Legitimacy of injuries becoming an issue

For the second straight week in the Big Ten, the authenticity of a team's injuries has been called into question.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini didn't specifically accuse Michigan of faking injuries to slow the tempo of his offense down last week, but he did talk in general about it after a few Wolverines' defenders went down during the Huskers' 45-17 loss in Ann Arbor.

"I think it has been pretty obvious at times, but it obviously hasn't been to the referees," Pelini told reporters on Monday at his weekly news conference.

Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison denied that his players were engaging in the practice while speaking to the media on Tuesday.

"The only thing I can tell you is that I never have and we never will have somebody fake an injury," Mattison said. "To me, for somebody to say that is absurd. But if that’s what people feel, that’s fine.

Pelini didn't single out any players, but Mattison brought up safety Jordan Kovacs as one player who was slow to get off the field last week.

“Jordan Kovacs would never do something that was not ethical or not part of what Michigan teaches,” Mattison said.

A week earlier, a similar controversy arose in the Michigan State-Iowa game when a number of Spartans defensive players went down, some not staying off the field for more than a couple of plays, as the Hawkeyes tried to rally back from a deficit. At least one Iowa player called the injuries "suspicious," though Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio later said, "Believe it or not, they were legitimate injuries."

Such controversies are nothing new to football. Oregon, Oklahoma State and Houston are among the fast-paced offenses who have had to deal with questionable injuries by opposing defenses looking to disrupt their timing and give their linemen a break. It's still a little jarring to hear such accusations in the Big Ten, but more teams like Iowa and Nebraska are using hurry-up attacks.

Nobody wants college football to turn into soccer, where players are constantly flopping and writhing in pain, only to pop back up when there is no violation called. But officials are in a difficult spot in trying to determine what is and what isn't a legitimate injury. Pelini said the issue needs to be addressed in the offseason. He suggested that players who leave the game with an injury be forced to sit out an entire series. Yet that would be unfair to those players who have an authentic cramp or rolled ankle.

There are no easy answers. And there probably will be more questions about injuries in the future.