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September 21, 2006 Welcome back everybody! I hope you had a chance to see some of the great football of “Separation Saturday,” as most of the big games were well worth watching. In case you missed it, the most exciting finish was in Autzen Stadium as Oregon stormed back from a 13 point deficit with three minutes left to defeat Oklahoma 34-33. The fallout from this game has been incredible, and I’m here to tell Oklahoma fans to get over it!

Let’s start by reviewing what happened on the field. Oklahoma had full control of the game and conservatively kicked a field goal in the middle of the fourth quarter to up their lead to 33-20. Oregon got the ball with about 4 minutes left, stormed down the field against OU’s prevent defense, and scored a touchdown with 1:20 left to play. The onside kick went nine or ten yards before being touched by a player, and Oregon was ruled to have the ball. The replay seemed to show an Oregon player touching the ball somewhere between the 9 and 10 yard mark and Oklahoma coming up with it initially after the first bounce.

After much review, the booth official held that Oklahoma touched the ball first, making the ball live and allowing Oregon to keep possession. This appears to be wrong from the replays, as the only issue appears to be whether the Oregon player touched the ball before it went 10 yards or not. The replay was unclear. Then on the ensuing drive, Oregon got a critical first down on a pass interference call, which was reviewed to see if the pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage (and the replay looked like it was, but not conclusively). The pass interference stood, and Oregon continued to get another TD. Oklahoma returned the ensuing kickoff to the 25 yard line of Oregon and still looked like they were going to escape before they ran the clock down with an inexplicable running play and had the last-second field goal blocked. Oregon wins 34-33.

Now what happened off the field is what I want to discuss. The Pac-10 suspended the officials for a game for bad calls (since at least the replay on the onside kick was decided wrong, at minimum the officials should have said Oregon touched it after 10 yards or they touched it before it went 10, forcing a rekick). Oklahoma’s university president requested that the game and result be erased from the NCAA records. OU coach Bob Stoops stood behind his president, saying the calls were wrong and his kids shouldn’t suffer at the hands of the refs. Now Oklahoma is threatening to cancel their game at Washington in 2008 if the Pac-10 conference continues its policy of using their own officials for home non-conference games. This has gotten absurd, and it is time for everybody to calm down and get over this game.

There are three primary reasons Oklahoma should quit complaining about this game:

1. There are bad calls from time to time; that is the human nature of the game and referees. Without review, these calls would have been made in the best determinations of the referees, and both calls would have been the same. Keep in mind the video replay has to be “conclusive” if a call on the field is to be overturned. While I believe both calls could have been made either way and the replays appeared to show some evidence that both calls should be overturned, I do not know if either replay gave us enough to “conclusively” determine the calls were wrong. Even if they were bad calls, it does not matter, as good teams have to put up with and overcome some adversity like this to succeed over the course of a season.

2. There has been no precedent of games being removed from the record just because of bad calls. To give Oklahoma this concession would be to open a Pandora’s Box of claims for years to come. Every team from national title contenders to teams with no chance (see Illinois, Syracuse, and Temple for example) would begin crying if there were a questionable call near the end of a close game. If this were not such a big storied program like Oklahoma, this probably would not even be a story. Face the facts Oklahoma: you were ranked out of the top 10 all season for a reason, and that reason is that nobody expects you to be better than a middling team in the Big 12. At the end of the day, you still had plenty of opportunities to win this game, including not allowing your field goal at the end to get blocked, but also including the questionable prevent defense and conservative offense in the last half of the fourth quarter. Oklahoma had their chance to win, and this game will not set a precedent of removing games from the record that would only be a huge detriment to the game we love.

3. Third and most importantly, it's just a game! If you are not an Oklahoma player or coach and you have lost sleep over this game, I do not care if you are the biggest OU fan need to let it go. College football is great because we are so passionate about the games, but at the end of the day, one loss does not ruin a season for a team such as Oklahoma and it certainly will not degrade their elite program reputation. Adrian Peterson still has a great chance to win the Heisman, and overcoming this tough road loss (by one point, which doesn’t look bad) with all your QB problems would be impressive. Despite my earlier assertion that Oklahoma will probably not compete for a Big 12 title, the Sooners are 0-0 in conference play and have every opportunity to run the table and prove me wrong. If that happens, nobody will fault you for your loss if you are the most qualified one-loss team to play in the title game. Oklahoma also did not take any beating in the polls, and Oregon did not gain much. This is because in the end, voters are human too, and we take into consideration how you lost. Yes Oklahoma, you deserved to lose in some respect, but I’ll take your 12-1 team over pretty much all other 11-1 or 12-1 teams at the end of the year. At the end of the day, college football is a game, and sometimes you do not get the breaks. It is painful, but don’t lose sleep because there is always this Saturday...and the next one...and next season.

I apologize to Oklahoma fans if this is a bit harsh, but take a look in the mirror and see how absurd your university has acted this week. A university president should act far more distinguished than a sore loser, and I think more complaining will just hurt the reputation of the university, as well as the football program. Some things are unchangeable no matter how hard you fight (not only losses staying on the record, but also things such as the rule that players cannot enter the pro leagues until after their third year of college). Do not break your contract with Washington for the home-and-home series (the game at Oklahoma already happened) over officials, as some human will have to adjudicate the game, and who cares where their paycheck comes from (they are paid to be neutral). Show class and go prove your worth on the field for the rest of the season, and you will be rewarded for how you handle adversity.

Looking at the games for this week makes me long for last weekend. I know we cannot have seven matchups of top 25 teams playing each other every weekend, but more than one would be nice! Well, since beggars can’t be choosers, I present the not-so-amazing but still interesting top three games of the week!

The first game was a tough choice between a few candidates, but I’ll take Arizona State at California as the third best game of the week. The Pac-10 is a mess behind USC, and the only way to organize teams such as ASU, Cal, and Oregon is seeing them settle it on the field. Both of these teams could be landmines for USC later on, but they need to improve to win this weekend’s game, let alone take on the Trojans. Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter has looked good in the three ASU wins, but the team should have moved the ball better against a terrible Colorado squad last weekend. Cal is still reeling a little from the punch in the mouth they received from a much-better-than-anticipated Tennessee team on opening weekend. This is the key game for Cal as losing a critical home conference game could tear this team apart, while a win could launch them to a conference title run and confidence. Both teams have strikingly similar stats after three games offensively, but Arizona State has looked a little better on defense. I think this is a game totally dependent on Golden Bear RB Marshawn Lynch, as establishing a running game with clock control will be crucial. I think the homefield advantage is too big for Cal to give up, and so I'll take the Bears by 13.

The second game is the weekly primetime national TV game, that being Notre Dame at Michigan State. The other Michigan team made Brady Quinn and Charlie Weis look silly on their own home field last week. The going gets no easier for the Irish as Michigan State is always a thorn in Notre Dame’s side, especially on the road. MSU won in South Bend last year, and both Quinn and Weis remember the sickening feeling of their first loss last season. Both teams have great leaders at quarterback, as Drew Stanton has similar stats and almost the same abilities as Brady Quinn. Darius Walker and the ND rushing game have not fared well in three games, and Michigan State is especially stout against the run. As long as Michigan State can get some breaks like Michigan did last week and not make big mistakes that have killed coach John L. Smith’s teams in the past, the Spartans look like the favorite. While it feels wrong to pick against a team with all the advantages, including the home field, I just have a feeling that some intangibles will show on Saturday night, and Notre Dame will get back on their feet. I’ll take ND by 3, but I will not be surprised if MSU pulls out a victory.

The game of the week was an easy choice this week, and that would be Penn State visiting national champion favorite Ohio State. Heisman leader QB Troy Smith and hopeful WR Ted Ginn Jr. lead the potent Buckeye offense, but the key to their three blowout victories this season has been the revamped defense. This game does not look that close on paper, but Penn State always makes it close in the Horseshoe and the Nittany Lions were one of two OSU losses last year in a 17-10 slugfest. Penn State needs to improve dramatically on defense as Notre Dame has similar weapons on offense and they sliced up PSU in short order. The Lions win games between these two teams with defense and turnovers (2 turnovers last season led to 10 PSU points while the OSU defense received no turnovers). QB Anthony Morelli and RB Hunt will have their hands full, but the Buckeyes seem to give up a lot of rushing yards if you keep pounding them. The problem is they do not give up the big play, and they tighten up in the red zone. Ohio State might be looking ahead to their tough road game at Iowa next week, but Penn State will not be ignored as OSU would love to avenge both their losses from last season (Texas and PSU) in the first four weeks of the new season. A slow start as usual, but the Buckeyes get rolling in the second half and win by 17.

GOTW Record 2006 to Date: 6-3
Last Week: 3-0

Fitzy’s Top 10 – Week 4
1. Ohio State
2. USC
3. Michigan
4. Auburn
5. West Virginia
6. Florida
7. Texas
8. Georgia
9. Louisville
10. TCU

Despite nobody in the Top 10 playing a really tough game (Ohio State has the stiffest competition, and even that is suspect), I think this is the week we see a big upset. Have a great week!

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