Neutral, huh? Don't believe for a second that Big Ten coordinator of officials Bill Carollo watches conference games without a rooting interest.
He pulls for the guys in stripes. He also hopes to see college football's player-safety rules, namely targeting, have the desired effect.
"Pretty clean day," he said Saturday as the Big Ten's early games winded down. "Which is what you like. Not a lot of cheap shots."
The Big Ten invited the Tribune to watch Saturday's games from the conference command center of its new headquarters. The three-story, $20 million facility is located in Rosemont's flourishing entertainment district. An interactive museum called "The Big Ten Experience" will open early in 2014, steps from a Fogo de Chao.
My experience was certainly educational. Each week Carollo studies the games while facing one 130-inch screen and eight 60-inchers. The games are recorded live on DVRs so replays are readily available.
The crew joining Carollo on Saturday was typical. It included Bill LeMonnier, who officiated the inaugural Big Ten title game in 2011. He made the proper call on a running-into-the-kicker infraction on Michigan State that effectively ended the game.
"Michigan has 'No Trespassing' signs with my name on it," he joked.
Big Ten scheduling guru Mark Rudner and league consultant Ron Guenther, the former Illinois athletic director, also sat with Carollo.
The digs are so sweet, Guenther said, "some guys come here Sunday to watch NFL games."
The main goal of watching in real time is to speed communication, especially on controversial plays. Decades ago, it took days for the league to receive grainy coach's film.
"Now in an instant we have 1,000 people on Twitter telling us if it's a good or bad call," Carollo said. "And by the time coaches call me (Sunday), we will have seen the play (in question) and evaluated it."
The balls are kicked off in the Iowa-Purdue and the Penn State-Minnesota games, and Guenther has a beef. The command center has no clock, so it's hard to know if the league hit its target of an 11:01 a.m. start.
As we watch, I ask Carollo about a dicey call from the Ohio State-Northwestern game. On a fourth-and-1 with less than three minutes to play, Kain Colter bobbled a snap but then picked it up and surged forward. It was ruled that he came up short, and NU coach Pat Fitzgerald burned a critical timeout to challenge the spot.
Carollo is reluctant to comment on plays until after the season, but he said the major issue was that no camera was positioned on the far side of the field. That fact rendered the review futile.
"We meet with TV (partners) and ask: 'How many cameras do you have? Once a team gets inside the 20, can you put a camera on the goal line?'" Carollo said. "You'd have to have a shot right down the line (of scrimmage) to prove or disprove whether he made a first down."
The league is considering putting permanent cameras on the goal line, something that would have helped during a disputed call in the Cincinnati-Illinois game.
How about a microchip in the football?
"People have proposed that going back 15 years," Carollo replied. "Do you put it at one end, both ends? Do you have laser beams that go across the plane? It's not that we want the human element; that's old baseball talk. But what about the cost? Can Carthage College afford to do that?"
The need for a review finally comes from the Penn State-Minnesota game. The Gophers down a punt at the 1-yard line, taking advantage of the college rule allowing the coverage team to be positioned in the end zone. Only the location of the ball matters, and the camera shots showing bodies over the football make this call difficult to dispute.
"It has to stand; it should stand," said Carollo, adding that he would like the rule changed to be consistent with the NFL.