Are SEC Officials Deciding Games?
One of the most controversial calls in recent college football history was the 15 yard celebration penalty given to Georgia after receiver A.J. Green's touchdown catch against LSU. It was clearly a bad call by an official that former Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy once referred to as an "overofficious jerk" on NFL Films.
In the most recent flurry of over-officiating in the SEC, the Florida Gators benefitted tremendously by bad calls or non-calls in their squeaker of a 23-20 win over the upset-minded Arkansas Razorbacks.
Example: In the first half, slow-footed Hog quarterback Ryan Mallett was speared by a Florida defender while on the ground after a rushing attempt. Mallett was clearly down on the play. No call.
Now, everyone knows if a defender dares to pass gas in the vicinity of the fourth member of the Holy Trinity according to most of the national media and adoring Gator fans, said defender will not only be assessed a fifteen yard penalty but probably ejected as well.
Tebow's halo might be bent out of shape.
For the game, Arkansas was assessed 10 penalties for 92 yards to Florida's three for 16. Hog DT Malcolm Sheppard was given a phantom personal foul for daring to play football until the whistle.
Just a play before, a phantom pass interference penalty was called on a badly underthrown Tebow pass in the endzone that clearly wasn't catchable, not that defender Ramon Broadway interfered anyway.
Shortly thereafter, Florida receiver Riley Cooper, who would be good if he was 10% as good as he seems to think he is, clearly interfered with Arkansas' Andru Stewart in the endzone on what was going to be a Razorback interception. No call.
The officials didn't completely decide the outcome of the game, what with the Hogs' misses of two field goals from 40 yards and in and a few other plays that could have made a difference.
Ryan Mallett missed an open Jarius Wright in the endzone late in the first half, forcing the Hogs to settle for a field goal.
Mallett missed a wide open Van Stumon in the second half for a touchdown on a drive that again ended with three points instead of seven.
Was Florida lucky to win this game? Absolutely, but if the outcome had gone the other way, the Gators could point to a pair of redzone fumbles lost, a probable touchdown pass dropped and a total of four turnovers, at least some of which were what would be called in tennis "unforced errors".
I'm not saying that the Hogs should have won, although that clearly could have been the outcome. However, a team normally should never lose with no turnovers to the opponent's four.
I'm not saying that the officials decided the outcome. However, it would be interesting to have Adam Sandler's remote control and replay the game with even-handed officiating.
Of course, we all know that won't be done, and Florida made one more play at the end of the game than the Hogs. The battle of the kickers was clearly in favor of Florida.
I'm not really a pessimist, but the thought was in the back of my mind the entire game that Florida would win at the end, although I must admit I was surprised by the way the Hogs defense stuffed the Gators offense most of the game.
Maybe this will quiet some critics who contend that Arkansas can't play defense. This defense has drastically improved since the Alabama game and continues to get better. It just wasn't good enough to win over Florida while at times playing 11-on-17 this Saturday.
As in the Georgia-LSU game, the outcome might have been the same with good officiating, we'll never know for sure, but the game should be decided by the guys with pads on, not the ones in the striped shirts.
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