A field-level view of the BCS top 5

Updated: November 1, 2011, 1:01 PM ET
By Ryan McGee

Because my father was an FBS college football official most of my life, I grew up in a house where referees were celebrated as people who understand the game on a level that few ever achieve.

To any reader who has ever called a ref an idiot -- which is to say, all of you -- that may read like a bit too much hyperbole. It's not. It's the truth. Officials, the good ones anyway, watch film, study team tendencies and spend their weeks leading into big games exchanging information about upcoming teams. Who do they talk to? They talk to each other.

No one, save the players and coaches, has an on-field view of what teams and players are capable of like the officials do. Sometimes their vision is even clearer than the competitors, thanks to emotion-free eyes.

Every Friday my Pops would leave for a game, turning to me and my little brother and dropping such predictions as, "Be sure to keep an eye on Raghib Ismail. I'd be shocked if he doesn't return at least one punt for a touchdown down the left side." And then, every Saturday, whatever he said would happen, happened.

With that in mind, I went searching for intel on the BCS title contenders from officials who have been on the field with them this year. Understandably, none wanted their names attached to their comments. Said one line judge: "We're all likely going to see these teams at least once more in conference play and hopefully I'll get see at least two of them in New Orleans on January 9th."

Here are referees' scouting reports on the top five teams in the BCS standings:

1. LSU Tigers

SEC official: "What jumps out at you is their speed on defense. On the field with them, there are times when it feels like they are totally lost. You know they know what the play call is, but it never looks like it. It looks chaotic. And I do think they have a tendency to just kind of wing it sometimes, but certainly not to the level that it looks. Then, after the ball is snapped it's like -- bang! -- swarming. Wherever the ball goes, they go. That's that speed. As an official, you have to back it up, play it loose and be ready to react to anything.