NCF Nation: Atlanta Braves

SALT LAKE CITY -- You can't watch one practice and thereby know a team. But that won't stop me from making a handful of quick observations on the Utes.
  • It was a good practice to watch: full-pads, lots of hitting. Day turned out beautiful after morning snow but practice was still indoors.
  • It seemed like there were more nice moments running the ball than passing the ball, but that should be expected with a pair of inexperienced backups trying to learn coordinator Norm Chow's West Coast offense. One observer noted that the play-action looks particularly needed work.
  • If I were forced to guess, I'd say true freshman quarterback Tyler Shreve is at least even with sophomore Griff Robles in their competition to back up Jordan Wynn.
  • One of my early thoughts was, "Utah passes the eye test. It looks like a Pac-12 team." Then I looked up at banners celebrating a pair of unbeaten seasons capped by BCS bowl wins. But of course Utah passes the eye test.
  • Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was listed at 330 pounds on the November depth chart. He now carries 310 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frames. He's a load and moves well. My guess is more than a few interior Pac-12 offensive linemen are going to wish he stayed in the Mountain West Conference.
  • Been hearing some good things about redshirt freshman tight end Jake Murphy, but the last name didn't register much until it was pointed out to me that the tall man standing near me was his father, Dale Murphy. If you grew up in Atlanta during the '80s, it didn't get much bigger than Murphy, the two-time National League MVP for the Braves. His other son, Shawn, is now playing for the Denver Broncos. It was a bit surreal having a casual conversation with a childhood hero. Really nice guy; just like his longstanding reputation.
Questioning officiating has long been a sport unto itself, but Pac-10 football officiating in recent years seems to have received more than its share of criticism. And much of it has been well deserved.

No exception this season. For example, it's abundantly clear that USC coach Lane Kiffin has a legitimate gripe about how the time was kept at Stanford last weekend.

And this Kerry Eggers column also raises another legitimate question: Should a replay official work a game involving his alma mater in his hometown, as was the case when Oregon State visited Arizona on Saturday?

What I can tell you is Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott has noted the frustration with Pac-10 officiating. My guess is Eggers' piece will end up on his desk.

The issue here isn't about whether an official is biased, though feel free to indulge in conspiracy theories (as an Atlanta Braves fan, I still need to spit every time I hear the name "Eric Gregg," who basically decided Florida pitchers would throw only strikes against the Braves in the 1997 NLCS).

It's about doing everything possible to ensure there are no grounds for an accusation of conflict of interest. That way when mistakes are made it's about screwing up rather than being compromised, which is far more insidious.

Odds are Jim Fogltance is an outstanding official and is doing his job as best he can. But it would be in the best interest of the Pac-10 if he doesn't work any more Arizona games in the future, unless it's the spring game.

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