Monday, September 15, 2008

Divergent Paths

Sour Grapes: My two favorite football teams played this weekend. The San Diego Chargers lost their second straight thriller, thanks to a referee's errant call. The USC Trojans crushed Ohio State 35-3. Both are favorites to play for all the marbles after the regular season. USC is on tract. It has the easiest remaining schedule among all the ranked teams since it is becoming crystal clear 2008 is a down year in the Pac10. The only team capable of beating this talented, skilled, athletic group of Trojans is USC beating themselves. UCLA? BYU embarrassed them 59-0. Only a healthy Oregon and resurgent Arizona State has a longshot at beating USC. Meanwhile, Missouri may have national title aspirations. So do LSU and Florida. It's too early to tell. Meanwhile, the Chargers need to find a way to stop the run and pass consistently for an entire game. The loss of All-Pro linebacker Shawn Merriman is hurting the pass rush more than expected. Normally, a losing team can blame only themselves but Sunday's one-point loss in Denver wasn't the case. In the first quarter, a Chargers pass completion was ruled a fumble because the stadium's instant replay monitors failed. Yet, television viewers were entitled to see it as a non-fumble. Denver converted the turnover into a touchdown. Late in the game, Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler fumbled before throwing a pass. Referee Ed Hockuli prematurely blew the whistle, erroneously believing it was an incomplete pass. He admited his mistake. Instead of the Chargers regaining possession and killing the clock to win the game, the rule that the whistle blew the play dead prevailed. Denver then scored a touchdown and two-point conversion for the victory. Unlike the colleges, an NFL team still can reach the playoffs and Super Bowl with multiple losses. The Chargers route becomes tougher with a 0-2 start. The NFL is always tweaking the rules in an effort to improve the game. But, there is nothing to be done to prevent a ref from blowing rather than swallowing his whistle. There is a way to make the replay system work. Just look at the national TV replay monitors and bypass the internal stadium feeds when they fail.

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