The question of whether or not J.T. Barrett got the first down will forever live in Ohio State-Michigan lore.
Until time ends, Buckeyes fans will insist that referees were correct to award Barrett the first down on his 4th-and-1 QB sneak in double overtime Saturday, while Wolverines fans will say he was short of the first-down marker.
And the reason this question is destined to endure is that we just don’t really know. Despite the fact that this was the biggest game of the day, if not the season; despite the fact that the play in question followed a timeout, giving ABC/ESPN cameras ample time to get in position; despite the fact that ESPN literally bragged before the game about having “every angle covered” thanks to 50 cameras in the stadium, the network provided no decisive angle on Barrett’s sneak.
Because as much as Ohio State fans want these sorts of memes to end the conversation, the tilt of shot, particularly on the right, make the call inconclusive.
— Bucknuts (@Bucknuts247) November 27, 2016
Basically Wolverines fans are watching this video…
The worst call ever https://t.co/fQD8C3kRrb
— Wolverine Nation24/7 (@247Wolverines) November 27, 2016
Buckeyes fans are watching this video…
… and no one can possibly know which one better represents reality because neither shot comes from a dead-on angle.
SI.com’s Richard Deitsch asked ABC/ESPN producer Bill Bonnell about the lack of a definitive angle and got a pretty unsatisfactory answer.
“It’s a difficult situation because on a fourth down situation things can get packed up in the middle,” said Bonnell.
“The closest definitive replay was the one we showed. That’s was from our ‘blue machine’ or the game camera which is shooting where the yellow line is. That mixed with the other angles, that was as definitive as we could get.”
Bonnell said that remote productions in college football always opt to keep additional cameras deployed on the goal line given the importance of that line. There would not be similar coverage, say, on the 16-yard line. “Sometimes it’s just the way it happens; it’s a tough situation to cover,” Bonnell said.
Sure the goal line is important, but in that situation the 15-yard-line was equally important. Not having cameras in position because they were at the goal line is like a baseball manager waiting to use his closer in a save situation while lesser relievers blow the game. Given the importance of that 4-and-1 play and given the time ESPN/ABC had to prepare for it, you’d think they could have shuffled someone into position to get a dead-on shot from the sideline or overhead.
So now, because there’s no perfect shot, Michigan fans believe the results of the game are illegitimate, Jason Whitlock is calling for an investigation of paid-off refs and one AP Top 25 has put Michigan ahead of Ohio State because in his view the Wolverines won.
You’d think 50 cameras would be enough. Apparently not.