Urban Meyer and Taking a Moral Stand on Disciplinary Actions

Late last Friday night, as I sat on my couch watching an FS1 re-run of UFC 184, a familiar commercial came on in between Holly Holm’s decision win over Raquel Pennington and Ronda Rousey’s destruction of Cat Zingano.

“Cops are cracking down on drinking and driving. Drive sober, or get pulled over.”

I rolled my eyes, annoyed at the commercial; having seen it already numerous times throughout the night, not to mention almost ad nausea over the course of the past year or so. I support the crackdown upon drunk driving wholeheartedly, but still found myself rolling my eyes at the commercial.

Fast forward to Saturday morning at about 8:30, and I’m again on my couch, this time watching some early morning Barclay’s Premier League action. Across the bottom line of the screen comes a breaking news update.

Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett suspended 1 week for Friday night misdemeanor for operating a vehicle while impaired.

I rolled my eyes again, only this time in disappointment and a hint of sadness.

I’m not even a casual Ohio State supporter and I felt let down. I didn’t really care about the fact that Barrett wouldn’t be able to play in Ohio State’s next game on November 7th against Minnesota; but needless to say I was just disappointed in his decision.

Barrett in action during a 2014 game vs. Michigan State
Barrett in action during a 2014 game vs. Michigan State

Now, I’ve said in the past that I’m willing to give athletes the benefit of the doubt when it comes to certain mistakes because I try and recognize that their lives are not easy, contrary to popular belief, and everyone makes mistakes. And I honestly believe that this was a simple mistake by Barrett, as he was just 0.02 breathalyzer points over the legal limit. And while I will never condone driving while even remotely impaired, I think Barrett just underestimated himself and made an honest mistake.

But, coming out of this unfortunate incident, I don’t think Ohio State could handle this any better.

First off, the fact that Barrett was released by the police to his teammate Cardale Jones speaks to me. It shows the type of brotherhood that college football is supposed to be all about; the fact that Jones could be there for his fellow teammate in a time of need, to support him and help him, really points to the team culture that coach Urban Meyer has cultivated.

Secondly, Ohio State’s Athletic Director, Gene Smith, did not wait around to suspend Barrett for the upcoming game, despite the fact that because Barrett was only charged with a misdemeanor the university was not required to suspend him. Smith and Meyer could have wiggled their way around that rule in the name of keeping their starting quarterback on the field, but they didn’t, and that is commendable to me.

Smith's immediate action on suspending Barrett is to be commended
Smith’s immediate action on suspending Barrett is to be commended

And thirdly, news was released today that Barrett will forfeit a full term of his scholarship after the arrest, which most people don’t interpret as good news, but I think is an absolutely right decision.

This whole thing is much, much bigger than just J.T. Barrett. Will Ohio State miss him on the field? Absolutely, but that should not play any part in a potential decision of whether or not to suspend/discipline him. In the past – particularly in the NFL – we’ve seen higher level players get a pass on awful things they’ve done simply because of their talent level, while lower level guys get suspended and cut quickly and easily because they aren’t as valuable to the team.

This should never be the case. No one is above the law, and your on-field stature should not have anything to do with whether or not you have to answer for your actions. While I do feel sorry for Barrett because I want to believe this was an honest mistake that he can move on from, Ohio State did what many universities and teams won’t do. They took a moral stand.

Meyer came out and said that it was a “coach’s choice” to suspend Barrett; and like I touched on earlier, a suspension was not required. Yet this sends a message that needs to be sent, and too often isn’t sent.

Urban Meyer
Photo for the Columbus Dispatch

Off-field crimes will not, and absolutely should not, be tolerated; regardless of how good you are on the field, you are not above the law. So while this type of punishment may seem excessive and harsh, it’s absolutely necessary and Ohio State should be commended for taking a stand against the all too common culture of crimes and football in today’s world.

I wish J.T. Barrett all the best in coming back, and I hope he learns from this and moves forward, because he is a tremendous athlete on the field and, from what I hear, a tremendous young man off of it. But more coaches need to take notes on what Urban Meyer and Ohio State did here, because not enough teams and coaches have the balls to do it.

So thank you, Urban Meyer and Ohio State, for taking a potentially disastrous situation and turning it into a brilliant example of what should be happening much more often in our world today.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

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Urban Meyer and Taking a Moral Stand on Disciplinary Actions

Ryan Riffs: How Seth Russell’s Injury Affects the College Football Playoff

Back in August, as the college football season was starting, I set my College Football Playoff field to Ohio State, TCU, LSU and Baylor, (yes, I had two Big 12 teams don’t judge me). I had Ohio State winning it all, and felt pretty confident in that prediction.

Fast forward about three weeks of Ohio State struggling and Baylor dominating and my National Champion pick had switched over to Baylor. An breathtakingly dominant offense combined with a more than adequate defense, and Baylor had me sold.

Photo for Associated Press
Photo for Associated Press

Entering week 7 my pick hadn’t changed. Baylor’s offense looked dominant once again in the first half against Iowa State before I turned the channel away to focus my attention on a more exciting game. Well, while I turned away something happened that is going to change my National Championship again.

First off, I want to wish Seth Russell a quick and speedy recovery from a scary neck injury that will keep him out for the rest of the 2015 season. His health is the thing that matters most and I wish him all the best in his recovery.

The unfortunate hit that put Seth Russell out for the season (pt. 1). Photo by Ron Aydelotte for Waco Tribune
The unfortunate hit that put Seth Russell out for the season (pt. 1). Photo by Ron Aydelotte for Waco Tribune
The unfortunate hit that put Seth Russell out for the season (pt. 2). Photo by Ashley Landis for Associated Press
The unfortunate hit that put Seth Russell out for the season (pt. 2). Photo by Ashley Landis for Associated Press

But holy smokes does it shake up the Playoff picture.

Baylor’s offense has been just stupid good so far with Russell, averaging 686 yards and 61.1 points per game. That is absolute insanity and you couldn’t even put up those type of numbers in a video game because you’d get too bored with scoring so much.

Russell has been leading the charge, throwing for 2,109 yards with 26(!) touchdowns to only 6 interceptions, and adding 402 yards and 6 more touchdowns on the ground. He’s up at the top with Leonard Fournette in the Heisman picture and is just insanely talented.

Without him? No one knows what to expect from the Baylor offense.

Art Briles insists that the team is “in good hands” with back up Jared Stidham, but consider me skeptical. The Baylor offense has always relied on really good quarterback play – read: Robert Griffin III, Bryce Petty, Nick Florence – and without Russell I don’t know what kind of team Baylor will be.

Baylor has looked way better than TCU so far this season, but does Russell’s injury open the door up for TCU to snatch up the Big 12 and secure a spot in the playoff barring another bad loss? Can Oklahoma State possibly even slip in and surprise some people?

Russell’s injury completely shuffles up the Big 12 picture, as well as the Playoff picture, and now I have to make a pick a new national champion. So who is it? Stay tuned.

………….

I don’t talk about the NBA much because I think their product is a bit of an insult to basketball. It’s just dunks and three pointers and there’s barely any quality defense played. But for the first time in at least 10 years, I can honestly say I’m excited for the NBA season to begin.

In the past, the NBA’s been predictable. It’s been LeBron and Kobe and Durant and some boring team – like the Heat or the Lakers or the Spurs or something – was basically guaranteed to win the championship. But this year? This year is different.

The NBA had some refreshing variety in the 2014-15 season, and it actually pulled me in as a fan. Instead of all of the typical mundane things I talked about above, the league was fairly unpredictable.

The Warriors were the best team around, Anthony Davis emerged as an MVP candidate, James Harden played exceptional basketball, Kevin Durant wasn’t even the best player on his own team, the Hawks and the Raptors were two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, and a Derrick Rose-less Bulls team actually thrived. The NBA was actually exciting.

The Warriors won their first title since 1975 and have a good chance of repeating in 2016. Photo by Getty Images
The Warriors won their first title since 1975 and have a good chance of repeating in 2016. Photo by Getty Images

And this year? I really have no idea what’s going to happen. The Cavaliers might finally win a title, the MVP is a total crapshoot, there’s a good crop of exciting rookies, and young upstart teams – like the Timberwolves – have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs this year.

Unpredictability is the spice of life, and the NBA has it in spades this year. Hopefully the league can deliver on the promised excitement, but suffice it to say I’ll be paying close attention this year for the first time in as long as I can remember, and that’s a new and exciting endeavor for me.

…………..

After having my heart ripped straight out of my chest for the fourth consecutive year last April, I’m really trying to keep my emotions about the St. Louis Blues in check this season.

Every year I tell myself that “this team is different this year, and this is gonna be the year they finally do it.” And every year I’m sorely disappointed. So this year I’m just trying to enjoy what the Bluenote puts out on the ice and not get too emotionally attached.

But I’ll be damned if I’m not incredibly impressed with the team already this year.

For years the Blues have been an extremely disciplined defensive team with not a lot of offensive flair. You had to really enjoy the grit and grind of hockey to enjoy watching the Blues play. But with Vladimir Tarasenko putting on a breathtaking show every night and the emergence of Robby Fabbri, the Blues have a lot of excitement and flash now.

The Tarasenk-show in full effect. Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The Tarasenk-show in full effect. Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post-Dispatch

They have guys that excite a fan base, that can sell tickets. Every night I find myself looking forward to watching the Blues, because with the Tarasenk-show and Fabbri doing their thing every night, you never know what could happen.

Robby Fabbri reacts after scoring the game winning goal against the Oilers on opening night. Photo by Scott Rovak for Getty Images
Robby Fabbri reacts after scoring the game winning goal against the Oilers on opening night. Photo by Scott Rovak for Getty Images

And on top of that, the team has weathered a crazy storm of injuries beautifully so far. Kevin Shattenkirk, Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund and Paul Stastny have all bitten the injury bug so far, which has been absolutely brutal to watch.

But seeing guys like Colton Parayko and Scottie Upshall step up their games to fill in those voids has been amazing. The team hasn’t really missed a beat without 4 of their best players, and that’s a testament to the outstanding depth and mentality this team has.

It’s okay to be excited about the Blues, because oh my gosh they are so fun to watch, but don’t be sold yet. When mid-May rolls around and these Blues are still playing, that’s the time to believe.

But like I said about the Rams the other day, enjoy what the Blues have going. Tarasenko is a once in a lifetime talent who would be considered the best player in the NHL if he didn’t play in St. Louis. And Fabbri has a chance to be that special as well.

There was a long period of Blues futility, where winning hockey was as foreign to the city of St. Louis as winning football is nowadays. But these days are not those days, and winning hockey is customary and expected. Don’t take it for granted and enjoy this team while they’re good.

Photo by Dilip Vishwanat for Getty Images
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat for Getty Images

The Blues are a unique gift, featuring an owner that actually cares about his fan base – very deeply so – and an on-ice product that’s on par with any team in the league. So watch it, enjoy it, wear your blue proudly, but make them earn your belief and respect in April and May.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

Ryan Riffs: How Seth Russell’s Injury Affects the College Football Playoff

CFP Selection Committee: Doubling Down on Double Standards

Let’s talk about college football, shall we? First off, having watched college football for as long as I can remember, and particularly in recent weeks, I have absolutely no issues saying that it’s product is unquestionably more exciting than the NFL. Not to mention cleaner, more pure, and without Roger Goodell’s weekly nonsensical hogwash, to put it lightly.

Every week, something new, thrilling, and important happens. In case you’ve been living under a rock and have deprived yourself of the pleasure of watching college football’s weekly insanity, you would have missed Michigan State’s last second botched-punt-fumble-return-touchdown to defeat bitter rival Michigan. You would have missed BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum’s last second Hail Mary to defeat Nebraska, and then the very next week to defeat Boise State.

Suffice to say, college football has provided consistent mayhem and excitement that we all revel in on a weekly basis. And, much to the credit of the NCAA, the recently installed College Football Playoff has only increased the excitement and thrills.

But, as perfect as this system could seem, it has flaws; flaws that have reared their ugly head lately. The biggest flaw that the system has can be summed up in two words.

Double. Standards.

Double standards? Where in the world are there double standards in the College Football Playoff? Well, what I’m going to focus on is the idea of dropping certain teams in the polls, but not other teams. It sounds vague and complicated but we’ll dive into it, I promise.

Now, before we get into the main event this evening I want to say this. If last year’s Playoff taught us anything, the polls before the finals poll are just feigns designed to get us talking and arguing…I think. So we’re going to do exactly what those polls are designed to get us to do; talk and argue.

For the sake of this article, we’ll be using the AP poll as our source of rankings, so any ranking that I reference will be from that poll.

Anyway, let’s rewind to the preseason rankings, which had Ohio State at #1, TCU at #2, Baylor at #4, and Utah unranked. So far, Ohio State’s ranking as the top team in the nation has not budged, but all of those other teams have been thrown in a bucket and jumbled around like nobody’s business.

Ohio State has looked nothing like the #1 team in the country. Argue all you want, but the team that’s 39th in total offense in the FBS and 19th in total defense, with an average margin of victory of about 17 points, is just not the #1 team in a stacked field. Not to mention, all of this coming against 7 unranked teams, none of them appearing particularly formidable.

Yet, as I touched on earlier, Ohio State’s ranking as the top team in the country hasn’t budged. Now, granted, the only thing that matters at the end of the season is the win column, and Ohio State has not faltered and has seven of those said wins. But when I say the only thing that matters is the win column, whoever produces the rankings seems to disagree with me. Baylor is 7-0, TCU is 7-0, Utah is 6-0, Michigan State is 8-0; yet all of these teams have been shuffled around almost nonsensically from week to week.

So, my question is, why do all of those teams – among others – get shuffled around from week to week, yet Ohio State’s ranking never changes? What do you, as a committee, value?

Let’s look at Michigan State and Ohio State specifically here.

Michigan State and Ohio State's meeting later this season will settle a lot of the quips in this article. But until then.....
Michigan State and Ohio State’s meeting later this season will settle a lot of the quips in this article. But until then…..

Both have played Indiana, and both have beaten Indiana. But, both have struggled mightily in defeating the Hoosiers. Indiana is 4-4 and not considered a top team, so it is a bit of a cause for concern that both teams struggled with the Hoosiers.

Ohio State only won by seven points, and anyone watching that game knows that Indiana really should have won, but the Buckeyes eked it out. Michigan State struggled for three quarters before a 24 point fourth quarter pulled theme away and gave them a 52-26 win.

Now in the past, Michigan State has been dropped in the polls for struggling to beat teams they were favored to beat. The Spartans only defeated Purdue by three points, and were dropped two spots in the polls following the victory. While, that very same week, Ohio State should have lost to Indiana, yet didn’t, and was not moved from their perch atop the polls.

And the week after, Ohio State struggled against 2-5 Maryland – winning by 14 points – while Michigan State slogged to a 7 point victory over Rutgers. You can probably guess what happened next, as the Spartans were dropped three spots in the polls, yet the Buckeyes remained atop the polls.

A 7-0 Michigan State team, that had been ranked #2 just two weeks earlier and has beaten two top 15 teams, was now ranked #7. While a 7-0 Ohio State team that had mostly struggled against unranked cupcakes was still ranked #1.

Am I the only one that’s questioning this?

Meanwhile, during all of this, just about the same thing is happening in the Big 12 with Baylor and TCU.

In the preseason poll, TCU was slotted at #2, and Baylor sat at #4. As we stand today, both teams are 7-0. TCU’s average margin of victory is about 24 points against the 26th hardest schedule in the country. Baylor’s average margin of victory is 36 points against the 38th hardest schedule in the country. Baylor currently sits at #2, while TCU sits at #4.

Again, why?

One last argument here. Let’s take a look at the high-rising surprises of this season. The Iowa Hawkeyes and the Utah Utes. Utah is 6-0, and Iowa is 7-0, and both were unranked at the start of the season. Utah now sits at #3 in the country, and Iowa currently sits at #17.

Utah has defeated a now highly ranked Michigan team, but looking back on their schedule, that’s their only really quality win. They struggled at home against Utah State and Arizona State, and their 42 point road throttling of Oregon currently looks way less impressive than it did at the time of victory considering the Ducks’ freefall to a poor 4-3 record.

Iowa has defeated a ranked Pittsburgh team, and has road wins at ranked Wisconsin and a 30 point throttling of ranked Northwestern. They’ve looked extremely impressive in the formidable BIG 10.

Yet, Utah sits at #3 and is right in the thick of Playoff talk, and Iowa sits at #17 and the biggest compliment you’ll hear about them is that they are, “an upstart.”

I can’t be the only one confused at all of this. So, to the committee, I ask, what matters to you? How do you make your rankings? What do Ohio State, Utah, and Baylor have that Michigan State, Iowa, and TCU don’t have? Why are you dropping certain teams in the rankings while not dropping other teams?

Now, as I mentioned earlier and as we learned last year, these rankings really carry no weight. They are just the committee’s loose representation of the current standing of college football. But still, why can’t there be a double standard for all teams? Why do some teams get untouchable special treatment while others are so heavily scrutinized and punished when they make simple mistakes or slog to a victory?

The only thing we count at the end of the season is wins, so shouldn’t those be the only things that matter? After all, as the immortal Ricky Bobby said, “If you’re not first, you’re last.” I don’t think Ricky Bobby cared about his margin of victory or how many running yards he had.

And, right now, neither should any of us. A win is a win, and it should be counted that way. We can get nit-picky later. All I’m calling for is consistency right now, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

CFP Selection Committee: Doubling Down on Double Standards