You may have seen by now the finish to Saturday’s Central Michigan-Oklahoma State game. I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not an Oklahoma State fan, but they were basically robbed of a victory on Saturday. If you don’t think it could have ramifications down the line, assume for a minute Oklahoma State wins the remainder of it’s games and a Big XII Championship. That one play could keep them out of the Final 4 playoff.
It’s not just a matter of a tough break. It was a mistake and a further example of why College Football needs a Commissioner to step in and correct problems.
The disaster began when Oklahoma State decided to intentionally ground the ball out-of-bounds on the game’s final play. The Quarterback did as he was instructed and threw the ball out-of-bounds on what was fourth down. First of all, it is on the coach for screwing up the intentional grounding. The quarterback stood in the pocket and threw it so far out-of-bounds that there was no one in the area who could be deemed a receiver. So, the referees rightly assessed an intentional grounding penalty. The coach could have also had his quarterback just turn and run until the clock ran out.
Under the rules, the intentional grounding was the end of the game. Oklahoma State benefits from a penalty, but that’s the rule. The problem is that the referees didn’t know the rule nor did the replay officials. The game was being officiated by Mid American Conference Officials and that’s common for the road team to bring the officials. The MAC Referees awarded Central Michigan the ball for one untimed down which the Chipewas turned into a Hail-Mary with a hook and lateral just for good measure that resulted in an amazing game winning touchdown. It should have never happened. Central Michigan was neither entitled to the ball nor an untimed play. After the game the MAC officials realized their mistake and issued a statement. That doesn’t do much for Oklahoma State however. You’d think with 8 referees on the field and two replay officials (who were both from the Big XII) that they would have caught this mistake. You’d also think if you are going to officiate something, you’d actually, I don’t know, know the rules. Look I know we are all human and make mistakes, and this was a big mistake causing the referees to be suspended. What it doesn’t get is Oklahoma State a win back.
It may seem odd, but since the game was over and the play should have never counted that the result should be set aside and Oklahoma State awarded a victory and the Central Michigan players get a video that they can show their grandkids someday. That’s not going to happen because Central Michigan isn’t going to just give it back and why would they and the MAC isn’t going to say our bad, because I guarantee you they are promoting the fact that one of their teams beat a Power-5 school.
This isn’t the first major mistake that’s occurred in a game and they are going to happen. In the late 80s Colorado beat Missouri when the Buffaloes were famously awarded a 5th down giving them a chance to score which they did to beat the Tigers. The problem is that if College Football had a Commissioner, he could step in and correct these mistakes.
This is not a new topic. It’s been written and talked about before. I’ve heard it a lot in the context of college basketball, but that’s never going to happen. The NCAA has complete oversight – not to mention the riches of the NCAA Basketball Tournament – to prevent that from happening. College Football at the FBS Level though is controlled by the school Presidents. Granted they don’t want to give up control and would probably go kicking and screaming but a College Football Commissioner’s role would not be to step in and tell a school how and when to practice, or mess in the business of league affairs regarding television contracts or game times, or to decide who plays in the playoff. Those structures remain. We aren’t talking about a dictator here. We are talking about someone to oversee the game, make sure that it and punishments are administered properly and correct errors when they need to be corrected, like Saturday’s. He’d have the authority to set aside the result. Would Central Michigan be pissed? Sure, but that’s life. He could also deal with this targeting rule which is fast becoming a joke. I don’t mind the fact that the rule exists, but the punishment for one offense – which is going to happen in a fast paced game – is too harsh. Kicking a kid out of game for one mistake is too egregious particularly when most of the offenses appear to be inadvertent. Targeting is your basic soccer mom rule.
He would also have oversight over the recruiting, retention and training of officials. In other words, a uniform set of standards for referees, and if they don’t have the professionalism and pride to adhere to those standards they can go back to the sandlots.
Why won’t it happen? Simple, the College Presidents aren’t willing to give up control, no matter how narrow what they are surrendering may be. Professional Leagues all have commissioners with oversight of their games, and it’s not a fair comparison to equate a college commissioner with the NFL Commissioner for example. NFL rules are collectively bargained between the league and the players and in exchange for getting less contact and less practice time, they’ve given Roger Goddell almost carte blanche over every type of discipline. He’s the judge jury and executioner and if you don’t think so, ask Tom Brady. You’d also hear the argument that the NFL doesn’t set aside the results of games even in the face of errors so why should a college commissioner have that power? Simple. 12 of the 32 NFL teams make the playoffs. Just 4 of 128 make it into the College Football Playoff.
Like most things in college sports, the money talks. The College Presidents won’t surrender the money and control they have over the game, and the NCAA isn’t going to give up control over basketball so the schools who work under such regime will just have to be satisfied with things like Saturday occurring. Until of course, it happens to them.
After two weeks, the Conference with the best winning percentage is the Big Ten. Big Ten teams are 21-6 for a winning percentage of 77.7%. They also have two in the top 5 with Ohio State and Michigan sitting three and four in the A.P. Poll. The American and ACC are tied for second at 71.4% of victories, followed by the PAC-12 (68.2%), the SEC (67.9%) and the Big XII last among the major 6 conferences at 57.9% and an overall record of just 11-8.
What the Big Ten also has is a prime example of great scheduling. Michigan’s first five games are at home and they only leave the state of Michigan (Oct 8th at Rutgers) one time before November 12th. Of course, they do have pretty big road game at the end of the year at Ohio State. The Big Ten also has one of the year’s biggest disappointments so far in Northwestern. Much was expected – including from me – but so far they’ve managed to lose to the MAC’s Western Michigan and FCS Illinois State.
Let’s just everyone stop talking about how Kentucky is making progress as a football program. They are 0-2 after blowing a lead to Southern Mississippi, and just getting killed by Florida 45-7. This week they play New Mexico State, and if they don’t beat them honestly the only other real chance to win a game this year is when they face FCS bottom feeder Austin Peay in November. And most thought Washington State could be a real contender in the PAC-12 North. And 0-2 start may have some thinking otherwise.
Want some early surprises? Well, I have to admit that Louisville is surprising in how powerful they are. They’ve outscored their first two opponents by a total of 132-42. Ah, but this week is a major step up in competition as they host Florida State. There is a place for old school football in this zone read spread offense world. Arkansas pounded its way past TCU on Saturday night to go to 2-0. This week they play Texas State, then over the next 7 weeks play 6 games against Texas A&M, Alabama, Ole Miss, Auburn, Florida and LSU, interrupted by one game against Alcorn State. And, at a place like Wake Forest, successful seasons are measured in terms of making bowl games which takes 6 wins. With a win over Delaware this weekend, Wake would be 3-0 and halfway there.
There are some redemption tours underway as well after two weeks. Last year Nebraska was just 5-7. Granted they’ve beaten just Fresno State and Wyoming but they are 2-0 and if they can beat Oregon this week they then have Northwestern, Illinois, Indiana and Purdue and could be 7-0 going to Wisconsin. Last year, Ga. Tech won just three games. This week if they beat Vanderbilt they will already match last year’s win total.
And for the first time in 20 years, all three service academies, Navy, Army and Air Force are 2-0. Army is the most surprising, but still need to find a way to beat Navy at the end of the season.
And the quote of the weekend goes to Alabama coach Nick Saban. The cameras caught him giving his offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin the business last week against Western Kentucky. When asked in the post-game press conference about the arguments between he and Kiffin, he snapped back…”those aren’t arguments, they’re ass chewings.”
Week three gets an interesting start on Thursday night with an American Conference game in Cincinnati between 2-0 Houston and 2-0 Cincinnati at intimate Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. Houston is the class of the American. Cincinnati, like Houston, would like to be in the Big XII so maybe just maybe this will remain a conference game just in the future in the Big XII.