Questionable calls in Happy Valley show it’s time for centralized instant replay


Ohio State managed to escape State College last night with a double overtime victory over Penn State. The victory came with the help of some questionable officiating

Ohio State’s Vonn Bell picked off a pass from Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg on the first offensive series of the game. The interception was questionable enough to call for an instant replay review by the Big Ten officials. Video of the play has even Ohio State faithful believing the Buckeyes received a gift early on in the game. The video replay process was hindered in Beaver Stadium by the lack of the proper replay feeds being available for the replay official.

John O’Neill, who was the on-field official in State College, confirmed after the game to a pool reporter the replay was not thoroughly reviewed.

“The play technically was not thoroughly reviewed due to some technical difficulties with the equipment,” O’Neill said after the game. Asked if there are any provisions to receive any other replay feeds available in the stadium (perhaps the one showing on the national broadcast or the one airing on those big fancy HD scoreboards in the stadium), O’Neill said that was not possible.

“The feeds that the replay team looks at are the feeds you get at home,” O’Neill explained. “We can’t create our own rules. The replay rules are clear that we have to use the equipment provided. So, and the team reviewed what they had.”

Ohio State ended up turning that questionable interception into a touchdown for an early 7-0 lead. Ohio State also successfully kicked a 49-yard field goal later in the first half, although the kick appeared to be kicked two seconds after the play clock had expired. Again, this was easily captured on TV but missed on the field of play. O’Neill explained there was no review of that call.

Replay official Tom Fiedler went a little more in-depth in explaining why the field goal was not reviewed, saying the play is not a reviewable play.

“That is not reviewable in terms of when the ball is snapped in relationship to the zeros on the clock,” Fiedler said to the pool reporter after the game.

It was a bad night for the officials, who also awarded each team a timeout in the fourth quarter without either team asking for one, missing what looked to be an eye gouging by a Penn State player on J.T. Barrett as well as a crucial false start on Ohio State on third down.

Bad penalties and missed calls happen in every game. Every conference has officials that will have errors magnified in today’s modern world of instant reaction and multiple viewing angles and so on. But there is zero reason for an instant replay official not to have any feed it needs to do its job in today’s world, and there is no excuse for any one of the officials on the field to miss the play clock expiring.

Whether the Big Ten will address these controversial calls remains to be seen. Last week we saw the Big 12 go on record defending its replay officials for attempting to correct errors on the field in a Baylor-West Virginia game. If nothing else, perhaps it is becoming more likely conferences will begin to think about moving all instant replays to a neutralized location, as is done in the NHL, Major League Baseball and he NFL. Power conferences like the Big Ten have the ability to do just that, and there will never be an issue regarding video feed if they do. Every conference should at least consider it as a possibility.

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:


The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.


The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.


The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.


The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.


After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.

CFP expansion talks head toward October after 7-hour meeting

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

ROSEMONT, Ill. — The conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff met for almost seven hours Tuesday to work on expanding the postseason system from four to 12 teams as soon as the 2024 season.

There is still much work to be done.

“We will not wrap up this week,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, is scheduled to convene again at the Big Ten offices for a few hours Wednesday morning. They are set to meet again in person in Dallas on Oct. 20.

“That’ll be important,” Hancock said.

Expansion talks were revived by the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the College Football Playoff last month.

By adopting a 12-team plan that had been on the table since the spring of 2021, the presidents pushed the commissioners to try to implement a new format before the end of the CFP’s current contract with ESPN. That deal ends after the 2025 season.

Expanding from four to 12 in 2024 and ’25 will require rescheduling semifinals and championship games that already have dates and sites set, plus adding four new first-round games in mid-December to be played on campus sites.

Squeezing it all into about a month and working around the NFL for television will be challenging.

Hancock said the idea of moving up the start of the college football season to the week before Labor Day to create more room at the end for the playoff has been discussed, but more for beyond the 2025 season.

“I think most people view that as a future item. As long-term item and not an immediacy item,” Hancock said. “Remember, there’s so many details.”

Hancock said CFP officials have spoken to bowl partners and hosts cities that are set to hold semifinals and championship games after the 2024 and ’25 seasons, but they have not been presented definitive new dates.

Atlanta already has been chosen as the host city for the championship game to be played following the 2024 season, on Jan. 6, 2025. The game would have to be pushed back about two weeks if the playoff grows from four teams to 12.

“(Atlanta organizers) have some work to do because of other businesses in the community,” Hancock said. “Other meeting-type business, hotel business and Convention Center business there. They’ve been great to work with.”