Top-seeded Texas faces tough matchup

Updated: October 15, 2008, 12:05 AM ET
ESPNRISE.com

Editor's note: In the final matchup of the Great State Debate, No. 1 seed Texas takes on No. 2 seed Florida. Cast your vote for Texas or Florida between noon ET on Monday and noon ET on Wednesday.

Another No. 1 for Texas?

With a Texas high school sitting atop the ESPN RISE FAB 50 national rankings and the University of Texas moving up to the No. 1 position in college football, what's next for the state's rabid fans?

It could be winning the final vote in the Great State Debate and getting their state crowned ESPN RISE's No. 1 high school football state. This is certainly similar to Valdosta, Ga., being named TitleTown USA this past summer.

But it won't be easy for the Lone Star State. In the final, Texas goes up against Florida, a state as talent-laden as any and with voters who came out strongly last week in a surprisingly easy 60 percent to 40 percent victory over California, which benefits from a big population advantage.

Folks backing Florida's claim that it -- and not Texas -- is the nation's No. 1 high school football state also can point to last year's titanic showdown in Dallas between Miami Northwestern, ranked No. 1 in Florida at the time, and Southlake Carroll, ranked No. 1 in Texas at the time. Despite Southlake Carroll's home-state advantage, the team from Florida won 29-21.

To get to this point, Florida won a head-to-head vote against Louisiana as well as California. Texas opened up with an easy win against Virginia and outpolled Pennsylvania in its semifinal.

Voting for this week's Great State Debate final starts now. And don't let your feelings be known just by voting. Post your comments, as well, and maybe you can start a great debate of your own.

What the pros are saying …

Lomas Brown
Miami native, seven-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion

Brown
"To me -- and I'm partial because I'm from Miami -- Florida high school football has to be the best. The reason I say that is we get more opportunities to play than a lot of states. We have good weather and spring football so you're pretty much playing football, and sports in general, all year round. Up north, the players don't get the same chances. Of course, we have our jamborees down there, too. In Florida you have that constant opportunity to work on your speed and technique, and that's why guys who come out of Florida tend to be just a tad bit quicker. The style of ball down in Florida overall is just a little bit more advanced.
"All those college and high school rivalries still matter in the NFL, too. It comes up in the locker room all the time. When I played college football at University of Florida, we got into it a lot because most of our players grew up in the state and played either with or against each other in high school."

Tim Hasselbeck
Norfolk, Mass., native and former NFL quarterback


Hasselbeck
"There's definitely a lot of pride from players for their respective areas. Texas has a big reputation, but it seemed like anybody we had at Boston College that was from Texas turned out to be an absolute bust. I don't know if it was just that we were getting the wrong guys from Texas, but they were always bad. When you look at the NFL and you start to find out that a lot of the guys are from that Florida/Georgia area, it's pretty tough to compete with. There are so many good players in that area that end up at those schools down there like Miami, Florida and Florida State, and they often end up having success in the NFL, especially at the skill positions."

Gary Pinkel
Akron, Ohio native and University of Missouri football coach


Pinkel
In my experience, Texas has the best high school football. It's different than any other state across the country in the commitment that they have to high school football. It's almost a religion down there. The coaching staffs are huge. The priority that is put on football in Texas is unlike any other place I've ever seen.
"The majority of our players at the University of Missouri are from Missouri and Texas, and the high school debate in our locker room is a constant battle. And not only between kids from Missouri and Texas, but even among the Missouri guys, who argue about which is better: the East side of the state or West side. Kansas City and St. Louis sit at the extreme ends of the state and those areas generally decide the state championships. The guys have a lot of pride about where they are from and constantly argue which side is the best, but no one ever seems to win the argument.
"Now I grew up in Ohio, and we have the Big 33 game against Pennsylvania every year, so we are obviously big rivals. I grew up 20 minutes from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, and football is king, without a doubt. I think it may have spilled across the border a little bit into Pennsylvania, but I think that Ohio football is exceptional. Historically, I'd have to say Ohio has the edge over Pennsylvania."

For more professional athletes' and coaches' takes, click here.