Published Monday, February 4, 2013 AT 1:02 PM / Updated at 7:26 PM
Mad Chatter, Feb. 4
Dirk Chatelain Omaha World-Herald

No way Sam Koch considered the possibility. If he had, there’s no way he could’ve walked out on that field, let alone caught a ball whizzing toward his chest.

What if Koch — the former Husker punter — had dropped that snap? What if he had tripped in the end zone and fumbled the ball? What if a 49er had ran him down and ripped the ball from his hands before he reached the sideline?

Koch may have one of the best jobs in sports — I’m guessing he doesn’t sweat much in training camp — but at that moment, no athlete has ever faced a situation with a worse ratio of downside/upside.

“Hey, Coach Harbaugh, we can put anybody in that end zone to run around for 7 seconds in front of 115 million people. Who do you want? Flacco? Rice? Boldin?”

Harbaugh: Gimme Koch! I like his speed!

I’m quite certain that if I were even related to Koch, I would’ve fainted in fear. Fumble that fastball from the Ravens snapper and he is immediately the biggest goat in sports history. Not Super Bowl history, SPORTS history. His face is plastered on every TV screen in America today. Reporters are racing to Seward to shoot pictures of his boyhood home.

He’s Bill Buckner x Scott Norwood x Jackie Smith x Steve Bartman.

Of course, he didn’t fumble. And one of the wildest Super Bowls we’ve ever seen ended with a safety and a free kick.

Those four hours Sunday night had it all. From Beyonce to blackouts, 108-yard kickoff returns, 22-point rallies and then, like seemingly every great game of the instant replay era, a controversial call. I grew up in the 80s and 90s, when the Super Bowl was all style, no substance. Every five years, if we were lucky, we got a good one. The AFC was the Washington Generals to the NFC’s Globetrotters.

Well, check out the recent run of Super Sundays.

– Giants/Patriots ’08
– Steelers/Cardinals ’09
– Saints/Colts ‘10
– Packers/Steelers ’11
– Giants/Patriots ‘12

The Super Bowl is suddenly a version of the NBA Jam — the computer mandates that every game come down to the final minute.

We’ll remember that final (no) call on fourth down. And Jacoby Jones’ kickoff return. And Phil Simms’ amazement at how Colin Kaepernick “throws that football.” We’ll remember Ray Lewis and Joe Flacco and the Harbaughs.

But my biggest takeaway will be this: The consequences of these games grow more enormous by the year. More people watch, more media attend. Lives and reputations change with wins and losses. Yet the line between jubilation and agony has never been finer.

If that official throws his flag on fourth down, it’s Jim Harbaugh — not John — celebrating. And if Broncos safety Rahim Moore is playing 1 yard deeper on Joe Flacco’s desperation throw — just one! — Sam Koch is spending Super Bowl weekend back home, dropping a tear into his popcorn at the sound of Paul Harvey’s voice.

Pure randomness. I suppose that’s why we watch.

>> Are you a proponent of an expanded college football playoff? In presenting your argument, you may want to cite this information.

If the NFL had a four-team field every year — rather than 12 — guess how many of the last three Super Bowl champs would’ve qualified for the playoffs? Zero.

The ’10 Packers were a six seed. The ’11 Giants and ’12 Ravens were four seeds.

I recognize you don’t want to render the regular season irrelevant, but shouldn’t the goal of any postseason format be to identify the best team? Does anyone really think Notre Dame could’ve beaten Texas A&M? The college football playoff needs to go to eight.

>> The block/charge in basketball is difficult, but there’s no tougher call in sports right now than pass interference. You could put 100 football experts in a room, ask them if the fourth-down “grab” should’ve drawn a penalty and you’d get a 50/50 split.

What complicates matters if the unwritten rule that, in order to get a flag in a late-game situation, the penalty really has to be severe. I know this: If last night’s officials had called the 2003 BCS national title game, Miami would’ve won back-to-back championships.

>> Joe Flacco parties with his family on Bourbon Street.

>> Will Leitch was not impressed with CBS’ coverage during the blackout.

>> John Harbaugh came away from last night looking a lot better than his little brother.

>> This is crazy. The last four Super Bowl champions have played in the Eagles home opener.

>> Three big leftover questions:

Why wasn’t Jacoby Jones MVP? Two game-changing plays is pretty good for a receiver.

Without Ray Lewis, who becomes the biggest defensive star in the NFL? Clay Matthews or J.J. Watt would be my best bets.

What in the world happened to the 49ers defense?

>> My favorite three commercials, other than Farmers.
1 — Skechers
2 — Clydesdale
3– Audi prom

>> Basketball in the state’s largest school district has been building slowly over the past decade. Omaha Central has won six state titles. Bryan has contended almost every year. But the OPS hoops movement reached a crescendo Friday night when Omaha South toppled Central.

The gym was packed 45 minutes before tip-off — even new World-Herald columnist Matthew Hansen had to wait outside half an hour before getting in. And the game’s intensity was top-notch. Considering the talent on the court, the teams’ position in the rankings and the atmosphere, I’d guess it was the best night for OPS basketball in 20 years.

>> Was Adrian Peterson on PEDs, too? Bill Simmons says the days of giving athletes the benefit of the doubt are over.

>> Former World-Herald All-Pro Mitch Sherman, now with ESPN, did a phenomenal job with this recruiting story. Read it.

>> I mistakenly omitted this item from Friday’s Chatter — I put it back in at 4 p.m., but many of you probably missed it. After news of Braylon Heard’s transfer, this story is not exactly what Nebraska football fans want to read: Nick Saban persuading running backs to accept fewer carries in order to prolong their careers.

Alabama coaches have stressed using multiple backs throughout the recruiting process. “It’s unique how they recruit,” (North Little Rock High coach Brad) Bolding said. “They tell you just flat-out that, ‘Hey, we’re going to run two or three backs in the game. The shelf life in the NFL is a lot longer.’”

>> Is Ole Miss cheating? Then how are the Rebels building such a good recruiting class?

>> Indiana-Michigan, as expected, was a blast to watch.

>> Iowa’s NCAA tournament hopes took a serious hit Sunday afternoon at Minnesota. Mike Gesell had two chances to win or tie. He was stripped with 4 seconds left going up for a game-winning jumper, then missed a potential game-tying 3 at the buzzer.

The Big Ten is obviously the best league in college basketball. But what happens to teams like Iowa and Illinois, who had good non-conference records but have struggled in Big Ten play? My guess is they need to get to 8-10 in the league. Illinois dropped to 2-7 Sunday. Iowa is 3-6.

Nebraska and Iowa meet twice in the final five games.

>> How silly is the RPI? Belmont, a potential BracketBuster opponent for Creighton, is 18th. The Bruins are 17-4. Their best wins are at Stanford, Middle Tennessee State and South Dakota State. They lost to Northeastern and Central Florida. And they’re 18th! How is that possible? No wonder the selection committee often ignores it. Creighton fans should, too.

About Dirk Chatelain

Dirk Chatelain is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and general assignments. You can follow Dirk on Twitter (@dirkchatelain) or email him at dchatelain@owh.com