Posted on: December 9, 2010 8:45 am
Edited on: December 9, 2010 9:51 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
Sometime around the middle of the season, it became pretty widely accepted that the Heisman Trophy had been narrowed down to a two-man race. Oregon running back LaMichael James has looked unstoppable at times, leading the nation's most dominant offense to an undefeated season and now a spot in the BCS Championship Game. Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, well, he's just been doing those Cam Newton things.
There were no surprises when the finalists were announced. On Saturday, James and Newton will be joined by Stanford's Andrew Luck and Boise State's Kellen Moore in Times Square for the addition of one more player to the storied history of the Heisman Trophy. Newton is considered to be the favorite, despite the controversy that has swirled since word of alleged solicitation by Cecil Newton came to light. With several writers being very vocal about leaving Newton off the ballot, what does the competition think?
"I don't care what happens off the field. Whatever that situation was, to me he's still the best player in the country,'' LaMichael James said Wednesday at the College Football Awards media session. "I would vote for him twice.''
James does not have a vote, much less two, but the point comes through loud and clear. The counter-argument to the Newton-hate is just that: he is the best player in the country. James has been phenomenal in Oregon's offense, but much of his success is a credit to that team. There have been times this season where Newton has just simply put the Tigers on his back and taken over a game. Without Newton, Auburn would not be in their current position.
Or perhaps James is hoping for a repeat of 2005. After Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy in New York he met his runner-up, Vince Young, in the National Championship. Bush got the Heisman, but Young led Texas to a thrilling last minute victory to win the title. Let Newton get the glory on Saturday, then James can get his revenge on January 10.
Posted on: December 8, 2010 6:08 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
There's an argument to be made -- and you don't even have to break a sweat to make it -- that no single position in the SEC has had a greater negative impact over the past two seasons than quarterback at LSU .
In 2009, under new defensive coordinator John Chavis , the Bayou Bengals finished a strong 26th in the country in total defense and allowed the third-fewest points in the SEC; unfortunately, Jordan Jefferson finished eighth in the league in passing yards per-game and took enough sacks to place LSU 103rd in that category, and LSU lost four games in which their opponents scored 13, 24, 25, and 19 points, respectively. Chavis's unit has been even better in 2010, finishing eighth in the FBS in total D and ninth in scoring defense . It's a good thing, too; with Jefferson and Jarrett Lee combining for a dead-last finish in the SEC in passing and a next-to-last finish in QB rating, the Tigers managed to win games with scoring totals of 20, 16, and 24 points. The Tigers also lost when they scored only 17 points against Auburn's eminently flammable defense. It's fair to say that with competent-to-good quarterbacking, LSU is looking at at least back-to-back BCS bowl appearances, possibly an SEC title one year or the other, maybe even another national title game berth.
Which is why that even amongst the coaching hiring-and-firing-and-retiring mania, the news this week that JUCO quarterback Zach Mettenberger has elected to play for Les Miles and Co. shouldn't fly under the radar. Mettenberger was a consensus four-star recruit coming out of Watkinsville, Ga., and proved his bona fides as one of the top pro-style quarterbacks in his class by battling Aaron Murray tooth-and-nail for first the Georgia backup quarterback's job in spring 2009 and then the starter's position this past spring. After being booted from the Bulldog roster (more on this in a moment), he landed at Butler County (Kan.) Community College and went 176-of-299 for 2,678 yards this fall with an impressive 32-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Mettenberger will arrive at LSU with more than a little baggage, earning his ticket out of Athens by pleading guilty to two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery following an incident at a Remerton (Ga.) bar, as well as a host of other minor offenses. But time and a JUCO stint often heals all wounds in the SEC -- just ask Cam Newton -- and at 6'5", 250 pounds, with Mettenberger's pro-grade arm, he'll arrive at Baton Rouge with a real chance at winning the starting job as soon as next season. Mettenberger cited Miles's immediate interest as one reason he chose the Tigers over Alabama, Arkansas, and others; that LSU pursued him as fervently as they did should say something about confident they are in his potential to start from Day 1.
Even if Mettenberger has to wait one season for his turn, both Jefferson and Lee are seniors. He'll get his shot eventually, and that's reason enough for the SEC to worry; given Murray's stunning first year at Georgia, Mettenberger's huge year at Butler, and his recruiting profile, the odds are very good that Mettenberger will be a quality SEC starter, and pairing a quality SEC starter at QB with Chavis's defense (not to mention the wealth of talent across the rest of the offensive board) could easily put LSU back on top of the SEC West.
In short, LSU's biggest Achilles heel these past two seasons may have been healed. Given how good they've been anyway, Mettenberger's commitment could prove to be a turning point -- not only for the Tigers, but for the entire SEC West. And if you don't think one JUCO quarterback can have that kind of impact, we'd ask you to take it up with Mr. Newton.
Posted on: December 6, 2010 7:20 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2010 10:10 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given annually to the nation's top senior quarterback, announced its 2010 winner today. Wisconsin signal-caller Scott Tolzien , who led the Badgers to an 11-1 record and a berth in the 2011 Rose Bowl, won the award today.
Now obviously, the pool for this award is always going to be diluted on account of it being limited to senior quarterbacks, and the tendency of high-level QB prospects to declare for the draft before their senior season only further weakens the available list of candidates. Tolzien won this award over a rather tepid list of finalists: Andy Dalton , Colin Kaepernick , Christian Ponder , and Ricky Stanzi.
Or, more to the point, Tolzien wasn't up against Cam Newton , Kellen Moore , Andrew Luck , Ryan Mallett , Dan Persa , or Brandon Weeden. And that's good for Tolzien, because his statistics and the context surrounding them are totally underwhelming. While Tolzien led all seniors with a 169.80 passing efficiency and 74.8 completion percentage, he was hardly the focal point of the offense or the main engine getting it into the end zone; Tolzien recorded just 16 passing touchdowns, compared to his team's otherworldly 46 rushing touchdowns (of which Tolzien had none). Tolzien's total yardage accounted for just 42.6% of Wisconsin's yards, which compares rather unfavorably to Colin Kaepernick's 57.7%. And yes, Wisconsin is ranked higher than Nevada and was involved in more blowouts in which Tolzien's services weren't needed ... but TCU just so happens to be ranked even higher than Wisconsin, was involved in many blowouts of its own, and Dalton's total yardage was still 51.6% of his Horned Frogs' total yards. Also, keep in mind Tolzien was facing a defense with eight men in the box basically all the time, thanks to Wisconsin's thundering ground game. That's a luxury Dalton and Kaepernick didn't enjoy, and they still outperformed Tolzien in every category except passing efficiency, where Tolzien's lead is utterly marginal.
Beyond this year, though, Tolzien's numbers scarcely fit the typical profile of a Unitas Award winner. Beginning in 1995, when noted option enthusiast Tommie Frazier won the award with Nebraska, the average passing touchdown total of the Unitas winner has been 32.5 TDs ... or basically twice that of Tolzien and his 16 touchdowns. The only winner in that timespan with fewer than seven more touchdowns than Tolzien was (no surprise) Frazier, and even he threw for 17 TDs his senior year.
It just seems, like John Clay inexplicably being named a Doak Walker finalist, as if Tolzien is being given this award in lieu of a team award, since Wisconsin is ranked fourth and hooray for that. And it's not as if Tolzien had a bad season, either; his performance against the Iowa defense, especially when he drove the team down the field for a touchdown in the third quarter with only Montee Ball healthy (and Ball lining up at wideout since Nick Toon was out, no less), was really a fantastic display of passing. But by and large, there's just no way Tolzien was a more deserving recipient of this award than Dalton or Kaepernick.
Tags: 2010 Unitas Award, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Big Ten, Brandon Weeden, Cam Newton, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick, Dan Persa, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Kellen Moore, Montee Ball, Nebraska, Nevada, Nick Toon, Ricky Stanzi, Ryan Mallett, Scott Tolzien, TCU, Tommie Frazier, Unitas Award, Unitas Award 2010, Unitas Award Finalists, Unitas Award Winner, Wisconsin
Posted on: December 6, 2010 6:38 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Heisman Trophy will be handed this Saturday in New York, and while there really isn't all that much suspense surrounding who is likely going to be taking home the hardware, until now there was some question as to which players would be making the trip. Well, that suspense is over.
The four finalists for the Heisman were announced on Monday, and they are as follows:
Now, if the votes were based solely on performance on the field this season, then there wouldn't be much doubt that Cam Newton was going to be walking out of New York with the trophy in his hands. Still, who knows for sure how the voters are going to vote considering everything that has taken place with Newton this season, and the fact that Reggie Bush just gave up his Heisman a few months ago.
Nobody wants to see that happen again, and according to some voters I've seen on Twitter, there are some voters who left Newton off of their ballot. Which means that there is a chance that somebody other than Newton will win the award, though I wouldn't bet on it.
Posted on: December 6, 2010 3:50 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2010 3:51 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Far be it from us to criticize a fellow CBS property, but it has always bugged this blogger that Rod Roddy always introduced The Price is Right game "Plinko " by telling contestants they could win $25,000 (and, later, $50,000). While that was technically correct, the number of hoops required for contestants to actually win that amount -- winning the maximum five chips, then having all of them slide down the virtually random Plinko board perfectly into the $5,000/$10,000 slot -- made it so unlikely that the stakes for Plinko were, secretly always much lower than the figure announced. (Much like, say, an NFL free agent contract.)
Why do we mention this? Because when Gene Chizik signed his head coaching contract with Auburn, it felt like he'd agreed to play a game of Plinko with his salary. As Jay Tate of the Montgomery Advertiser detailed again recently , Chizik's original base salary of $1.9 million fell well below typical SEC market value (his predecessor at Auburn, Tommy Tuberville, earned upwards of $4 million), but a cavalcade of incentives gave Chizik the potential to earn far, far more than that. The catch: when Chizik arrived fresh off of his 5-19 stint at Iowa State, the overwhelming majority of those incentives looked so far beyond Chizik's reach they might as well not have existed.
As it turns out, though, if Chizik's time at Auburn has been a game of Plinko, it's looked something like this:
Entering today, Chizik had already claimed bonuses of $125,000 for winning 12 games, $100,000 for making the SEC Championship Game , $200,000 for winning it, and $25,000 more for having won a 13th game of any kind. With the league's announcement today that Chizik is the AP SEC Coach of the Year (leading an Auburn sweep that saw Cam Newton the conference offensive Player of the Year and Nick Fairley the defensive equivalent), he's pocketed another $100,000, bringing him up to $550,000 total. With national coach of the year honors, a top 5 final poll ranking, and (of course) a BCS national championship all triggering further (and larger) bonuses, Chizik stands to rake in as much as $1.3 million from his team's dream season.
No doubt Chizik would tell you the accomplishments of his team are the cake and the money merely the icing. But there's also no doubt that hauling in a wad of dough that substantial when no one thought you'd see a dime of it must taste awfully, awfully sweet.
Posted on: December 4, 2010 8:30 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
We asked at halftime if the Hail Mary from Cam Newton to Darvin Adams had done enough to erase the cavalcade of mistakes from Auburn in the second quarter, mistakes that had seemed to hand momentum back to South Carolina and undone a dominant first quarter from the Tigers.
The answer over the second 30 minutes appeared to be a resounding "Oh goodness yes," as Auburn cruised to an overwhelming 56-17 victory in the SEC Championship Game. Spencer Lanning missed a 42-yard field goal on Carolina's first drive of the half, wasting a 10-play, 50-yard march, and from there it was nothing but Auburn. Newton scored on a one-yard plunge to cap a 75-yard drive on Auburn's ensuing possession, and the rout was on, starting with this T'Sharvan Bell pick-six of Stephen Garcia:
That put Auburn up 42-14, and from there the only question was what kind of stats Newton might finish with to put the finishing touches on his Heisman campaign, which by every indication will result in his becoming the third Auburn Tiger to win the award. The answer: 17-of-28, 335 yards, and 4 touchdowns in the air, 14 carries for 73 yards and 2 scores on the ground. In the process, he became the No. 1 quarterback in the country in pass efficiency and just the second player ever to both run and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season. (Tim Tebow , of course, was the first; just a little while later, Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick becaee the third.) While the discussions about Newton's now NCAA-approved eligibility and his father's transgressions will no doubt continue apace, the discussion of who has been college football's most dominant player this season is over.
Up next for the Tigers: the BCS National Championship Game against Oregon, where they will seek to become the fifth consecutive SEC team to lift the crystal football. The game promises to become the highest-scoring national title game -- by a wide margin-- in the BCS's history, as even in victory (one that featured another stout second-half performance defensively), Auburn's 20 first downs and 5.2 yards-per-carry allowed likely didn't do that much to convince viewers they'll be able to slow down the Ducks.
But after today -- and the 56 points and 589 total yards -- it's also worth wondering at this point if anyone, much less Oregon, can stop Newton and the Gus Malzahn machine now that the NCAA has not. When even your Hail Mary's are working, it's safe to say every last cylinder is hitting. When the BCS title game kicks off Jan. 10, we strongly suggest we all buckle up.
Posted on: December 4, 2010 6:23 pm
Edited on: December 4, 2010 6:37 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Auburn is 30 minutes away from the BCS National Championship Game, up 28-14 on South Carolina at halftime of the SEC Championship game. But if the second 30 minutes are half as back-and-forth as the first, the Tigers will still have an awful lot of work to do to earn their trip to Glendale.
But they'll at least have momentum on their side after Cam Newton' s half-ending Hail Mary was batted and then caught by Darvin Adams in the end zone:
That play answered what had looked like a game-changing touchdown drive by Carolina, one capped by Stephen Garcia hitting Alshon Jeffrey on a one-yard slant to bring Carolina within 21-14 with 16 seconds left before the break. With the Gamecocks getting the ball first in the second half, the underdogs looked like they had recovered from a disastrous defensive first quarter that saw Newton account for three touchdowns as the Tigers racked up more than 200 yards in the first period alone.
One of those touchdowns was this 54-yarder to Adams:
But Adams also played a large role in letting Carolina off the mat, dropping a certain third-down conversion and later a touchdown pass Newton had floated in with precision. But he wasn't alone in making mistakes for the Tigers: Newton missed multiple open receivers, a Phillip Lutzenkirchen holding call negated a 3rd-and-1 inside the Carolina 5, and Wes Byrum missed a 36-yard field goal. The Tigers have been by far the dominant team on the stat sheet --- outgaining the Gamecocks 348 yards to 196 -- but as they learned themselves after coming back against an Alabama team that allowed missed first-half opportunities to become a huge second-half letdown, that didn't matter much with the boot never applied to the Gamecocks' throat.
The Hail Mary might change things. (At the very least, it redeemed Adams, who finished the half with an incredible 7 receptions for 215 yards and the pair of scores.) But unless they administer the knockout blow, they might still need a little more magic to seal their bid to Glendale.
Posted on: December 3, 2010 2:30 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
There are many things you could say about Cam Newton , and by now, nearly all of them have been said.
But even given that Newton ranks second in the country in passer rating, given that he's rushed more often than he's thrown in one of the country's strongest rushing attacks, you wouldn't expect "we fear him more as a passing threat than a running threat" to have been one of those things said. It turns out that's exactly what South Carolina was saying to themselves as they prepared to face Auburn the first time:
South Carolina's coaches saw a 6-6, 250-pound quarterback who wanted to throw first and run second. The new JaMarcus Russell, they called him. That's what film against Arkansas State, Mississippi State and Clemson had shown them.Newton solved that problem right quick, going for 176 of Auburn's 334 yards on the ground. Obviously, when the two teams meet again Saturday in the SEC Championship Game (exclusively on CBS!), the Gamecocks will be a little more focused on making sure Newton has to beat them through the air rather than on the ground alone. (Whether they can succeed is debatable given Carolina's struggles in their 100th-ranked pass defense and Newton's 12-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio since midseason, but when given two evils, one has to be the lesser.)
But the question has to be asked: what film of Mississippi State and Clemson were the Gamecock coaches watching? Against State , Newton threw 19 times and rushed the ball 18 times, with many of those rushes going for critical first downs and one of his passes an ugly interception into end-zone triple coverage. Against Clemson , Newton threw just 14 times (with two more interceptions) while carrying the ball 17 times.
Certainly, many of Newton's passes in both those games went for huge plays (he averaged a remarkable 29 yards per-completion in the comeback against Clemson) and both the Bulldogs and Tigers kept him largely bottled up in those 35 attempts on the ground. But if Carolina really expected Newton to be a Russell-like pocket passer, you have to ask what they thought they were seeing over the course of those games ... and whether the same staff is up the challenge of Gus Malzahn and Newton this time around.