Replacement refs not too rosy in Week 1

Jonathan Lowe

America is grieving today after Tuesday’s horrific circumstances. This is one place to mention that life in general is bigger than the sports that some of us follow. My condolences to all involved in the tragedy. Hopefully, I can move on to much brighter subjects.

Stop and Smell the Pigskins

Since 1955, the Rose Bowl has helped to establish 12 teams that have either won or shared the national championship (two actually were champs even though they lost the game). However, excluding 1997’s game featuring a Michigan victory over UCLA, the last time two Rose Bowl participants finished in the top five of the AP poll was 1979. The last time two combatants finished first and second in the country was 1962 (USC and Wisconsin).

Simply speaking, I believe it’s a good time to bring the championship game back to Pasadena. Unless the Big Ten and Pac-10 have big years, this game will be the first since 1946 to not feature the champion of both conferences.

Now this does break with tradition, but what hasn’t in the past few years?

Even though I’m very skeptical about the BCS, college football is making a concentrated effort to determine a national champion every year.

In the old bowl system, this was less possible with all of the polls from around the country. So even though there are people who say they feel squirmy about the decision to include the Rose Bowl in the BCS, I open my arms and say welcome to the family.

Wanted: Seeing-eye Referee

I know, people always enjoy dogging the officials who enforce the rules of athletics. However, something came up this past Sunday as I watched my team, the Kansas City Chiefs, battle its hated rivals, the Oakland Raiders.

The referees were replacements refs, as was the case around the NFL. This is due to the lockout of the regular officials, who are trying to renegotiate their salary deal with the league office.

These new guys on the block (please, no “Right Stuff” references) are being thrown into a new environment, and I guess I should give them a break. On second thought … there’s plenty I could rag about.

In the Chiefs-Raiders matchup, a few missed calls (or shouldn’t-have-beens) caught my attention. Now my dislike for Oakland is extremely deep, but a couple of plays featuring quarterback Rich Gannon showed how tentative the refs were. On two separate occasions, Gannon threw the ball away to avoid a sack. In a certain situation, an intentional grounding penalty will be called.

This is where I think the brain lobes of the refs might have been switched. They seemed to call the good play a penalty, while ignoring the wrong play altogether. But this wasn’t the worst of it.

In the fourth quarter, the Raiders were driving when Gannon threw a strike to fullback Charlie Garner. Chief safety Jerome Woods gave a lickin’ to Garner while he caught the pass in midair, making the running back land out of bounds.

The refs called the pass incomplete, forcing coach Jon Gruden to have the refs review the call. Garner looked to clearly be in, had it not been for the hit by Woods. While even I saw the play was good, the new guns in town blew the call.

Tsk, tsk, tsk…not something to expect from an official who has experience calling football games. Usually in the first week of the season, it’s the players making more mistakes, not the referees.

For the most part, people are enjoying the fewer calls so that the game goes by quicker. In my opinion, you can keep the time of the game where it is. I’d rather see the games called right than have more free time to run errands on my Sunday.

Absurd Predictions

Ahh, with the sight of leather zipping through the air, college football teams will be looking to raise the Sears trophy over their heads at the beginning of January. Squads from all over the country are going to take the next three-plus months to plan, battle and fight for a ticket to the Rose Bowl.

After the game in Pasadena, Miami should be champion and joining them in the top 5 will be:

2) Texas

3) Florida

4) Oregon

5) Fresno State

That’s right, I’m jumping on the Fresno bandwagon. Go Bulldogs (and Cyclones)!

Jonathan Lowe is a senior in meteorology from Kansas City, Mo.