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A Pac 10 Writer’s Thoughts On Pac 10 Officials

We all remember what happened the last time Oklahoma traveled to Pac 10 Country to play a football game. Needless to say last Saturday’s controversial call in the BYU/Washington hasn’t done much to improve our faith in Pac 10 officials. With the bitterness of the Oregon game still in our mouths there is the chance that officiating could become the subplot in the minds of Sooner fans.

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times agreed to check in with us to answer some questions and share his thoughts and opinions on the Pac 10 and Oklahoma’s opponent this weekend, the Washington Huskies. Welcome aboard the Machine, Bob. Thanks for your time!

CC Machine: I have to start with what everyone is already talking about. Most Oklahoma fans felt that the penalty on Locker at the end of the BYU game was a horrible call but then again we know all too well what it is like to get jobbed by Pac 10 officials. How much confidence do you have in Pac 10 officiating and how would you respond to the national perception that they are among the worst in college football?

Bob Condotta --- Like a lot of things, a few bad moments can really color the perception of a conference. What I think the conference has going against it are two things --- a reputation for being overofficious, and for not handling some real high-profile late-game situations all that well. The two actually help feed each other. Pac-10 games are known for being called more tightly than other conferences, and when more penalties are called, there's a chance for more penalties to be questioned. The other problem is that the conference has been a little behind the times getting its replay system up to speed everywhere, which was at the heart of the Oregon-Oklahoma deal a few years ago. The Pac-10 will have a new commissioner by this time next season and fixing the image of the refs will be among his most pressing duties. The one irony in the current deal, of course, is that Pac-10 officials were accused during the Oregon-Oklahoma fiasco of being homers for the conference. In the latest deal, they obviously hurt the conference team with their controversial call. So maybe it's simply moments of incompetence and not rampant bias that is the issue.

CC Machine: Washington's defense has two true freshmen and two walk-on's in the starting 11. Where are they strong and where do you feel that Oklahoma can exploit them?

Bob Condotta --- That's actually not completely true. There are two walk-ons in the starting 11 this week, though one is due to injury --- strong safety Tripper Johnson, who actually would have been a pretty highly-rated football recruit out of high school had he not decided to play baseball instead. After eight years of minor league baseball he walked-on the team last spring. He's starting with Darin Harris out with an injury. But there is only one true frosh starting, tackle Senio Kelemete though they rotate so much up front that the designations are a little bit of a formality. As anyone who has watched UW play defense the last few years, they can be exploited everywhere. UW is giving up 485 yards per game --- a pretty even split of 289 passing and 195 running. At the moment, it's hard to say they are strong anywhere given that they had the worst defense in school history last season and through two games, are allowing more yards and points than that one did.

CC Machine: The Huskies offense went toe-to-toe with #18 BYU on Saturday losing by only one point. How much have they progressed since the Oregon game and what should Oklahoma fans expect to see in the way of formations and schemes?

Bob Condotta --- The biggest area they progressed was in the passing game, where a talented group of young receivers appears to be getting better quickly. What's hard to tell is how much the opponent played into that --- Oregon has one of the best secondaries in America while BYU's was probably the weakest area of its entire team. The running game also got better against BYU, and they may have found a running back in David Freeman, who didn't play against Oregon. The defense did better mostly in forcing two turnovers at key times to stop potential scoring drives, one at the goal line. And the special teams was a lot better against BYU until that final kick.

CC Machine: Jake Locker
is the name that most Oklahoma fans would recognize from this Washington team. Who are some of the other playmakers on offense and defense that we need to be aware of?

Bob Condotta --- Offensively, tight end Kavario Middleton is a future star, and WRs Jermaine Kearse and Jordan Polk are really fast and show a lot of ability. But all are true freshmen so some ups and downs are to be expected. And as mentioned above, Freeman is likely to take over at RB this week and he showed some promise against BYU.

Defensively, sophomore FS Nate Williams is a big hitter who forced a fumble at the goal line against BYU, and sophomore LB Mason Foster also shows a knack for being around the ball. Junior DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim is the most experienced player up front and made a lot of plays last season, but has struggled a bit this year.

CC Machine: In your opinion, who will be the #1 team in the country on Sunday - USC, Georgia or Ohio State and where do you feel the Sooners fit into that mix?

Bob Condotta --- USC, with Oklahoma still third after Georgia also wins.