Perhaps the reason the SEC has some of the toughest defenses in all of college football is because the conference ... uh ... lets the refs get in on the tackling-action.

Upon seeing the now-infamous clip on Monday, I sent a quick e-mail to Campus Clicks scribe and SIOC editor Mallory Rubin asking a simple question: "Is that real?!?" But after her response ("Yessir."), my confusion remained. Yes, SEC referee Wilbur Hackett apparently threw a forearm shiver to South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia. And, no, nobody really seemed to give a damn until the blogosphere took the clip and ran on Monday morning.

How is this possible?

Simply put, this video clip is the stuff of which great commercials are made. Literally. It delivers the same awe-inspiring impression as LeBron James sinking full-court shots or Michael Vick throwing a football into the nosebleeds. How, then, could this sort of thing have occurred without more hoopla from the national media? Doesn't this only happen when a ref's siding with a content Buffalo Wild Wings crowd or vying for a free Bud Light from the defense?

In all fairness, the SEC tried. The conference issued a statement saying Hackett merely acted in self defense. But that hasn't quite quelled the curiosity, especially since it looks like he was playing regular defense.

While it'd be crazy to think Hackett had a vendetta against South Carolina, the official explanation doesn't quite fit the crime. So, it'd almost be better if the SEC just made something up. Say Garcia insulted Hackett's mama. Say Hackett tried to fix the game. Say a swarm of killer bees tried to swallow him alive. Say anything.

Sometimes far-fetched plays demand ridiculous excuses -- even if they're not entirely true.

Well, it's official. The Washington State Cougars have become the free space on a bingo card.

It's mean to say, but fresh off the Cougars' 69-0 loss to USC, it's becoming increasingly clear the Cougars are only interesting because they've been so grossly uncompetitive. Serious injuries at quarterback haven't helped, but you can't help but be simultaneously impressed and repulsed by their overall body of work. They're 0-6 against FBS competition and have lost by 26, 63, 49, 25, 53 and 69 points, respectively. It's hard to believe they haven't pulled an Elite XC and just packed it in.

So, I've got a proposal. Given the Cougars' current state of awfulness, college football should pass an emergency amendment: Teams should only be allowed to count their wins against Washington State if they prove victorious in the face of self-inflicted handicaps. Which is to say, if teams want to actually use this victory toward bowl eligibility, they must make things interesting by, say, limiting their protective padding, refusing to use modern technology and/or allowing power plays after every penalty.

It just seems fair.

We've got the BCS and the make-believe concept of ranking all teams fairly to thank for an exciting time in college football: The Lobbying Era! The Lobbying Era implies mere words will make up for on-field play and overrule any preconceived notions held by the pollsters, which, of course, never happens. This has gone on forever, but with this whole Internet thing taking off and BCS bowls promising more lucrative payouts, it seems coaches, players and fans are yelling even louder to try and make cases for their respective teams. And that's fine, because a pack of whiny SEC fans always make college football more interesting.

What is disappointing, though, is Mack Brown's Texas team may be so far and away better than any team in the country -- assuming it can win its next two games -- that he won't even need to "sell" his Longhorns to the voters. It'd be like not having the Yankees in the playoffs, and it'll surely leave some kind of uncomfortable void in our hearts. If nobody can play with Texas right now and the Longhorns finish the year as the undisputed top team, which coach will rise to the occasion and set the bar for shameless acts of self-promotion?

1. Unhealthier drink: Red Bull or Vodka?

2. Better football turf: Natural grass or FieldTurf?

3. Better free e-mail provider: Yahoo! or Gmail?

4. Weaker conference: Pac-10 or Big Ten?

5. More likeable '80s toy: Army Ants or My Buddy?

6. Better stadium nickname: The Horseshoe or The Swamp?

7. Better fad diet: NutraSystem or The Morning Banana Diet?

8. Better Vick brother: Michael or Marcus?

9. Better Missouri adjective: Overhyped or Overrated?

10. Likelier World Series champ: Phillies or Rays?

We all knew they were coming...

Some Nittany Lions supporters met my comments last week (which implied Penn State should retain Joe Paterno next season but announce a succession plan) with much malign. Angry alum Foster was more outraged than most, though:

I graduated from Penn State in 2004, the same year as you did. Your noise about JoePa is tired. Sure, I hated that the four years I was at Penn State, we only went to one bowl game and lost it (because Joe was out-coached by Tommy Tuberville and [Zach] Mills was awful). I got over it, though. The fact that you can't is pretty sad and tragic ... but mostly lame. Your ton of respect [for Paterno] would seemingly conflict with your sorely misguided advocacy of his ouster. What's bordering on denial is your unwillingness to admit your vendetta against JoePa.

Great point, Foster. And for your next trick, I'd appreciate it if you could show me where I called for Paterno's ousting. Last I checked, I hadn't organized an angry alumni coup, but had merely pointed out the obvious: Paterno's not the same coach he once was and Penn State would be prudent to announce some sort of succession plan ... or at least acknowledge it isn't staking its future on the waters from a fountain of youth.

Last week's dreadful 0-3 showing should convince us all it's unwise to wager hard-earned cash on 18-22 year old males playing a contact sport. Onto this week...

Penn State (-2) at Ohio State

Oregon (-4) at Arizona State

Texas Tech (+2) at Kansas

Last week: 0-3

Season: 2-4

Ty Hildenbrandt writes Quick Slants every week. E-mail him at tyhildenbrandt@gmail.com and check out his podcast at SolidVerbal.com.

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