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UNDER OFFICIAL REVIEW
September 23, 2005

SCS.comFour weeks into the season, the verdict is still out on the use of instant replay in NCAA football games. Sometimes instant replay is fun to use when you’ve burned your little brother on a halfback pass play on the PS2, but it’s not such a thing of beauty when it comes to real life use.

Instant replay severely slows down the pace of a game and might otherwise hinder momentum that either team might be building up with the tempo of the game. However, in the Texas/Ohio State game during the second week, replay review was used twice, and in each case, the on-field call was overturned as a result. Sadly for Buckeye fans, both calls went against their team, but as a television viewer, I could see where it might make sense to have eventually made the correct call.

Last year, the Big 10 experimented with instant replay in their conference games. This year they were joined by nearly all of the Division I football conferences. Out west, the Pac-10 and the Mountain West conferences will employ the same model as the Big 10, the MWC version with a couple of tweaks. The WAC declined to go forward with implementing a system this year but didn’t hide the fact that they will give it a try come the 2006 season.

In the Pac-10, as in the Big 10 model, only the replay official in the booth may initiate a review of a play, and he is also the only one who can reverse an on-field call. The play in question must be reviewed before the ball is snapped again. This has become a point of interest, as coaches are now able to slow down play calling in hopes that a review might happen should they think that their team might benefit from it.

The Mountain West Conference is the only conference to go with the "Coaches Challenge" model for instant replay, which is similar to the kind that the NFL employs. In addition to the official who will review plays from the booth, coaches are able to initiate a replay review by throwing a flag. If they are successful and get the play reversed in their favor, they maintain the opportunity to challenge another play in the same half. However, if they are incorrect, they lose their challenge privileges for the rest of the half and are also charged a timeout.

When the NFL went ahead with implementing their most recent installment of the instant replay review system, I actually agreed with it. It makes sense to me to get the call right, and I never understood why people were so concerned with the pace of the game being affected. Being a sports junkie, it was interesting to me to be able to make my own call when it came to checking out the multiple angles from the comfort of my living room couch.

However, after experiencing instant replay in a live game situation last weekend, I must say that it is indeed quite a downer. Fans in the stadium have to sit for sometimes nearly five minutes and wait without much to do. The stadium I was in didn’t show the play on the jumbo screen – for reasons unbeknownst to me – but my guess was that they didn’t want the crowd to influence the officials' decision.

Not only was it a chore to make it through the five minutes of action-less time at a football game, but it was also quite interesting to witness the demeanor and the body language of the players on the field who were mostly frustrated no matter which team they were on.

The first play I had to sit through was a reception in the end zone that was ruled a touchdown on the field, but as the kicker lined up to kick the extra point, play was stopped for an officials' review from the booth. The official on the field ruled that the ball was indeed fumbled by the player in the end zone but if that was the case, then the player had to have had possession – meaning that it was a touchdown. After seeing the replay on the television later on, I felt that it should have stayed a touchdown, but the call could have went either way.

The second play happened to be the play immediately following the first time I had to sit through an instant replay review. This time, a ball carrier put the ball over the plane of the goal line before he was downed, and it was signaled a touchdown on the field. However, the officials' review from the booth brought on a chorus of boos from the attending crowd. The second time, they got the call right.

One day, problems will arise amidst the differences in instant replay standards amongst the different conferences. Perhaps the NCAA will step in and mandate a standard way to enforce instant replay, but we’ll probably simply end up with enough arguing to make the systems go away completely once again. Either way, for now, the future use of instant replay is still under official review.

HUNGRY FOR THE HEISMAN

There’s no denying that USC QB Matt Leinart and RB Reggie Bush are at the front of the Heisman race after only two games. In those two contests, both played just barely enough to put up the great numbers they had. But who else is in the hunt for a trip New York in December?

Vince Young – Junior – QB – Texas Longhorns
The shifty, athletic quarterback is the odds-on favorite to take the prize should Leinart or Bush falter or end up splitting votes, as many experts expect them to. Young led the Longhorns to a thrilling victory on the road over Ohio State in Columbus as he passed for 270 yards and ran for another 76. The knock on Young is that his passing isn’t nearly as effective as his scrambling abilities. His two touchdowns through the air against the Buckeye defense begs to differ. After being the focal point in Texas’ defeat of Michigan in last year’s Rose Bowl, Vince Young is primed to lead his team to another memorable season.

Laurence Maroney – Junior – RB – Minnesota Gophers
If you haven’t had a chance to see this running back in action yet, find yourself a sports bar, sit down, and enjoy the show. In three games, he has eclipsed the 100-yard mark thrice and went over 200 yards once. In the three contests, he has gained upwards of 550 all-purpose yards and has accounted for 7 touchdowns, all while ensuring that his Gophers emerge victorious. If he keeps up this pace, look for Maroney to be making some noise in December amongst Heisman voters.

Brian Brohm – Sophomore – QB – Louisville Cardinals
You’ve heard of Matt Leinart. This young man is putting up numbers through two games that are just as good as last years Heisman winner, and he’s only a sophomore. He torched the Oregon State secondary for five touchdown passes last weekend while completing 18 of his 22 passes. With the Louisville offense running like a well-oiled machine and the Cardinals' schedule, an undefeated season is probably not too much to ask. However, the knock on Brohm is of course that he is a sophomore. With his efficiency and leadership though, he will make a mark on the Heisman race in years to come, if not as early as this year.

FOUR GAMES TO WATCH

Iowa Hawkeyes @ Ohio State Buckeyes – The Horseshoe – Columbus, OH
A so far inconsistent Hawkeye team pays a visit to the Buckeye stomping grounds as these two 2-1 teams lock up. Jim Tressel’s boys rebounded from their tough loss to the Longhorns with a victory against the Aztecs, but this game against Iowa will put them back on track. The Buckeyes win this one by a touchdown.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ Washington Huskies – Husky Stadium – Seattle, WA
Perhaps the game most surrounded by drama of the young season. Tyrone Willingham will have some particularly strong feelings about beating the team that ousted him early. However, as much heart as you can have won’t make up for the fact that the Irish are simply much stronger. Irish by three TDs in this one.

USC Trojans @ Oregon Ducks – Autzen Stadium – Eugene, OR
The odds-makers in Las Vegas seem to have fallen under the spell of the high-powered Trojan offense (averaging 66.5 pts/game so far). The Ducks will cover this spread with their equally high-powered offense going against a severely depleted Trojan secondary. Look for the Ducks to put up a fight but go down by three TDs.

Tennessee Volunteers @ LSU Tigers – Tiger Stadium – Baton Rouge, LA
The Tigers are one of only three Division I teams that have yet to play a second game. We haven’t seen much of the Tigers, but what we’ve seen of the Volunteers leads me to believe that this LSU team will have no problem defending their home field advantage on Monday. LSU will win this game by 10 points.

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