten title, though, the winner also gets to punch their ticket to the BCS. Thanks to the elaborate tiebreaker system in place in the Big Ten, the winner of this game will be guaranteed an invitation to “The Granddaddy of Them All”, the 2010 Rose Bowl game.

When you consider the paths taken for each team to reach this point in the season, you find two VERY different stories.

Ohio State was expected to be in contention for the Big Ten Championship, although the preseason projections were that they would be competing with Penn State for the title, as opposed to Iowa. While the Buckeye offense may have been the subject of much scrutiny and criticism this season, Ohio State’s defense has played quite impressively this year. Even in their losses to Purdue and USC, the defense for Ohio State has played remarkably well. Three of their eight victories this season have been by shutout, and they have won their last three games by a combined score of 107-14.

The Buckeyes did need a little help to get themselves into this situation, however. The loss to Purdue back in October had cost Ohio State their lead in the Big Ten, and if not for a very surprising Iowa loss at the hands of Northwestern last week, the Buckeyes would not be playing for the Rose Bowl on Saturday.

As for the Iowa Hawkeyes, the 2009 season has been full of drama and excitement. The Hawkeyes started their season off by needing not one, but TWO blocked field goals at the end of the game just to save the game against Northern Iowa. The close calls didn’t stop there, though. Iowa has trailed at some point in every single game they have played this season. Despite playing from behind, though, they managed to pull off a major upset victory over Penn State, who at the time was ranked as the fifth best team in the country. They also went on to win several other nail-biters, including games against Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Michigan State. As a result of those wins, Iowa had managed to climb the national rankings all the way up to the number four spot before finally losing to Northwestern last weekend. With that loss to Northwestern, Iowa had lost any hopes of competing for the National Championship game, but they remain in complete control of their Rose Bowl dreams.

During the game against Northwestern, Iowa suffered a second, very damaging loss when junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi injured his ankle. The injury, which was severe enough to require surgery, will prevent Stanzi from playing against Ohio State this weekend. Without Stanzi under center, Iowa will be forced to start redshirt freshman James Vandenberg on Saturday, which means the Hawkeyes will likely have a much more difficult time in scoring points against the vaunted Ohio State defense.

The setback of losing Stanzi is nothing new for the Hawkeyes, though, who have been used to playing under high-pressure and dire circumstances all season long. If anyone is used to playing with their backs against a wall, it is the Iowa Hawkeyes. For their part, Ohio State has shown vulnerability even in games they should have had well in hand, and so nothing should be taken for granted by either team coming into Saturday’s game.

When you consider everything at stake for this game – A guarantee to be at least co-champions in the Big Ten Conference, with the an automatic BCS Rose Bowl invitation for the winner – the formula adds up to a championship game with a championship atmosphere!

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The Big 10 Evolution Debate – No Respect Until Another Team and a Championship Game

July 2, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher Fan’s argument that the Big 10 should avoid adding another team.



Before I begin, I just want to say that I, like Sports Geek, am also looking forward to the college football season… or football in general for that matter. Don’t get me wrong, I love baseball. It still remains the national pastime to me. But, it’s tough to beat those fall weekends every year.

On to the debate…

The Big 10… or as I call it, the WEAK 11, most definitely needs a championship game. And to do that, they need to add another team to make it feasible to split the league up into divisions like the ACC, Big 12, and SEC do.

Let’s take a look at the SEC. In my opinion it’s the best conference in college football from top to bottom (right, Bleacher Fan?). I live right in the heart of SEC country. I’m almost exactly in the middle of Athens, Georgia and Gainesville, Florida, so I follow the SEC very closely.

The SEC added a conference championship game back in 1992, with Florida playing Alabama. Since its inception, Florida has played in the game a total of nine times. I think it’s safe to say that the Florida Gators have drastically increased their national profile since 1992. Three national titles (1996, 2006, 2008) go along way toward establishing a following like the one the Gators currently enjoy. Playing in the championship game helped them become a usual suspect when discussing the national championship.

Let’s use the 1996 Florida Gators as an example. Quarterback Danny Wuerffel’s Gators lost at the end of the regular season to rival Florida State 24-21. However, after defeating Alabama (in Gene Stallings‘ last season) 45-30 in the championship game, they were able to get the rematch with the Seminoles thanks to the University of Texas’ upset of Nebraska in the inaugural Big 12 Championship game. Arizona State, which was ranked #2 in the nation at the end of the regular season, was contractually obligated to play in the Rose Bowl (and that is a debate for another day)! Ohio State knocked off Jake Plummer’s Sun Devils (the late Pat Tillman was also on this team), while the Gators absolutely destroyed the Seminoles 52-20 in the Sugar Bowl, thus allowing the Gators to jump all the way to the top of the polls to claim the championship!

Without the conference championship game, it is highly unlikely the Gators would have had a chance to play for the NATIONAL championship.

I also think the Big 10 needs to add another team to restore its national reputation as a powerful conference in football. Fair or not, the whippings Ohio State has taken in the 2006 and 2007 BCS Championship games really put them, and the conference, in a negative light.

Adding another team to the Big 10 also brings in another market to the conference. Yes, the ACC conference championship game hasn’t exactly been a big draw, as Sports Geek noted. But, adding Virginia Tech, Miami – and especially Boston College – has brought more markets to the conference and will also help the conference members recruit new areas. Imagine the Clemson Tigers getting headlines in the local Boston papers for playing the Boston College Eagles.

I really see no downside to adding another team. Are the members of the Big 10 scared of this? They have been coasting by on their cupcake schedules long enough. They need a conference championship game to give them a true test. It’s time they step up so they can be considered one of the elite conferences!


The US Soccer Respect Debate – Does US Soccer Deserve Respect?

June 30, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument that U.S. soccer is overrated, and Bleacher Fan’s opinion that it’s not.



Let’s flash back to July 10, 1999 (wow, the ten year anniversary of that date is coming up really quickly!). The United States just defeated China at the Rose Bowl – in an exciting overtime penalty kick shootout – to win the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, with Brandi Chastain scoring the winning kick. As you well know, Chastain ripped off her jersey in the aftermath, showing off her sports bra, and giving whole new meaning to the word “celebration.” If you don’t recall the image, here it is. This was sure to take American soccer to a whole new level, right?

Now let’s fast forward nearly ten years.

The United States national soccer team, fresh on the heels of a monumental upset over Spain in the Fifa Confederations Cup semifinals, suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat to Brazil after leading 2-0 at the half on Sunday.

The game received good television ratings, drawing a 2.7 rating, with 2.1 million viewers. While small compared to the ratings of other sports in the U.S., those ratings reflect an exceptional score for soccer in a country that doesn’t celebrate the sport with the same enthusiasm seen in other countries.

Now the question we here at The Sports Debates want to discus: What’s next? Will soccer grow in this county or is it still not on the same level as other international competitors? Is this recent run by the Americans enough to build momentum for soccer as we go into the next decade?

Sports Geek will argue that this recent run of US soccer notoriety will do nothing to help the country embrace soccer. In fact, Sports Geek will argue that US soccer is, in fact, overrated.

On the contrary, Bleacher Fan will argue that the United States soccer team should be commended for this accomplishment and that it could be a stepping stone for the popularity of soccer.

I hope readers enjoy this debate. Feel free to leave comments to help persuade the judge!


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