Mad Chatter: How replay is killing college football's rhythm; can the B1G overtake the SEC?; NFL playoff pool

Nebraska's Luke Gifford watches a replay of the hit that earned him a personal foul and got him ejected from the Fresno State game for targeting in the third quarter.

Here’s the situation: Fresno State faces third-and-9 from the Nebraska 18-yard line in the second quarter. Quarterback Chason Virgil connects with a diving Aaron Peck on a curl at the 7-yard line. First down. 

The Bulldogs, uncertain if the ball hit the ground, hurry to the line of scrimmage and snap it. Not quick enough. Referee Michael Cannon blows the whistle. 

Someone carries from the sideline to the field a silly little tripod, on top of which sits a silly little monitor, about one-tenth the size of the average living-room big screen. Cannon puts on a headset, connecting him with a replay official in the booth. And for the next 90 seconds, 90,000 fans stare at each other, wondering what the man in the white hat is going to say. 

You think reviews are boring from your couch? You should try it from row 80 in the south end zone, without the benefit of seeing what the fuss is all about. Yawn.

Finally, the referee announces that the original call is confirmed. Carry on. 

This procedure happened four times Saturday night at Memorial Stadium, delaying the action for a combined nine minutes*. And only one of the original calls was reversed. 

* Two of those reviews were targeting calls. The other was the punt that may have bounced off Jordan Westerkamp's foot.

If nine minutes of replay time sounds appropriate to you, I think you’re forgetting that the game is supposed to be somewhat, ya know, entertaining. 

So here’s my plea to the stewards of college football: Please, please recognize that sometimes less is more. Take your technological capabilities and harness them. Make the game go faster. 

Last week I wrote about the decline of home-field advantage in college football. A big piece of the puzzle undoubtedly is crowd noise. The average atmosphere just isn’t what it was 10 or 20 years ago. A huge component is the breaks in the action. There’s no rhythm to a game anymore. 

We can’t do anything about the length of TV timeouts. We probably shouldn’t tweak game-clock procedures. We CAN, however, do something about superfluous reviews.

Make it simpler. Take the buzzer out of the replay official's hand. Model the NFL system. Give a head coach two challenges. If he wants to stop the game to review a call, he only gets two chances. And he better be right or it costs him a timeout. 

I don’t want to return to the old days, when teams were frequently screwed by officiating errors. We should use the technology we have. But do it in moderation.   

It’s fair to the teams. More important: It’s merciful to the fans.

* * *

>> I sure hope Nick Saban stretched out his coat tails. Folks across SEC country are gonna be pulling HARD this fall. 

College football’s super conference, for good reason, is under scrutiny for its Week 1 performance. The SEC actually performed well in its six marquee games:

Wisconsin 16, LSU 14

Texas A&M 31, UCLA 24 (OT)

Georgia 33, North Carolina 24

Alabama 52, USC 6

Clemson 19, Auburn 13

Florida State 45, Ole Miss 34

3-3 met expectations. It’s the other six games that raised eyebrows

Tennessee 20, Appalachian State 13 (OT)

Florida 24, UMass 7

South Alabama 21, Mississippi State 20

West Virginia 26, Missouri 11

Arkansas 21, Louisiana Tech 20

Southern Miss 44, Kentucky 35

That’s not such a good 3-3. In week one, the SEC faced the toughest schedule of any Power Five league, so cut ‘em a little slack. But it’s as clear as ever that SEC depth is overrated. When you’re the top dog, you have to be better than .500.

As Pat Forde pointed out, there isn't a single SEC team in the top 45 nationally in total offense. Quarterback play, especially at LSU, continues to be atrocious. 

Which raises the question: Is this FINALLY the year that an SEC rival grabs the mythical label of “best conference?” How ‘bout the Big Ten? These things are determined in September and we’ll know a lot more after Sept. 17:

Oregon at Nebraska

Michigan State at Notre Dame

Ohio State at Oklahoma

3-0 with be a significant statement. Even 2-1 would be an ego boost (assuming Iowa doesn’t go out and lose to North Dakota State that afternoon). 

The SEC, after a couple uneven seasons, is vulnerable again, even with Alabama’s dominance. We’ll see if the Big Ten can seize its opportunity.

>> Mitch Sherman weighs the Big 12’s Houston dilemma: Should the league invite the Cougs and perhaps pave their way to juggernaut? Or should schools act in their own self-interest and keep Houston out? 

>> In case you needed a dose of intellectual humility today, watch Rice offensive lineman Calvin Anderson complete a Rubik’s Cube — behind his back.

>> David Jones on the Penn State-Pittsburgh rivalry, which returns for the first time in the social media age. 

>> Looking for something more literary? Spencer Hall takes you on a 100-year journey connecting buffalo hunting to football. Great piece.

>> Question last night from my 6-year-old son and Husker fan: “Were you born yet when Nebraska went undefeated?It’s almost like he read my Friday column

>> Tom Verducci highlights the greatness of the Chicago Cubs, far and away baseball’s best team:

“The Cubs are insanely deep. They have no obvious and potentially fatal flaws. They have the best defense in baseball in a quarter of a century. They have the toughest pitching staff to crack in 40 years. They have patched the obvious holes in their offense from last year that caused them to get swept by the Mets in the National League Championship Series.

Chicago is so good that the question is no longer "Can they win the World Series?" It is this: "What on earth will stop them from winning it?"

Baseball being baseball, some unforeseen trouble surely lurks. But on paper, the Cubs will enter the postseason as the most prohibitive favorite to win it all since the 1998 Yankees. They will rank with those Yankees, the '89 Athletics, the '86 Mets and the '84 Tigers as the biggest Superteams entering the playoffs in the free agent era, and ones that faced the pressure that they should win. Each of those teams did, in fact, win the World Series. The Cubs will certainly be expected to as well.”

>> NFL coaches and executives continually lament the decline in technique. To what degree is players’ declining age responsible?

Last year, the number of offensive linemen age 28 or over who appeared in a game dropped nearly 20 percent compared to 2011, while the number of players age 31 or older at any position fell 20 percent from a decade ago.

>> Seth Wickersham on John Elway’s never-ending drive to win

>> Danny Woodhead's letter to his younger self. Getting some love in the Players Tribune.

>> Finally, Mad Chatter is hosting its annual NFL playoff pool.

You’ve seen college bowl confidence pools, where you rank your bowl winners on a scale of 1-40(ish). This is the same thing with NFL playoff qualifiers. Rank your predicted NFL playoff teams on a confidence scale, 1-12.

So if you’re 99 percent sure New England will make the playoffs, they should be a “12″ on your list. If you can’t decide between the Giants and Cowboys for the last NFC wild card, that should your “1.” The tiebreaker? Your Super Bowl pick.

No entry fee required (though there will be a prize). Deadline is Sunday at noon. Email me your picks at dirk.chatelain@owh.com

Here’s my ballot for 2016. You will be tempted to copy it, but please try to win on your own merit:

12 — New England

11 — Green Bay

10 — Pittsburgh

9 — Seattle

8 — Arizona

7 — Cincinnati

6 — Carolina

5 — Kansas City 

4 — Denver

3 — Minnesota

2 — Jacksonville

1 — New York Giants

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Reporter - Sports

Dirk writes stories and columns about Husker football in addition to covering general assignments and enterprise for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @dirkchatelain. Phone: 402-444-1062.

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