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Pac-12 LOLfficiating: League Must Clamp Down On Flag-Happy Refs

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So I was going to do a story on how Arizona State penalties are going to be a major point of contention for them next season. As Brad Denny noted in his Pac-12 preview,

120th, 114th and 120th. Those are ASU’s national ranks among the 120 FBS teams in penalty yards per game since 2009. Since his introductory press conference, Graham has preached and practiced discipline in every facet of the program. With a team that figures to be in a number of close contests this year, the Sun Devils cannot afford to shoot themselves in the foot with penalties.

Bad numbers all-around, and just a bad trend for Dennis Erickson's final teams. You can't keep on having your team at the absolute bottom of the totem pole. Penalty yards might have cost ASU a bowl appearance or two, and definitely undid their Pac-12 South title bid last season.

However, then you start scrolling down the list.

Cal: 119th, 72.4 penalty yards per game.

The Bears did seem to commit a lot of infractions on the offensive line as they adjusted to having minimal talent in the trenches. That was an issue all season, so maybe this isn't so disturbing...

Oregon State: 118th, 68.7 penalty yards per game.

Well, they weren't a good football team.

Colorado: 115th, 66.6 penalty yards per game.

I mean, they weren't good either, but neither was Maryland, and they were 11th on this list.

Arizona: 111th, 65.1 penalty yards per game.

5-7 Navy was first on this list, 5-7 San Jose State was third. Second? ROLL TIDE.

This stat might not have any correlation to performance, but as a conference it's a bit exasperating to see these figures. Seriously though, five teams in the bottom ten?

Oregon: 110th, 65 penalty yards per game.

Make that six teams in the bottom eleven, and welcome your 2011 Pac-12 champions!

Rounding out the full list ...

Team National Rank Penalty Yds/G
Arizona St. 120 79.8
California 119 72.4
Oregon St. 118 68.7
Colorado 115 66.6
Arizona 111 65.1
Oregon 110 65
Wash. St. 103 63.2
Washington 89 59.5
UCLA 86 59
Stanford 79 55.2
Utah 68 51.7
USC 60 50

So basically, EVERY PAC-12 TEAM was at best straddling the mean, and everyone else was an undisciplined entourage of smugglers and vagabonds. Yes, even Stanford and USC, the pillars of pro-style discipline, could barely manage the national average.

Now, look. The Pac-12 wants to make sure they enforce the letter of the law. That's great. Get calls right. You don't want to end up blowing a call that costs a team a win. That would suck.

What's not great is being overzealous on calls and sometimes "overcalling" games where flags come in droves and end up detracting from the overall game experience. Enforce the obvious, but don't try to identify every potential infraction. The need to enforce the letter of the law leads to too many cases where it's unclear whether a call is correct or not, and then people start quoting "Pac-12 refs" on message boards and blog comments like ours with obvious derision. There isn't any real point to the zealous style either--the list of people who like more flags are a list of people who no one wants to meet.

The Pac-12 has plenty of exciting coaches, playmakers and schemes that'll be introduced in their first year of fully-fledged television coverage. Don't let the officials ruin it with a parade of yellow.