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The Idiot’s Guide to Week 9 in College Football

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NCAA Football: Penn State at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Last week was a lot of fun with the Big Ten coming back. There were a lot of good games, BC won in a rout, and everyone wast just happy outside of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Let’s break this week down.

The Idiot’s Guide to Week 9 in College Football

Mass Hysteria over Knowing How Officiating Works: By now you know how Penn State lost a heartbreaker to Indiana last week on a two-point conversion in overtime. It was a close play with Michael Penix Jr. that will surely be viewed as an iconic by Indiana, and surely left a bad taste in the mouth of Penn State fans across the country. The play was close, and the officiating in the game became the focal point, to say nothing of Penn State’s struggles in the game to put away a team that was supposedly beneath them.

So we’re going to go to school and talk about what’s going on with the play.

Here’s what happened:

So let’s start with the mechanics. The line judge (the official who made the call on the play) started on the white and slowly moved back on the play.

The reason behind this is twofold. First, the official doesn’t want to get run over for two reasons—both because it hurts a lot and because you can’t make the call from the ground. Second, the official was widening his perspective on the play. On that play, as the official on the line to gain, he had a few responsibilities. He had to pay mind to the line to gain, but he also had to catch if the player stepped out prior to being at the line to gain. The mechanics on that play looked juuust about right for the line judge to make a difficult call. And it is a difficult call—it’s a quick call to make on a matter of inches. Anyone who complains about how the call was made probably can’t do better, but that never stopped anyone from doing it anyway. This is different from a botched targeting call, or a blown pass interference, or a soft holding call in the defensive backfield, this is a black and white call made in a blink of an eye. The best thing an official can do in this situation is put themselves in a position to make the best call possible, and he did in this case.

But now we go to instant replay, and all of the hullaballoo that comes with it, and now I think we need have a discussion about the rules of instant replay, and for that we must turn to Rule 12 of the NCAA Football Rule Book.

The instant replay process operates under the fundamental assumption that the ruling on the field is correct. (Rule 12, Section, 1 Article 2). That means there is already a presumption that the ruling on the field was correct when the referee goes to review the play. The ruling may be reversed in the event the video evidence convinces the referee beyond all doubt that the ruling was incorrect. That means, absent evidence that convinces the official beyond all doubt that the call was incorrect, the call is not changed. The official makes an evaluation of the call based on video evidence from the television production. (Rule 12, Section 6, Article 1, C). So, essentially, unlike the NHL, what people watching home got was also what the officials got in Bloomington.

There was really no definitive angle. The issue was whether the ball broke the plane of the goal line—the ball appeared to hit the sideline before hitting the pylon—and there was no satisfactory angle on the goal line. A pylon camera would have been nice, but it wasn’t available.

So, what are we left with? A call on the field of a touchdown, and a bunch of camera angles that really don’t show anything conclusive. What does that mean? Well, let’s go back to Rule 12, Section 1, Article 2, (and also Section 7, Article 1 for good measure, and, for the mechanic Section 6, Article 1, D, 2). If there is not enough evidence to convince the official beyond all doubt by indisputable video evidence, the official must announce that the ruling on the field stands. There is no more information required, nothing more for the official to say.

So complain all you want about an absence of a pylon cam, I’m probably right there with ya. But the officials put themselves in the best position they could to make the call on the field, and they did what they were supposed to do in the replay booth. So, no Penn State didn’t get screwed, and the officials didn’t make the call, as one broadcaster inanely stated, just because they “didn’t want Indiana to riot.” They made the call following the rulebook to a T, and honestly if you can’t convince a reasonable person beyond all doubt that the touchdown shouldn’t stand then that should probably be an indicator to you that your argument is bad.

Thursday, October 29

America’s Team over @ Georgia Southern

Fresno State over Colorado State: Over/under 50 run attempts by Colorado State in this game. Leave your pick in the comments.

Friday, October 30

Minnesota over @ Maryland: …was this seriously the best game ESPN could find for the 7:30 Friday night slot?

Tulsa over East Carolina: …ok maybe it was.

Hawai’i over @ Wyoming

Spooky, Scary Skeletons Send Shivers Down Your Spine (HALLOWEEN FOOTBAW Y’ALLLL)

Clemson over Boston College: Trevor Lawrence almost certainly will go pro after this year, but if he doesn’t for some really that would really be some “final boss in the game that doesn’t kill you right away for sport” energy. Like he’s been tormenting teams for three years y’all.

Georgia over @ Kentucky

Cincinnati over Memphis

Michigan over The Team That Lost to Rutgers By 11

K-State over @ West Virginia

Coastal Carolina over @ Georgia State: Coastal Carolina for the College Football Playoff. Let them play ‘Bama.

Iowa State over @ Kansas: The fact that Kansas is so bad this year really makes last year’s game sting that much more.

FAU over UTSA

Tulane over Temple

Purdue over @ Illinois

Wake Forest over Syracuse: Credit where it is due: last week’s game against Clemson really could have been far worse for ‘Cuse. They’re still terrible, but, like, respectably so.

UCF over @ Houston

Southern Mississippi over Rice

Arkansas State over Troy

Notre Dame over @ Georgia Tech: Enjoy the calm for now, Notre Dame. You got Clemson and BC on the road coming up.

Coronavirus over Wisconsin: Wisconsin lost its quarterback to the ‘rona, and looks terrible for having a sensible COVID-19 protection plan (God forbid we protect our student-athletes).

Indiana over @ Rutgers: Alright, time for me to eat crow. I was going to make making fun of Rutgers a recurring joke in this column after this week. And then… and then they just won! Just… won! By 11 points! Honestly, well done. You fooled me, well done.

UAB over @ Louisiana Tech

TCU over @ Baylor

LSU over @ Auburn: Boy, going into the season, this seemed like a really good matchup. Oops. Glad to see that CBS is getting the most of the remaining time on its SEC contract.

Iowa over Northwestern

Oklahoma State over Texas

Mississippi over @ Vanderbilt

Appalachian State over @ UL Monroe: Nothing makes a program feel like the other Louisiana team than being a 31.5 underdog.

Virginia Tech over Louisville: A deceptively good matchup that no one is going to watch because the ACC Network is trash.

Boise State over @ Air Force

Alabama over Mississippi State: Is this part of the supposedly hard schedule Alabama will supposedly have played come CFP time?

San Jose State over New Mexico

Duke over Charlotte

Ohio State over Penn State: Y’all thought last week was bad Penn State fans?

Texas A&M over Arkansas

Florida Men over Missouri: This game is on SEC Network alternate? Good. Florida screwed up the entire SEC schedule, there should be punishment for it.

SMU over Navy

North Carolina over @ Virginia

Oklahoma over @ Texas Tech

Louisiana over @ Texas State: @ Louisiana

Utah State over San Diego State

BYU over Western Kentucky: Chattanooga got screwed last week, don’t try to tell me otherwise.

Nevada over UNLV

Postponed

North Texas/UTEP

Marshall/Florida International

This is where COVID-19’s spread through the country will be a problem for college football. Getting through the first part of the season was an accomplishment, although not without its perils, but now we’re in a nationwide spike, and how well the student-athletes will be shielded from the disease will prove important. The schools have been doing… passably before but now they’re up against a major challenge. Will it be possible?