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03 Oct 2005

Confessions of a Football Junkie: How Much Is Too Much?

by Russell Levine

I can't believe I'm about to advocate this, but here goes: I want less college football.

Yeah, I'm the guy with GamePlan and the DirecTV Sports Pack so I can see UTEP play on ESPNU. I'm the guy that gets fired up for the midnight kickoff at Hawaii (not that I'm ever awake for much of the game).

But I've had it, and I'm taking a stand.

I've had it with four-hour plus games. I've had it with endless replay reviews that are horribly inconsistent. I've had it with the clock that stops after more plays than it doesn't.

On DirecTV, the GamePlan channels allow a 3 1/2-hour window per game. When I checked Saturday, none of the Noon kickoffs were over by 3:30, meaning fans who have paid extra money to see their team missed the early part of the game, even if what they were forced to watch was the interminable ending of Texas's blowout of Missouri.

We had a pretty healthy discussion about this topic on the message boards after last week, and I'm OK with college games being a little longer than the NFL. I'm OK with the longer halftime that allows the bands to perform. I'm not crazy about the college overtime system, but I like the fact that it's different than the NFL's.

But when 3 1/2 hours is no longer enough time to play a football game, something is wrong. There are several changes that should be immediately implemented that could shave 15-20 minutes off the game time, and allow contests to be completed within those pay-per-view windows.

  1. I love the "clock stops to move the chains" rule in college that provides for more comebacks. However, there's no need to do it for most of the game. The clock should continue to run on first-down plays, except for the final two minutes of the first half and the final five minutes of the second half.
  2. Consider using the NFL's 40-second play clock. The college clock is 25 seconds, which sounds like it should make for shorter huddles, but in reality, it takes so long to spot that ball that more than 40 seconds often elapses between plays anyway. Start the 40-second clock as soon as the whistle is blown ending the previous play and tell the officials to hurry up and spot the ball.
  3. The clock should restart when the ball is placed on all out-of-bounds plays except for the final two minutes of the first half and the final five minutes of the second half.
  4. Go to a coach's challenge system for replay. I like the idea that the college replay system would correct all correctable mistakes -- in theory. But in practice, the inability of the coach to challenge a call leads to needless replay delays for relatively meaningless calls. And the current system is so inconsistent in the number of plays that are reviewed, I'd rather give the coach the opportunity to demand a replay a certain number of times per game -- say three (we can't be 100% like the NFL, now, can we?). Like the NFL, a lost challenge means a lost timeout, and you can't challenge if you don't have timeouts. The replay official would handle all reviews in the final two minutes of the first half and the final five minutes of the second half (I think the NFL's two-minute rule in the second half is too restrictive). And in a slight departure from the NFL system, I would not count any successful challenges against a coach's total.

That's it -- four changes that would probably knock 20 minutes off your average game time, and yet would not have a discernable effect on what the game looks like. I remember when the NFL moved to restart the clock on out-of-bounds plays a few years ago to speed up its games. There was much whining as to how much it would change the game, then the season started, and nobody really noticed the difference.

As far as replay goes, I have two separate issues. One is the stated desire to speed up the games, but the other is that I'm seeing far too much inconsistency in what is reviewed, and what is overturned in the college game. And this idea that "every play is reviewed" whether or not the game is stopped to consider reversing the call is ludicrous. Most conferences are handling replay by putting a TiVo machine on a TV in the booth. That's it. The replay operator can rewind the play to his heart's content, but doesn't have the ability to choose different angles or re-run slow-motion replays that aren't shown on the TV broadcast. Although TiVo has a slow-motion feature, anyone who has used it to try and do a home review of a controversial call knows that the feature comes up lacking. You get choppy video that advances a few frames at a time, and you can't see much of anything.

There's another issue that bugs me about college replay, and it's that the decision is made by a "replay technician," and not the game officials. We all laughed when the NFL instituted its challenge system and the referee came jogging over to the sideline to stick his head under the hood of the video system. But now I see the wisdom in the NFL's decision. There is no man in the stadium who knows the rulebook as well as the referee, so it makes sense that he should decide replays as well as the calls on the field.

I bring this up because a lot of replay decisions are not black and white -- was the receiver in-bounds, etc. -- but involve rules interpretations. Those are the plays you need an official making the call. It's not going to happen in college because of the added cost of having replay equipment on the sidelines rather than just sticking a TiVo in the booth, so the conferences have to make sure their replay technicians are as well-versed in the rulebook as the game officials.

You probably know where I'm going with this. In Saturday's Michigan-Michigan State game, the Spartans tied the score in the fourth quarter on a fumble return for a touchdown. The fumble occurred when Michigan QB Chad Henne was hit as the pocket broke down. Henne's arm had clearly come forward while still in possession of the ball, but replay made it look as if he was attempting to pull the ball down when it came out, squirted forward a few yards and was eventually picked up by the Spartans.

Now you New England and Oakland fans know that situation well ... it's the infamous "tuck rule." At least that's what it is in the NFL. I wasn't sure what the rule was in college, but when Brent Musberger dutifully informed me that there is no tuck rule in college, I assumed that the call of a fumble would stand up on replay -- which it did. But Musberger's comment bugged me to the point that I looked up the college rulebook after the game was over. As far as I know, there is no "tuck rule" in the NFL either -- that is, there's nothing in the rulebook that specifically defines a "tuck rule" situation. All the rulebook does is to specifically define what constitutes a forward pass, which is the arm coming forward while still in possession of the ball. The NFL rulebook states that no matter what happens after the arm comes forward, the result is a forward pass. That's why the Brady call against the Raiders was correct. After that season, the NFL opted not to change the language of the rule, because keeping it as is gives a black and white definition of what is a forward pass and prevents the officials from having to judge the quarterback's intent with the ball. Intent -- to pull the ball down, to pump-fake, etc. -- doesn't matter, only that the arm moved forward.

So, given that there's no "tuck rule" in the NFL rulebook, I wonder if the absence of same in the college book meant that Henne's play should indeed have been ruled an incomplete pass. Thankfully, the NCAA rulebook is available for download. I spent some time reading everything in it relating to the forward pass, and this is what I found in Rule 2, Section 19, Article 2b:

"When a Team A player is holding the ball to pass it forward toward the neutral zone, any intentional forward movement of his arm starts the forward pass. If a Team B player contacts the passer or ball after forward movement begins and the ball leaves the passer's hand, a forward pass is ruled regardless of where the ball strikes the ground or a player."

So we have the exact same situation as in the NFL -- a strict definition of what constitutes a forward pass, and not a word about intent. Unless I'm missing something elsewhere in the rulebook, it seems to me that the college rule is exactly the same as in the NFL. And, in that case, the failure to overturn the call in the Michigan-Michigan State game was a horrendous error in judgment by the replay official, because even the most die-hard Spartan fan would admit that Henne's arm came forward while still in possession of the ball. If the referee were reviewing that play, my guess is he would have overturned it. Perhaps the replay technician didn't understand the rules, and was judging Henne's intent -- which appeared to be to pull the ball down.

There was another replay situation in that same game that did go Michigan's way, and it too involved some controversy. Michigan intercepted a pass at about its own 2-yard line, and the defender was hit by the receiver and fumbled, but Michigan recovered at its own 13. At that point, the officials came running in and signaled incomplete pass. The play was reviewed, and replay showed a clean interception, and the defender taking at least two steps before fumbling, so the call was overturned. But since the play had been ruled incomplete, hadn't the officials blown their whistles? Or was it one of those delayed incomplete signals, where they watch the full play develop before deciding to rule, and only blow the whistle at that point? If it's the former, it should have been unreviewable, and ball should have remained with Michigan State. If it was the latter, then replay correctly overturned the call -- but where was the explanation? The referee simply announces that the call has been overturned, but did not address that the ruling on the field was incomplete pass.

The college replay system is very new, and there are bound to be some kinks. It is serving the greater good by overturning obviously blown calls, but its application must be made more consistent, and it wouldn't hurt to cut down the number of plays that are reviewed.

Around the NFL: Unloved Unbeatens

Sunday was an interesting day for the NFL's unbeaten teams. Three of the four -- Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, and Washington -- hadn't exactly been common playoff picks in the preseason, and their fast starts were being met with ho-hum attitudes. The fourth, Indianapolis, was on everyone's short list of Super Bowl contenders, but had looked positively un-Colts like in winning three straight low-scoring games.

Sunday presented each team the opportunity to silence some of the doubters. Clearly, the Colts made the loudest statement, continuing to display a dominant defense but finally getting the passing game in gear in a rout of Tennessee.

Washington, which had narrow wins over Chicago and Dallas to its credit, came out of the bye week with the chance to prove it could beat a 2004 playoff team in Seattle. The Seahawks, as they always seam to do when playing on the East Coast at 10 a.m. body time, got off to a slow start before rallying to send the game to OT -- but not before seeing a potential game-winning kick hit the upright on the last play of regulation. Given second life, Mark Brunell moved the Redskins into position for the wining field on Washington's first possession of OT.

It was a win that will at least make people pay attention to the Redskins. They're still a flawed team, but Brunell at least looks competent after seemingly forgetting how to play last season, and so far Joe Gibbs seems much more comfortable with the logistics of the modern NFL game. We haven't seen the errors in clock management and replay judgment that plagued him on the sidelines all last year. The Redskins are far from a powerhouse, but they are showing signs of life for the first time since 1999.

Against Detroit Sunday, Tampa Bay got a glimpse of what can happen when their game plan goes awry. The Lions completely shut down Cadillac Williams, who eventually left the game in the third quarter with a sore hamstring. Detroit stacked the line of scrimmage and dared the Bucs to beat them with the pass, and what ensued was vintage Brian Griese -- that is, he kept both teams in the game. The Lions scored all 13 of their points off Griese turnovers, but he hit two long touchdown passes to provide the winning margin in a 17-13 victory.

I'm fairly convinced that the Bucs can win with Griese, but they can't put themselves in too many situations where they have to win because of Griese. He works well as a component of the offense. He generally makes the right reads and is pretty accurate. To be fair, he took a pretty vicious head shot early in Sunday's game and may have played a little bit woozy -- or worse -- the rest of the way.

Of course, Tampa Bay could easily have lost Sunday had a controversial replay decision not gone the Bucs' way. For the record -- and take my bias any way you wish -- I think Marcus Pollard probably was out of bounds when he gained control of the ball, but I also think the call probably should not have been overturned after being ruled a catch on the field.

Cincinnati was in a similar situation to the Buccaneers'. Off to a flying 3-0 start, the Bengals hosted a Houston team that everyone believed they should beat easily. But sometimes those are the toughest games to win, especially for a team with no track record of success that is still learning how to play as a favorite. That Cincinnati was able to grind out a W bodes well for the Bengals down the road. Wins don't have to be pretty to count, especially for a team trying to convince itself that it's good.

Mike Martz Award

There was no shortage of candidates for the Mike Martz award this week, especially in college. Reaching all the way back to last Monday, LSU's Les Miles could have picked up the honor for frantically trying to call a timeout after a change of possession in the Tigers' loss to Tennessee, but I have a short memory, so I'll let that one pass.

Other candidates include the namesake himself, Mike Martz, for his double-reverse call in the red zone against the Giants. To say the play want awry is an understatement. Trick plays were a theme among the Martz candidates this week: Iowa State's Dan McCarney earned some consideration for calling an end-around pass on the first play of overtime against Nebraska in a bit of foreshadowing to the award's actual winner. The Iowa State pass was thrown into double-coverage, as halfback and receiver passes often are. Backs and receivers don't get the chance to throw the ball very often, and they almost always chuck it up there, no matter the coverage. That's what makes them bad play calls in critical, red-zone situations.

The actual award goes to Michigan State's John L. Smith this week. Smith just couldn't help himself with the trick plays against Michigan. First there was the halfback pass, described above, that was intercepted to kill one drive. Then, after Michigan had given the Spartans new life by missing a go-ahead field goal in the final minute, Smith called for a hook-and-ladder play when MSU still had a chance to move into field goal range in regulation. Michigan had struggled to stop the Spartans' pass offense all game long, why not go with a conventional play? Two medium-length completions could have put MSU in field-goal range. Instead, the hook-and-ladder needlessly risked a turnover and was stuffed. MSU had another completion called back by penalty, and the game went to overtime.

BlogPoll Ballot

Here's my latest ballot in mgoblog's BlogPoll. Last week's ranking in parentheses.

1. Southern Cal (1): Two weeks from now in South Bend could be really interesting.
2. Virginia Tech (2): Wow. Just, wow. Impressive on both sides of the ball.
3. Texas (2): They were sloppy in rout of Missouri, and VaTech has just been that impressive.
4. Florida State (6): Congratulations for playing this week.
5. Georgia (5): I have no idea what to expect in Knoxville Saturday.
6. Ohio State (7): We all knew Ohio State-Penn State was going to be huge back in August, right?
7. Alabama (14): The Seventh Day Adventure reverse karma worked again.
8. Tennessee (10): Good win on a short week vs. Ole Miss.
9. Miami (Florida) (8): They get to kill Duke before another half-empty Orange Bowl this week.
10. Cal (13): Very interesting test coming up at UCLA Saturday.
11. Notre Dame (15): Purdue, feel free to start play D any time now.
12. LSU (11): Still feeling the after-effects of Tennessee loss vs. Miss. State.
13. Boston College (16): I can't believe Texas Tech didn't schedule Ball State.
14. Wisconsin (18): Badgers break out passing game vs. IU.
15. UCLA (22): Gritty come-from-behind win over Washington sets up Cal game Saturday.
16. Penn State (NR): Maybe we should have listened to JoePa.
17. Florida (4): Meyer fails first big-game test.
18. Michigan State (9): Uh, they have a weakness. It's called defense.
19. Arizona State (12): That's two they've let slip away, or we'd be talking about them for the Rose.
20. Texas Tech (19): Kansas barely qualifies as a real team, and they barely won.
21. Georgia Tech (23): DNP
22. Michigan (NR): Looks like another woulda, coulda, shoulda season for the Wolverines
23. Oregon (NR): Could still have a say in the Pac-10 race.
24. Minnesota (17): Penn State loss might not look so bad by the end of the year.
25. Nebraska (NR): Big revenge game coming up vs. Texas Tech.

Dropped out: Virginia (20), Purdue (21), Iowa State (24), South Florida (25)

Games I watched: Michigan-Michigan State, USC-Arizona State, parts of Virginia Tech-West Virginia, Texas-Missouri, Florida-Alabama, Iowa State-Nebraska, South Florida-Miami, Notre Dame-Purdue, Washington-UCLA.

Posted by: Russell Levine on 03 Oct 2005

59 comments, Last at 06 Oct 2005, 7:04pm by B

Comments

1
by C (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 6:35pm

I didn't see the Martz play. Was it an end-around, a reverse, or a true double reverse that flopped? TMQ is watching!

2
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 6:42pm

Meyer failed his first big-game test? I'm sorry, what was Tennessee again? A scrimmage?

3
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 6:49pm

I agree with the need to have the referee look at the replays. In the USC/ASU game, there was an early Reggie Bush TD, ruled a TD on the field, that was overturned by the replay offical - stunning the on-field officials, the fans, even the commentators, who wouldn't shut up about how terrible a call that was for the next few minutes, and who replayed that play over and over again, making it seem pretty clear that the ruling was correct (or at least that there wasn't indisputable evidence to overrule the call). Given that they do, in essence, use things like a Tivo for much of the replay, you really need to have absolute locked evidence to overturn an on-the-field call (note - I did not see the play, but I've seen a zillion columnists across various sites writing about how bad an overturn that was). It also takes them forever - I can't believe that when you have an official whose sole job it is to do replays, it somehow takes significantly longer than an NFL replay where the referee must jog over to the hood etc.

As for Michigan/MSU, here we have another example of what happened in the LSU/Tennessee game that makes me just cringe - coaches that steadfastly refuse to try for the win and instead play for overtime. Why?

It's one thing for there to be 14 seconds left and you don't want a Hail Mary so you take a knee. Fine. I get that. But in MSU/Mich, Michigan State had 50 seconds left and a timeout (for college, that's like what, the equivalent of 8 NFL minutes and change?), at home, they're on the 35 or so, and they run that stupid trick play. Now you can say "But they passed it afterward, trying for the figgie!" But sorry, if you're really serious about getting the winning field goal, you don't run that play.

LSU did this too. They're at home, almost two minutes left, and a timeout, and they just ran it up the middle a few times, drained the clock down to 40 seconds, and punted. Bullshit. You go for the win. At least Les Miles saved that timeout so he could, um, "call" it after the interception, when he decided he did want to go for it. Hey, moron, you had 2 minutes to go for it!

I really don't understand this mentality of "Oh, we won't go for the win in regulation because a turnover might cost us the game, instead, let's play overtime where a turnover definitely costs us the game and where our opponents get a chance to match any scoring we do." Maybe they then run out yelling "I AM SO SMART. S-M-R-T."

And what does that say to your offense? TMQ, right or wrong, often points out that Proposterous Punts scream to the offense "I have no faith in you." Well, I'd say that draining the clock when you have 2 minutes to get a game-winning field goal and then punting says the same thing.

LSU tried it, MSU tried it, and both now have 1's in the loss column. Would Bob Stoops kneel down and head to overtime in that situation, in a big game? Pete Carroll? Charlie Weis? Nick Saban? Bill Belicheck? I don't think any of those coaches would simply say "Well, let's go to a forum where our opponents get an equal chance to beat us."

T.

4
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 6:52pm

Hmm. My comment didn't post. I guess I'll try later.

Someone in the 7th Day thread mentioned ESPN's gametracker. On Saturdays, the time you actually want to use it, the ESPN gametracker sucks. It's often hours behind what's actually happening, and sometimes stops updating altogether. Or, it'll be fine when you load it, but it doesn't refresh when it's supposed to.

Fox's is pretty good for college football, at least for the big games.

T.

5
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 6:53pm

I agree with the need to have the referee look at the replays. In the USC/ASU game, there was an early Reggie Bush TD, ruled a TD on the field, that was overturned by the replay offical - stunning the on-field officials, the fans, even the commentators, who wouldn't shut up about how terrible a call that was for the next few minutes, and who replayed that play over and over again, making it seem pretty clear that the ruling was correct (or at least that there wasn't indisputable evidence to overrule the call). Given that they do, in essence, use things like a Tivo for much of the replay, you really need to have absolute locked evidence to overturn an on-the-field call (note - I did not see the play, but I've seen a zillion columnists across various sites writing about how bad an overturn that was). It also takes them forever - I can't believe that when you have an official whose sole job it is to do replays, it somehow takes significantly longer than an NFL replay where the referee must jog over to the hood etc.

As for Michigan/MSU, here we have another example of what happened in the LSU/Tennessee game that makes me just cringe - coaches that steadfastly refuse to try for the win and instead play for overtime. Why?

It's one thing for there to be 14 seconds left and you don't want a Hail Mary so you take a knee. Fine. I get that. But in MSU/Mich, Michigan State had 50 seconds left and a timeout (for college, that's like what, the equivalent of 8 NFL minutes and change?), at home, they're on the 35 or so, and they run that stupid trick play. Now you can say "But they passed it afterward, trying for the figgie!" But sorry, if you're really serious about getting the winning field goal, you don't run that play.

LSU did this too. They're at home, almost two minutes left, and a timeout, and they just ran it up the middle a few times, drained the clock down to 40 seconds, and punted. Bullshit. You go for the win. At least Les Miles saved that timeout so he could, um, "call" it after the interception, when he decided he did want to go for it. Hey, moron, you had 2 minutes to go for it!

I really don't understand this mentality of "Oh, we won't go for the win in regulation because a turnover might cost us the game, instead, let's play overtime where a turnover definitely costs us the game and where our opponents get a chance to match any scoring we do." Maybe they then run out yelling "I AM SO SMART. S-M-R-T."

And what does that say to your offense? TMQ, right or wrong, often points out that Proposterous Punts scream to the offense "I have no faith in you." Well, I'd say that draining the clock when you have 2 minutes to get a game-winning field goal and then punting says the same thing.

LSU tried it, MSU tried it, and both now have 1's in the loss column. Would Bob Stoops kneel down and head to overtime in that situation, in a big game? Pete Carroll? Charlie Weis? Nick Saban? Bill Belicheck? I don't think any of those coaches would simply say "Well, let's go to a forum where our opponents get an equal chance to beat us."

T.

6
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 6:53pm

What happened to the Anti-Martz play of the week?

7
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 6:56pm

Maybe he meant it like, "Meyer fails a big game test for the first time"? Yeah, that's gotta be it.

I'm surprised to see the column up this early. Must've been a slow day at work for you. That, or you got over the hangover a little sooner this weekend.

When we all first learned about the tuck rule, I came up with an idea - in obvious passing situations, the QB should pump fake during his dropback. If he's sacked and fumbles, according to the rule it should be ruled incomplete. One potential downside would be throwing off the QB's rhythm and mechanics, so if it bothers him too much it's better to have him comfortable throwing than to get the ball back in case of a fumble.

I agree on all the timing changes as well. I love the clock stopping on first downs, I think it adds a ton of strategy in late-game situations. You can't just lay back and stop the deep/sideline routes, because they can just throw 15-yard patterns over the middle. But really, there's no reason to do that with 9 minutes left in the 1st. Anything to prevent another 4-hour Michigan game is alright with me. Although if it's four hours of them losing badly, I think I could put up with it.

8
by Russell (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 6:56pm

The anti-Martz needs a better name (many were suggested last week), but I never intended to do that on a weekly basis. I figured inflicting 3,000 words on you people is enough.

And, Re: 2, True, he failed his second test. That's what happens when try to write quick quips for something like a top 25 poll.

9
by hank (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 7:01pm

You hit the nail on the head with Griese; he's a modern day Steve DeBerg, who we both know well from his stints with the T-bucs and Dolphins, respectively. If given time to throw, he can kill you. But force him to hurry throws or make quick decisions, he can kill you.

For the record, I thought that both the Henne and Pollard overturned calls were wrong (for reasons you mention)

10
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 7:08pm

By the way - if you're not going to charge a successful challenge against a coach (in the proposed system), then I don't think you need to give each coach 3 challenges. 2 is probably enough, which essentially allows for one "wrong" challenge before a team loses the ability to challenge entirely (the NFL sorta got closer to this with its current "If you use both challenges and both are successful, you get a 3rd one" policy.

T.

11
by Bill Krasker (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 7:14pm

In both the NFL and the NCAA, it is indeed a forward pass if the arm is coming forward. Intent doesn't matter. However, to make that crystal clear, the NFL rules go further. Note 2 to Rule 3-21-2 says that "When a Team A player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his hand starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body." [Emphasis added.] I think it's reasonable to call that a "tuck rule."

12
by Vinny (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 7:17pm

Russ, I totally agree with your 4 proposed changes to the college game.

1-3. The game should be shortened first and foremost to protect the college players. They're playing more snaps than NFL players and have an unnecessarily increased risk of injury. And when you include OT (although I love the college format), it's not even close. The coaches on the NCAA rules committee can't continue to stick with this just based on tradition.

4. Lloyd Carr (correctly) called a timeout in order to give the replay booth time to properly overturn the call of the incomplete pass on the halfback option to an interception. I've seen several other coaches resort to this tactic when they couldn't afford to roll the dice on whether the replay official will buzz the on-field officials in time (and this is frequenty a function of whether ABC/ESPN/CBS/Jefferson-Pilot run replays quickly enough between plays).

What if that particular play happened in the last minute of the 2nd half, when the team on defense was trailing and had only one timeout left? The team would have used its only timeout to get the right call but would have no timeouts to help mount a final drive. A perfect example of why a quasi-NFL-style replay system should be used.

13
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 7:29pm

6. Ohio State (7): We all knew Ohio State-Penn State was going to be huge back in August, right?

Sorry, Russell. Told you so. :)

Now do me a huge, huge favor and pick Ohio State to win, okay? Please?

14
by Vinny (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 7:42pm

Two quick anecdotes from my sports bar duty in Chicago on Saturday, at a bar filled up 75% by MSU fans:

1. Michigan up 7, driving towards another score in the 4th quarter. I turn to a college buddy: "You know, Michigan could still lose this game in spectacular fashion." Within seconds, cue the Henne fumble/incomplete pass play, and I'm watching a MSU's 340-pound lineman lumber untouched down the right sideline to tie the score.

2. During the review of that play by the replay official, the MSU fan seated next to me says, "They're going to overturn it. Michigan always gets these calls."

Vinny: "Come on. You really don't believe that, do you?"

MSU fan: (thinking)

Vinny: "You seriously believe that?"

MSU fan: (with total conviction) "Yes, I do."

Vinny: "That is so sad."

15
by Jason McKinley (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 7:43pm

Regarding #1, 'cause I'm sure you're dying to know, the play was actually a run to the left with the option to pitch it to a receiver coming on a reverse. Curiously, Jackson almost certainly had the first down if he would have kept it --I like Steven Jackson versus a cornerback with three yards needed-- but he pitched it to McDonald anyway. The Rams run plays like this all time (I think most teams do) but normally the runner just keeps the ball. Anyway, McDonald couldn't bring it in and the Giants recovered, and TMQ wrote "Game over" in his notebook.

16
by Domer (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 7:47pm

Russell:

First, thanks for the info on the Henne "tuck rule" call. Musberger and Danielson could have explained that much better - I came away from the broadcast thinking that intent was an element of determining the outcome, and it clearly isn't.

Also, re: game length...AMEN! These 4-hour plus extravagnzas have to stop. Your suggestions are spot-on.

17
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 8:07pm

Oh, and Russ, I can't believe you got through Confessions without mentioning Kansas State.

For those that didn't see it, or read about it, in the 1st quarter of Oklahoma/Kansas State, KSU was punting from their own 10 yard line, but the punter forgot to run out onto the field.

That's right. The punter remained sitting on the sideline, oblivious to the game going on around him.

That said, none of the Kansas State players noticed that the punter was not there. Certainly not the center/long-snapper, who hiked the ball to nowhere and into the end zone, where it flew backwards for a safety.

Truly a mind-boggling event if I ever saw one. If there was ever a college Keep Choppin' Wood award, that punter would have to be in contention.

T.

18
by VarlosZ (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 8:07pm

Re: Martz's reverse.
I was at the game, 23 rows up from the field, and the reverse actually wound up happening right in front of me (good times).

So ridiculous. 3rd and 2 on the Giants' 6. Fake to the FB up the middle, who probably could've run for the first down. Hand-off to Jackson going left, who also probably could have run for the first down. Lateral to Shaun MacDonald (sp?), who probably would have been stopped (Giants had the backside pretty well covered), and who fumbled the pitch anyway.

Classic Martz. Calls a high-risk, high-reward play when the best reward you can get is 6 yards, and where you have no reason to call a play that will fail to get 2 yards (much) more often than a simple hand-off.

Also note that the Rams had to call a timeout with 15:00 left in the 4th Quarter. Have you ever heard 65,000 people chuckle simultaneously?

19
by andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 8:21pm

I absolutely love the DirecTV extra NFL package that shows all games in rapid fire (all down time taken out) half hour segments. It reruns them throughout the week so you can actually get in every minute of every game during the week, and the game pace is incredible. All you miss is the commentary.

Don't know if anyone does this for college football, but if the NFL one is a success, I can see it coming.

20
by Vinny (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 8:33pm

Another quick rant re: instant replay: College officials are hesitant to blow the whistle on a close fumble call b/c they don't want to blow the play dead -- that would mean that the play couldn't be reviewed at all. So officials are being told by their directors of officiating to have a "slow whistle" (some NFL referees have also talked about being instructed to do this).

The problem I have with this, especially in the new college replay system, is that the replay official needs "indisputable video evidence" to overturn a call, a daunting standard to some replay officials (or maybe just blows the interpretation of a rule like the Henne call), so he doesn't overturn an incorrect call. This hasn't been rampant in the college game, but it can be frustrating on fairly close calls that should go one way and are effectively decided by the slow whistle b/c of the burden of proof required to overturn a call. I'm not saying the prospect of the alternative (a true fumble is deemed a non-fumble b/c the play is blown dead and there's no chance for replay) is any better, but it's still frustrating.

21
by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 8:40pm

When I first heard about the tuck at the same time I'm sure that everyone else did, I came up with a strategy for eliminating QB fumbles. Why not pump fake immediately after taking the snap? Everything you do after that is a forward pass.
I'm being facetious, but the fact remains that by the wording in the rule book, a QB who pump fakes can never fumble even, presumably, if he scramlbes beyond the LOS. For this reason, I find the rule to be ridiculous.

22
by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 8:41pm

When I first heard about the tuck at the same time I'm sure that everyone else did, I came up with a strategy for eliminating QB fumbles. Why not pump fake immediately after taking the snap? Everything you do after that is a forward pass.
I'm being facetious, but the fact remains that by the wording in the rule book, a QB who pump fakes can never fumble even, presumably, if he scramlbes beyond the LOS. For this reason, I find the rule to be ridiculous.

23
by NFC Central Freak (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 9:00pm

I am pretty much a Big Ten only guy so can't respond to other college games around the country.

But in Big Ten country the general feeling is that replay is BETTER, if not FAR BETTER than the NFL version.

Why? It's faster. Most times a lot faster. The guy upstairs confers with the guy on the field who is supposed to provide info about whistles, etc. and then they make the call.

And I LIKE the slow whistle. Let'em play. Whose NFL team hasn't been hosed at some point because a ref ANTICIPATED, blew the whistle, and the result being an obvious call being missed? All because of a quick whistle.

And I am always a bit curious about these length of games complaints. If you are a fan why do you want the game to end? If you have attended in person, paid a ridiculous amount in tickets, gas, parking, food, etc. don't you want your money's worth?

The health/injury viewpoint is valid and certainly worth considering. But beyond that I am puzzled about fans who complain about how long the games take to play. What, you have a meeting with clients afterward? Doctor's appointment?

But I just love football. Especially smash-mouth, rock'em sock'em football. Man, I wish more teams played like Wisconsin. I am going to miss Barry Alvarez. This wave of spread offenses in the Big Ten gives me the heebie-jeebies. On his best teams Alvarez lined up hat on hat and said "okey-dokey motherf***er, stop me". On defense a Big Ten offensive squad always knew come Sunday morning they had played Wisky because getting out of bed HURT.

Love that stuff. Barry, you will be missed.

24
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 9:09pm

The Big 10 did a smart thing and isn't using a TiVo, but rather a more sophisticated system to allow more accurate slow-motion replays.

Some conferences are using TiVos, which as Russ pointed out can be problematic.

However, Russ's comment that college couldn't use an NFL-style system because it would be expensive is incorrect - one conference (the WAC? I don't remember - but it isn't one of the BCS conferences, it's a mid-major conference) is using an NFL-style system, red flags and all, with hoods and everything, except with one catch - the booth can ALSO intiate a review at any time, and if a coach throws a flag AND the booth initiates a review, the replay isn't charged to the team.

In that system, teams are given one challenge per HALF (not two per game) above and beyond any replays initiated by the booth.

If a mid-major conference can do it, certainly no BCS conference can say it costs too much (now, as NFL Central Freak mentions, there are some advantages to the way other conferences are doing it, so one doesn't need an NFL system).

I'd also say that because the Big 10 used it last year, the Big 10 officials are probably better at it than the other conferences, leading to it being noticeably faster. Some of the reviews in other conference games take 5 minutes but that might go down as the season progresses.

T.

25
by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 9:18pm

Normally, I don't mind long games. But sitting through the 4-hour Rutgers-Pitt marathon Friday night when I had to get up and go to work on Saturday was a bit much.

I read Martz commenting on the reverse, and actually offering a mea culpa - because he didn't have Faulk in the game; Marshall's the one who runs that play in practice.

One thing that IS in Martz's defense, on another issue. Even though he lost the challenge, throwing the flag on the Toomer TD was clearly the right move. When you've got a chance to get 7 points off the board and the ball back, you have to take it.

26
by Vinny (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2005 - 10:18pm

Agreed on the slow whistle being better than the alternative and the Big Ten replay probably working faster than in other conferences with a year under its collective belt.

However, I'm in Big Ten country and I do NOT think the Big Ten version of replay is better than the NFL version.

I can think of two instances (naturally, both adversely impacting Michigan and both involving Chad Henne) where, if a coaches' challenge system was in place: (1) there would have been a review by the replay official (where there was not) and the correct call would have been made (Henne got into the end zone against ND); and (2) a coach would not have had to resort to calling a timeout in order for a play to be reviewed (the Henne play against MSU).

If I can think of those two instances right off the top of my head, I'm sure there have been similar problems around the country.

27
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 1:44am

The thing I like about NFL replay is that it's a tactical part of the game, with challenges, yet preserves the idea that the end of a half is the most important and shouldn't be left just to the coaches (who may have already used their challenges). I think the coach's involvement is important because it keeps the fans talking about coaches ("Holy crap, why did Martz challenge that?!") and is considered more adversarial... a coach is trying to help his team win by showing-up the judges, not officials playing to some idea of competitive purity.

28
by Joey (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 1:47am

The inferiority of the college system can be summed up in a single question: Why, if neither team really cares, should the game be held up for a review? This is akin to having the chain gang do a measurement on every single down just because somebody, somewhere might be wondering if it's 2nd and a full 7 or more like 6 3/4.

And, if they're going to have the capability to look at every play, anyway, why wouldn't they give each coach a challenge or two, just as a safety net? As is, they've built in a major flaw that will, without a doubt, come back to haunt them when in some big game the refs will decide against reviewing an obvious blown call. As noted above, there's already been cases where you were left scratching your head, wondering why clearly questionable calls weren't reviewed.

29
by MCS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 10:50am

Question regarding forward arm movement + dropped ball = incomplete pass. Why isn't the offense penalized for intentional grounding? My thinking is that the only time it wouldn't be Intentional Grounding is if a RB is in to block. Otherwise all potential receievers are too far away for the dropped ball to be considered inclomplete without intentional grounding.

30
by Russell (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 11:15am

Re: 29, I think the answer to that lies in the name of the penalty "intentional" grounding. There has to be an intent to throw the ball away to avoid a loss of yardage. If you simply drop it trying to pump fake or when you get hit while throwing, there's no "intent" to ground the ball.

31
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 11:18am

Good question - probably because they consider the ball's movement to have been affected by the tackle. After all, they don't call grounding on a pass that is tipped at the line of scrimmage, even though they really have no evidence that it was going to end up near a receiver.

On the other hand, that doesn't always work because if the QB actually DOES get the ball away (read: numerous instances where as the QB is going down for a sack, and throws it away) they do call grounding.

So it seems like, arm forward while being tackled and dropping the ball straight to the ground, is an incomplete pass, but if you actually throw the ball while being tackled, then you get called for grounding.

Fascinating. It has to be an "intent" thing. Grounding is usually assumed as the QB having no "intent" to get the ball to a receiver. So, if the QB gets the ball away, the referee knows the QB had no intent to get it to a receiver. However, if because of the tackle the ball doesn't actually get anywhere, they can't make that determination, so the decision is made in favor of the quarterback?

T.

32
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 11:40am

Re: #27

Far be it from sports to try and instill some notion of competitive purity by making the calls right! (God I sound like TMQ)

Replay should be about getting the call on the field correct (or as correct as possible), not about one coach trying to show up another. The game should be decided by the play on the field, not by a blown call. Not reviewing obviously incorrect (or highly questionable) calls when replay is available is just as bad as not having it at all.

Now, that doesn't mean the coaches challenge system is bad (they do get multiple after all) but saying it's that way because of its adversarial nature is I think unhappy. The coaches challenge is there for the purpose Joey mentioned - so that the game isn't held up for a call that neither team really cares about (a common occurance, as we all know, in the 'old' replay system).

That's why it always stuns me when baseball purists are so adamant against a home plate camera (actually, probably two - one above, one behind) that could conclusively judge every ball and strike, and get them correct almost every time, and on top of that, get rid of the seemingly random pattern of strike zones across umpires. They say "It's part of the charm of baseball to have an umpire whose strike zone is way off."

On the other hand, baseball is also one of the only sports for which the physical dimensions of the playing field can change from one team's stadium to another.

It's like tennis. Tennis purists were for the most part up in arms when high level tennis decided to use electronic sensing to check things like certain line calls, or hitting the net, etc. But now? It's not a big deal.

T.

33
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 11:56am

Far be it from sports to try and instill some notion of competitive purity by making the calls right!

Competitive purity? Everyone in the game knows the rules. They know the game. They play the game - players who obviously don't catch the ball try to hide the fact that the ball touched the ground with their body, then violently argue with referrees. Wide receivers intentionally position themselves to get bumped by corners, and then fall down screaming bloody murder.

That's not even mentioning the NBA. Some of those guys should be in the Screen Actor's Guild.

They say “It’s part of the charm of baseball to have an umpire whose strike zone is way off.�

I think the argument there goes more like "it's part of baseball to force the pitcher to learn what an umpire's strike zone is, and adapt to it." And I'd agree.

34
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 12:20pm

I disagree.

The rulebook plainly states what the strike zone is (or should be). If the players and managers are having to adapt to the fact that an umpire isn't following that rule, then my solution (if I controlled baseball) would be to tell the umpire to enforce the rule as written, or be fired for incompetence.

Some things are judgment calls, and some officials may get a reputation for making judgment calls in a tight or loose manner - but at least those are judgment calls. The strike zone, as written, is not a judgment call (beyond borderline pitches that may or may not be over the plate) - it has a definition and there shouldn't be a case where one umpire's strike zone is two square feet smaller than another's.

On the NBA side, I agree that >75% of all charging calls in the NBA (and probably more) are acting. The solution there is to make breaking the rule so harsh that acting is discouraged. Right now, the rule states that basketball officials are told not to call charges that seem "acted." Instead, modify the rule to say that the officials are to call a technical foul against any player that they believe "faked" a charge (Vlade Divac would be thrown out of most games in the first quarter) - not simply "Don't call it" but rather "Punish the player and the team for acting." Furthermore, have players collect points like they do for flagrant fouls - reaching X "acting" technicals results in a three-game suspension without pay, or something.

Soccer noted this problem - players taking a dive and acting as if they were in horrible agony, then jumping up and running down the field once the penalty was called. Instead of saying "Oh well", the sport is starting to address it by allowing referees to penalize players that act. It's a start. And they're willing to go farther if need be.

T.

35
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 12:26pm

The rulebook plainly states what the strike zone is (or should be).

I never disagreed with that. I'm just pointing out that if you had super-mega sensors which exactly had balls and strikes, you'd lose something which is (right now) an aspect of the game.

the sport is starting to address it by allowing referees to penalize players that act.

So... you're only going to penalize the bad actors, and you'll think that will solve the problem?

"15 yard penalty for acting!"
"But, I think he's really injured!"
"I'm not buying it!"
"Dude, his head is bleeding!"
"It could be ketchup!"

36
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 12:51pm

So the question becomes is that a good aspect of the game, and that's a hard question to ask because you can't tell that until you see what it's like without it.

Many tennis fans thought it was going to lose a very similar aspect when high-level tournaments went to using electronic sensors to assist with line calls on serves. Instead it's now a fairly well accepted part of the game and things go much faster, and are more accurate. Is tennis a better game because you don't have line judges messing up line calls? Most people would say so.

Would baseball be a better game if balls and strikes were actually called the way they're supposed to be? I would say yes, but many people would disagree and say it would have lost something - the uncertainty that comes with having day-to-day variations in the strike zone due to umpires creating their own rather than going by the definition.

As for the acting, I didn't mention football, only basketball :) It would be harder in football, I think. You can tell referees in basketball at least have some idea on recognizing 'acted' charges, because something like half the charges in a game go uncalled (usually with the player getting up instantly, making the acting job obvious, and saying "Come on!" to the referee). The NBA obviously sees it as a problem because the last few seasons they've told referees to be more vigilant about not calling 'acted' charges - they also added that circle inside which charging cannot be called. They can simply take it a step further if they want.

But those rules are having an effect in soccer, due to the harshness of a yellow card. Has it gotten rid of all the acting? I doubt it, and I don't think anyone believes you will ever get rid of it all. But has it helped? Quite likely.

T.

37
by Vinny (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 12:57pm

(laughing)

38
by Joey (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 12:58pm

Everytime I hear the debate about the baseball strike zone, I think of what a mess other sports would be if they employed the same disregard for the written rules of the game. Absolutely no one would stand for it if one official on the field called passes complete even though the receiver only had one foot it in or if a tennis linesman called balls that were two inches out good. But in baseball the purists don't just accept the practice, they actively defend it.

39
by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 1:44pm

As a baseball purist of a sort, I don't (in theory) have any problem with a computerized strike zone. The major problem with it, that I don't know how you handle, is that part of the strike zone is set by the batter, so how do you calibrate that for each individual? (Doing it after the fact, like they do with Questec, is a different issue.)

Of course, one of the funny things about the question is that I've seen dozens of parenthetical mentions by writers that baseball should never move to a computerized ball-strike situation, but they never bother to say why, just that it would be terribly wrong.

40
by Dave Glass (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 2:27pm

As a high school football official, let me add my 2 cents about the 'slow whistle' idea: Its 100% GREAT..assuming the coaches are on board as well. You hear it in every game: "PLAY TO THE WHISTLE!!!" Therefore kids tend to dive on players who are down, even if no whistle has blown. From my viewpoint, I prefer a slow whistle because the whistle does NOT kill the play..the play kills itself via incompletion, ballcarrier being down, etc. (the exception to this is an inadvertent whistle, which is 1 of the things we're trying to avoid here). Players should be smart enough to realize when a play is over. Now, the whistle is great for situations where a RB is stacked up and being driven backward, when its CLOSE as to whether the runner was down or not..but inmost cases, the whistle should not even be necessary. If we can get to a point where slow or no whistle wouldnt result in endless late-hit calls, I'd love to go that direction..it would simplify most replay situations and make officials' jobs easier.

41
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 3:05pm

So the question becomes is that a good aspect of the game

And my entire point was to point out that purists aren't necessarily saying that it's just fun to have bad umpires. There's a skill aspect to determining an umpire's strike zone, and pitching to those corners. Baseball purists likely appreciate that skill.

But has it helped? Quite likely.

Either that, or more players are taking acting classes.

42
by Vinny (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 3:12pm

Thanks Dave. Some good points. I'm just annoyed b/c I've seen the slow whistle backfire, but I realize it's probably is the best possible approach.

Of course, Bobby Bowden has his players hit until the "echo" of the whistle, which irked Steve Spurrier to no end back when Danny Wuerffel was getting knocked around like a pinata by FSU defenders after he had released his throw.

43
by ChrisS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 3:42pm

I think the main cause of too long college games is TV and TV timeouts. I hate it that after a change of possession you sit there and wait and wait and wait for the TV production guy to give the start signal to the ref.
All the talk about the shortcomings of the instant replay system is pretty funny. The big selling point of the pro-IR people was that it was such an easy and straight-forward change to fix the game and correct blown calls. In reality it causes just as much debate and controversy as no instant replay. Now we just argue about the replay system instead of the underlying call.

44
by Domer (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 4:01pm

Vinny - I hate to burst your bubble, but the Henne play against ND (the play before his fumble) was a dead ball foul - the play was over before it began. But also note that many plays are reviewed without stopping the game. The replay man in the booth only stops the game if it becomes necessary. Far more plays are reviewed than the few that actually result in stoppages.

45
by Russell (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 4:28pm

Domer -- that penalty you refer to was "illegal participation," which is not a dead ball foul. The word after the game was that the play had been reviewed (as every play is *allegedly* reviewed) and it had been determined that Henne did not score. Watching it on TV, at bare minimum, it seemed it was worth a closer look. But make no mistake, had Michigan scored on that play, the TD would have counted, the penalty on ND would have been declined.

46
by Domer (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 4:33pm

I too heard that it had been reviewed. But then again, I heard that it was a dead ball foul, which it apparently was not.

47
by Russell (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 4:52pm

Ugh, I didn't mean my comment (#45) to sound like so much sour grapes. I'm not convinced Henne actually scored on the play in question, and I'm certainly not blaming that loss on any official's call.

48
by ny1995 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 5:11pm

Just a note on the review of the interception in the UM/MSU game. I think you are wrong in saying that if the whistle had blown MSU would have kept the ball. The only affect it could have had would be to invalidate the fumble recovery at the 13, but the fumble recovery is a different issue than possession of the interception, which would undoubtedly have been established prior to the whistle.

There were only two possible chain of events:

Pass->possession->fumble->whistle->recovery (in which case Michigan would get the ball at the point of the fumble)

Pass->possession->fumble->recovery->whistle (in which case Michigan would get the ball at the point of the recovery).

49
by Schmeltz (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 5:34pm

The length of college games are getting ridiculous. In Philly, they cut away from the UM-MSU overtime to assure we caught the beginning of the Penn State game. Of course if I was a Penn State fan, I would be thrilled, but instead, I missed the final drive and winning field goal.

Last year it went in reverse. They kept OSU on until after 4p, and even in the bar we could not get the UM-Notre Dame game until ABC pulled away. We missed the entire first quarter.

On a separate note, I cannot believe the OSU-PSU line this week. Did I really see 3 points?? I wish I were in Vegas, as OSU is going to crush the Nits.

50
by Mikey (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 5:35pm

I don't know where else to post this but I'd love to read some reactions. Check out this passage from today's TMQ:
-----
"Steve Alt of Concord, N.C., praised a high-football-IQ play that occurred in the Panthers-Dolphins meeting. Carolina kicked off; the ball was bouncing along the sideline deep in Miami territory. Marine Mammals' returner Wes Welker carefully put one foot out of bounds, then reached back in to touch the ball. Often TMQ notes that gentlemen who are professional kick returners don't seem to know the many quirks of kicking rules. Welker clearly knew that if a player who is out of bounds touches a kickoff that is inbounds, the ball is ruled out of bounds and the receiving team takes possession on its 40. "Nick Saban must have appreciated this display of football IQ, for on Miami's next play from scrimmage, he called an end-around for Welker, his only offensive touch of the day," Alt notes."
-------
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Holy Moses! If that's the correct application of the rule, and evidently it is, why aren't teams doing this on EVERY kickoff??? This loophole gives teams a chance to have excellent starting field position on every drive!

Say you drop two returners deep, one of them positioned right next to the sideline. As soon as the ball is kicked he steps out of bounds and sprints back to midfield. If he gets back in time to field the kick, you're automatically on the forty!!

If a tactic like this became even a little bit commonplace the league would have to amend this rule at once to keep kick returns from becoming a complete farce.

51
by Russell (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 5:41pm

Mikey, you're misinterpreting the rule. The player has still be out of bounds when they field the ball for the ball to be out of bounds.

52
by Vinny (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 6:06pm

Re: 48, I think that depends on when the whistle is blown. If it's blown right away (your first scenario), I don't think they give the ball back to Michigan b/c that's your early whistle which prevented a true effort by both teams to go after the ball. Your second scenario is correct (slow whistle), and that's exactly what happened in the game.

Re: 44-47, I think several officials were so consumed with the illegal participation and reaching for their flags (there were several thrown) that many weren't paying attention to the play. Henne clearly scored. And if it was reviewed, it wasn't reviewed more than once. That was a blown call all around. Sour grapes? Yes. But I'm not saying Michigan definitely wins if that call was correct either.

53
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 7:24pm

"I have no idea what to expect in Knoxville Saturday."

Volunteers win by 4. Ohio State by 6.

"Badgers break out passing game vs. IU."

St. Mary's School for Young Ladies could have passed for 400 against IU.

Could I make a case for Auburn? Lost once to Georgia Tech early, but have played well since.

Also, Wyoming? They lost at Florida (no sin there), but rebounded to win four straight, including on the road at Ol' Miss. They're probably not as good as Utah, but I'd give them some pub now.

And Fresno State is coming on!

"Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, and Washington – hadn’t exactly been common playoff picks in the preseason"

I picked the Bengals. The other two? Not so much.

"But sometimes those are the toughest games to win, especially for a team with no track record of success that is still learning how to play as a favorite."

And Houston had a bye. They scrimmaged for a whole week with a new OC just to beat the Bengals, and didn't.

54
by Mikey (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 7:27pm

Re: 51

Okay. But what if you could find a guy whose arms were, like, forty feet long?

Thanks Russell. I did mis-read the quote.

Still, this rule should be changed. A player shouldn't be rewarded for intentionally taking himself out of a play. The rule should be that the ball itself must be out of bounds.

55
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 9:56pm

Re Oklahoma/Kansas State: I'd have to nominate the up back who calls the signals on that play as another KCW winner. Shouldn't you make sure that there's someone ready to catch the ball before you tell the center to snap it? (On a related note, suppose the punter is the guy who's responsible for checking that all 11 men, and no more, are on the field. Who's responsible for the punter?)

Re long games: I do want my money's worth in game play. I do not want it paid in total time spent. The Purdue-Akron game wasn't televised (thank goodness), and it went at a blissfully quick pace between plays. There is nothing worse than being at a televised game and waiting between plays again ... and again ... and again ... and again .... At least if you are at home, you can flip to another game. That is, if they haven't blacked out the next game, so you get switched to nothing.

Inconsistent officiating: hate it. In any sport. I would love to have an electronic strike zone in baseball. I don't understand why it's so difficult for an umpire to enforce such a critical rule as it's written, rather than as he feels it should be written. It makes it a lot harder to control other aspects of the game to increase or decrease offense if such a basic aspect is under so little control.

56
by Russell (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2005 - 9:58pm

Actually, if I had a do-over on the ballot, I'd probably put Auburn in at 25 instead of Nebraska. I need to watch AU play. Haven't seen them since their opening loss.

57
by DD Ohio (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2005 - 6:42pm

RE: 50, 51, 54- receiving a kick-off while out of bounds.

I don't understand why the kick returner isn't penalized and/or ineligible for being the first player to touch the ball after coming in from out of bounds?

58
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Thu, 10/06/2005 - 6:28pm

I think it's more closely related to a fumble recovery than a forward pass (there are no 'eligible receivers' on kickoffs). During a fumble, if the ball touches anyone who is out of bounds, the ball is out of bounds. The same rule applies on kickoffs - if it touches someone who's out of bounds, it's ruled out, and they get it on the 35/40.

This rule was seen several years ago (2001?) between the Pats and Bills, I think. Buffalo apparently recovered a fumble, but it was overturned. During the play the ballcarrier had been knocked out (hence the fumble) and his head was resting on the sideline. The ball bounced off of him, and even though it was four feet from the sidelines, it was technically out of bounds at that point. This is what kick returners try to do - touch the sideline, and lean in to touch the ball if it's close to the sideline.

59
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/06/2005 - 7:04pm

David Patten was the receiver in that play. I think it goes down in NFL history as the best play made by an unconscious player. Interestingly, if a player steps out of bounds, comes back in bounds and is the first to touch the ball, it's a penalty.