Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Cynic’s Guide to College Football, Week 12

We’re nearing the end, my friends. The end of the season. The end of many fans’ dreams. The end of many coaches’ jobs. And the end of many turkeys’ lives.

If you need any proof that football is the greatest sport in the world, I would submit this week as Exhibit A. Drama. Great rivalries. Great games. Football on Thanksgiving Day. Meanwhile, as I write this, I'm suffering through Dick Vitale announcing another Duke basketball game. I rest my case.

On with the football.

Mea Culpa

I have to start off this week with an apology. In my post last week, I commented on the lousy officiating in the Big 12, but disagreed with those Nebraska fans who said that the conference was somehow out to get the Huskers for leaving for the Big Ten. I now owe all of you conspiracy theorists an apology.

You were right. I was wrong. And the fix is in.

After watching the Nebraska/Texas A&M game, I really can’t come to any other conclusion. The officiating was so ridiculously one-sided that you’d have to be wearing some pretty thick maroon-tinted Aggie glasses not to notice.

Consider if you will:
  • Nebraska was flagged 16 times for 145 yards (both school records), including six personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
  • Texas A&M, which was one of the most heavily penalized teams in the country coming into the game, had just 2 penalties for 10 yards.
  • The Aggies, despite starting two freshmen at the tackle spots and facing one of the more aggressive defenses in the country, were never called for holding.
  • Late in the game, 3rd-and-6 at the A&M 12 yard line, the Aggies were flagged for pass interference, which would have kept the Huskers’ potential game-winning drive alive. Except the refs picked up the flag.
  • On A&M’s subsequent drive, the Huskers got an atrocious late-hit penalty (on 3rd-and-11 from the 49; see video #1 below) that moved the Aggies into position for the game-winning field goal.
  • ABC, which is stuck in a big-money contract with a conference with no championship game and really only one national marquee game and just lost a bidding war to Fox for the Big Ten championship game, mysteriously never showed replays of two different personal fouls called on Husker DE Eric Martin.
Certainly none of these things individually point to a conspiracy. Picking up the pass interference flag was probably the right call. Although he was obviously provoked (video #2 below; showing A&M’s Tony Jerod-Eddie auditioning for a “junk-grabbing” job with the TSA), the flag on TE Ben Cotton for retaliating wasn’t improper. And Bo Pelini’s maniacal raving at the officials probably didn’t help the team get any borderline calls. But in my mind, here is the smoking gun: The same officiating crew did Nebraska’s games against Texas, Iowa State and Texas A&M. In those games, the Huskers were flagged 32 times for 293 yards. Their opponents were called for just 9 penalties for 103 yards (a difference of almost 8 flags and over 63 yards per game). Compare this to the Huskers’ 4 other Big 12 games this year in which the penalty discrepancy was less than 1 flag and 8 yards per game.

Those kind of numbers cannot be a coincidence.

So Husker conspiracy theorists, consider me a believer. And, assuming you can get by Colorado this week (wonder which officiating crew is doing the game?), I hope you enjoy your last Big 12 consolation prize in the Insight or Alamo Bowl. Because there is not a chance in hell that Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe and his minions will let you get a sniff of the conference championship trophy.

“OK, the Boss wants us to make sure that Nebraska doesn’t win the conference championship. But it’s gotta look like an accident. So who thinks we can do it?”

Welcome to the Party

It only took 12 weeks, but congrats to the Big East on finally getting enough bowl-eligible teams to fill your six spots (well, if you count Notre Dame’s deal to take one of your spots when they don’t make the BCS). First team to 8 wins gets the Fiesta Bowl and its $17 million payout. Who says mediocrity doesn’t pay?

Does this come in Pitt colors?

Weaksauce (As I'm Told the Kids are Calling it These Days) Scheduling #1

I find it very amusing that the loudest voices calling for a playoff to “prove it on the field” are also the loudest ones railing against Boise State’s schedule and that they shouldn’t be given a chance to “prove it on the field.”

A tasty pre-Thanksgiving snack.


Imagine if, 5 years ago, I would have told you that:
Weaksauce Scheduling #2

Speaking of scheduling, what’s up with the new trend of scheduling weak nonconference games late in the season? Alabama vs. Georgia State. Texas vs. Florida Atlantic. Florida vs. Appalachian State. These are the kind of games that belong on Labor Day weekend, not the week before Thanksgiving. It’s sad and not just a little pathetic when supposedly big-name programs feel the need to schedule a scrimmage the week before their end-of-season rivalry games.

From all of us here at HHR, a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your favorite football teams this year.

Follow us on Twitter@HHReynolds or Click Here to get HHR in your inbox.

No comments: