Auburn Football 2010: Officials Again Center Stage In SEC Games

Kevin McGradySenior Writer IOctober 10, 2010

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 04:  A referee wipes his face with a towel during a game between the Miami University RedHawks and the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 4, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

My first thought on the Auburn vs. Kentucky game brings back the specter of 2009. This was the most poorly officiated SEC game in two years plagued by poorly officiated games. There were multiple calls made where the official was out of position and could not clearly see the play or simply did not know the rules.

It has become clear that this is again a problem in the 2010 season as it was in 2009. It is imperative that SEC headquarters nip this problem in the bud. It appears the officials have more problems in games involving teams with elite speed.

While it is unknown what the final result of this game would have been if officiated in a more competent manner, it is certain that officiating did have an effect on the game. This is intolerable, and fans should be able to expect better from the SEC.

Auburn gave up 336 yards in the game with Kentucky. This was over 100 yards less than their seasonal average. The problem is that the defense still has problems tackling elite speed.

One troubling pattern has evolved and become crystal clear over the last two seasons: The current Auburn defensive strategy is very vulnerable to playmakers with elite quickness and speed. There are very few such athletes in college football, but Auburn has certainly faced two in Andre Ellington and Randall Cobb.

Randall Cobb had a direct role in four of Kentucky’s five touchdowns. In every case, there were Auburn defenders in position to make the play, but were unable to do so. Kentucky is a team built on speed and quickness.

The Kentucky defense can’t stop a cold; they simply attempt to use their speed and quickness in hopes of forcing a mistake and stopping a drive or two here or there. The speed-based portion of the Auburn offense disappeared in this game, much like in 2009.

The difference was the ability of the Auburn offense to use the power game consistently this year. With Ladarius Phillips looking at a redshirt season, Cameron Newton was forced to run the ball 28 times in this game. While this is fine once in a while, there needs to be another power rushing option, and that has not developed so far.

Neither the Auburn pass defense, which gave up 226 yards, nor the Auburn rushing defense, which gave up 110 yards, did that poorly. Kentucky only averaged 5.69 yards per play total and 3.7 yards per rush.

One must give Kentucky credit for taking advantage of the opportunities offered them. This was about as close as any reasonable fan could ever expect this Kentucky team to get in this game. They deserve a lot of respect for playing as well as possible.

Auburn is now 6-0 and bowl-eligible once again. This week’s game was only the halfway point of the season, and there is little doubt that Auburn will improve on their seven wins in the regular season last year.

Auburn has also equaled their SEC win total for 2009, and that is likely to improve as well. Auburn plays what will likely be two Top-10 teams in the next two weeks. First up is the powerful offense of Arkansas that is averaging 463 yards and 30 points per game. LSU is next with the best defense in the SEC, allowing only 246 yards per game and holding opponents to 15 points per game.

Auburn has an exceptional chance of winning these two games, and they should win these two games. There always the luck of Les Miles and the uncommonly poor officiating that the SEC has become known for that could easily affect either or both these games.

Auburn fans cannot expect competent officiating from SEC crews in any games involving elite speed. Plays that are not reviewable are being called by officials who are in poor position, do not know the rules, or simply do not have eyes quick enough to see what occurs.

It is time that personal fouls and pass interference are added to the calls that can be challenged and reviewed by replay. It is obvious that some SEC crews are incapable of making such calls correctly with a high enough percentage of accuracy to be acceptable.