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College football: On my soapbox ... Let them make plays!

I’m all for safety, but this stuff’s getting out of hand. At the rate things are going, the old two-hand touch rule will be here before you know it.

I’m exaggerating for effect here. Still, it seems every time I watch a football game, there are more and more flags for fewer and fewer indiscretions.

Receiver gets bumped a bit while both he and the defender are going for the football? Pass interference. Receiver fails to catch a crucial third-down pass? Look around for the officials and gesticulate wildly that there should be a flag; maybe you’ll catch some sympathy instead of that pass.

Quarterback throws the ball as the pocket collapses, then gets hit? Seems like nine times out of 10 these days, there’s going to be a yellow hanky littering the ground in the offensive backfield.

You say the pass rusher’s hand grazed the QB’s helmet? Well then, better award the offensive team 15 yards. Never mind that pass rushers are taught to stretch out their arms up and try to knock down the pass, and that gravity will eventually force those arms to come down … and that he’s still running full-tilt at the quarterback.

I mean, where do you think the pass rushers’ hands are going to go? Of course they’re going to hit the quarterback’s helmet or brush the facemask.

A guy’s getting close to the sideline? Don’t you dare try and complete the tackle, especially if it involves actually taking the ballcarrier to the ground. That’s 15 more yards, bub.

Last I checked, football is a contact sport, and injuries are inevitable. And while I understand that necessary steps must be taken to ensure the safety of the players, sometimes it seems like the powers-that-be (officials, rules makers, etc.) forget that these are high-tuned, high-performance athletes who can take a hit (or several).

Now, I know concussions are the hot-button issue right now, as well they should be. No matter how many torn ACLs or broken bones you see, those are wounds that will heal with the proper treatment and time (no offense to those who suffer them, because I’m sure they hurt quite a bit).

But the brain is a different animal altogether, and it doesn’t heal like other muscles. The more that can be done to make sure players don’t suffer
terrible, long-lasting mental problems in the future is paramount to the survival of the sport.

That said, I can’t even count the number of times already this season that I’ve watched a replay intended to show an egregious penalty, only to scratch my head and wonder what the officials were looking at. (I’m not alone, as there have been several instances where even the broadcasters are at a loss to explain it.)

Safety is important, especially when it comes to the brain, there’s no doubt about it. But we can’t treat these big, strong, powerful football players with kid gloves. Let them play, and let’s get back to where players are allowed to make plays and decide the outcome of games.

After all, flag football and two-hand touch games are for kids (and out-of-shape, past-their-nonexistent-athletic-prime sportswriters).

No. 12 Oklahoma vs. Texas

When: 11 a.m. Saturday TV: ABC

Where: Cotton Bowl, Dallas Line: Oklahoma by 13½

What’s up: This edition of the Red River rivalry looks lopsided, but that’s made for some big upsets over the years … but I just don’t think the Longhorns have the horses.

My pick: Oklahoma 38-21

No. 25 Missouri at No. 7 Georgia

When: 11 a.m. Saturday TV: ESPN

Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens Line: Georgia by 7½

What’s up: Bulldogs senior QB Aaron Murray is exorcising his past demons against top-flight foes, and I don’t think this week will be any different … especially with the wake-up call his team got last week against unranked Tennessee.

My pick: Georgia 31-10

No. 19 Northwestern at Wisconsin

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday TV: ABC

Where: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison Line: UW by 10½

What’s up: The Badgers had a week to rest up, while the Wildcats blew a chance to upset Ohio State. This one is going to have a lot of offense, and whichever style workks better – Wisconsin’s ground-&-pound or Northwestern’s spread-’em-out – will determine the winner.

My pick: Northwestern 44-41

No. 17 Florida at No. 10 LSU

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday TV: CBS

Where: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge Line: LSU by 7

What’s up: The Tigers saw their national title hopes take a hit 2 weeks ago at Georgia, but this weekend is another opportunity to get back on the proverbial horse ... and their defense needs to get stingier against the Gators’ balanced attack.

My pick: LSU 24-21

No. 2 Oregon at No. 16 Washington

When: 3 p.m. Saturday TV: FoxSports1

Where: Husky Stadium, Seattle Line: Oregon by 14

What’s up: The Huskies had a late lead against a physical Stanford squad and lost … and now face a different animal (bird, actually) in the Ducks’ break-neck pace. I like Oregon, even on the road, to make life rough for Washington.

My pick: Oregon 51-28

No. 9 Texas A&M at Mississippi

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday TV: ESPN

Where: Vaught-Hemingay Stadium, Oxford

Line: Texas A&M by 6

What’s up: The Rebels have fallen on hard times, and the road doesn’t get any easier this weekend. Defending Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel has made a lot of headlines off the field, but he has the Aggies rolling on it.

My pick: Texas A&M 34-24

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