This one still stings. It’s going to sting for a while. Probably until next November.
It’s now been three days since The Game, and I’ve barely been able to bring myself to leave the house ever since. The sick feeling in my stomach is eerily reminiscent of feeling I had on a certain Tuesday night earlier this month. It’s like if you ate some really bad food and you were about to be sick, and just at the moment you were about to spew that grocery store sushi all over whoever might be unlucky enough to be within your blast radius, Mike Tyson came up and punched you in the stomach, then you got hit by a city bus. You could say I’m a little salty.
Before I dig into the reasons for my unremitting saltiness, let me get one thing clear. In the end, the only thing that matters is the final score. Ohio State won. Michigan lost. For the better part of The Game, the Michigan Wolverines were the better team. Anybody watching could plainly see that for three-plus quarters, Michigan’s top-ranked defense had the Buckeyes figured out. Then it all came undone. In the end, the loss is on Michigan and no one else. Two interceptions and a fumble by QB Wilton Speight on the OSU 1-yard line showed that the Wolverines signal caller was still affected by a shoulder injury that kept him out of the Indiana game, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. The Wolverines had every chance to win, and they didn’t. The only thing history will truly remember is the final score. 30-27 OSU in 2OT
That doesn’t mean that Michigan, their coach, their players or their fans don’t have ample reason to be angry after the game.
In his post-game press conference, Michigan’s head coach, Jim Harbaugh, relentlessly attacked the officiating. The Big Ten has since reprimanded him and fined the school $10,000. I’m sure the athletic department will be crippled by such an extreme penalty. Who cares, the conference had to do something about the post-game rant I suppose. What they didn’t do was own up to the fact that the officiating in this game was aggressively skewed in Ohio’s favor at worst and very suspect at best. Michigan finished the game with 7 penalties for 59 yards, a seemingly reasonable total for an emotion filled matchup against a hated rival. Ohio State finished the game with 2 penalties for 6 yards. That’s ridiculous. In a game featuring two of the best teams in the entire country, there’s no way the penalty count should be that lopsided.
The Big Ten should be ashamed for refusing to even comment on the officiating and for making a situation like this possible in the first place. The crew that was chosen to call this game have suspicion, ineptitude and conflict of interest written all over them. One of the zebras, Dan Capron, was disciplined by the Big Ten back in 2002 and not allowed to ref another game the rest of that season. Why is that guy on the field for the biggest game of the year? The other two officials, Kevin Schwarzel and Bobby Sagers Jr, both reside in Ohio. That doesn’t seem like a bad idea to the Big Ten? Hell, Schwarzel was barred from calling The Game in 2006 because of the question of his Ohio residency. It makes no sense to risk the integrity of the conference’s most important game into question. And that is exactly what has happened now.
I’m not saying that the game was rigged, but it looks suspicious enough that it warrants a closer look. Especially when the calls were so one-sided. Michigan had every chance to take this game out of the refs hands, and they didn’t. That can’t be denied. But why does it seem like officials always seem to have such an impact on the final scores of football games. From college, all the way to the NFL, referees, the supposed stewards of the game, always seem to be at the center of some controversy. It’s time that the governing bodies at all levels of football start to take this problem seriously. If all of the technological tools available were employed, there would never be a question of where the ball was on the 4th-down play. Michigan lost to Ohio State, but when there are these clouds of uncertainty surrounding the outcomes of games of this magnitude, we all lose.