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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

College Football Weekend Finale Spectacular: National Championship Edition

What an anti-climatic finish to a wild college football season. For all of those prognosticators who predicted a high-flying and high scoring game, sorry but you were wrong. The Auburn Tigers fulfilled there destiny last night by taking down the Oregon Ducks for their second national championship in school history. Cam Newton received all the accolades and hype coming into the game, but it was the running of Michael Dyer and the play of defensive standout Nick Fairley that pushed the Tigers to the win. It’s fitting that the game ended in such a bizarre way for Auburn, as their entire season has been filled with controversy. The Ducks could never get their high-powered up-tempo offense in gear, as Fairley and the defensive line of Auburn dominated up front and controlled the line of scrimmage. The game turned into a defensive battle, one that clearly favored the rugged Tigers coming out of the SEC.

The first quarter was a blur to say the least as both teams saw their share of turnovers. QB Darron Thomas threw two interceptions and Cam Newton threw one himself as both teams looked to find their offense. The most intersting thing to me in the first quarter were the socks of Oregon. I couldn't figure out if they were highlighters or socks. Both teams wouldn't get rolling offensively until the second quarter.

Oregon came into the game leading the nation in scoring at 49.3 points per game but could only manage 19 against a big physical Auburn defense. The Ducks also boasted a bullying running attack that averaged over 300 yards but only managed 81 yards on the ground. In my opinion that one lone stat sealed the Ducks fate as their offense has to gain yards on the ground to be productive. Auburn stuffed the Ducks repeatedly and when Tigers tackle Mike Blanc dropped RB Lamichael James in the end-zone for a safety, it would give Auburn a lead they would never get back. James, the nation’s leading rusher was held to just 49 yards on 13 carries.

After the safety, Cam Newton was able to the Tigers down the field for a touchdown that put them up 16-11. Auburn would tack on a field goal before the Ducks threatened again. Oregon drove the ball down to the three and would have that many shots at the end-zone. The Auburn defense again would show what they were made of as they yet again suffocated Oregon. On 4th and 1 Tigers linebacker Josh Byrnes stifled Ducks RB Kenjon Burner for no gain and no score leaving the game 19-11.

From that point the game developed into a lull stage as both offenses moved the ball but did not score until the last minutes of the fourth. Oregon’s sputtering offense finally got some life as they got a converted a 4th and 5 from QB Darron Thomas to WR D.J. Davis on a crossing pattern. The referee was CLEARLY in the way of the Auburn defender and Davis managed to gain 29 yards and took it to the Auburn 11. Oregon would go on to punch in the touchdown three plays later and after the beautiful set-up on the 2pt conversion as Thomas found WR Jeff Maehl, and they tied the game 19-19.

The stage was set for the Heisman trophy winner to put on his cape as he walked onto the field. He was clearly in pain as the grimace on face told us that but he wouldn’t have to do much to seal the victory for the Tigers. He found Emory Blake for 15 yards on the first play and on the second play is where the controversy begins. Michael Dyer (22 carries 143 yards) took the hand-off from Newton, and he ran for a decent gain before being taken down by Oregon’s Eddie Pleasant. Notice as I said he was “taken down” and not tackled by the Oregon defender. Multiple coaches and teammates yelled at Dyer to continue running and he did just that going for 37 yards down to the Oregon 23, and putting Auburn into to field goal range. Sorry Oregon fans but the officiating crew got that one right. From every angle that you could see, Dyer’s knee didn’t touch the ground and although his hand was on the ground it was palm.

The non-tackle as it will be forever known in college football history set up Auburn on the 10 yard line and after a few antics and botched Cam Newton QB sneak, the Tigers kicked the game-winning field goal and gave War Eagle what it had been craving for the last 54 years, a national championship.

Other News and Notes:

SEC Domination: No denying that this win will start another round SEC chants for its fans and another round of discouraging comments from everyone else around the country. This makes for the 5th consecutive year that the conference has produced the national champion and it shows no signs of letting up. The SEC’s fierce in-conference battles are what make them so tough to beat in the post season. Just look at Auburn’s schedule and compare it to anyone else in the nation. Another impressive fact is that the last two national champs reside in Alabama. Bama may hate the Tigers in every semblance of the word but they have to take a bit of pride in that stat. The SEC will inevitably load again next year and send another representative to the championship game and continue to dominate the college scene.

Luck’s Decision: What is the deal with these Pac-10 quarterbacks? A year after we seen Jake Locker of Washington stock plummet and USC’s Matt Leinart do the same a few years earlier, Luck has made his choice to stay as well. Andrew Luck’s decision to stay at Stanford is admirable to say the least. The number 1 rated prospect was slated to make least between 30-50 million dollars. In most people opinion, if you tell them they are due for a payday of that nature, they wouldn’t think twice about returning to school. Luck’s admirable act sets the Cardinal up nicely next year, even with the departure of Jim Harbaugh. Luck has to be a bit wary of after stock like tumble of Locker. He does go into the season as the Heisman front-runner and his team should be ranked in the top 5 so that isn’t the worse thing to come back to while finishing your degree.

Miles to Michigan? : If this indeed does come true, I for one will be a sad man. Miles is one of the most animated and enjoyable coaches on the sidelines during the game. He will chomp on grass and chest bump with his players just to name couple of his antics. His game rants are the stuff of legends. It doesn’t get much better than "We would have plenty of yards we would have needed and that game would not have been a game that was so closely decided or it certainly would have put more pressure on our opponents." I mean, how could you not love a guy who can state the obvious in a not so obvious way.

Every game that his team’s play in, you can expect some type of mad hatter moment. Rather if it’s a fourth and goal flip to the holder play against South Carolina or the infamous play-clock meltdown against Tennessee, this guy always has a flair for the dramatics. Michigan is a place of the highest expectations. Miles already has high expectations at LSU but not the caliber of Michigan.

He is a Michigan man as he played and coached there so that’s a fit. Miles would be much more exciting as well than the exiting Rich Rodriguez who always seemed to be walking a thin line in the first place. Miles makes perfect sense the more I think about it but I just hate to see him leave us here SEC country if he does. As much as it pains me to say this, Michigan you need get your man. He in all signs is the anti-Rodriguez and is a great recruiter and just a winner. No you guys won’t get Jim Harbaugh but Les Miles would do just fine.

I enjoyed a great year covering the college football scene and look forward to next year. Until then my good folks enjoy the off-season. Congrats Auburn on you title, you deserved it.

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