By: Nate Gatter, KCOU Sports
Another barnstorming installment of the Lone Star State’s budding rivalry between Texas Christian and Baylor was nearly ready for the books Saturday night when, with the score knotted at 58, the side judge decided to end the game himself. He had no interest in allowing the players to decide a top 10 matchup with serious Big 12 title implications and playoff relevance. Instead, he unleashed his little yellow hanky from Hell and obliterated the wonder of a classic college football game in a mere moment of horrific disrespect for all things competitive. The side judge called pass interference against TCU’s Corry O’Mealy and instantaneously negated TCU’s improbable third down stand, replacing it with a Baylor first down. With the call, there was little work remaining for the Baylor offense to set up kicker Chris Callahan’s 28-yard field goal, securing a 61-58 Baylor victory.
Referees, like anyone else, are prone to mistakes. What is unacceptable, however, is the massive inconsistency across the country and even across members of a single officiating crew. In the other top 10 clash on Saturday, Auburn was cost a potentially game-changing play for an offensive pass interference call assessed to Sammy Coates. Both receiver and defender had a hand on the other, appearing to equally “hand fight.” Coates came away with the reception, only to have the big gain called back. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn responded with a venomous tirade that lasted nearly a minute, while the penalty seemed to suck any remaining life out of the Tigers’ bid to remain undefeated. It’s time to throw the flag on officials for their own interference.
Bad calls happen in every game. The epidemic sweeping college football is not individual missed calls; it is an epic brutalization of the spirit of competition. Every referee should firmly believe that it is the role of players and coaches to win and lose games, while the official’s role is merely one of a facilitator. It is time for officiating coordinators nationwide to have a serious talk about redefining pass interference and, at least, allowing defensive backs a reasonable opportunity to make plays for their teams.
Despite repeated officiating gaffes, college football came through for us once again. Time to review my game picks (ouch), check out the Heisman race (goodbye, Gurley), and pretend I’m the selection committee. Let’s roll!
Week 7 Review
(13) Georgia @ (23) Missouri
Can you say Atlanta? The Georgia Bulldogs certainly can after they placed themselves firmly in the SEC East driver’s seat with a 34-0 throttling of Missouri. While UGA remained the favorite despite the loss of running back Todd Gurley, few expected an embarrassment of the Tigers in Columbia, Missouri. Freshman running back Nick Chubb showed why he has been hailed as the future of the Georgia backfield, and why Georgia remains in the hunt for a playoff spot. A tough matchup with Auburn on Nov. 15 looms, but the ’Dawgs control their own destiny. I didn’t say much about Missouri? I wonder why.
Predicted Final: Georgia 23, Missouri 21
Actual Final: Georgia 34, Missouri 0
(9) Texas Christian @ (5) Baylor
While the Horned Frogs have a right to gripe about officiating down the stretch (see above), they held a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter and allowed Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty to lead the Bears all the way back for a 61-58 win. In the highest-scoring top 10 game since 1936, Petty turned in a vintage Petty performance (510 yards, 6 TDs, 2 INTs) to make Baylor the favorite in the Big 12. Moreover, the Bears now hold a playoff spot that is theirs to lose. For TCU, any hope of a playoff berth seems gone, but the Horned Frogs can further establish themselves as perennial contenders in an improving Big 12 conference.
Predicted Final: Texas Christian 38, Baylor 37
Actual Final: Baylor 61, Texas Christian 58
(2) Auburn @ (T-3) Mississippi State
Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott once again validated himself as a top dual-threat quarterback and Heisman contender in a wet affair in Starkville, Mississippi. But even Prescott’s numbers (367 total yards, 3 total TDs, 2 INTs) don’t fully describe his dominance of the Auburn defense. Whenever the Bulldogs needed a big play or key first down, he was there. With the suspension of Todd Gurley, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep Prescott away from the Heisman presentation. Auburn’s season is far from lost, however, as a one-loss SEC West team still finds itself in the thick of the playoff race.
Predicted Final: Auburn 31, Mississippi State 28
Actual Final: Mississippi State 38, Auburn 23
(12) Oregon @ (18) UCLA
An Oregon sack of UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley forced a Hundley fumble and set up the Ducks’ first touchdown. Oregon never looked back. UCLA had no answer for Oregon’s offense, and the 42-30 final is not truly indicative of the divide between these Pac-12 opponents. With the loss, Jim Mora’s Bruins fall from the playoff conversation and will need a Pac-12 championship to garner a top bowl invitation. On the flip side, Oregon vaulted back into the top ten on Sunday and remains in the group of one-loss contenders sniffing for an opportunity.
Predicted Final: Oregon 45, UCLA 27
Actual Final: Oregon 42, UCLA 30
(T-3) Mississippi @ (14) Texas A&M
Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has two sides: “Good Bo” and “Bad Bo.” With each passing week, it seems more likely that “Good Bo” has become the norm, as Ole Miss cruised to another Southeastern Conference victory. After improving to 6-0, the Rebels moved into sole possession of the third spot in Sunday’s AP Top 25. Wallace’s statistics (13-19, 228 total yards, 3 total TDs, 0 TOs) show the uncharacteristic poise and maturity he displayed against Alabama carried over to the Rebels’ 35-20 victory in College Station, Texas. The Ole Miss defense did its part as well, grabbing two interceptions, one of which safety Cody Prewitt returned 75 yards for the Rebs’ final touchdown.
Predicted Final: Texas A&M 35, Mississippi 31
Actual Final: Mississippi 35, Texas A&M 20
Through Week 7, your Heisman Trophy frontrunner is…
Dak Prescott, Quarterback, Mississippi State
Prescott has solidified his spot as the Heisman frontrunner in Gurley’s absence. Mississippi State took over the number one slot in the AP Top 25 on Sunday, and completed its toughest three-game stretch already. Prescott continues to do whatever is necessary for the Bulldogs to win.
The rest of the pack…
Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Oregon
The senior signalcaller looks to be back in sync after the Ducks’ loss to Arizona in Week 6. Mariota came back to Oregon to win a national championship, and the Ducks will need him in top form if they plan on making that dream a reality.
Bryce Petty, Quarterback, Baylor
Petty needed a big-time performance against TCU and came through for the Bears. After throwing for more than 500 yards and six touchdowns, the senior appears primed for a Baylor playoff run. Few players in college football are more exciting than Bryce Petty when he’s orchestrating the Baylor offense to perfection.
Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver, Alabama
Cooper barely remains in the race after only two catches for 22 yards on Saturday night against Arkansas as the Crimson Tide escaped Fayetteville with a 14-13 victory. He stays in the pack on the strength of more than 600 yards receiving and five touchdowns in ’Bama’s first four games, but he needs big games down the stretch.
Who’s In and Why
*First Semifinal: (4) Oregon vs. (1) Mississippi
*Second Semifinal: (3) Mississippi State vs. (2) Notre Dame
Schedule, schedule, schedule. In the SEC West, it comes down to whom you play and when you play them. Based on future matchups, it seems likely that the Egg Bowl, pitting Mississippi State against Ole Miss in Oxford, will decide the brutal division.
I see only one game that either team has a reasonable chance of losing, other than the matchup against one another. For Ole Miss, an Auburn team with its back against the wall of irrelevancy visits on Nov. 1. For Mississippi State, a road game against an equally desperate Alabama squad is worrisome. But even if both teams suffer a loss before the Egg Bowl, it is very likely that the winner will represent the SEC West in Atlanta. Moreover, there’s a distinct possibility that both will be undefeated going into the Egg Bowl, in which case the loser is still very likely to snare a playoff berth. Ole Miss wins the Egg Bowl, on the strength of home field advantage and carries the No. 1 seed into the playoffs while the Bulldogs squeeze in at No. 3, in this simulation.
Oregon will not lose again. Facing a favorable schedule with only Stanford and a potential rematch against UCLA in the Pac-12 championship, the Ducks should finish the season with only one loss. Amidst the carnage of the SEC, a single loss, even to Arizona, will not stand between Oregon and the fourth seed in the playoffs.
Notre Dame’s No. 2 seed is the simplest piece of the playoff equation. In this simulation, the second seed is occupied by the winner of next weekend’s showdown between the Fighting Irish and Florida State in Tallahassee, Florida. I expect the Irish will pull the upset and then win out, having the meat of their schedule behind them. While Notre Dame cannot match Mississippi’s strength of schedule, its undefeated record garners the second seed.
How Much Fun is This?
College football is treating us to one of the most wide-open seasons in history. Sit back and enjoy it. I’ll join you next for Week 10 of kcou.fm’s college football coverage. Until then, may all your days be Saturdays….