• LSU fans are still heated over the Devin White call, but there's plenty of proof that the SEC offices aren't conspiring in favor of Alabama. Plus, Ohio State's offense, Kelly Bryant's 2019 team and the rest of the #DearAndy mailbag.
By Andy Staples
October 24, 2018

A controversial targeting call has everyone abuzz, and readers on both sides of the issue have questions…

From Ray: Was that targeting against Devin White? (It wasn’t.)

From Les: Do you feel the resurrection of “Dixieland Delight” directly led to the suspension of Devin White, OSU losing to Purdue and several blue-chip stocks losing value? I know my own stance but would welcome opinions from someone with a larger forum.

The targeting call that got LSU linebacker Devin White tossed during the second half of Saturday’s win against Mississippi State (and subsequently banned from first half of the Tigers’ Nov. 3 matchup against Alabama) has turned almost as contentious as the mid-term elections. James Carville, the Democratic strategist—and die-hard LSU fan—who helped Bill Clinton get elected president, wrote an op-ed for The (Baton Rouge, La) Advocate and went on Paul Finebaum’s SEC Network show and alleged a Deep State conspiracy that goes straight to the top of the conference and beyond. This cadre, Carville alleges, is hard at work to ensure Alabama keeps winning national titles. In Louisiana, Carville’s pleas to the SEC office to overturn White’s first-half suspension have bipartisan support.

Meanwhile, someone has bought billboard space in Alabama taking up White’s cause.

As you can tell by Les’s question, Alabama fans are having a lot of fun with these accusations from a rival that hasn’t beaten the Crimson Tide since 2011. They contend that Alabama has simply been better at football than the other teams in the SEC for most of the past decade.

So let’s examine the call at issue. Here is video of the play.

Objectively, this is one of the worst upheld targeting calls by an SEC crew since Georgia’s Ray Drew was ejected against Vanderbilt in 2013.

Like Drew, White appears to initiate contact with his hands. He does not lead with the crown of his helmet, but rather his facemask. He does not launch. The call should have been overturned by the replay official at the control center in Birmingham, Ala. (You’d better believe the location of said control center has come up this week. Of course, that’s also where the SEC office is. But that fact only adds further fuel to those inclined to believe the conspiracy theories.)

The call has produced lists of all the players whose games against Alabama this season were affected by targeting calls. Texas A&M’s Donovan Wilson was ejected early in the Aggies’ loss to the Crimson Tide. Missouri’s Terez Hall was ejected in the second quarter of the Tigers’ loss to the Tide and Tennessee’s Daniel Bituli was ejected late against Auburn, causing him to miss the first half of last week’s utter destruction of the Volunteers by Alabama. Meanwhile, the discrepancies between the calls on these two hits from the Texas A&M-Alabama game two years ago have made the rounds this week).

Does this mean SEC officiating crews are intentionally calling—or not calling—targeting incorrectly to protect Alabama? Probably not. The more logical explanation is that, like officials from every conference, the SEC’s officials struggle to apply the complicated targeting rule evenly and fairly, and sometimes the replay officials either back up bad calls on the field or fail to do their duty and stop the game to examine hits the on-field crew missed.

These conspiracy theories also fail to point out that Alabama players—sometimes very important ones—also get ejected for targeting. Linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton got ejected against Texas A&M in 2015 for a hit while blocking on a punt. Cornerback Tony Brown got ejected in 2016 for a block against Auburn. If the SEC officials were protecting Alabama, why would they toss one of the most valuable members of Alabama’s secondary in a huge rivalry game? Wouldn’t they find an Auburn player to toss instead?

The SEC didn’t help itself in this case last week with its handling of a situation involving Alabama defensive lineman Raekwon Davis, who was caught on camera punching a Missouri player on Oct. 13. Alabama coach Nick Saban said he discussed the incident with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and that any discipline would be handled in-house. Davis missed the first half of the Tennessee game.

Discussions between coaches and the commissioner of such incidents predate Sankey’s time as commissioner, but the way the information about this particular discussion trickled out would lead an Alabama-hater to believe the Tide and the league office are in cahoots when, in fact, this sort of thing happens with every team. While the SEC hasn’t bungled officiating matters as spectacularly as the Pac-12 has, this doesn’t help the optics. Of course, if the SEC took control of disciplinary actions in matters such as the Davis case, conspiracy theorists would just assume the league is too hard on their favorite team and too easy on that team’s rival.

In the SEC, all politics are local, and everyone is out to get your favorite team. The only way to defeat the shadowy cabal is to score more points than the other team on the field.

From Drake: Is Ohio State’s offense really in trouble? And if so (as ridiculous as this sounds) can Urban make it work with a non-dual-threat QB like Dwayne Haskins?

I was shocked at the way Ohio State abandoned the run game in its 49–20 loss at Purdue, but I was equally shocked at how ineffective that run game was in the first place. I figured the ascension of Haskins—a rocket-armed passer who prefers to stay in the pocket—would strip coach Urban Meyer of a crutch that has gotten him in trouble in the past.

Whether Tim Tebow or J.T. Barrett, Meyer has occasionally over-relied on his quarterback to carry the run game and forgotten his backs. This was most glaring in Ohio State’s 2015 loss at Michigan State, when Buckeyes coaches appeared to forget Ezekiel Elliott was on the team. With Haskins at quarterback, I figured Meyer would have no choice but to feed excellent backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber. But against Purdue, the Buckeyes ran 25 times and threw 73 times. The Boilermakers entered the night allowing four yards a rush, but they held the Buckeyes to three yards a carry. The inability of Ohio State’s offensive line to open holes against a defense that allowed 5.1 yards a carry against Missouri and 6.6 yards a carry against Nebraska is especially troubling.

Perhaps Dobbins or Weber would have popped a big run had Ohio State just kept pounding. (Purdue popped two huge D.J. Knox touchdown runs to put away the game in the fourth quarter.) But it’s understandable why Meyer and his staff felt they had to rely more on the pass game. Given the amount of short passes to receivers in space, some throws aren’t that different from handoffs.

But the bigger problem is Ohio State’s defense, which continually gives up explosive plays. The Buckeyes rank No. 108 in the nation in plays of 20 yards or more allowed with 42. Of those, 26 went for 30 yards or more. Only UNLV, Kent State and Connecticut have given up more 30-and-up plays. If the Buckeyes have any hope of winning out and making the College Football Playoff, then they must shore up the defense. If they keep allowing teams to gain chunks of yards, they won’t survive a stretch run that includes games against Michigan State and Michigan unscathed.

From @sixburgh: Any talk about where Kelly Bryant is looking?

Bryant, the former Clemson quarterback who took advantage of the new redshirt rule and left the team after getting supplanted by Trevor Lawrence, is actively seeking a new team for 2019. He has visited North Carolina, and on Saturday he visited Arkansas for the Razorbacks’ game against Tulsa. Current Arkansas coach Chad Morris helped recruit Bryant to Clemson but left to become the head coach at SMU before Bryant arrived on campus.

On Sunday, The (Columbia, S.C.) State reported that Bryant will visit Missouri this weekend when the Tigers host Kentucky. Current Missouri quarterback Drew Lock is a senior, so the Tigers will be seeking a new starter for 2019. Bryant, who graduated from Clemson in May, should have plenty of options by the time he makes his decision.

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