Five Lessons We Learned: Davis cements name in Iron Bowl lore
Hate the SEC all you want, but no way is unbeaten Ohio State better than one-loss Auburn. Elsewhere, you think Ole Miss regrets firing David Cutcliffe?
There may be some things that you DON'T like about college football: Perhaps it is the uncertainty of a postseason system based on the whims of human voters.
Perhaps it is a financial system that is too heavily weighted in favor of coaches and the suits and not enough to the betterment of the athletes who play the game.
Perhaps you perceive that the rules are inconsistently applied: What is called targeting in the SEC is just a good, clean hit in the Big Ten.
Yes, all of this can be maddening.
But you can never, ever complain that the game fails to entertain. For all of its flaws, week after week college football entertains the heck out of us. Just look on this website at games. It was one compelling game after another topped off by the once-in-a-lifetime finish in Auburn.
We have one Saturday left before we all go into a deep dark depression of college football withdrawal. I get sad just thinking about it now. Here are five things (among thousands) that we learned on the incredible Thanksgiving weekend of 2013:
Chris Davis just ran his way into immortality
You want to be immortal? You want people to talk about you on a regular basis long after you're gone?
You can do it one of two ways: 1) Write or perform a great Christmas song (Jose Feliciano, Bing Crosby) and you're your name is guaranteed to be mentioned at least once a year forever; 2) Do something dramatic to decide the Iron Bowl.
Chris Davis, a senior cornerback from Birmingham, tweeted out last December that he really wanted to contribute at Auburn in 2013 as a punt and kick returner. Mission Accomplished.
His 109-yard (I know the NCAA says it's 100 but the man ran 109 yards if he ran a foot) return of a last-second Alabama field goal that came up short, gave Auburn what I believe will go down as the most stunning victory in the history of the Iron Bowl. It certainly put the exclamation point on the most stunning turnaround of a football program that you will ever see (0-8 in the SEC to playing for the championship).
While it is painful for Alabama fans to see their hopes of a third straight national championship (probably) come to an end, Saturday's Alabama-Auburn game represented everything we love about college football.
Someday, maybe 40 years from now, Chris Davis is going to be out with his grandchildren and somebody is going to say: "Hey, weren't you the guy who ran that missed kick back against Alabama in 2013?" He will smile and say, "Yes." No matter what he does for the rest of his life, they can never take that moment away from him -- or from Auburn.
Auburn is better than Ohio State
Yes, the Tigers are better than the Buckeyes. But Ohio State will get the No. 2 slot if it beats Michigan State. That is the nature of the BCS: I can't make this argument without being branded an SEC homer, so I'll just make it anyway and let the chips fall where they may. After watching Ohio State give up 41 points to a Michigan team (3-5 in the Big Ten) and winning because of a failed two-point conversion, are you here to tell me today that Ohio State (12-0) is better than Auburn (11-1), who just beat No. 1?
If Auburn beats Missouri (11-1) for the SEC championship, it will have beaten No. 1 and No. 4 in consecutive weeks. In No. 10 Michigan State (11-1) in the Big Ten championship, the Buckeyes will be playing their first Top 15 team in TWO YEARS.
This is why I was in favor of a selection committee for the four-team playoff. A selection committee knows that sometimes -- not always but sometimes -- 12-1 is better than 13-0. The BCS selection process has always leaned towards the most DESERVING (undefeated) team instead of the BEST team.
We will argue about this a lot this week. But it won't matter. At the end of the day if Ohio State is 13-0 and Florida State is 13-0, the SEC's streak of seven straight national championships will come to an end. But we can still have the argument.
Connor Shaw is the best South Carolina QB in history
Don't take my word for it. These are the words of Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier, a Heisman Trophy winner (1966) who has coached a Heisman Trophy winner (Danny Wuerffel, 1996):
"Connor Shaw, ah man, the best quarterback in school history," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said to reporters after a 31-17 win over No. 6 Clemson. "He's probably the difference maker completely for us."
Shaw raised his home record as a starter to 17-0.
Shaw passed for 152 yards and ran for 94 more. Remember that he came off the bench when South Carolina trailed 17-0 at Missouri and led the Gamecocks to a win in overtime.
Now Shaw can do the unthinkable at South Carolina. If the Gamecocks win their bowl game they will post 11 victories for the third consecutive year. Before Spurrier got to South Carolina in 2005 the Gamecocks had won 10 games in a season just once (1984). Now they have a chance to post 42 victories in four seasons.
Coach Cut kept his promise
In one of the dumber moves a university has ever made, Ole Miss fired David Cutcliffe after posting a 4-7 record in 2004, the year after Eli Manning graduated. In the five seasons before that Ole Miss had winning records and in 2003 went 10-3 and won the Cotton Bowl. School officials used that run of success to finance a multi-million expansion of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium while investing millions more in facilities. Then after one losing season in six, they fired him.
I remember talking to Cutcliffe after he decided to come back to Tennessee as an offensive coordinator.
"If I ever get another chance (to be a head coach) there are some things I'll do differently," he told me. "I don't know where it is going to be but I promise you, we'll win."
He got that chance at Duke in 2008.
On Saturday David Cutcliffe kept his promise to himself and the people who had the good sense to hire him as Duke (10-2) beat North Carolina 27-25 to win the ACC Coastal Division championship. Duke began playing football in 1888. The Blue Devils had never won 10 games in a season until Saturday.
In the locker room after the game Cutcliffe thanked his players and told them to reach out and make the effort to thank the people in their lives who made this moment possible.
The two Ohio State players who got ejected last week should sit
This won't be popular and it will never happen. But the reality is that the ejection rule is much too lenient. The two guys who got ejected (and there should have been more on both teams) in the first half of the Ohio State-Michigan brawl had to sit out the rest of the game. As penalties for brawling go, I don't think it strikes very much fear into the players.
And it certainly came as no surprise on Sunday when Ohio State coach Urban Meyer announced that the players in question would receive no further punishment and would suit up against Michigan State. Urban's a football coach. He's paid to win games. That is what I would expect him to do.
What the rule SHOULD be is that it doesn't matter in which half you get ejected for fighting. You will sit out the entire next game. This rule would not be applied to targeting, only fighting and especially for guys who come off the bench to participate.
And secondly, this decision should not even be in the hands of the head football coach. He has a big-time conflict of interest. This call should rest squarely in the commissioner's office.
Those two schools embarrassed The Big Ten in front of the entire nation. And don't give me this "it was a rivalry game and boys will be boys" crap. Take that somewhere else.
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