Cupcake Saturday played out mostly as expected, with lots of snoozers and routs. There were a few close calls, but every ranked team that were favored by double digits won – except for one.
By now you’ve probably heard everything about Central Michigan’s miraculous victory at Oklahoma State that shouldn’t have happened. Whether it’s officiating malfeasance or incompetence, that last play – the Hail Mary-hook-and-ladder – was granted based on an erroneous application of the untimed down.
Sure, the rule is actually pretty clear on this. The game CAN end on a play involving an offensive penalty, even one that results in a loss of down. But if you think about this a little harder, does the rule actually make sense? Or is it fair?
Let’s go back to the 2006 season, when the NCAA adopted an absurd new rule that required the clock to start when the ball is kicked on kickoff (as opposed to when it’s put into play by the receiving team). Bret Bielema, coaching at Wisconsin at the time, decided to willfully send his team to go offside twice to prevent a Penn State return and waste time at the same time. What Bielema did was perfectly legal within the letter of the rule, which the NCAA scrapped after just one season.
Now will the NCAA consider tweaking this particular rule in question, regarding how a game can end on an offensive penalty? It should.
You can actually see why the MAC officials in the Central Michigan-Oklahoma State game erred – even if they should’ve known better. It’s unjust that a team should be able to run out the clock on a foul. If a team couldn’t do that on defense, why should they be able to do that on offense?
Think about last year’s Debacle at the Big House, when Michigan State ran back a blocked punt to beat Michigan as time expired. What if Jim Harbaugh decided to put 15 guys to protect the punter, knowing a penalty wouldn’t hurt him but help him to drain precious seconds?
Or even in Oklahoma State’s case, instead of calling a timeout to figure out how to run out the final four seconds, Mike Gundy should’ve just told his offense to hurry up to the line and commit a false start, thus triggering an automatic 10-second runoff. (I’m not even sure if Central Michigan could decline the penalty in this case.)
If you’re a college football coach, you have an obligation to start figuring how this rule might work to your advantage, just in case you have a few critical seconds to run off at the end of a game. But if you’re advising the NCAA on its football rules, it’d be incumbent on you to close this loophole before coaches make a mockery out of this entire enterprise.
At this point, the letter of the rule and its spirit are grossly misaligned.
Game of the Week
Arkansas 41, TUC 38 (2 OT) – Speaking of Bielema, his Arkansas team was the only one to beat one of the 23 ranked teams this weekend without an asterisk. After blowing a 20-7 third-quarter lead, the Hogs scored a touchdown late and added a two-point conversion to send the game into OT. The victory should cool Bielema’s hot seat considerably after Arkansas opened the season with an uninspiring 21-20 win over Louisiana Tech.
Player of the Week
Kalen Ballage, Arizona State – We have more than several worthy candidates, particularly Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, who accounted for over 600 yards of offense by himself in a rout over Syracuse. But it’s hard to top what Ballage did. ASU’s junior running back tied an NCAA record with eight touchdowns – on just 15 touches! Ballage ran for 137 yards on 13 carries with seven TDs and added two catches for 48 yards and another score.
Ray-Ray McCloud of Clemson could’ve had a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown but decided that he couldn’t bear the thought of carrying the oblong object for one more nanosecond, dropping it just before he crossed the goal line. His gaffe added to the difficulties of the Tigers, who had to sweat out a 30-24 victory over Troy at home.
1. Alabama, 2. Florida State, 3. Ohio State, 4. Michigan, 5. Houston, 6. Stanford, 7. Wisconsin, 8. Washington, 9. Iowa, 10. Clemson, 11. Texas, 12. Oklahoma, 13. LSU, 14. Louisville, 15. Notre Dame.