Let’s get right to all the mayhem of this week’s edition of college football. It’s not pretty.
Three of the top five-ranked BCS teams lost, and there was some really foul officiating Saturday. Raise your hand if you’re surprised that two really bad calls came in SEC and Pac-12 games, and shockingly, one of them was in a game that featured Tennessee and the other, Southern California.
Here’s the setup: Tennessee and Vanderbilt are locked up in overtime. If you’re a Vols fan, you are already addicted to antacids by now.
This is what happened, according to the official statement from Steve Shaw, SEC coordinator of officials, concerning the final play of the Vanderbilt-Tennessee game:
"On the last play of the Vanderbilt-Tennessee game, in overtime, the Tennessee defender intercepted the pass, his knee did not touch the ground and he returned the interception for a touchdown. During the play, the head linesman incorrectly ruled that the Tennessee player’s knee was down when he intercepted the pass by blowing his whistle and giving the dead ball signal. The play was reviewed as if there was no whistle on the field and as a result, overturned the incorrect ruling. By rule, if there was a whistle blown, the play is not reviewable."
What Mr. Shaw didn’t say was that the referee stated into his microphone that there was no whistle, no signal made. Video replay clearly showed the head linesman pointing at the ground and the whistle being blown was clearly heard on the audio. What’s concerning is that while all the officials were huddling on the field, the head linesman did not admit to blowing his whistle nor calling the player down. What were they talking about in that huddle? Dinner plans? And why wasn’t this addressed by Mr. Shaw?
Yes, Tennessee should have won the game on that 90-yard touchdown — which it did — but because the head linesman made an error by calling defender Eric Gordon’s knee down, Vanderbilt also pulled up because of that whistle and the head linesman pointing to the ground. Not only did the head linesman blow the original call, but he appeared to have covered up his gaffe by not admitting he whistled and signaled the play dead. Tennessee won the game — but should have been given the ball on the 25-yard line in a new series, by rule — despite awful officiating. Vanderbilt coach James Franklin has a legitimate beef. And the SEC has major egg on its face.
On to the USC-Oregon game.
Late in the first quarter, USC came to the line after an incomplete pass and, all of a sudden, a flag gets thrown 24 seconds after the play ended. The call? Intentional grounding. Intentional grounding occurs when a quarterback throws the ball in an area where there is no receiver (while inside the tackle box) to avoid loss of yardage. Quarterback Matt Barkley was not under any pressure whatsoever, so there was no potential loss of yardage. If that’s intentional grounding, then so is spiking the ball. We’d also like to thank this referee for explaining a holding foul committed by Oregon as a "bear hug."
Don’t be shocked if USC head coach Lane Kiffin goes on a tear about the officiating and opens up his checkbook again. Then again, maybe that 38-35 win at Autzen Stadium might temper his emotions. Oh, and stick to the visors, coach. The white beanie isn’t a good look.
Alabama struggled mightily with Georgia Southern. Alabama won, but it certainly didn’t look like the No. 2 team in the nation. Yeah, we know, a couple of players were suspended (DL Nick Gentry, WR DeAndrew White), Georgia Southern is a really good team and Tide players were looking ahead to the Iron Bowl.
By the way, Florida — with its "schematic advantage" — was also looking ahead to its game against Florida State when it was down 22-7 to Furman in the first quarter, Georgia was looking ahead to its game against Georgia Tech while leading Kentucky 12-10 at the half and South Carolina was looking ahead to its game against Clemson while leading The Citadel 20-13 at the half.
The Big 12 and ACC rained chaos across the BCS landscape. Baylor took out Oklahoma 45-38 and Iowa State took out Oklahoma State 37-31. Memo to Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy — you’re still undefeated in regulation. Just ask Nick Saban.
Meanwhile, the Bedlam Series doesn’t seem as exciting as it did last week, but, all of a sudden, Virginia Tech vs. Virginia next week, does. If the Cavaliers win, they’ll play Clemson in the ACC championship game. Virginia head coach Mike London deserves huge accolades for what he has accomplished with this team, and his huge upset over Florida State should concern Tech coach Frank Beamer because the Hokies aren’t scaring anyone with their offense.
As far as Clemson, well, it didn’t disappoint or shock anyone. We knew this 37-13 beat down was coming, we just didn’t know it would be North Carolina State delivering. There’s just something about the water in South Carolina.
Welcome to the Big Ten, Nebraska. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson had a big day against the Cornhuskers, throwing for two touchdowns, passing for two touchdowns and embarrassing Nebraska in a 45-17 rout. If there are any Michigan fans left who don’t believe in head coach Brady Hoke, turn in your maize-and-blue varsity sweaters. When Michigan hosts Ohio State on Saturday, the Buckeyes’ seven-game winning streak in that series will end. There, I said it.
Penn State beat Ohio State, and we’re just not sure how to approach this win: The Nittany Lions just don’t look like a 9-2 team, but if they beat Wisconsin next week, they’re playing Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game. Admit it, you’re excited.
Michigan State must be miffed at Victoria’s Secret. The famous lingerie retailer produced green Michigan State tees with "Spartans" on the front and "Hail to the Victors" underneath it. FAIL.
Washington lost to Oregon State. Arizona lost to Arizona State.
And then there’s UCLA.
If you’re a UCLA fan, you must have myriad emotions right now. If UCLA beats USC next week, the Bruins will represent the South Division in the Pac-12 championship game, and UCLA would be hard-pressed to push the ejection-seat button on head coach Rick Neuheisel. If the Bruins lose, things get messy. But the best news of the day is that despite Bruins head coach Rick Neuheisel announcing he would not give any postgame speeches to the Rose Bowl crowd — and we use that word loosely — he climbed on a table and took the microphone. "Despite the naysayers, the fact of the matter is we’re playing for a championship next Saturday!" Welcome back, coach.
Hot-seat coach statuses: Neuheisel (tepid), Houston Nutt (can they rehire him and then fire him again?), Dennis Erickson (where’s the eject button?), Mark Richt (cool as a cucumber but that kiss with the wife was scorching hot).
Hat tips go to Robert Griffin III, Barkley and Trent Richardson for some Heisman-like performances that should get them trips to New York City.
Kansas State’s Bill Snyder. Coach of the Year. How can you not root for him?
Finally, Duke football is something that many fans outside ACC country can’t appreciate. And understand. We give you this raw video footage of one football play between Duke and Georgia Tech that might capture the very essence of Blue Devils football — keep your eye on the quarterback as he drops back for a pass.