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4 Downs: An interesting statistic, recruiting update and more

 

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FIRST DOWN: Recruiting update 

 

Mississippi State added a commitment early this week, East Mississippi Community College offensive lineman (and high school teammate of Kylin Hill) LaQuinston Sharp. 

 

(The timing of that commitment -- a junior college offensive lineman after the tackles struggled so badly in Lexington -- is hilarious, but I digress.) 

 

That commitment should almost wrap up their efforts on the line of scrimmage: they'll probably go for one more offensive linemen, but they should be done on the defensive line provided they close the deal with all of their current commits. 

 

The biggest issue remains at running back. MSU needs one bad and there isn't an obvious great uncommitted prospect out there. With offensive line, defensive line, quarterback and secondary almost entirely done -- maybe one or two more guys among those positions -- I would imagine most of their effort goes there. 

 

SECOND DOWN: Issues on the Plains 

 

I was really high on the Auburn offense coming into the season and let me tell you, I have been mightily disappointed. A running back corps with a lot of promise is still looking for its alpha and go-to play maker, even if Boobee Whitlow is starting to emerge. We're nearing the end of September and the Tigers are still tinkering with the offensive line -- and at center, no less. 

 

Injuries have done a number on the wide receiving corps and that shows in some of the advanced numbers: the Malzahn offense thrives on big plays through the air and it hasn't been good in that regard. It even had a promising talent, Nate Craig-Myers, transfer away from the program's wide receiver position. 

 

Auburn still has nearly two weeks to get it right, but there is certainly reason for concern early. 

 

THIRD DOWN: One interesting number 

 

I'm still going to wait another week or two before I make my own dive into statistics on this team, mostly for sample size purposes, but here's one that I find interesting even in this sample: according to Bill Connelly's team profiles, MSU ranks 74th in average offensive field position (29.5-yard line) and 103rd in average defensive field position (31.3-yard line). 

 

The obvious explanation for the offensive field position is turnovers -- MSU has only generated four of them, giving MSU's opponents the opportunity to either punt or kick the ball off, both are usually bad for field position. I think there are a few factors going into the defensive field position thing: MSU is 74th in the nation in kickoff coverage, so there's a few yards, but the biggest factor is punting. 

 

MSU ranks 101st in the nation in punting right now, and Moorhead hinted at wanting improvement there by letting Kody Schexnayder punt once in Lexington and point out that they will allow a competition to continue on. 

 

FOURTH DOWN: The biased ref theory 

 

One of the most prominent things in the dumpster fire that has been my Twitter mentions over the last four days has been that referees are always biased against Mississippi State and it manifested itself against Kentucky. 

 

This idea assumes so many completely illogical things. 

 

It assumes referees are not graded, which they are; they're graded to assign them to bowl games. Despite the abuse that these people take from people who have no grounds to do so, there are tons of people that want to be officials. If someone had proven themselves to be bad, it would be easy to replace them with someone with potential, and that's exactly what would happen. 

 

On the subject of those grades, it also assumes in that list of grades, these people would be totally incapable of seeing an obvious trend. Think of it this way: you're a sales supervisor over a group of traveling salespeople. You have access to a basic conversion percentage, as in how often the person is successful in a sales pitch. The salesman is at or above 90 percent in Indiana, Illinois and Iowa, but it dips to 65 in Michigan. You're going to stop sending that person to Michigan, right? Do you truly believe these people -- whose job it is to coordinate officiating -- would not notice something so blatantly obvious, especially when it's as black-and-white as number grades? 

 

Bigger than those faulty assumptions is this: I don't understand why someone would choose to live their lives this way. As a fan, you watch every game. You invest yourself in the players, the coaches, you read about them, learn about them as people, maybe in some respects feel like you know something about them as people off the field. 

 

All that effort exerted, just to believe that all of it will be made null and void. 

 

Above all else, that's just sad to me. In my experience as a fan (the Oakland A's, Atlanta United, Tottenham Hotspur), I couldn't live with watching games thinking the people that don't play for either team will decide the game. I couldn't do it and I can't believe people out there can. 

 

Ultimately, my hope is that the college football hive mind can treat officiating as we treat the corner of the strike zone in baseball: sometimes you get the breaks, sometimes you don't, but in a large enough sample size, it all balances out. Sure, in small samples such as a single game, annoying things can and will happen, but we also don't see those calls as the reason the game was decided. We will (rightfully) have more scrutiny if the game happens to end on a call that is objectively bad, but we will also look to the plate before it and realize the teams on the field had plenty of opportunity to take the game elsewhere, but they didn't. 

 

I realize that won't happen for myriad reasons, the most obvious being a loss in football is infinitely more critical than a loss in baseball. But a man can dream, right? 

 

Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson

 

 

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