Growing up in a house that included a longtime college field judge (aka Pops), I knew better than anyone that no group of people outside of the actual locker rooms had a better grasp on teams and players than the men in stripes.
With that in mind, I went to college football officials around the nation last month and asked them to break down each of the then-BCS title contenders. What they said, not surprisingly, was pretty spot-on.
Now it's time to get out the ref Rolodex again and ask them to go inside this weekend's conference championship games. Once again, they all insisted on anonymity. Of course they did, that's how a good official always wants it.
Conference-USA: Southern Miss Golden Eagles vs. Houston Cougars
Conference-USA official: "Don't overlook Southern Miss. They aren't flashy, but they just figure out ways to win. They'd won [eight] games in a row before they lost that game to UAB. That game looked like a classic case of a team jumping out to a big lead and then letting up, thinking it was over, and then got snuck up on.
"That being said, this could be over quick. You compare what Houston has done to the same conference opponents that Southern Miss has played and this isn't even close.
"Obviously, you have to talk about Case Keenum, and I do think he's the real deal. We have a lot of guys who officiated in our league who are now in the NFL, and our head of officials, Gerry Austin, was an NFL ref forever. They all say Keenum looks and walks like an NFL quarterback.
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