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The coin toss is the best part

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Steve from Jacksonville:
You're kidding, right? You really believe a college coach needs to make a long-term commitment to the school, players and fans? What do you say about the many coaches who are fired while under contract?

Vic: They get the money that's owed them. That's the commitment the school makes; to make good on the money it promised to pay the coach. That's the expectation the coach has of the school and I think it's fair for the school to expect the coach to honor his end of the bargain. I'm not saying a coach should be blocked from taking another job, but I don't like the idea of using the school to which he is contracted as a safe haven in case he doesn't get the job for which he is interviewing. Go for it, but make sure you get it because you're not comin' back here. I like that. Why? Because I'd like to see more Paternos and Bowdens.

Jeff from Fullerton, CA:
What do you think of Terrelle Pryor? He seems to be similar to Vince Young but with better throwing mechanics than Young.

Vic: I am stunned at what a fantastic athlete he is. I know the high school that produced him and it plays in a very small-school league. A long time ago, the coach at Pryor's high school told me about this little option quarterback they were going to be playing against that Friday night, and that I should come to see the kid play, which I did. The kid was good, he got a scholarship to Tulsa and then he started to grow. Now he plays for the Minnesota Vikings; his name is Gus Frerotte. Pryor can do it all. The way he pulls away from rushers is amazing. He blows by guys and he doesn't even appear to be breaking a sweat. How about that touchdown pass he caught on Monday night? The thing that's puzzling, however, is that I thought he was a better passer in the first game I saw him play for Ohio State than he was in the most recent game. I was told that he was an accomplished high school passer who had a top arm and throwing motion, but on Monday night it appeared to me that he has regressed as a passer. The Ohio State staff needs to fix his passing and get him back to where he was coming out of high school because the kid is a dominant talent. He can take that program to the top, but he's got to be more than just a runner. Frankly, I didn't like the two-quarterback thing they did against Texas.

Zach from Erie, PA:
Coach Del Rio and the rest of the Jaguars staff have been selected to coach in the Senior Bowl later this month. Do you think the staff can use this to the team's advantage?

Vic: Absolutely they can. There are great opportunities to get up-close and personal looks at draft prospects. It'll be the best possible chance to "interview" players and get a feel for what kind of person they are.

George from Covington, TN:
I'm pretty sure you've answered this before but could you please tell me what percent of teams that win the coin toss win in overtime in the NFL?

Vic: In the 2008 regular season, there were 15 overtime games and the team that won the coin toss won 10 of those games, however, only seven of those teams won on their first possession.

Brad from Lawrence, KS:
I know it was planned years in advance, but shouldn't there be some sort of rule that prevents a team (Florida) to have the national championship played in its own state? I don't think whatever the outcome is would be the same if it was played in Oklahoma.

Vic: What if Thursday's game was played in Tulsa, right? Do you think Oklahoma would have an advantage? Sure they would. No, I don't like it, but I would be much more accepting of the situation if major college football had a playoff system that seeded teams and awarded homefield advantage. I would have no problem with the occasional neutral-site homefield advantage in the title game if college football had a playoff system as the NFL does. San Diego is going to play at Pittsburgh this Sunday and I think the Chargers will do just fine in the cold weather. Why? Because they're built for it; all NFL warm-weather teams have to be built for cold-weather games or they are likely to be unsuccessful late in the season, the most important time of the season. That's what I mean by leveling the playing field. Why does one team always have to play its most important game of the season far from home and in its road whites? That's disrespectful. It's almost abusive.

Manuel from Jacksonville:
Without knowing too much about football, what are the major differences between college football and the NFL?

Vic: The major difference is on defense. College football teams have traditionally put their best players on offense. That's why college scores tend to be high; because the deck is stacked toward offense. At the powerhouse schools, such as Florida and Oklahoma, they usually have enough top athletes to spread around so the talent fall-off from offense to defense isn't that great, but in the lesser programs the fall-off is distinct. By the time that talent pool filters down to the NFL draft, there are enough top athletes available on the defensive side of the ball to close the gap. That's the difference. In college football, the players on offense are operating at a distinct talent advantage. In the NFL, the guys on defense are every bit as big, strong, fast and athletic as their counterparts. All of a sudden, a guy who dominated on offense in college football isn't able to achieve success in the NFL.

Sean from Gainesville, FL:
Given your response to John from Neptune Beach, would you like to see the Super Bowl played in a northern open stadium? Me, I'd love to see a foot of snow at the Super Bowl.

Vic: I don't feel that need. I like the idea of playing the Super Bowl at a warm-weather site. The playoffs force teams to play in all conditions and that's good enough for me. For the Super Bowl, I like taking weather out of the game.

Rob from Green Cove Springs, FL:
What qualities do you see in Urban Meyer that make him a successful coach?

Vic: They are too many to list but I'll give you three big ones: 1.) He's a masterful recruiter. 2.) He demands and achieves disciplined, assignment-football execution from his players. 3.) He has a feel for offense and how to attack teams that can make the difference. The last one isn't as critical in the pro game because it's much more difficult to pencil-whip an opposing coach in the NFL, but in college football the gap between the talent levels on offense and defense and the gap between the skill levels of coaches is wide. Urban Meyer is the best of the best.

Loftur from Reykjavik, Iceland:
While watching some bowl games recently I noticed that while punting, some teams had three players line up between the line of scrimmage and the punter. I have never noticed this formation in the NFL. Can you please shed some light on this for me?

Vic: My guess is you're describing the new rage in college football special teams, the spread punt formation, but it's not defined specifically by the three players standing in front of the punter. That's just one formation variation and it's called the shield. The spread punt formation is defined by its large line splits. The idea is to spread out the line personnel so that it has more room to maneuver and get downfield quickly, and to spread out the eligible receivers so that they may be used as offensive weapons. Simply put, it goes like this: If you spread out your punt formation and the defense loads up inside to block the punt, then you're going to have eligible receivers open and to whom you may throw the ball. If the defense honors the spread formation by spreading out its personnel to mirror yours, then you have achieved your intent to create space for the punter and the coverage men. This is not entirely new stuff. I've seen it before, going back to the 1970's. The key is that you must have a punter that can pass the ball or the threat of a pass doesn't exist. I was watching the Pitt at South Florida game this season and Pitt executed the spread fake-punt perfectly, except the punter threw the worst-looking pass you ever saw and it fell harmlessly to the ground in front of a wide-open receiver. In the NFL, coverage men aren't permitted to leave the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked, so creating room to maneuver is of little value.

Damien from Jacksonville:
For your readers who are confused, you are correct and the old saying is "champing at the bit," and while we are at it, teams play at "the old stamping grounds."

Vic: Thanks, I didn't know that.

Cole from Jacksonville:
Should Ben Roethlisberger get hurt early in their playoff game, I would love to see Byron Leftwich take the Steelers to the Super Bowl. Do you think he would have a chance behind that offensive line?

Vic: I don't think Johnny Unitas would have a chance behind that line. I'm stunned that the Steelers have been able to overcome their deficiencies up front and make it into the playoffs, let alone host a playoff game, especially considering the schedule they faced. That's basically the same line the Jaguars blew through in last year's playoffs, minus Alan Faneca. Everyone including the Steelers knew their offensive line was the area of their team that required the most attention in the offseason, but they didn't draft a lineman until round four and he's a developmental guy, and they signed journeyman center Justin Hartwig in free agency. Along the way and rather early in the season, they lost their two best linemen, Kendall Simmons and Marvel Smith, for the season, and I don't see anyone in front of Roethlisberger right now who's much more than just a guy. I think it says a lot about the Steelers' big-picture quality that they didn't reach for a lineman in the draft and didn't overpay for one in free agency and I applaud that kind of discipline, but is it any wonder they're 23rd in rushing and 29th in sacks per pass play? I believe in the old axioms – "It all starts up front" and "You're only as good as your offensive line" – but there are exceptions to every rule and this is one of them.

William from Jacksonville:
Here's the name of a player from Florida who managed to eke out a decent career: Emmitt Smith.

Vic: Florida is known for throwing the ball, but they have turned out far more great running backs than they have quarterbacks. In addition to Smith, there's Fred Taylor, Neal Anderson, John L. Williams, Errict Rhett and more.

Brian from Fruit Cove, FL:
What are your impressions of Beanie Wells and how do you think he will fare at the pro level?

Vic: If I was a pro scout, the thing about Wells that would most intrigue me is his room for improvement. I don't think he's nearly as good as he's going to be. When he matures as a runner, I think he'll offer star potential. I see a guy who doesn't always see the hole and doesn't always run hard. That'll get fixed in the NFL and when it does, watch out.

Brian from Round Rock, TX:
Peter King is on a crusade to change the overtime rules, primarily due to the arbitrary coin toss. Here is my proposal: Do away with the coin toss. The team that ended regulation with possession of the ball will forfeit possession at the start of overtime. The first team to score wins. This would eliminate the arbitrary coin toss and produce some interesting strategy at the end of games. What do you think?

Vic: I like the system just the way it is. I think it's fantastic and the coin toss is the most dramatic part of the system. I'll never forget the drama of the OT coin toss for the 1997 Jaguars-Steelers game in Pittsburgh. The place was dead silent when Tony Boselli said "tails" (I think that's what he said). There was a tense pause as the official bent to look at the coin and then he said, "It is heads" (I think that's what he said) and the place exploded. Why would you want to take that drama out of the process? I don't want a system that reduces special teams play to field goals only. I wanna see a kickoff. I wanna see punting. I wanna see a real game and that's what the referee said in San Diego this past Saturday when he said, "This is the start of a new game." That's beautiful. A new game that may never end. Oh, be still my heart. That's the game Johnny Unitas played, which we now call "The Greatest Game Ever Played." You wanna change the rules that gave us "The Greatest Game Ever Played?" Not me, baby. Hey, you don't like the coin toss? Then go for two.

Joe from Sanderson, FL:
Why do you think Pete Prisco likes bringing you up on his radio show and disagreeing with your thoughts on the Jags? It sounds like Pete has a little Vic envy. He loves trying to prove you wrong.

Vic: You'd think I'd at least get a round of golf out of it, huh? You'd think I'd at least get a phone call and an invitation for a round of golf, a post-round beverage and some conversation, wouldn't you?

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