Instant Replay Begins & 2008 College Football Preview

Hello again everybody...

Lots to talk about today, so I'm going to skip the normal preamble. Instant replay begins tomorrow in baseball, so I'll talk about it. Then it's time for my Major Conference College Football Preview. In fact, there's so much involved in just those two that I'm going to move the usual Wednesday Peek at the Picks segment to Friday. So let's get right to it...

There are only two ways of telling the complete truth--anonymously and posthumously.
- Thomas Sowell (1930 - ), American economist, social commentator, and author

He probably should have added, "or via video feed from New York".

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That's right, Baseball's grand plan for the use of instant replay starts tomorrow. And in typical MLB fashion, it's complicated and confusing.

Here are the important details:

- Replay will only be used for home run calls. Whether a ball cleared a fence or not. Whether it crossed in front of or behind a foul pole. Or whether a fan interfered with a ball that was an apparent home run.

- It will not be used for balls that land close to a foul line on the field. It will not be used to determine whether a ball was caught on the fly or trapped. And it won't be used to determine whether a runner was safe or out.

- Replay review will be instituted at the discretion of the on-field Crew Chief. Not by the video office in New York. And not by any kind of "coach's challenge". If the Crew Chief decides that a play needs to be reviewed, the entire umpiring crew will leave the field and go to the replay monitor. They'll discuss the call with the replay officials in New York, but the on-field Crew Chief will make the final call. Once that call is made, any player, coach or manager who leaves the dugout to argue the call is subject to automatic and immediate ejection.

So there you have it. That's the plan. For the most part I have no problem with it. I think it's somewhat convoluted to have officials in New York, and yet require the Crew Chief on-site to make the final decision. But the umpires union was adamantly opposed to anyone other than an on-site official making the final decision. So that is what it is I guess.

The important thing is to get calls right. And there's no question that there have been several calls blown this year that could've easily been corrected via a replay system. Even one as limited as this.
What'll be interesting to me is how much of a delay these reviews cause in a game. NFL games were clearly slowed down by instant replay. But people gave the NFL a pass because they preferred getting the calls right to having games that were 5 minutes faster. It's my hope that the same thing will hold true in baseball.

I've heard some curious rumblings as to why they're changing the rules mid-stream of a season. And that's a good question. To me, this feels a lot like a trial run. They can give it a shot for the last month-plus of this year and if it works out, continue it into next season. If it fails, then they'll bag the idea and start over without it next year. I'm a little surprised that they couldn't devise a way to test it in the Arizona Fall League or something. But perhaps the technology involved was too cost prohibitive for those games. I doubt many of them were set up for TV coverage anyway.

So we'll see how it goes. It'll certainly get baseball some extra publicity as the NFL season approaches and the college football season begins. And maybe that has more to do with starting it now than anything else.

Speaking of college football, here it comes! Games start tomorrow night and I'm almost as excited as I get right before opening day in baseball. Those are really my two favorite times of the year: spring training/opening day in baseball and the start of college football. Perhaps that's because they're both harbingers of my two favorite seasons: spring and fall. The only thing nearly as good as basking in the warm sunshine of spring and smelling freshly cut grass for the first time in 5 months as you take in a baseball game, is heading out on a cool, fall Friday night or Saturday afternoon to take in a high school or college football game.

So in the interest of getting folks excited for the coming football season, here's my preview of the 6 major Division I football conferences:

Big Ten: I start with the Big Ten only because it's the conference I know the most about. Unfortunately for most fans, I have to pick Ohio State to win the conference yet again. QB Todd Boeckman is back with more experience under his belt and their RB Beanie Wells is being touted as a Heisman trophy candidate. The Buckeyes are tough again on defense with LB James Laurenitis leading the way. With Michigan in rebuilding mode, I'm not sure I see anybody in the league that can prevent OSU from winning yet another title (and oh yeah, they'll be in the National Title mix again). Wisconsin has a puncher's chance since they host the Buckeyes at Camp Randall, but they'll still be underdogs in that game.

Top 3: 1. OSU, 2. Wisconsin, 3. Illinois

Team to watch: Michigan. Rich Rodriguez is rebuilding the Wolverine roster to fit his spread-option offense. There's still plenty of work to do, but Rodriguez isn't used to losing. Michigan might be better than people think.

ACC: The only league with less national success than the ACC is the Big East. And I don't look for that to change much this year. The Coastal division should be particularly weak. In fact, this might be North Carolina's best chance in years to make some noise. Virginia Tech can't decide on a quarterback and Miami is struggling to keep it's players out of jail. That may create an opportunity for Butch Davis and his Tar Heels. In the Atlantic division, Clemson's the class of the conference. But don't count out Wake Forest either. The Demon Deacons caught some people by surprise last year. This year, they'll have to deal with expectations and not being able to sneak up on teams. I look for Clemson to emerge as the conference champion. We'll learn a lot about the Tigers this week when they take on Alabama at the Georgia Dome.

Top 3: 1. Clemson, 2. Wake Forest, 3. Virginia Tech

Team to watch: North Carolina. Butch Davis doesn't have the Tar Heels ready to challenge on a national level. But there's enough talent there to scare the dickens out of the rest of the Coastal Division.
Big East: Here's the other lightweight in the major conferences. The Big East is far better known as a basketball conference, but their recent reorganization has made the football a bit better. Rutgers, Louisville and South Florida have all made noise in recent seasons. But the team with the most success as of late has been West Virginia. The problem for the Mountaineers is that the man who brought them that success now coaches in Ann Arbor, Michigan. That's one of the reasons I like the Bulls from South Florida to win the conference. They got a taste of success last year, and that experience will prove invaluable this year. I'm not saying they'll be in the National Title mix, but it's my bet they'll play in a BCS Bowl for sure.

Top 3: 1. South Florida, 2. West Virginia, 3. Pittsburgh

Team to watch: UConn. The Huskies aren't a traditional football powerhouse, but in this league it isn't a long trip from the outhouse to the penthouse and UConn has enough athletes to win some games they probably shouldn't.

Big 12: This league was better balanced last year than in years previous. Missouri and Kansas were both in the National Title picture at various points late in the season, but neither could seal the deal when the time came. How they rebound from those disappointments is anyone's guess. They both return their talented signal-callers and in this day and age of the spread offense, there's no reason to think they can't repeat their offensive success of last year. But as Oklahoma showed in last year's Big 12 Championship Game, you need more than a high-octane offense to win in this league. It should be the same cast of characters battling it out in each division this year (Kansas and Missouri in the North, Oklahoma and Texas in the South). And ultimately, I see the same result. Oklahoma wins in the Championship contest.
Top 3: 1. Oklahoma, 2. Missouri, 3. Texas

Team to watch: Nebraska. Bo Pelini returns to try and rescue Cornhusker Nation from the depths that Bill Callahan took it to. The West Coast attack was a flop in Lincoln. We'll see how much Bo Knows about turning a program around. They could win 9 games, and if they do, they'll give Missouri and Kansas a serious headache in the North.

Pac 10: USC, USC, and more USC. There's a reason Pete Caroll's squad has owned this conference for years. They're in LA. He's got a system that suits itself to preparing college athletes for the NFL. And did I mention they're in Los Angeles? There's no reason to think things will change much this year. Dennis Erickson has Arizona State on the right track, but they still don't have enough to topple the Trojans. Rick Neuheisel's hiring at UCLA should create a rebirth of their rivalry with USC. Eventually. But not this year. Oregon's another club that could challenge, but they can't keep their quarterbacks healthy, so I don't see them getting it done either. So it looks like another Pac 10 title for the Trojans. The only question is whether they'll be in the BCS Title game. They'll be in the mix, but they'll have to keep Mark Sanchez healthy to get there.

Top 3: 1. USC, 2. Arizona St., 3. UCLA

Team to watch: Arizona. The Wildcats haven't been to a bowl game under Mike Stoops. And if he doesn't get that done this year, he'll probably be looking for work. They're as talented as they've been under his watch, so this is the ultimate now or never situation.

SEC: This is the toughest to handicap because it's by far the best conference in college football. There are at least 3 teams that could win the league (maybe more), and it's an odds-on bet that whoever does will be playing in the BCS Championship game. Georgia is a sexy pick to win the whole thing, and with good reason. RB Knowshon Moreno is another Heisman candidate and is definitely the real deal. And the Bulldogs are tough on defense as well. LSU is obviously another candidate to win the conference. Remember them? Last year's National Champs? Somehow they're not getting the attention you might think they deserve. That works just fine for me since I think their coach is a jerk anyway. But I'm picking the Florida Gators to win in the SEC Championship game. QB Tim Tebow won the Heisman last year and head coach Urban Meyer has surrounded him with even better talent this year. Critical games against Georgia in Jacksonville and versus LSU in Gainsville will tell the tale of Florida's season.

Top 3: 1. Florida, 2. Georgia, 3. LSU

Team to watch: Alabama. Nick Saban's charges have a chance to make a statement right away this Saturday with a neutral-site game against Clemson. The Tide don't have quite enough talent to challenge for the conference title yet, but I never bet against Saban winning a game he's not supposed to. And it might start in Week 1.

So there you have it. My 2008 College Football preview. The official Sports Take Picks column comes out tomorrow. For those of you who got the emails last year know what to expect. Those that didn't? Trust me, it's the finest in College Football prognostication! Okay, maybe not the "finest" per se... but I promise to make it as entertaining as I can!

That's all for today. Check back tomorrow for the picks and then Friday for the usual Sports Take goodness. Until then, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. I have extremely mixed feelings about you having mentioned Nebraska. :-)

    On the one hand, "Yay! Nebraska!"

    On the other hand, "Dan mentioned Nebraska..."