4 Down Territory

Missing the Target:  An objective opinion on targeting in college football

Bedlam in the SEC

A Beautiful Mindset

World Series Preview: Boston vs. St. Louis

By Levi Dunagan

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1st Down:  Targeting in College Football

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Targeting has been the hottest issue in collegiate officiating this season.  The average fan is not in favor of the rule because they see it as making football “soft.”  They say things like, “They may as well just make it flag football.”

This is the type of irrational leap that fans are making.  I have been to numerous college games this season (and have watched an embarrassingly high number on TV).  I will assure you it is not becoming “flag” football.  The necessity to protect defenseless players is just that, a necessity.  It was not uncommon only a few years ago for defensive players to deliver massive hits to a receiver streaking down the sideline, leading with their helmet and aiming high.  Fans and announcers liked to call this “setting the tone.”

I want to point out that these types of hits are dangerous for the offensive player and the defensive player alike.  The rule is meant to protect defenseless players and to protect the players that hit them.

I do agree that if, after review, the play is confirmed to not have been targeting that the 15-yard penalty flag be waved off.  I do also feel compelled to mention that if your favorite player is ejected from a game for targeting, that it reflects on that player and not on the rule.  The rule is not to blame when players elect to endanger themselves, opposing players, and to violate rules that coaches preach to them in practice.

If you want to be sure you don’t get called for a penalty, then simply don’t aim at the player above the shoulders.  If you are leading with your helmet the penalty will be called. A lesson college players would do well to learn from the NFL, is that by wrapping up on a tackle the likelihood the penalty flag will be thrown is decreased dramatically.

In the end, I do expect the rule to be tweaked to include a dismissal of the penalty yardage if the instant replay confirms that there was no case of targeting.  Concussions will remain a major concern in football, whether or not your high school coach in 1978 thinks they are something to be concerned about or not. 

2nd Down:  SEC Upsets

Let me explain what we witnessed last weekend in the SEC. 

Missouri is better than Florida, who may not even go to a bowl game this year.  LSU wasn’t ready against Ole Miss, a rival who put forth an inspired effort.  Tennessee made one huge play down the stretch after a botched coaching move by Steve Spurrier, whose best coaching days are long behind him.  Auburn ran all over the worst defense in the SEC.  Even Johnny Manziel can’t save Texas A&M if their defense doesn’t improve.  Georgia’s depth chart looks nothing like it did in August.  The crippling injuries took their toll on the team against Vanderbilt.

I think the biggest issue with the term “upset” is that it implies a surprise, and this past weekend I just wasn’t shocked or surprised.  I am not saying I expected those outcomes to happen, far from it.  You can however; rest assured that none of those games would go down in any list of greatest upsets.

Missouri is the best team in the SEC East.  I don’t think teams know how to play them.  It is almost like it’s their first season in the conference and teams just haven’t figured them out.  A top-notch pass rush, towering receiving core, and some snarling upperclassmen lead Missouri.  Last season, Missouri was decimated by injuries and mostly forgotten about.

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Missouri is the average looking girl or guy from high school.  You then run into that person one day and you’re shocked.  They are much better looking than you expected.  Missouri should change their name to the ugly ducklings.  It’s not like there are that many tigers in Missouri anyway.

Auburn beat Texas A&M with a clutch 4th quarter drive and a Manziel injury.  Auburn’s coaching staff has been fantastic this season.  The talent level at the school was nowhere near as bad as last season’s record indicated.  Malzahn is a legitimate head coach with a sizeable talent pool and he is producing results.

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LSU’s Zach Mettenberger looked awful against Ole Miss.  He threw the ball into coverage and made mental errors.  Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace played well and the Rebel offense had over 500 yards against LSU.  The disappointing thing for Ole Miss has to be losing it’s chance at hosting College Gameday with close losses against Texas A&M and Auburn.

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3rd Down:  Maintaining a Winning Mindset

Every weekend in the college football season there will be a team whose goals for that season will be dashed.  The teams that lose put in just as much time as the teams that win.  They go through workouts, practices, and film sessions in the same way as the teams that are victorious.  So what do these teams do when the goal going into the season is no longer viable?

I have always felt that the teams that continue to play hard and win games are the ones who benefit the most the next season.  It is an opportunity to play loose.  The weight of the expectations is gone.  It often takes situations like this for teams turn the corner.  Florida won a national title, then lost four games the next season.  The players used the season as an opportunity to improve and to learn how to win.  The following season they lost only one game and won the national title.

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Teams who are able to play in bowl games get extra practices that help them going forward.  The bowl games are also an important recruiting tool as well as a nice way to cap off a career for older players.

4th Down:  World Series Preview

Let me begin by saying that I am not going to make a prediction.  I am going to help you decide whom to support in the series.

First, we have Boston.  The entire team sports a beard.  A beard can be a great look for some men and perhaps even some women.  Boston is hometown of Ben Affleck and Mark Wahlberg.  If you didn’t know that, then you have never seen a movie with either actor.  The accent is not subtle.  The band Augustana wanted to go there instead of staying in California.  I do not know why, and watching the music video didn’t help me.  Boston is known for throwing a massive tea party.

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On the other hand, St. Louis is the hometown of rap star, Nelly.  I only know one person who likes Nelly.  I find his music a little too abrasive, but I suppose some people enjoy his songs about hot clubs and his country remixes about spring break cruises.

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St. Louis has a roster of big, domestic players.  They are a homegrown organization.  In other words, they have players that are both large and American.  St. Louis has an amazing zoo and an arch.  I have been inside the arch and it is like being inside Willy Wonka’s factory.  It is both horrific and amazing.  St. Louis loves baseball.  St. Louis will try to be “southern” even though it’s not.

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