Just For Argument's Sake ...

Originally Published: September 20, 2006
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

From nagging questions to soapbox moments to Heisman hype, here's a look at the hottest topics in college football.

1. Why does the Pacific-10 Conference insist that its officials call Pac-10 home games?
When the Pac-10 travels, its officials don't. And when the Pac-10 teams play nonconference games at home, Pac-10 officials call the game. It is a matter of pride.

"It's our feeling that it's kind of a point of integrity," said longtime Pac-10 associate commissioner Jim Muldoon on Monday. "We believe our officials are honest. We believe other officials are honest, so we don't believe in the time and expense of sending them all over the country."

Steve Slaton
AP Photo/Don Ryan
The OU-Oregon controversy has the Pac-10's policy of using its own officials being questioned.
On the other hand, Muldoon said those words as he assembled the statement and apology that commissioner Tom Hansen issued Monday. The Pac-10 meted out a one-game suspension to the crew and the replay official who worked the Oklahoma at Oregon game. Errors on two calls in the final 1:12 allowed the Ducks to come back and win 34-33.

Muldoon couldn't remember the last time, if ever, that the league issued an apology for officiating errors in a nonconference game. He said it has been years since the Pac-10 last considered adopting the same rule as other conferences and sending its officials on the road, and he doesn't expect the policy to change.

NCAA football rules boss John Adams estimated that more than half of I-A schools use their conference officials for nonconference home games. In higher-profile intersectional games, however, the visitors usually bring officials from their conference. Ohio State took Big Ten officials to Texas two weeks ago.

Athletic directors who schedule games with Pac-10 teams understand the drill. If you want to play on the West Coast, you play with their officials. And it is an improvement from the old days. Until the 1990s, many interconference games featured split crews, with half the officials coming from each league.

"I officiated a Big Eight game once when they said, 'The officials representing Oklahoma are …'" said Adams, a longtime official in the West. He said schools often argued over which conference would be able to assign an umpire, the official who calls holding.

"When I first came here [as head coach in 1990], we used to have split crews," Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said. "My first game here was against Cal, and we had a split crew."

Alvarez said that use of split crews ended because "the Pac-10 guys protected their teams." With a nod to the Oregon-Oklahoma debacle, he added, "It's still not uncommon, obviously."

Alvarez's Badgers played home-and-home series with Oregon and Arizona during his 16 seasons as head coach. He felt Wisconsin didn't get a crucial call late in a game at Oregon in 2001, when what Alvarez believed was a fumble by Ducks quarterback Joey Harrington was ruled an incomplete pass. Oregon maintained possession and won, 31-28.

Not that coaches have long memories. Of course not. Just ask Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. Or ask University of Oklahoma president David Boren, who took leave of university business Monday long enough to ask that the result of the Oregon game be stricken from the record books.

"I also hope this situation," Boren added, "will lead the Pac-10 to change their policy of requiring that only officials of the Pac-10 officiate the home games of Pac-10 universities when they are hosting a nonconference opponent."

Muldoon said Tuesday, according to the Associated Press, that the league athletic directors will review the policy when they meet on Oct. 12.

2. Why is Adrian Peterson more effective in the second half?
The longer the game goes, the longer Peterson goes. The Oklahoma junior tailback's numbers are startling.

In the first half this season, Peterson has rushed for 164 yards. In the second half, he has run for 351, or 68 percent of his total of 515 yards. It's a pattern that he has established over the course of his two-plus seasons with the Sooners. In the first half, he has rushed for 1,322 yards. In the second half, he has rushed for 2,226 yards, or 62.7 percent of his total of 3,548 yards.
Adrian Peterson
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Adrian Peterson has gained 68 percent of his yards this season after halftime.

It's especially remarkable given that Oklahoma has won six games in Peterson's career by at least 24 points, which means less time for him in the fourth quarter.

The reason, Oklahoma center Jon Cooper said, is simple.

"He's in better shape than everybody else," Cooper said. "When other guys are tired, he's still going 110 percent."

Peterson is 6-foot-2, 218 pounds and runs a sub-4.4 40. His motor can go a long time between oil changes. It's funny, isn't it, how the most talented guys are also the hardest workers. Cooper said that when he gets in his stance and looks across the line, he sees the results of Peterson's labors.

"The defensive linemen and the linebackers look at him standing straight up," Cooper said. "Those guys are breathing hard and sweaty. They don't look like they want any part of him. He's going hard all the time. He's the same way in practice. It can be the last play in practice. He's finishing in the end zone."

The offensive linemen and receivers see Peterson work hard and they work hard. It may be subliminal. It may be contagious. It may simply be learning by repetition, over and over.

"Watching him break tackles and do stuff nobody else can do, you think, 'If I block my guy a little more, he [Peterson] is going to take a regular zone play the distance,'" Cooper said. "Coach [Kevin] Wilson [the Sooners' offensive coordinator] said it's like breaking rock with a hammer. You're not going to break it with the first strike. Anybody can tackle him once. By the last time, there's no way. He's going to break them down."

3. How low has the ACC sunk?
ACC When the Atlantic Coast Conference released its 2006 football schedule last winter, you didn't have to be a nutritionist to detect the lack of iron in the league's diet. Yet without the I-AA junk food, the league barely has a winning record. The ACC is 9-8 against other Division I-A schools, and only 2-5 against leagues that also get an automatic bid to the BCS. Those two victories belong to Wake Forest, over Syracuse (20-10) and UConn (24-13).

Before you say, "At least the ACC is still better than the Big East," look again. The ACC is 2-4 against the league it raided.

The ACC is 1-2 against the Mid-American Conference. The ACC's other six nonconference I-A victories have come against Troy (twice), Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee State, Central Michigan and, in overtime, Wyoming and BYU.

Those last two victories could mean that the ACC is roughly equal to the Mountain West Conference. But then no one in the ACC has played TCU, either. The ACC has established, by dint of a 4-0 record, that it is better than the Sun Belt Conference.

ACC teams have lost by at least 20 points to No. 4 West Virginia, No. 8 Louisville, Pittsburgh and Southern Mississippi -- a good lineup, but not exactly the 1927 Yankees. More like the 2006 White Sox.

N.C. State and North Carolina have resorted to that coaching standby, the quarterback switch. Miami has denied that it will resort to that athletic department standby, the coaching switch.

Can a case be made for the defense? Football is cyclical. Both Maryland (2-1) and Florida State (2-1) have young teams.

"This team here looks like a team with potential that you can tell isn't there yet," Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said. "If we can just continue to manage to win until we finally grow up and get it together … that's kind of the way it is. It's not like we can just walk out there and beat people."

It used to be that way for Florida State and for Miami. They are the foundation on which the expansion of the ACC was built. When the league raided the Big East to take Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College, no one questioned whether the league belonged among the top I-A conferences.

This season, the league motto is: "Hey, Sun Belt! Want a Piece of Me?"

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com