Bowl games heating up

Published 12:37 am Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This is, of course, the final column for 2008. I sincerely hope everyone had a great and blessed Christmas and will have a happy and (hopefully) prosperous New Year.

Southern Mississippi escaped from the New Orleans Bowl with a thrilling overtime victory over Troy, 30-27.

Southern overcame an early penalty for wearing the wrong-colored jerseys. NCAA football rules require the visiting team (which Southern was in the bowl game) to wear white jerseys. Southern came out in gold jerseys.

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The penalty for that violation is supposed to be a charged time out, and if all time outs are used up, a five-yard penalty is assessed. Since the penalty was marked off, I assume that Southern was assessed for multiple violations because all of their players were in the gold jerseys.

The rule used to require that, if the visiting team had no white jerseys available, the home team would have to wear contrasting jerseys. Under the current rule, a home team may wear white, but only if permission is granted by the visiting team prior to the opening of the season.

LSU, along with a few other teams, has customarily worn white at home and continue to do that for most games. A few LSU opponents will not agree to the change thereby forcing the Tigers to wear purple at home. That occasionally backfires, and LSU is able to use the opponents’ refusal to motivate the team.

I look for the horse collar rule to disappear from the NCAA rule book soon. Though I have seen the rule violated many times this season, I have yet to see an official call the foul.

I can only assume that college football officials have an unsaid and unwritten agreement to ignore the rule. In past years, as the game evolved, officials called fewer and fewer offensive holding penalties, and the rule was changed to actually allow the use of hands in blocking.

Through today no Southeastern Conference team has seen bowl action. The SEC bowl action will begin Wednesday when Vanderbilt drives across town in Nashville to face Boston College in the Music City Bowl.

Later that night in Atlanta, Georgia Tech will take an even shorter ride to take on LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Two more SEC squads will see action New Year’s Day when South Carolina plays Iowa in Tampa’s Outback Bowl and Georgia takes on Michigan State in the Capitol One Bowl in Orlando.

Friday, Jan. 2, is another big bowl day for the SEC. Ole Miss and Texas Tech play in the Cotton Bowl; Kentucky faces East Carolina in Memphis’ Liberty Bowl; and Alabama faces Utah in the Sugar Bowl. The climax will be Jan. 8 when Florida and Oklahoma play for all the marbles in Miami.

I have seen several interesting instant replay reviews this bowl season. Though I cannot actually disagree with any of the final decisions, there have been a couple I could question.

Each officiating crew assigned to a bowl game takes a review crew from their own conference. As all bowl officials are from neutral conferences, the replay officials are also neutral. Does that mean none of the officials’ rulings or play reviews will be automatically accepted by coaches, players and fans? Of course not. They never have been, and that will never change.

And, that’s official.

Al Graning writes a weekly column for The Democrat. Contact him at