Some random thoughts on an otherwise boring Monday

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Some random thoughts on an otherwise boring Monday
There is just simply too much going on right now, and all of it deserves a lot of attention. But I'm just going to roll through some random thoughts on my mind after reading ESPN.com (this has accumulated throughout the day as I've had free-time.
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STARTING LOCAL WITH NATE BURLESON:
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The news from Mike Holmgren today that WR Nate Burleson is lost for the season after suffering a torn ligament in his knee during yesterday's game at Buffalo is nothing short of disastrous for the Seahawks. With a running game that is already shaky, the last the thing Seahawks needed was for Burleson to go down. It wouldn't be so bad except Deion Branch and Bobby Engram are also injured. That leaves the Seahawks with absolutely ZERO experience at the wide receiver position. Yesterday's game was frustrating because you could see the inexperience of these new receivers and how much it threw quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's timing off. Engram is expected to remain out for probably another month while Branch is expected back in the next couple weeks. But that means for at least this week's game against San Francisco, the Seahawks are going to be relying on a ton of no-names. Of course, none of this would be a problem if D.J. Hackett hadn't bolted after last year for a few extra million in Carolina. I used to love that guy, but geez. The Seahawks almost certainly won't just stand around hoping the young guys contribute. Expect them to go out this week and sign maybe one, but probably two, veteran receivers. Joe Horn, Terry Glenn, Koren Robinson, Troy Brown, Tim Carter, Peerless Price and Erik Moulds are all free agents right now who could be in a Seahawks uniform this Sunday. Robinson would be the most intriguing considering he was drafted by the Seahawks. He has a ton of drinking problems – problems that eventually cost him his job in Seattle, as well as Minnesota and most recently Green Bay – but he already knows the system and I'm sure would relieve a ton of stress from Hasselbeck. Sign him to a 1-year deal and then dump him. Or do the unthinkable and try packaging a trade for Bengals WR Chad Johnson. I think if Chad wants to run around with Ocho Cinco on his back, the Seahawks are probably the only team right now that would let him do that just because of how much they need him. Thank goodness the Seahawks play in the NFL's worst division.
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TOM BRADY'S INJURY:
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I know the New England Patriots have all the confidence in the world that Matt Cassel is going to step in and do a fine job for Brady. Consider this though. Cassel didn't even start one game at USC because of Matt Leinart. How he even got into the league in the first place is beyond me. Now he's expected to lead the New England Patriots back to the promised land? I know the Colts, Chargers and Jaguars all looked less than stellar yesterday, so I guess there's always a possibility; and I fully acknowledge the talent that is Randy Moss and Wes Welker, but Cassel is going to struggle. A lot of ESPN commentators are distraught that the Patriots lost Brady. I'm not crying though. New England has to come to Seattle later in the year and I am MUCH happier that they will be coming without Brady. I was almost ready to chalk that game up as a loss, but now I see it as extremely winnable. Basically, sucks to be you Brady. Kinda sucks to be a Pats fan right now. But the rest of the league should be celebrating a beatable Patriots team. Not crying over it.
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AND YOUR 2008 AFC CHAMPION IS...:
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If you know, you're a freaking genius. If it's not New England, it must be Indianapolis. Ooops ... they lost 28-13 at home to Chicago. Hmm... San Diego? They lost at home to Carolina 26-24. I know, I know, Jacksonville. Lost to Tennessee 17-10. Here's a Super Bowl pick bound to generate some buzz. Buffalo vs. Arizona. Only this season would that be such a realistic possibility.
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BYU'S THREE-SPOT DROP IN THE RANKINGS (YES...HERE I GO AGAIN):
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Some more interesting stuff regarding the controversial call on Saturday (because I just refuse to let this go yet).
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Jim Caple, a writer for ESPN’s Page 2 had the following analysis:
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The end of Saturday's Washington-BYU football game reminded me of when a friend and I coached a little league baseball team.
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A few memories stick out from that season. I remember the mother who asked me to tell her son not to wear his shin guards to bed because they were tearing his sheets. I remember the girl who was forced to wear a cup when catching because of league regulations, though I do not know how we were supposed to check this. I remember the boy who asked me during batting practice what sex was like.
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And I remember how the season ended.
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It's the last game of the year, the winner goes to the playoffs. We're tied heading into the bottom of the sixth and final inning. The opposing team leads off with a triple. My friend and I decide to load the bases to set up a potential force play at the plate. We tell our catcher -- the one who wore his shin guards to bed -- to call for an intentional walk. He does so in the standard fashion. He stands up as the pitch is about to be thrown and steps off to the side.
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The umpire calls a balk because he stepped out of the catcher's box.
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My friend and I go nuts.
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Yes, technically, the umpire was correct. The rules said it was a balk if the catcher stepped out of the box, but how was a 10-year-old supposed to know that? Plus, the catcher's "box" was basically imaginary because no one ever chalked it before the game. And although the odds were against our winning -- how many little league teams can hold an opponent scoreless if it already has the bases loaded with no outs? -- what bothered me most was that the umpire's call ended a season. It would have been much better for him to simply tell our catcher, "By the way, son, that's technically a balk. I know you didn't know the rule, so I'm telling you now. Next time, just don't step so far away from the plate."
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Instead, he made a call that left this poor 10-year-old thinking he had screwed up and ended his team's season.
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Which is similar to the referee's call at the end of the Huskies-Cougars game.
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In case you didn't see the play or read the Huskies blogs, quarterback Jake Locker scrambled into the end zone with two seconds left to complete a long drive against BYU and make the score 28-27 in favor of BYU. As Locker jumped up from the ground in celebration, he tossed the football over his shoulder and into the air. It was not tossed in anyone's direction. It was not spiked to the ground. Locker did not get in anyone's face (other than the teammates he hugged). He was just a joyous young player reacting to an apparent game-saving touchdown drive.
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But the refs threw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct. The 15-yard penalty backed up the Huskies' PAT to the 18-yard line, and BYU blocked the 35-yard conversion attempt.
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End of game.
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The refs excused themselves after the game by saying that it was not a judgment call, that whenever a player throws the ball in the air, he has to throw the flag. That's nonsense. Every call is a judgment call of some sort. Was that holding? Was that pass interference? Could the pass have been caught? A good ref takes the entire situation into context. A good ref would have realized that the intent of the rule -- not showing up an opponent -- was not being violated. A good ref would have kept the flag in his pocket. A good ref would have calmly told Locker what the rule was and warned him to be careful in the future.
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Let us suppose that Locker was guilty of trying to show up an opponent. (He was not.) Doesn't a 15-yard penalty seem a trifle excessive? You're telling me that celebration demands the most onerous penalty you can give a team? That reacting to a successful play with pure joy is as bad as maliciously hitting a player out of bounds or clipping him below the knees or doing anything that might result in a severe injury? Please.
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It was one of the absolute worst calls I've ever seen in football. The only thing that tempers it somewhat is that BYU was the better team in this game and that Washington coach Ty Willingham planned to go for the tie rather than go for two and the upset win; it was pretty clear that there was no way the Huskies would have been able to stop BYU's offense in overtime.
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Unless, of course, BYU did something heinous and unsportsmanlike, such as showing up the Huskies after scoring a touchdown, such as hugging one another and shouting and running off the field all superiorlike. I mean, that sort of behavior might fly in the Mountain West Conference, but by God, not in the Pac-10.
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I liken Caple’s little league experience to many experiences I had playing church basketball when I was 12. When I was 12, I didn’t know anything about basketball. I didn’t understand the rules of “blocking,” what it meant to “box out,” and other stuff like that. I was just out there having fun. I remember one time coming home from a game exhausted. We had lost, but I had loads of fun anyway. My mom pulled me aside and said, “Ryan, I know you had fun today, but Brother Pendleton told me about some of the rules you were breaking. You really need to stop breaking those rules. He told me he didn’t call you on them because he knew you didn’t understand them, but that in the future, he would." I never thanked Brother Pendleton for that, but I probably should have. He knew we were just having fun, and he knew how much of an idiot I was when it came to the game of basketball. He also knew I couldn’t make a basket to save my life. How horrible would it have been to call me on a bunch of penalties (because technically he could have) and make me feel bad. It wouldn’t have just been bad, it would have been downright inhumane.
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Lastly, and then maybe I’ll finally be done with this topic, I would like to point out Section 3, Article 8b of the official NCAA football rule book – regarding offensive pass interference. It states:
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“Offensive pass interference by a Team A player beyond the neutral zone during a legal forward pass play in which a forward pass crosses the neutral zone is contact that interferes with a Team B eligible player. It is the responsibility of the offensive player to avoid the opponents.”
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So, every single time Austin Collie, Michael Reed or Dennis Pitta extended their arms and made ANY sort of contact with a Huskies defender Saturday, it was grounds for offensive pass interference, according to the rule. The rule is clearly stated – without equivocation – that it is the duty of the offensive player to AVOID the defensive player. Now, the defensive player is not allowed to interfere with the offensive player either. And, almost every time a play is run, there is going to be jostling going on between the wide receiver and the defensive back. Obviously it would ruin the game for the fans if every time a wide receiver made contact with the guy on defense, a flag was thrown. We already complain the game is long enough. My goal in pointing this rule out is that no matter what the referees say, there is ALWAYS latitude. It is the referee’s DUTY to decide what needs to be called, and what doesn’t. So don’t believe the officials when they say this is not a judgment call. If the referee is so determined to follow every single rule without any room for lenience based upon the situation, I expect every game he refs to last at last 10 hours. If he isn’t willing to call everything by the book, don’t say you have to.
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Still, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall is saying stuff like, "rules are the rules, they are there for a reason." He also added, "Sometimes in the heat of the moment, young players are over-exuberant. So Mendenhall REALLY believes Locker's celebration could be classified as "over-exuberant?" Here's Locker's response a day later. "To be totally honest, I didn't even realize I had done it at the time. I got to the sideline and heard the official say there was an unsportsmanlike penalty and I was like, 'Who was that on? (They) must have done something stupid.' Then he said it was on No. 10, and I was like, "Gosh, what did I do?"
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At least BYU offensive lineman Travis Bright brought some semblance of intelligence when he said, "I didn't know the rule. I'd be disappointed if that happened to me, but it is now a new rule. Jake Locker probably didn't know the rule. I know that's not what he intended. It didn't look like he was excessive with the celebration. He was just as excited as our team would be. But it is a new rule, and we need to be aware of the rule changes. It was unfortunate for their team on a great play that they were penalized for something like that."
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Back to the topic at hand.
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Any BYU fan who tells you dropping in the polls isn't deserved or warranted is a homer and a hypocrite. The fact that Oklahoma is going to go out and defeat Washington by at least 20 points this weekend shows how much further the Cougars have to come before being considered a national powerhouse. I know that every season every team has games that they should win easily but end up losing. Some BYU fans have made the point that if USC could beat Washington at Husky Stadium last year by only three and not fall from the rankings, there's no reason to drop BYU. Well, until BYU wins national championships at the rate the Trojans do, there's no way you can compare the two teams. USC has earned its right to struggle in a few gimmes because everybody knows they'll be right back out the next week to take care of business. We don't know that about BYU. The Trojans may have squeaked by Washington – and even lost to Stanford – but they also won at Nebraska (49-31) and at Arizona State (44-24). Then, in the Rose Bowl, they slaughtered Illinois 49-17. Does anyone really think BYU would have done the same last year? USC and BYU are incomparable. You also can't really argue the teams that moved ahead of BYU. Those three teams were East Carolina, Oregon and Penn State. East Carolina has defeated Virginia Tech and West Virginia, two nationally ranked teams. Oregon has scored 110 points in its first two games (albeit against Washington and Utah State) and Penn State has scored 111 in its first two (including a 45-14 annihilation of Oregon State last week). BYU fans may not like the subjective nature of the polls, but it is what it is. Just like these same fans so quickly pointed out Jake Locker and the Washington Huskies' faithful have no room to cry over the excessive celebration call since 'the rules are the rules,' Cougar fans have no room themselves to whine and moan about dropping three spots. The system is the way it is and there's not much you can do about it. Furthermore, there’s an extremely simple solution. Beat UCLA this week, run through the conference undefeated for the third straight year, do it all in convincing fashion, and I'm pretty sure the rankings will be fair. The thing is, nobody wants to see another repeat of last year's Sugar Bowl between Hawaii and Georgia, so squeaking by one of the worst teams in the Pac-10 doesn't make anyone think you're any better than the Warriors were last year. So prove them wrong. In life, you can't expect stuff to just be given to you. A No. 16 ranking to start the season was generous enough.
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It's also worthy to note Ohio State dropped to No. 5 in the polls after barely escaping Ohio at home. At least the pollsters are consistent.
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NOTRE DAME
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Two weeks ago, San Diego State lost at home to Cal Poly. A couple days ago, they were one yard away from a 20-7 fourth-quarter lead at Notre Dame. Either Cal Poly is just flat out amazing, San Diego State seriously underperformed against them, or (gasp) Notre Dame may in fact suck again. You can tell the media is desperate to jump back on the Irish's bandwagon when they ignore a 3-9 season and say things will be good again this year. Things are not going to be good. QB Jimmy Clausen is still not good enough and the Irish just don't have enough talent. I'm hoping people finally realize this.
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EAST CAROLINA AS YOUR 2008 BCS BUSTER
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I know Kirk Herbstriet doesn't like it, but it's simply too much fun. I thought the Purple Pirates were going to go undefeated inside their conference before the season begun. After defeating Virginia Tech and West Virginia, I'm even more certain of that now. If the Pirates can win at Virginia and NC State, you might want to just hand them their BCS game right away.
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COMING BACK LOCAL WITH WASHINGTON STATE:
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BYU QB Max Hall said he thought the Huskies were better than he originally anticipated. Obviously, he didn't watch much game film. Maybe he confused the Huskies with the OTHER Cougars. After watching Washington State, it's pretty clear who the bottomfeeders of the Pac-10 REALLY are. After being smacked around to the tune of 39-13 at home by Oklahoma State in its season opener, Washington State proved things can get worse ... much worse. Last week against California, Washington State allowed three touchdowns in both of the first two quarters. California ended up winning 66-3. This game, mind you, was also played in Pullman. I read about games like this and I think, "Why is Washington State even in the Pac-10? This is why Pac-10 teams schedule teams like Idaho, Cal Poly, UC Davis, etc. We don't want to get into our conference schedules and face the type of inept competition that is the 2008 Washington State Cougars. Shouldn't they be in the WAC with Boise State and Hawaii? Oklahoma State and California have decent football programs, but losing to those teams by a combined score of 105-16 is just a complete joke. Here's my idea. Throw Washington State into the WAC where it belongs. Then, take BYU and Utah, and combine them into one giant super school and construct a mega university in Sandy or South Jordan. Of course BYU and Utah students will have to put aside their hostile feelings for each other, and deal with the idea that playing sports on Sunday is acceptable, but if they do, throw them into the Pac-10. Wouldn't that be great? The main point, get Washington State out of the Pac-10. Except for a few semi-decent years at the beginning of the century, this is a school that has absolutely NO football history. For cripes sake, they don't even have 30,000 showing up for games. UW selling out a 75,000-capacity stadium during a year they may not even win five games ... THAT'S a football school.
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