Reflecting on College Football Officiating + NFL Picks – Week 2

(Photo courtesy of SB Nation)

I totally had a whole post dedicated to NFL picks that was going to be published before today.

But then I watched college football on Saturday and everything changed.

Over the course of two games, everything I thought I knew about college football, the rules of the game, and how games are officiated was completely thrown on its head. I’ve been a fan and avid watcher of the game since I was like six years old. I remember watching Charlie Ward and Florida State beat Nebraska in the national title game in 1993. I remember laying in my bedroom and watching Kordell Stewart throw a ‘Hail Mary’ to Michael Westbrook to shock Michigan fans worldwide.

Suffice to say, I’ve watched a lot of college football, so what I’m about to say isn’t completely bullshit.

The first ridiculous play / call came during the game between #1 Alabama and #6 Texas A&M. In the second quarter, A&M QB Johnny Manziel threw a pass intended Derel Walker. On the pass, Alabama defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix appeared to go for the ball, but ran into Walker. Both players’ arms were outstretched reaching for the ball.


Initially, the referees flagged Clinton-Dix for ‘targeting’, or purposely hitting a defenseless receiver in the shoulders/head. Clinton-Dix received a 15-yard penalty and automatic ejection for ‘targeting’ in accordance with the new rules designed to protect defenseless receivers.

Rule 9-1, Article 3 (targeting with the crown of the helmet) states: “No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. When in question, it is a foul.”

Rule 9-1-4 (targeting to head/neck area of a defenseless player) states: “No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder. When in question, it is a foul.”

In regards to overturning ejections, the rule states: “The replay official must have conclusive evidence that a player should not be ejected to overturn the call on the field.”

So the replay official realized the ‘targeting’ call was terrible, overturned the ejection, but the 15-yard penalty still remained. I’m sorry, but that makes absolutely no sense. If a call (and corresponding ejection) can be overturned via instant replay, and by doing so you’re basically admitting the call was wrong to begin with, why does the offense still get to keep the penalty? I’m all for protecting players, but that just makes absolutely no sense.

Still, that call would end up far from the most questionable most bizarre worst call of the day.

In the nightcap, #20 Wisconsin traveled to Tempe to take on Arizona State. The Sun Devils were leading 32-30 when Wisconsin drove the length of the field with no timeouts and completed a pass for a first down at the Arizona State 13 yard line with 18 seconds left.

On the next play, Wisconsin QB Joel Stave appeared to take a knee took a knee and then set the ball on the 15 yard line, anticipating that the Badgers would run a play to stop the clock and set up a try at a game-winning 32-yard field goal.

However, said field goal attempt would never take place.

A few things to note here:

(1) As mentioned above, Stave took a knee. It was quick because there were only 18 seconds left and Wisconsin needed to spike the ball to stop the clock and kick the field goal. Any discussion about Stave not legitimately kneeling is ridiculous, as the picture demonstrates a clear kneel with his knee touching the ground.

Hell, just for good measure:


Also, this:

(2) So the ball is now on the ground after an apparent kneel, at which point an Arizona State player jumps on it and lays there. For eight seconds (from 0:13 to 0:05 left). Regardless of whether or not Stave actually kneeled, this should have been a delay of game penalty (since Stave was ‘giving himself up’), which would have resulted in yardage for Wisconsin and a stopped clock.

Under these circumstances, Wisconsin would have attempted a field goal from 27 yards instead of 32.

(3) With approximately four seconds left, after the Arizona State defender got off the ball, an official stands over the ball and motions to Stave and the Badgers to wait and does not allow them to snap the ball.

Even though it took Stave about 8-10 seconds to have some sense of urgency about snapping the ball (during which time the ball was being covered by an ASU player as discussed above), the ref should not be forcing the offense to wait while the clock is running and the game is on the line.

(4) The clock runs out, implying the game is over. The crowd goes wild. Blah blah blah.

(5) The officials then ran off the field.

And then that’s just it. No discussion amongst the referees, no explanation of the ruling on the field to the coaches or crowd. Nothing.

Under the above circumstances, this situation is completely unacceptable as a college football fan.

What did the Twitter world think about this final sequence?

In watching these games, we place our trust in the officials to make tough decisions, but most of all make fair decisions, or at least do their best to try to make the RIGHT decisions.

In the final seconds of this game, the referees failed to even consider what was happening. Not only did they miss a kneel down and a blatant delay of game, but they failed to take control of the situation and stop the clock for even a few seconds to figure things out and make sure the RIGHT call is made.

I’m not trying to take anything away from Arizona State either. They played a great game and really did deserve a win. Still, that doesn’t nullify a clutch final drive (with no timeouts) by the Wisconsin offense to get in a position to steal a game on the road against a solid team.

I’m not even saying Wisconsin was completely innocent. Stave could have made a more obvious kneel, or he could have handed the ball directly to the official (this seems so obvious now) to ensure it was spotted and snapped timely.

With 18 seconds left, however, every team in the country is going to make the play to center the ball, then spike the ball with something like three to five seconds left and attempt a chip shot field goal for the win. Why? Because that’s sound football strategy, both from a player and coach standpoint.

No team can anticipate a group of referees failing to do their job or — at the very least — getting control of the situation so as to not just let the clock run out amid significant chaos and confusion.

The officials owe it to the fans to get it right. More than that, they owe it to the players to get it right. It’s good for the game to ensure the rules are designed and followed for the benefit of the players, not the detriment.

In both games, the ultimate rulings (or lack thereof) hurt the players, which is just wrong.

More than that, they’re bad for the game.

With all of that said, here are my week two NFL picks. (Home teams in CAPS. All lines per as of 8:30pm on Wednesday, September 11th.)

NEW ENGLAND (-11.5) over New York Jets

GREEN BAY (-7.5) over Washington

ATLANTA (-7) over St. Louis

Carolina (-3) over BUFFALO

CHICAGO (-6.5) over Minnesota

INDIANAPOLIS (-3) over Miami

Dallas (+3) over KANSAS CITY

San Diego (+8) over PHILADELPHIA

BALTIMORE (-7) over Cleveland

Tennessee (+9.5) over HOUSTON

Detroit (-2.5) over ARIZONA

New Orleans (-4) over TAMPA BAY

OAKLAND (-6) over Jacksonville

Denver (-5.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS

SEATTLE (-2.5) over San Francisco

CINCINNATI (-7) over Pittsburgh

This Week: 0-1

Last Week: 5-10-1

Season: 5-11-1


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