This is not a post about the J.T. Barrett spot. I mean it.
But the Big Ten is now formally acknowledging other mistakes from Michigan’s loss at Ohio State on Nov. 26, which landed the Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff and knocked the Wolverines out. They come from a Chicago Tribune interview with Bill Carollo, the Big Ten’s football officials coordinator.
After an interview with Carollo, reporter Teddy Greenstein writes:
There was one egregious no-call, as bad a whiff as the officials had at any moment of this Big Ten season. On third-and-7 in the first quarter, Michigan's Amara Darboh got fouled twice on one play — defensive holding and pass interference — and neither penalty was called. What makes it worse is he was the intended receiver.
Another no-call that went against Michigan came after Jabrill Peppers' third-quarter interception. Just as Peppers was being tackled, Ohio State's Mike Weber decked Michigan cornerback Brandon Watson, who was standing nearby, not involved.
The whistle had not blown, so technically the no-call was valid. But Weber's action fit the definition of unnecessary roughness. It was a cheap shot, the kind of hit that could start a fight. Carollo downgraded the official who declined to throw the flag.
Some of the phrasing around the Darboh play is a little unclear, but it seems like Carollo — and thereby the Big Ten — is formally acknowledging a missed pass interference and/or holding flag on Ohio State on one play, and a missed personal foul on Ohio State on another play. These were both, indeed, missed calls.
Here’s Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore definitely, beyond any doubt, committing either defensive holding or pass interference on Darboh:
And here’s Ohio State’s Weber flying in to evaporate Michigan’s Watson after that Peppers interception in the third quarter, unquestionably without need:
These were both fouls. They should have been called, and good on Carollo for being transparent and acknowledging as much.
The Barrett spot, according to Carollo, was harder to peg:
And on the game's most controversial play — The Spot — Barrett was ruled on the field to have broken the plane of the 15-yard line when a Michigan defender contacted him. The ruling was close enough, Carollo said, that whatever was called on the field would not have been overturned by replay.
If you don’t root for one of the teams involved, it’s nearly impossible to say whether Barrett reached the first-down line-to-gain on this fourth-down conversion try in double overtime:
Barrett got the mark, of course, and it set up a game-winning touchdown. Michigan fans will be mad about it forever. Conversely, Ohio State fans have T-shirts for it.
Michigan was immediately furious with the refs, during and after the game.
Harbaugh said after the game he was “bitterly disappointed” with the officiating and earned a Big Ten fine for his comments. A few Michigan players suggested or said outright on Twitter that the game had been rigged.
One common complaint on the internet has been that the Big Ten crew that called the game had three Ohio residents on it, including some who made questionable calls. (The crew also had three Michigan residents, for whatever it’s worth to you.)
But Carollo says that was the Big Ten’s highest-rated crew coming into the game, and the Tribune article gives good reasons why this is OK:
If the conference had a residency rule, that crew would be all over the Maryland-Rutgers and Minnesota-Wisconsin games but not much else. (Incidentally, Carollo once jokingly asked Harbaugh if his team's drubbing of Penn State should have been invalidated by the presence of four officials from Michigan.)
What might draw extra scrutiny is if an official was next-door neighbors with a coach, if the official's son or daughter worked in the athletic department of a Big Ten school or if the official donated to a school that is not his alma mater.
We’ll never know if Michigan would’ve won with a few better officiating breaks. Maybe it would’ve, or maybe things would’ve been exactly the same. None of this changes any of that, but it gives us a better sense of the Big Ten’s view, at least.