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Off the Grid: After sound and fury, final justice

by | Special to CBSSports.com

Whaddya know, championship weekend ends with much ado about nothing. Unlike recent years, there were no stunning upsets, no BCS scrambles and no shakeups.

So here we go. Jan. 10 will come down to No. 1 Auburn and No. 2 Oregon. Don't blink, brother.

I don't think many people will argue that these two teams certainly are worthy of playing for the title, with Oregon playing in what the computers say is the toughest conference in the country and Auburn winning the most important football title outside of the one that comes with a crystal football. Two spectacular teams who played two spectacular games on Saturday afternoon.

Let's get on to a quick rundown of the goods, bads and uglies from the weekend.

Dion Lewis plows through the snow for 261 yards and four TDs. (Getty Images)  
Dion Lewis plows through the snow for 261 yards and four TDs. (Getty Images)  
The Good

1. Team of the day: Auburn
Routed South Carolina 56-17, although the game was pretty much over at halftime after that Hail Mary toss deflated the Chickens. The Tigers scored the most points in SEC title game history and also looked nothing like the outfit that struggled to beat teams early in the season, one of which was that white-knuckler escape of Carolina in September.

2. Player of the day: Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh
The onetime Heisman candidate was dashing through the snow for 261 yards on 42 carries and four touchdowns in a 28-10 win at Cincinnati. Lewis had a quiet season for the most part, having only two 100-yard games. He made up for it on a nasty, wintry day.

*The runner-up in the where-has-this-been-all-season Department: Chris Polk, RB, Washington
Polk ran for 285 yards and two TDs on 29 carries in the 35-28 Apple Cup win over Washington State.

3. Coach(es) of the day: George O'Leary, Central Florida
Most have forgotten about the ole Irishman after his Notre Dame resume faux pas. But Saturday, he won his second Conference USA title with the 17-7 defensive clampdown of high-powered SMU. His first C-USA title came in 2005, after his 2004 team went 0-11.

Michael Haywood, Miami University
Speaking of big turnarounds, the former Lou Holtz assistant led his team to a 26-21 win over Northern Illinois in the MAC championship game on Friday night. Armand Boucher threw the winning TD with 33 seconds left in the game, as part of a 28 of 46 and 333-yard day. By comparison, last season the RedHawks were 1-11.

4. Oklahoma defense
This unit was easily THE deciding factor in the Sooners winning the Big 12 championship game over Nebraska 23-20. From the point of the end zone interception by Travis Lewis in the second quarter, the Sooners allowed only three points, 185 yards in 11 drives and got three turnovers to stymie the Huskers. In all, the Sooners had 14 tackles for losses resulting in 60 negative yards.

5. The first round of FCS playoffs
Although most of the games were uneventful blowouts, once again the lower-division boys showed us how great a 16-team playoff can be as the second-round matchups will be huge. And in case you're wondering, the games were well-attended, none of the student-athletes flunked out of school because of them and the NCAA kept all the money it made from them.

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The Bad

1. Biggest loser of the week: TCU
Nope, the Frogs didn't play this weekend. But they did lose big as both Oregon and Auburn won out and will advance to the BCS title game. So that means, for the second straight year, an unbeaten TCU team won't have a chance to prove it is the best team in the country. Typical.

2. The Pac 10 non-conference schedules
The Pac 10 is the No. 1 ranked conference in the country, according to the Sagarin rankings, but the Pac 10 programs really need to take a cue from the SEC and stop scheduling tough non-conference opponents. Why? Because only four teams in the conference are bowl eligible (it would've been a paltry total of three if Washington hadn't rallied to beat Washington State). More cupcake/directional schools on the schedule will help them get to the easy six-win total.

And yes, the NCAA denied Arizona State of a bowl bid despite six wins because two of them were against FCS schools, so be careful of who your tomato cans are.

3. College football and money
For winning championships this weekend, here is what a couple of college coaches get in bonuses:

 Chip Kelly, Oregon: $360,000 bonus
 Gene Chizik, Auburn: $225,000 bonus
 Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: $214,500 bonus
 Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech: $100,000 bonus.

Do coaches really deserve this much extra money for doing something they already are remarkably paid to do? (Win games, that is.). And you wonder why programs like Cal are cutting other sports to help pay for their football program.

4. Kickers
It's been a horrible year for these non-athletes to decide games. Another chapter in that ugly story came in the Arizona loss to Arizona State on Friday night. Alex Zendejas had an extra point blocked by ASU's James Brooks with 20 seconds left in the game, forcing overtime. Then, after tying the score in the second OT, Zendejas' extra point kick was so low his own teammate got in the way of it. Bad.

5. The bowls
There are 70 bowl slots and, currently, 58 teams with winning records in the FBS. Let's just go ahead and cancel six bowl games.

The Ugly

The 2010 season. I know I sound like some old curmudgeon here, but despite all the excitement of the past two weeks, this has also been one of the worst regular seasons in recent college football memory.

Here are a few examples:

 The usual array of August arrests and suspensions.
 The Reggie Bush ruling.
 The Cam Newton scandal.
 The NCAA loopholing itself and showing typical circus-like inconsistency.
 The Josh Luchs article in Sports Illustrated telling us what we already suspected.
 TCU going unbeaten again and with no chance for a national title.
 Mark D'Antonio's heart attack.
 The paralysis of Rutgers' Eric LeGrand.
 The death of Mississippi State's Nick Bell.
 The consecutive timeouts before field goals.
 The ACC and Big East getting BCS auto-bids while the MWC and WAC don't.
 Michigan State and Ohio State not playing each other.
 Pass interference.
 The epidemic of armless tackling attempts.
 Coaches' sideline behavior.

I could go on.

The No-Brainers

Five things that were painfully obvious from college football this weekend:

1: As much as we like to complain about how ridiculous the bowls are, that Auburn-Oregon game should be pretty awesome.

2: Tell the organizers at the Heisman ceremony next week to go ahead and just set one chair out there for the finalists.

3: If Colin Kaepernick played in the SEC he'd be at the Heisman ceremony next Saturday.

4: The USC-UCLA game where both teams wear their home jerseys is still really cool.

5: It would be so cool to tell the NFC and AFC champions in pro football that they have to wait 37 days until they play the Super Bowl.

The Hero Dave Teggart, K, Connecticut
Had four field goals including a career-long 52-yarder to help the Huskies win the Big East with a 19-16 win at South Florida. How valuable was this kick? It marked the difference between the Huskies getting a $10+ million dollar BCS bowl payday and going to a second tier bowl that would've paid about $750,000. Who else is breathing a sigh of relief? The Oklahoma fans. Because UConn won, it looks like the Orange Bowl will select No. 4 Stanford to play Virginia Tech and not the 8-4 Huskies. That would send UConn to the Fiesta Bowl as a much, much easier opponent for the Sooners.

And before I forget, big props to Randy Edsall for landing his first BCS bowl bid. Well-deserved for a well-liked guy in our sport.

The Goat Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska
Not only have there been widespread rumors of his using a cell phone during the game at Texas A&M (thus the odd sideline tirade from Bo Pelini) and his alleged impending transfer from the Cornhuskers program, but his second-quarter interception in the end zone completely flipped the momentum of the game and allowed OU to come back from a 17-7 deficit at the time and win 23-20. Additionally, Martinez fumbled four times, losing one. After the INT, the Husker offense got just 185 yards in their last 11 drives that followed, scoring just three points.

Best comment

ESPN's Robert Smith, on Dion Lewis' mile-wide smile as his picture was shown on the screen:
"That's a tremendous picture for the media guide. Look at that smile. Someone must've told him a good joke right before that picture was taken."

Considering most college football player pictures look like angry prison I.D. mug shots, it is refreshing to see.

Worst Comment

Matt Millen, ABC commentator:
"The way you start the third quarter, it sets the tone for the entire second half."

Tweet of the Day

Dan Wetzel, Yahoo Sports:
"Cam Newton fumbles. SEC currently researching loopholes to prevent that in the future."

Cruelest slap in the face

College basketball:
Somebody in roundball circles decided to schedule a rematch of the Butler-Duke national championship game on Saturday. This was just a cold slap of reality to college football fans everywhere reminding us that our basketball brethren know how to settle a national championship. If this were football, a Butler-type of program wouldn't have any chance at a national title game. And in case you don't remember, Butler, from one of those "little sisters of the poor" conferences, came within a last second shot of beating BCS-conference Duke for the title.


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