Column: Was JT Barrett short?

Beau Troutman

Was JT Barrett short?

It’s a question that will be asked until the end of time by Michigan fans, and certainly a question that took social media by storm after Barrett, the Ohio State quarterback, got the first down on a fourth down and one in double overtime in his team’s 30-27 win over Michigan at Ohio Stadium Saturday, Nov. 26.

The fourth down conversion set up a 15-yard game-winning touchdown by Ohio State H-back Curtis Samuel.

According to user ‘santy,’ who did a thorough examination of the play using still images, gifs and resolving the ‘Parallax Error’ created by the moving camera angles, Barrett got the controversial first down by ‘one or two inches.’ That’s a close call, and it’d be hard to fault the referees for such a close difference.

But Michigan fans will tell you there’s more to this story. The referees have received much criticism and allegations they slanted calls toward OSU. Michigan was penalized seven times for 59 yards, while the Buckeyes got flagged twice for six yards.

Not only that, but they’ll tell you the officials working the game, lead official Daniel Capron, side judge Bobby Sagers and back judge Kevin Schwarzel were in on the fix. According to Athens News in Athens, Ohio, Schwarel was barred from working the 2006 edition of the rivalry because he was “an Ohio State fan growing up.”

Sagers is in the Ohio High School Hall of Fame, and Capron doesn’t have Ohio ties, but is alleged to be incompetent—he was fired in 2002 by the Big Ten Conference for a “poor job” during a match-up between Purdue and Wake Forest, according to a statement released by the conference that year.

So it has to be conclusive, right? The evidence is all there, I’ve just spelled it out in front of you.

Sure, the circumstances are compelling. Did I agree with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh getting flagged for throwing a play sheet on the sideline? Not really. Do I think Michigan got screwed on some missed pass interference calls? Yes I do. Should those refs have been at that game? I definitely don’t think so. Do I think there was a conspiracy in the biggest game of the 2016 regular season? Sorry, but that’s a question better left to Fox Mulder.

We will never get a universally accepted answer on ‘SpotGate.’ There will always be the controversies surrounding the refs working that game, but there will never be concrete evidence of the refs and OSU colluding against Michigan. It will always be a controversy, not a scandal.

Here’s what Michigan fans should be angry about: The College Football Playoff Committee ranked them No. 5 in the country behind No. 4 Washington. Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson stayed at the top three, in that order.

When Michigan lost to Iowa Nov. 12, they only dropped one spot from No. 2 to No. 3. Iowa was only 5-5 on the season at the time, and the game was considered a big upset. However, the committee set a big precedent by only dropping Michigan one spot.

Then you have this most recent game, and Michigan is coming off of a three-point loss to the No. 2 team in the country on the road. By ranking Michigan at No. 5, two spots below their previous ranking, the committee is reneging on its past decision to drop the Wolverines only one spot after losing to a mediocre team.

If Washington defeats No. 9 Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship this Saturday, Dec. 3, it almost guarantees the Huskies the No. 4 spot due to the unlikely circumstance of Wisconsin and Penn State playing for the Big Ten Championship Saturday—both team are ranked below Ohio State and Michigan. Michigan has the head-to-head win over both teams, and OSU isn’t going anywhere at No. 2.

If Alabama defeats No. 15 Florida and Clemson handles No. 23 Virginia Tech, it will mean Michigan will be left out of the 2016 college football playoff.

Is all of this set in stone? Of course not. Washington and Clemson could both lose. But if they win, Michigan fans need to channel their anger not at referees or Barrett, but the committee.

Because with the committee, at least there’s evidence that they screwed you.