Posted on: January 10, 2012 3:32 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 6:32 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
NEW ORLEANS -- Hey, folks. If you haven't read my feature on AJ McCarron, the first quarterback to win the BCS Championship as a sophomore or freshman, please do so here. Generally, when you think of the phrase "game manager" in relation to a quarterback, it sounds like a euphemism for "guy who can't throw more than 20 yards," but McCarron was phenomenal in his guidance of the Alabama offense against an insanely tough LSU defense, and a most deserving Offensive MVP for the Championship Game (see McCarron at right, accepting his award). So the fact that he's a redshirt sophomore playing like a four-year starter can't be celebrated enough.
Here are a few more thoughts from New Orleans while I'm down here.
Honey badgers aren't cornerbacks: The "honey badger" nickname works for Tyrann Mathieu. It totally works. People complaining about Brent Musberger using it on television (I didn't watch the game on TV, but there were a lot of tweets grousing about it) (UPDATE: he did it 14 times) need to realize that this is a hipster's argument about music or a big-city homebuyer's argument amount gentrification, writ completely small. If something is enjoyable and underused, people will flock to it and you don't get to claim it to yourself anymore. Social nature abhors a fun vacuum.
That all said, Tyrann Mathieu is fantastic at injecting himself into plays that he's not supposed to be involved in and forcing turnovers and touchdowns. He is also 5'9" and LSU's third-best cover corner. So Alabama decided to run and throw right at this small defender, and surprise! He wasn't nearly as good on an island, without an opportunity to wreak havoc in the backfield.
When Alabama wasn't gearing its offensive attack toward Mathieu, it was using timing and blocking to ensure that he couldn't provide much value to LSU unless he was in coverage, and even then, he was routinely targeted to great success. Alabama basically didn't let him play Honey Badger, they made him play cornerback, and Mathieu is not a good cornerback yet. If Mathieu is running away from the line of scrimmage, he's probably not about to accomplish much. Lots of teams never figured that out this year. Alabama and Nick Saban did.
The peanut butter burger at Yo Mama's is a life-changer: I had several recommendations to go to Yo Mama's right off of Bourbon Street and try a burger that featured a combination of toppings I had never even thought to mix together by themselves, much less on top of a hamburger: peanut butter and bacon.
People. You can't even imagine. Why is the inventor of that sandwich not President of Foodworld? Foodworld is a country I just imagined in my head right now but it needs to be a real thing and this hamburger is why.
Oh, they're all really just friends in the SEC!: Speaking of Bourbon Street, I spent a few hours there over the course of the week (as pretty much the only person between 12 and 55 practicing moderation) and it's akin to being a blood cell in a clogged artery. To be surrounded by people who by and large don't share your mental state is a disorienting feeling, and if someone had a phobia about being accidentally jostled by a drunk frat boy who doesn't know where he's walking, Bourbon Street would probably set off a life-altering panic attack within a matter of seconds.
And yet, even for the tens of thousands of people I walked by, I never saw anybody lose their temper at an opposing fan. Oh, there were plenty of "ROLL TIDE"s and "TIGAH BAIT"s and "BAMA NUMBER ONE"s and "GEAUX LSU"s, but generally that was the full extent of communication between the two fanbases: one catchphrase at a high volume directed at an opposing fan's face with a smile, the other fan returning with his own catchphrase, and off the two go -- usually without so much as breaking stride.
It's not terribly intellectually stimulating conversation -- heck, "conversation" is a stretch to describe it at all -- but to give so many people from these two fanbases the drunkest nights of their lives and cram them all together into one crowded quarter ought to be a recipe for testosterone-fueled disaster, and that just didn't happen. Clearly, New Orleans is magical.
The AJ McCarron effigy idea didn't really work out too well: If you missed it on the Eye on College Football Twitter feed or the Eye on College Football Facebook page, here's a photo from Monday's tailgate of an AJ McCarron effigy, laid out on a stretcher with a pair of crutches, giving that poor, lonesome Bama fan a sad:
(Right click, open picture in a new tab for bigger version. Photo via US Presswire)
Now, I'm having a hard time deciding if I don't like this. Rooting for injuries is something that's pretty uniformly against the code of football fandom (exception that proves the rule: Oakland Raiders fans). As gallows humor goes, though, it's pretty well-executed, while being cartoonish and inattentive to detail enough that it doesn't come across like a warning from a serial killer. Plus, there are crutches there, so clearly this was a lower-body injury they foreboded for McCarron and not something life-threatening.
Now, "you're still not supposed to cheer for someone to mess up their leg, either" is still a perfectly valid argument, but it should also be noted that someone for Alabama did in fact have a nasty leg injury during the game: C.J. Mosely, who suffered a dislocated hip as he was tackled after making an interception in the second half. LSU fans didn't stand up and applaud Mosely's agony at that point, so it's not as if the McCarron injury proves that LSU fans are all bloodthirsty morons. They're not. This was just a dark taunt by one particularly resourceful tailgate, and while it's not particularly tasteful, the notion of SEC football fans never expressing any enmity for an opponent, not even in jest, also seems antithetical to the sport. This isn't the Pac-12!
(Quick aside: I only heard this idea advanced in passing conversations a couple times, but let's put it to bed right now: the notion that Jordan Jefferson intentionally injured Mosely is preposterous. Bas Rutten himself can't tackle someone who's running and wreck the person's hip on command, and to suggest a quarterback could do so just beggars belief. We all on the same page there? Good.)
And finally, I will miss you, NOLA. I've never been down here before. The motive has been there for years and years, but I never had the means and opportunity until now. The city did not disappoint. Case in point: on the first night I came down here, I sat in a bar full of gregarious men, beautiful women, and dogs. Literally, there were at least five dogs on leashes, right there in the open-air bar, watching the Saints game with the rest of us. A room in back held a $7 buffet, and the food was terrific. Of course it was. It's that night -- the locals, their bar, their dogs, their team, their food, their joie de vivre, their everything that I'll miss about this city when it's time to head back north.
I could never live down here, of course. The summers are sweltering enough in Iowa, and one resident's protestation to me that "you get used to it in no time" sounds like textbook Stockholm Syndrome. But the next time it's -10 and my eyes are frozen like Audrey Griswold's -- knowing Iowa, that'll be in about two or three weeks -- there's going to be one happy place my mind goes from now on: New Orleans.
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Tags: 2012 BCS Championship, Adam Jacobi, AJ McCarron, AJ McCarron Effigy, Alabama, Audrey Griswold, Bas Rutten, BCS Championship, Bourbon Street, Brent Musberger, C.J. Mosely, C.J. Mosely Injury, French Quarter, Honey Badger, LSU, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, New Orleans, New Orleans Review, New Orleans Saints, New Orleans Travelogue, Nick Saban, Oakland Raiders, Peanut Butter Burger, SEC, Tyrann Mathieu, Yo Mamas
Posted on: January 9, 2012 11:35 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
ALABAMA WON. The Alabama Crimson Tide captured the 2012 BCS Championship with a suffocating 21-0 victory over LSU.
HOW ALABAMA WON: Alabama's defense held LSU to a paltry 92 yards, and Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelley hit five field goals out of a bowl record seven attempts. That, put together, was more than enough for Alabama to get the win and the title.
WHEN ALABAMA WON: The moment Les Miles decided he was never going to use Jarrett Lee in the game. Jordan Jefferson was downright abysmal as LSU's quarterback, going 11-17 for 53 yards and gaining 15 yards on 14 rushes, and while Alabama's defense deserves a great deal of credit for that, it should also be noted that Jefferson was equal parts indecisive and ineffective even when he did have time to throw the ball or run. True, Alabama victimized Lee in the two teams' first meeting, but Jefferson was much more productive in that game. Miles needed to make a change, and he didn't do it.
WHAT ALABAMA WON: Alabama takes home a well-earned BCS Championship, and Nick Saban has solidified his standing as the best coach in college football. AJ McCarron became the first sophomore or younger to win a BCS Championship, and Trent Richardson reminded everyone why he's the best back in college football by finishing the game off with a 34-yard touchdown scamper.
WHAT LSU LOST: As mentioned before, LSU was victimized by Les Miles' stubborn insistence on keeping Jordan Jefferson at quarterback, and LSU just never brought anything at Alabama that caught the Tide off guard. LSU didn't convert any third downs until the fourth quarter, and going into the fourth, LSU had two first downs to its name. The LSU defense could have played the game of its life and not overcome that kind of ineptitude on the other side of the ball. And for that, the crystal football eludes Les Miles and his charges this year.
THAT WAS CRAZY: In the game's first big play, Marquis Maze took a punt back 54 yards -- quite a feat considering LSU had allowed six punt return yards all season. Unfortunately, the return could have been even longer, but Maze pulled up lame in the middle of the return with a hurt hamstring. The injury kept him out for the rest of the game, but Maze's return set a tone that LSU couldn't match all game long.
FINAL GRADE: C. Alabama's defensive performance was the stuff of legend, but that doesn't change the fact that in eight games and an overtime, these two teams combined for 10 field goals and one touchdown. LSU looked downright inept at times -- which happens often against the Alabama defense -- and Oklahoma State fans must be wondering how hard it would have been for the Cowboys to beat LSU. But at least someone scored a touchdown.
Tags: 2012 BCS Championship, Adam Jacobi, AJ McCarron, Alabama, Alabama Championship, BCS Championship, BCS Championship Recap, BCS Championship Stats, BCS Title, BCS Title Recap, BCS Title Stats, Jarrett Lee, Jeremy Shelley, Jordan Jefferson, Les Miles, LSU, Marquis Maze, Nick Saban, Trent Richardson
Posted on: January 7, 2012 2:58 pm
Edited on: January 7, 2012 4:26 pm
Posted by Eye on College Football Staff
Chip Patterson: The first Game of the Century had the feel of two teams trying just as hard "not to lose" as they were trying to win. With so much time to prepare, I imagine the first half will be just as low-scoring. But Les Miles' willingness to adjust on the fly and take chances will be the difference as this game is won (or lost) in the second half. LSU runs a kick return reverse to catch Alabama off guard for the deciding touchdown. LSU 24, Alabama 17.
Tom Fornelli: I'm with Chip on this one, even if I think 41 points is asking too much. Generally I'm of the opinion that it's hard to beat a team once, and much harder to beat that same team twice, but with this game being played in New Orleans it's hard to pick against the Tigers. LSU has been the best team in college all season, and it won't change in the Superdome, as the Tigers win 20-10.
[Full 2011-2012 bowl schedule]
Adam Jacobi: Tom, LSU's certainly got the best resume, but I don't know if they're the best team. And if anyone's going to turn around their scoring fortunes from first game, I'm picking the one who got into scoring position seven times and has the best running back in all of college football. I think Alabama gets into the end zone thrice, and LSU twice, good enough for a 24-20 Alabama win.
Bryan Fischer: All year I've thought this was the best defense Nick Saban's ever had. Watching them play, I believed it. The offense had Trent Richardson and a great offensive line with solid coordinators on both sides. But, and this is a big but, I can't pick against LSU. Les Miles has a great team and it seems like their destiny is to run the table. The Tigers aren't better than the Tide 11-on-11 but they are the better team and will get things done in New Orleans like they always have. LSU 27, Alabama 24.
Jerry Hinnen: It seems crazy to doubt LSU at this point. I personally doubted them before Oregon, before Mississippi State, before the Prematch, and even once they went down two scores to Georgia. And they've made me -- and all the other doubters -- looks like fools every time. But I'm doubting them one more time, because the formula they used to beat the Tide the first time isn't consistent enough to expect it work a second time. Missed field goals, special teams mistakes, Nick Saban's general conservatism, a botched trick play in LSU territory--these are mistakes the Tide aren't going to make a second time. And down-to-down, offense vs. defense, the Tide had the upper hand. This time, I think they make that advantage count. And if not, well, I'll be the one in the corner wearing the purple-and-gold dunce hat ... again. Alabama 20, LSU 16.
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Posted on: January 5, 2012 4:51 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
A report came out Wednesday night that some AP voters were prepared to vote LSU as the national champion even if Alabama beats the Tigers at the BCS Championship on January 12. There are conditions, of course; if 'Bama wins handily, there's not going to be much doubt who the deserving national champion is. But still, if the title game is another close, unconvincing affair that this time tilts in favor of Alabama, there are people on record who are at the very least open to the prospect of sticking with LSU.
"Awarding a championship to a team that loses its final game is beyond counterintuitive and may be un-American," said David Teel of the Daily Press in Hampton Roads, Va. "But if LSU loses narrowly, I will absolutely consider (voting the Tigers No. 1). That's how good the Tigers' regular season -- five wins over the top 25, four away from Death Valley, including at Alabama -- was." Another voter in Albuquerque told CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd that Alabama's win "would have to be like 63-0 or something" before he'd consider voting for the Tide over LSU.
The conundrum Teel raises along with his supposedly "rogue" compatriots is a real one, and one that cuts to the core of polling as a college football institution. At the end of the day, though, Teel is not only well within his right to wonder aloud about this game's effect on his final ballot -- if the conditions are right, he should follow his gut and go with LSU to win the title.
First, it's important to understand why polling even needs to exist in college football (which it does!) in the first place. The validity of determining a Top 25 in college football is dramatically hindered by two factors:
1) We just don't have much data to work with. Assuming one of the central maxims of college football and the BCS is correct -- that the most important determinant in whether one team is better than the other is what happens when they play each other -- then in order to justify a two-team playoff out of a 120-team league, we would likely need way more than 12 or 13 data points for each team (especially with two-thirds of nearly every schedule dedicated to common games with a highly consolidated group of conference opponents). Baseball uses 162 games in a 32-game league, and this year, it needed all 162 just to determine an 8-team playoff setup.
Now, the point can be made that MLB didn't actually need all 162 games to determine its playoff participants -- nobody was screaming about major league baseball's illegitimacy when the season was 154 games long (or less) for the first 85 years of the league's existence, after all -- but if we extrapolate college football's rate of missing opponents to the MLB, the season would be four games long, three of the games would be dedicated to intra-division play, and the fourth game would be for one non-division opponent. And then two title game participants are chosen. If MLB commissioner Bud Selig proposed this, he would be fired. He would be quadruple-fired. Then the riots would begin.
2) The data we do have is highly contradictory anyway. Even if we had a season with dozens upon dozens of games, upsets are so prevalent that the rankings would still be a relatively poor predictor of future games. We all like to believe that if one team beats the other, it's better than the other team, but here's the full list of the Associated Press Top 25* teams that have not lost to a team ranked below them: LSU, Alabama, Oregon, Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Georgia, and Penn State. In other words, even among what voters have determined to be the best 25 teams, 76% are ranked ahead of a different team that beat them during the season, and it took only 12-13 games to get to that point. For the next 25 teams, the ones with even more losses than 1-3 on the year, there would be utter carnage in trying to only rank teams ahead of the ones they beat. Consider that the next time somebody makes the all-too-prevalent argument of "How can Team X be behind Team Y in the rankings when Team X beat Team Y?"
Now, even though college football is filled with game-changing factors that hinge on chance (weather, injuries, fumbles) this pattern of teams routinely losing to worse teams is not a phenomenon unique to the sport. Going back to baseball, losses are so prevalent that even the best teams rarely win more than two-thirds of their games. In professional football, the teams with the best regular-season record are barely more likely to make the Super Bowl than the average playoff-bound team. But those two leagues (and every other professional team sport) feature multi-round playoffs, so the contradictions are rendered meaningless through the process of the playoffs -- even as said playoffs routinely eliminate teams that would take a BCS Championship bid if such a system existed in the league.
College football does not have the luxury of expanding its schedule to adequately address either of the the above factors, especially in light of the FBS' mammoth number of programs -- football is debilitatingly brutal as it is, plus the prospect of trying to turn a profit in the postseason is prohibitively difficult for athletic departments even with a one-week schedule -- so it has to make do with its small, weak set of data in order to determine championship participants. In must step pollsters to interpret that data in their own way, and generally, those pollsters do a very good job of contextualizing the data and putting together a (temporarily) coherent Top 25 -- at least in the poll's weekly aggregations. So given the limitations of college football scheduling, there's really no other way to delineate between specific programs than by subjective ranking.
The rankings are each pollster's individual interpretation of the entire season, and if there's any doubt about that, regard the amount of teams that find themselves ranked second in the season's very final poll without playing in the BCS Championship because they won their bowl games while ranked third while the BCS Championship loser was thumped so soundly it couldn't hang onto the second-ranked spot. Those votes as No. 2 aren't protest votes to suggest that the BCS took the wrong team to challenge the top-ranked team or that a plus-one needs to be enacted immediately, they're reflections of each team's work on the season as a whole.
So given that, it's particularly backwards of the BCS and Coaches Poll to require that the winner of the BCS Championship be voted as national champion while allowing the loser to be ranked lower than second if need be. The season as a whole is what it is, and if AP voters determine that a potential slim Alabama victory over LSU at a (semi-) neutral site in the BCS Championship doesn't constitute enough of a reason to like Alabama's season more than LSU's, those voters should absolutely rank LSU first in their final ballots. They should be prepared to defend the decision, of course, but they should do it; otherwise, what's the point of being granted a vote in the first place?
Keep up with all the latest results and preview the rest of the bowls at CBSSports.com's Bowl Pregame.
Tags: 2012 BCS Bowls, ACC, Adam Jacobi, Alabama, Arlansas, BCS, BCS Bowls, BCS Championship, Big Ten, David Teel, Dennis Dodd, Georgia, Gregg Doyel, LSU, MNC, Mythical National Champion, Oregon, Pac-12, Penn State, SEC, Split BCS Championship, Split Championship, Split College Football Championship, TLDNR, Virginia Tech
Posted on: February 11, 2011 9:59 am
By Bryan Fischer
SAN DIEGO – Smile. Throw. Impress. Repeat.
That was the Cam Newton Show on Thursday as the Heisman Trophy winner took to the field to show off his talent -– and trademark grin –- on the football field for the first time since winning the BCS National Championship. The display was a lot like the old Cam Newton Show, the one seen slicing through SEC defenses with precision at Auburn.
But what made this workout a little different (other than being organized by a public relations firm) was the supporting cast. Newton’s infamous father, Cecil, was out of sight. Offensive mastermind Gus Malzahn was nowhere to be found. Instead, quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. and Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon were just off center stage as Newton wowed the media for 45 minutes at Cathedral Catholic High School.
"Ever since I’ve been here, there’s been a lot of inquires, a lot of requests, about what am I doing to work out on a day-to-day basis," Newton said. "Today was a day for everybody to just see and get a glimpse of what I do on a day-to-day basis."
Moon and Whitfield are responsible for the daily grind of preparing Newton to wow the scouts at the NFL Combine in two weeks. Moon was brought on by Newton’s family to serve as a mentor and he in turn brought aboard Whitfield to help work on fundamentals.
"He's throwing from an aspect that he's never thrown from before and that's under center," Whitfield said. "He's been playing shotgun since high school and he's acclimated and comfortable with throwing from a calm base. With a (dropback), we're going to get to it. We'll keep doing it and doing it until it becomes second nature."
The two work in tandem, the guru putting Newton through the paces and the Hall of Famer watching every workout -– on video if he’s unable to attend. Although Moon describes himself as a mentor helping aid in the mental transition to NFL quarterback, he’s not afraid to interject with advice on mechanics. After a throw sailed high, Moon quickly paused the workout to point out a mechanical flaw.
"He wasn’t transferring (his weight) and he was leaning backwards," Moon said. "He has a very strong arm but I don’t care how strong it is, if you don’t have the right base you’re not going to get good accuracy. As soon as he gets that weight transferred from the back going forward, he throws the ball as accurately as anybody I’ve been around."
Working mostly on intermediate to deep throws, Newton displayed excellent velocity and good anticipation on almost every throw, finishing 26-for-33 on the day. The accuracy and fluid three- and five-step dropbacks were light-years away from when Moon first saw Newton.
"I coached (Cam) in a clinic back when he was in high school so I have a recollection of him and his skill set," Moon said. "He wasn't as big as he was right now, maybe 6-4, 220 pounds at the time. But you could tell he had a lot of raw ability."
Whitfield, who recently tutored Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during his four-game suspension, has seen his current pupil’s skills come a long ways in just a few sessions. So much so, that he doesn’t mind comparing the two.
"Cam and Ben are very similar," Whitfield said. "They’re both Hummers and Cam would be like the sport version of the Hummer. They can off-road, they can carry a lot and handle a lot. You’d probably put a spoiler on Cam and that’s probably the only difference."
Newton didn’t run sprints to display his speed or practice escaping the pocket like he did so well while wearing a Tigers uniform. Instead, what he showed in the open workout was a quarterback who could make every throw.
"I would say at least top five," Moon said when asked where Newton should go in the draft. "Once he gets to the combine and they see his individual workouts, he’ll continue to move up the latter."
"I'm just trying to be the best athlete I can be," said Newton. "It's a big leap but at the same time you have to be mature enough to work on your talent when nobody's looking. This is your profession, this is your job. I have to come at it every single day trying to get better at what I want to do."
Smile. Throw. Impress. Repeat.
Thanks to a new supporting cast, Cam Newton is doing that better than ever.
Posted on: January 11, 2011 2:33 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
We knew that the Oregon offensive line would be undersized against Auburn's front four, but we did not realize how badly they would lose the battle in the trenches on offense. Oregon played against some teams with big defensive lineman, but none were as skilled and powerful as Nick Fairley and the rest of the Auburn defensive line. Auburn was able to get penetration into Oregon's backfield all night long, and it crushed Darron Thomas' ability to read the field and let his options develop. Thomas did pull over several impressive plays in tough situations, including his 4th down completion to D.J. Davis to keep the game-tying drive alive.
But in the end, Oregon is a team that averages more yards rushing than anyone else in the nation. On Monday night, they were held to just 75 team rushing yards. Auburn forced the Ducks to throw the ball, and it made them uncomfortable to stray from their usual gameplan. It is impressive that Thomas was able to adjust to keep the Ducks in, but those two trips inside the ten yard line will leave a lot of "What if's" for the Oregon offense. GRADE: D+
The Oregon defense played almost as well as they could have in order to win the game. If their primary task was to stop Cam Newton, they did a pretty good job by only holding him to 64 yards rushing on 22 carries. They just didn't have much help from their offense, who continued to give the ball right back to Auburn after very little rest for the Ducks. Six of Oregon's eight second half drives were done in less than 2:30, giving the undersized defense little time to rest before heading back out to face true freshman Michael Dyer. The defense held strong and even was able to create the turnover they needed in order to tie the game, but the Ducks struggled to bring down Dyer as he gobbled up all 143 yards on his way to Offensive MVP. It is hard to ask for more from a defensive unit, but it was still not enough to secure the win for Oregon. GRADE: C
Credit Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Alliotti for preparing this defense for Cam Newton's many weapons. Unfortunately, they were not ready for Auburn's many weapons. Auburn's "bad" defense was grossly underrated, and Oregon was not able to make any in-game adjustments to counter the penetration that Nick Fairley & Co. were getting into the Oregon backfield. Without being able to establish their run on the ground, Oregon was forced to drift away from the script and try new ways to move the ball. Chip Kelly made some gutsy calls to fake punts and convert a couple of fourth downs, but not having a "go-to" play for those "…and Goal" situations has got to be scary for Oregon fans. The Ducks have rarely this season HAD TO HAVE a score like they on Monday. My guess is from now on they'll have that play dialed up. GRADE: D
Oregon is going to remember for a long time the two trips inside the 10 yard line that only produced 3 points. Combined with the two interceptions and six costly penalties, there were a lot of mistakes made on Oregon's end. Having said that, it is awfully impressive that it still took a field goal as time expired for Auburn to beat them. As many mistakes as the Ducks had, they still found ways to come up with big stops and clutch conversions to hang in the game. The one thing that Oregon will have going for them moving forward is a roster full of young talent. Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, and Kenjon Barner will all be back next year, and you can bet they will be hungry to get back to this game next year after losing the way they did. GRADE: B-
Posted on: January 11, 2011 2:04 am
Edited on: January 11, 2011 3:10 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
This is uncomfortable, so let's just get it out of the way right now: Cam Newton did not win this game for Auburn. Oh, he made some good plays, and his overall numbers -- 20-34, 265 yards, 2 TD, INT, 22 rushes, 65 yards -- are certainly respectable. The fact is, though, that this game was only close because Newton missed two wide-open first-half touchdowns that could have blown the game open, and neither drive ended in points. Newton then injured his shoulder during the second half, and turned into a shell of his normal self. While he doesn't deserve a ton of scorn for his late fumble that let Oregon back into the game -- if a ball gets punched out from behind like that by someone you don't even see, well, what were you supposed to do? -- if Newton weren't running tentatively to begin with on account of that sore shoulder, does Casey Matthews still catch him from behind?
No, if anyone on the Auburn offense deserves praise, it's true freshman tailback Michael Dyer. Dyer put the team on his back in the second half, and finished with 143 yards (96 of which came in the second half) on 22 carries. Dyer wore Oregon's smallish defense down over the course of the game, and his roll over an Oregon defender on the last drive of the game led to a 37-yard gain that put Auburn in position to win the game. Again: he's a true freshman. That the SEC gets both him and Marcus Lattimore for two more years is, well, kind of unfair. Final Grade: B
Nick Fairley has a lot to learn about on-field maturity, but as a defensive tackle, he is an absolute nightmare to block. Fairley was instrumental in the Tigers' ability to control the line of scrimmage, registering three tackles for a loss, forcing numerous hurried throws, and opening up opportunities for his teammates when he drew double-teams. His draft stock skyrocketed today, even after a dumb (but not uncharacteristic) personal foul penalty for shoving LaMichael James in the facemask well after a play was dead.
Still, Oregon only rushed for 75 yards on 32 carries -- less than a quarter of the Ducks' rushing average coming into the game. It was the first time since last season's opener against Boise State that Oregon hadn't rushed for over 100 yards in a game. That is dominance. The 374 passing yards allowed? Not so dominant, of course, but Auburn spent the entire year getting shredded through the air and it never mattered. Same goes for tonight. Final Grade: B
Wes Bynum wasn't particularly challenged by his field goals, which is a good thing, and he put all his kickoffs to the goal line. Oregon got no free yards from poor kickoffs, and Auburn's punting was equally inhospitable -- Ryan Shoemaker put three punts inside the 20, had no touchbacks, and allowed only six punt return yards. In close games, details matter, and Auburn took care of the details on special teams tonight. Final Grade: A
For all the follies that usually surround collegiate game management, Gene Chizik did a very good job today. He let Gus Malzahn call an aggressive game without trying anything insane on offense, and none of his playcalls were worthy of scorn -- even that botched 4th and goal was a great call, and nobody was anywhere close to Eric Smith. Newton just failed to get the ball to him, for whatever reason. Speaking of Smith, though, his cheap shot on Dion Jordan that left the Duck bloodied near his eye was an outright disgrace, and he shouldn't have been allowed back on the field by the referees or by coaches. Smith would be injured early in the second half, rendering the point moot, but he shouldn't have been out there anymore in the first place. That's really the only gripe, though. Final Grade: A-
Auburn is your 2011 BCS Champion, and it achieved that by playing a team game. The secondary got torched at times, but the defense stiffened up as a whole in the red zone. Auburn's gameplan evolved nicely over the course of the game, adjusting for Newton's aches on the fly without completely neutralizing him. The game was sloppy at times, and closer than it had any right to be, but it was also scintillating at its peaks and Auburn was obviously a big reason why. Congratulations to Newton, Fairley, and the rest of the perfectly imperfect Auburn Tigers for their national championship. Final Grade: B+
Tags: 2011 BCS Championship, Auburn, Auburn BCS Championship, Auburn BCS Grades, Auburn Championship, Auburn Cheap Shot, BCS Championship, BCS Championship Bowl Grades, BCS Championship Game Cheap Shot, BCS Championship Grades, Bowl Grades, Cam Newton, Casey Matthews, Dion Jordan, Eric Smith, Eric Smith Cheap Shot, Gene Chizik, Gus Malzahn, LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore, Michael Dyer, Nick Fairley, Oregon, Pac-10, Ryan Shemaker, SEC, South Carolina, Team Grades, Wes Bynum
Posted on: January 11, 2011 12:12 am
Edited on: January 11, 2011 12:28 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
It was not the game we expected, mostly. We figured it would be a classic, and we knew that it would be the ultimate test for two very well-coached teams. But we did not figure to see the kinds of defensive performances that we saw out of Oregon and Auburn on Monday evening in Glendale. Both defensive units came out well-prepared and charged up to make a statement, after hearing more than a month of hype for the opposing offenses. But when two teams are as good as Auburn and Oregon, you knew there were going to be big plays.
In the end, the most significant plays were made by true freshman Michael Dyer, who converted two game-clinching runs with the game tied at 19 with less than three minutes remaining. First there was the 37 yard scramble, where Dyer rolled over the defender without letting his knee touch the ground. When Dyer stood up and saw his teammates screaming at him to run, he took off down the field to put the Tigers in field goal range. Just when you began trying to center the ball for kicker Wes Byrum, Dyer broke loose again for 16 yards to move the ball to the 1 yard line. Byrum, Auburn's career scoring leader, finished his career by nailing the chip shot to give Auburn the 22-19 win the BCS National Championship.
Auburn become the fifth straight National Champion from the SEC, and amongst a season of off-field turmoil, no team has overcome more across the entire season than the Tigers. Auburn started the season ranked outside the Top 20 in the polls, and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton was able to do what eight other Heisman winners weren't able to do - win in the BCS National Championship Game.
In the end Oregon will look back at this game and have a lot of regrets. Turning the ball over on downs at the goal line, six costly penalties, and simply being unable to impose their will against Auburn's defense will haunt Ducks fans when they remember this night against the Tigers. The Oregon defense did their part, holding Cam Newton in check as much as they could. But Auburn, as a team, was too good on this particular night. When Newton couldn't impose his will, Dyer did. When Auburn's offense couldn't score, the Tigers defense stepped up and kept Oregon from doing so as well. The focus may have been on a few players, but we were reminded on the biggest stage what kind of team effort it takes to win a National Championship.