Posts Tagged ‘BCS’

Auburn/Oregon Showdown!

The number one ranked Auburn Tigers meet second ranked Oregon in the BCS National Championship game tonight.  It is a game that’s been much anticipated and discussed among the sports community for weeks.  Given our recent 1-4 record in this weekend’s NFL Wild Card games, we are a little nervous about predicting the winner of this game, but we will give it a try anyway!

Oregon’s offense is explosive and ranks first in the nation.  Oregon is a quick strike team, having scored 24 of its TDs this year in plays lasting less than 56 seconds.   The Ducks average 49.3 points per game and 537.5 yards per game.  This prolific offense has been relentless this season.  Auburn’s 53rd ranked defense is going to have its hands full tonight.

Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James is Oregon’s greatest offensive weapon, as well as the nation’s leading rusher.  James averages 152.9 yards per game.  At 5’9” and 185 pounds, James has blazing sprinter-like speed.  His elusiveness makes defenders miss and when he gets to the edge, he is nearly unstoppable.  He is also a power runner and can run between the tackles.  If an offensive coordinator could build his own player from scratch, doesn’t it sound like James would be the prototypical, dream running back?  James will present an enormous challenge for Auburn’s defense, which ranks 10th nationally against the run.

If someone is able to stop James, it may just be Tiger tackle Nick Fairley.  As the nation’s top interior lineman and Lombardi Award winner this season, he had 55 tackles, 21 of them for a loss.  He can also pressure his opposing quarterback and accounted for 10.5 sacks and 21 hurry ups this year.    

Ducks QB Darron Thomas is also a force to be reckoned with.  He has 28 TDs and has thrown for 2518 yards this season.  Thomas, a sophomore, is only a first year starter, but led the offense this year with the poise of a much more experienced player.  He has had only 7 interceptions this season and holds a 105.4 QB rating.  While his last 3 games were a bit shaky, his performance for most of the season was stellar.  Look for Auburn to try and take away James’ running game and force Thomas to take over the game in order to win.

While not quite as explosive as Oregon’s offense, Auburn’s offense is high powered and averages 42.7 points and 497.7 yards per game.  The Tigers rank 7th in total offense nationally.  When Auburn football is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.  Newton has led the Tigers to the national title game, despite all his off-field distractions involving his father and the pay-to-play allegations.  Cam Newton’s sheer grit and will to win are intangible qualities that could be the difference in this game.

The passing stats for Newton and Thomas are quite similar.  Like Thomas, Newton also has 28 passing TDs.  He has thrown for 2589 yards and only 6 interceptions.  Newton leads the nation in passing efficiency.  While the passing stats of Newton and Thomas are comparable, the similarities end there.   Cam Newton’s rushing ability makes him a dual threat that Oregon will have to contain.  He is lethal on the ground and has scored 20 rushing TDs this season.  He averages 108.4 rushing yards per game.

So with two unstoppable offenses, which team ends the evening with the national championship title?  The Tigers played 5 games this season against opponents who were ranked 18 or higher, compared to only one for Oregon.  With this schedule, they have found themselves trailing in 8 games, 4 of them by double digits.  Yet the tenacious Tigers always found a way to win.  This resolve epitomizes both Auburn and Newton.  We believe that facing Oregon’s number one offense will certainly be the biggest challenge the Tigers have had all year.  But in the end, their unwavering determination will prevail and they will be crowned the BCS National Champion in a close game.

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New Year’s Day = College Bowl Games!

If you’re a football fanatic like us, New Year’s Day is synonymous with college football and the tradition of bowl games.  There are some lesser known games today, like the TicketCity Bowl featuring Northwestern and Texas Tech.  There are also some “ho-hum” games, like the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl with Connecticut and Oklahoma that we just cannot seem to get too excited about.  But thankfully there are also some great bowl games, which we highlight below. 

Outback Bowl – Featuring Penn State and Florida, 1 PM  EST, ABC

Two college football coaching giants meet in Tampa today – Joe Paterno, the legendary icon who, at 84, dismisses all ideas about retirement and Urban Meyer, who has announced (for the second time) that he is retiring from the college gridiron. 

While both teams are 7-5 and have had mediocre seasons, it should still be a great game to watch.  Here’s our take on the contest..

If the Gators play inspired football, determined to win one last game for their outgoing coach, they can probably pull off a victory.  What will the Gators’ attitudes be like?  It is hard to say, but even Urban Meyer himself recognizes that it is a key component of the game.  This week, he said, “I think the older players will play like there’s no tomorrow; they’re the invested group. I hope the younger guys carry the torch.”  He went on to say that this season is the first time in 10 years, “we have not followed the plan to win.”  All season long the Gators have played uninspired football, so it is a real concern for Meyer and a possible make or break factor in the game.

Another major element in today’s game is the injuries that are plaguing Florida.  Florida will be missing 5 starters, most notably corner Janoris Jenkins, which should give Nittany Lions QB Matt McGloin an offensive edge.   Even without all the injuries, Florida’s pass defense was poor.  The Lions will have to exploit this weakness if they want to pull off a victory.

Neither team has any superstars, which means the game may come down to the intangibles.  Motivation is certainly one intangible, but weather is another.  With game time temperatures expected to be in the upper 70s, Penn State may struggle keeping up with Florida’s speed. 

Prediction:  Florida 24, PSU 17

Capital One Bowl – Featuring Alabama and Michigan State, 1 PM EST, ESPN

Alabama began the season with high hopes.  A national championship seemed a real possibility as the Crimson Tide started the season with a 5-0 record and a #1 ranking.  In the last 6 games against Division I opponents the Tide went 3-3 and they found themselves out of national championship contention and relegated to a bowl game they are not very excited to be part of.

On the other side of the field, Michigan State ended the season as Big Ten champs (sharing the title with Wisconsin and Ohio State).   The 11-1 Spartans feel slighted since they were not invited to one of the elite BCS Bowl games and would love to walk away with a victory against the defending national champions.

Will Michigan State’s desire to prove they belonged in a more prestigious bowl game be enough of a motivator to win?  Or will Alabama look at this game as a way of salvaging a disappointing 9-3 season?  I think Alabama’s offense will be the deciding factor in this matchup.  QB Greg McElroy has thrown for nearly 2800 yards and just 5 INTs this season.  The Spartans will have to respect the run and crowd the line of scrimmage to contain last year’s Heisman winner Mark Ingram and running back Trent Richardson.  That will give McElroy the opportunity to showcase his arm.  Look for wide out Julio Jones, the Tide’s leading receiver with over yards this season, to be a critical factor in the game.

Prediction:  Alabama 30, Michigan State 21

Gator Bowl – Featuring Mississippi State and Michigan, 1:30 PM EST, ESPN2

The bowl season just wouldn’t be complete without one of our very favorite college players – Michigan QB Denard Robinson.  One last chance to see this dynamic, dual-threat player with the untied cleats is simply irresistible!

The game plan for Mississippi State is basic and simple – STOP DENARD ROBINSON.  The 8-4 Bulldogs have a strong run defense, but have struggled against the pass.  Expect Robinson to show that he is not merely a running, scrambling QB (over 1600 yards and 14 TDs this season), but an efficient passer (over 2300 yards and 16 TDs) as well.

Robinson enters the game rested and healthy.  Since he is the workhorse on the team and carries much of the offensive load, he takes a lot of hits and suffered various injuries this season.  A healthy Robinson will likely put up points for the 7-5 Wolverines, but it may not be enough to win the game.  The Michigan defense has struggled all season and were ranked 102nd in points allowed and 108th in yards allowed.  Statistically, it was the worst defense in the history of Wolverine football. 

The Bulldogs offense is solid and will be a challenge for the Wolverines.  MSU lost by only a field goal to #1 ranked Auburn and their other losses were to ranked opponents.  For Michigan to win, the Wolverine defense will need to finally step up this season.  

An interesting aspect of today’s game is how it may impact the future of Wolverine Head Coach Rich Rodriquez.  He has been on the hot seat all year.  In his 3 seasons at Michigan, he has a 15-21 overall record and is an embarrassing 6-18 in the Big Ten and 1-10 against ranked teams.  In addition, under Rodriquez the team had a number of NCAA violations related to practices and offseason workouts.  The outcome of today’s game may very well determine whether Rodriguez will return as the Michigan Head Coach.

Prediction:  Mississippi State 31, Michigan 27

Rose Bowl – Featuring Wisconsin and TCU, 5 PM EST, ESPN

Unbeaten TCU enters the Rose Bowl, referred to as “The Granddaddy of them All”, looking for validation.  As a Mountain West team playing in one of the elite BCS games, and after losing in the Fiesta Bowl last year to Boise State, TCU wants to prove it can play with the “Big Boys”.  Indeed, the 11-1 Badgers have a roster full of big boys.  Their offensive line is gargantuan with every starter over 300 pounds and at least 6’ 4”.  This massive line has allowed 3 different Badger running backs to rush for at least 860 yards each this season. 

Will this offensive line prove to be too enormous for TCU’s defense?  While the Horned Frog defense IS smaller, they are also renowned for their speed.  Combine that with solid tackling and leverage and TCU may just be able to handle the big boys.  After all, TCU has the top ranked defense in the nation!

While the Badgers’ ability to put up big points (averaging 43.3 points per game) is notorious, TCU’s offense is powerful as well and ranks 4th in scoring and 9th overall.  In fact, TCU’s offense also averages 43.3 points per game!  Both teams have scored an identical number of points – 520.  The Badger’s defense will be challenged with this dynamic, balanced offense led by senior QB Andy Dalton, who can both pass AND run.

With the Badgers ranked #4 and the Horned Frogs #3, today’s Rose Bowl looks to be the marquee matchup of the day.  These eerily, evenly matched powerhouse offenses will undoubtedly provide an exciting contest.  But games like this are won in the trenches, which should give the Badgers the edge and their 4th consecutive Rose Bowl victory.

Prediction:  Wisconsin 38, TCU 27

Sit back and enjoy today’s games.  With less than two weeks of college football remaining, soak up every moment you can! 

Happy New Year! 

From Your Gridironglamourgirl Team!

Don’t Be a Gridiron Grinch

This weekend marks the beginning of the college football bowl game season.  On Saturday there are 3 bowl games –the New Mexico Bowl, uDrove Humanitarian Bowl and R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.  If these eccentrically named bowls are not familiar to you, don’t worry.  With 35 games, many of which have silly sounding names, it is easy to lose track. 

There has been a lot of debate about the hefty number of bowl games.  Critics say that 35 games allow too many mediocre teams into post season play, which in turn undermines the integrity of bowl games in general.  These critics want to preserve the prestige of post season collegiate football and go back to the time when there were only a handful of championship games.

Bowl games originated in the 1920s with the Rose Bowl.  By the 1950s, the classics – Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl and Sun Bowl were part of the college football landscape.  Bowl games were almost always exclusively on New Year’s Day and became an American tradition.  Over the years the number of bowls has grown and they are now played from mid-December through early January.  With 35 games this season, it means 70 of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams, or a whopping 58%, will play in a bowl game this year.

I love tradition and can appreciate why some people long for the more exclusive and nostalgic bowl games of long ago.  Of course when there were fewer games, only top level teams were invited to play.  Now teams with 6 wins are eligible, which certainly does “water down” the level of play.  This is one of the major complaints with the current system.

I acknowledge the fact that getting a bowl bid in today’s college football climate is not the same achievement as it was years ago.  But who cares?  In the end, fans understand which teams are the best and the BCS still has its “premiere” games that receive the most hype, money and prestige.   No one is going to equate the teams playing in the New Era Pinstripe bowl on December 30th (Kansas State vs. Syracuse) with the January 10th Tostitos BCS National Championship game between Auburn and Oregon.

So rather than jump on the popular “Bah Humbug, There are Too Many Bowl Games” bandwagon, look at the post season from a different point of view.  If you are a student-athlete going to one of the lesser known bowls, it is still an exciting opportunity.  Fans and alumni also enjoy these games, even if they don’t have national appeal.  For the football programs, bowl games can also be a great recruiting tool.

College football is big business and obviously the fact that so many bowls exist today is money driven.  Critics like to point out that many schools actually lose money from attending a bowl game.  The expense of getting the team and its coaches, trainers, band and so forth to the venue can be tremendous.  In addition, schools are often obligated to buy a certain number of tickets.  If the school cannot sell their allotment, they lose that money.  Since the enormous payouts from bowl games go to the conferences, rather than just the school playing in the game, it is easy to see that schools can find themselves in the red.   

But, it is clear, given the desire colleges have to receive a bowl bid that they benefit in other ways.  For most schools, it is the national exposure that makes college bowl game participation so valuable.  Having a team in the national spotlight can help increase the university’s enrollment and truly help its image.  These are intangible benefits that are hard to measure, but universities believe that bowl games are worth the costs involved.

Less than one in 50 student athletes go on to play at the professional level.  For these students their bowl game is, in a sense, their own little title game.  Of course they understand they are not actually playing in the big title game, but it is one last hurrah as they leave football behind.

What is so wrong about allowing other teams to experience the tradition of a college bowl game, even if it on a smaller, less grand scale?  It seems silly to grumble over the large number of bowl games since, in the end, it doesn’t change the fact about which teams are truly championship-level programs.  If you are not interested in a bowl game, simply don’t watch it!  This season, don’t’ be a gridiron Grinch!

Tis’ the Season for Good Cheer! Bowl Season is Almost Here!

The college football regular season may be over (except for this Saturday’s Army/Navy game), but the good news is that the 2010-2011 bowl season is just around the corner.  To help you plan your next month’s game watching strategy, here is a list of all the bowls beginning with the December 18th New Mexico Bowl (who knew??!) to the BCS National Championship game on January 10th!  Tis’ the season!!

Bowl Location Date/Time Network
New Mexico
BYU vs. UTEP
Albuquerque, N.M.
University Stadium
Dec. 18
2 p.m.
ESPN
uDrove Humanitarian
Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State
Boise, Idaho
Bronco Stadium
Dec. 18
5:30 p.m.
ESPN
R+L Carriers New Orleans
Ohio vs. Troy
New Orleans
Louisiana Superdome
Dec. 18
9 p.m.
ESPN
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg
Southern Mississippi vs. Louisville
St. Petersburg, Fla.
Tropicana Field
Dec. 21
8 p.m.
ESPN
MAACO Las Vegas
Utah vs. Boise State
Las Vegas
Sam Boyd Stadium
Dec. 22
8 p.m.
ESPN
S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia
Navy vs. San Diego State
San Diego
Qualcomm Stadium
Dec. 23
8 p.m.
ESPN
Sheraton Hawaii
Hawaii vs. Tulsa
Honolulu
Aloha Stadium
Dec. 24
8 p.m.
ESPN
Little Caesars
Florida International vs. Toledo
Detroit
Ford Field
Dec. 26
8:30 p.m.
ESPN
AdvoCare V100 Independence
Air Force vs. Georgia Tech
Shreveport, La.
Independence Stadium
Dec. 27
5 p.m.
ESPN2
Champs Sports
West Virginia vs. NC State
Orlando, Fla.
Florida Citrus Bowl
Dec. 28
6:30 p.m.
ESPN
Insight
Missouri vs. Iowa
Tempe, Ariz.
Sun Devil Stadium
Dec. 28
10 p.m.
ESPN
Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman
East Carolina vs. Maryland
Washington, D.C.
RFK Stadium
Dec. 29
2:30 p.m.
ESPN
Texas
Illinois vs. Baylor
Houston
Reliant Stadium
Dec. 29
6 p.m.
ESPN
Valero Alamo
Oklahoma State vs. Arizona
San Antonio
Alamodome
Dec. 29
9:15 p.m.
ESPN
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces
Army vs. SMU
Dallas
Gerald J. Ford Stadium
Dec. 30
Noon
ESPN
New Era Pinstripe
Kansas St. vs. Syracuse
Bronx, N.Y.
Yankee Stadium
Dec. 30
3:20 p.m.
ESPN
Franklin American Mortgage Music City
North Carolina vs. Tennessee
Nashville, Tenn.
LP Field
Dec. 30
6:40 p.m.
ESPN
Bridgepoint Education Holiday
Nebraska vs. Washington
San Diego
Qualcomm Stadium
Dec. 30
10 p.m.
ESPN
Meineke Car Care
South Florida vs. Clemson
Charlotte, N.C.
Bank of America Stadium
Dec. 31
Noon
ESPN
Hyundai Sun
Notre Dame vs. Miami
El Paso, Texas
Sun Bowl
Dec. 31
2 p.m.
CBS
AutoZone Liberty
Georgia vs. UCF
Memphis, Tenn.
Liberty Bowl
Dec. 31
3:30 p.m.
ESPN
Chick-fil-A
South Carolina vs. Florida State
Atlanta
Georgia Dome
Dec. 31
7:30 p.m.
ESPN
TicketCity
Northwestern vs. Texas Tech
Dallas
Cotton Bowl
Jan. 1
Noon
ESPNU
Outback
Florida vs. Penn State
Tampa, Fla.
Raymond James Stadium
Jan. 1
1 p.m.
ABC
Capital One
Alabama vs. Michigan State
Orlando, Fla.
Florida Citrus Bowl
Jan. 1
1 p.m.
ESPN
Gator Bowl
Mississippi State vs. Michigan
Jacksonville, Fla.
Municipal Stadium
Jan. 1
1:30 p.m.
ESPN2
Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO
Wisconsin vs. TCU
Pasadena, Calif.
Rose Bowl
Jan. 1
5 p.m.
ESPN
Tostitos Fiesta
Connecticut vs. Oklahoma
Glendale, Ariz.
U. of Phoenix Stadium
Jan. 1
8:30 p.m.
ESPN/ESPN3D
Discover Orange
Stanford vs. Virginia Tech
Miami
Sun Life Stadium
Jan. 3
8:30 p.m.
ESPN
Allstate Sugar
Ohio State vs. Arkansas
New Orleans
Louisiana Superdome
Jan. 4
8:30 p.m.
ESPN
GoDaddy.com
Middle Tennessee vs. Miami (Ohio)
Mobile, Ala.
Ladd-Peebles Stadium
Jan. 6
8 p.m.
ESPN
AT&T Cotton
LSU vs. Texas A&M
Arlington, Texas
Cowboys Stadium
Jan. 7
8 p.m.
FOX
BBVA Compass Bowl
Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky
Birmingham, Ala.
Legion Field
Jan. 8
Noon
ESPN
Kraft Fight Hunger
Nevada vs. Boston College
San Francisco
AT&T Park
Jan. 9
9 p.m.
ESPN
Tostitos BCS National Championship Game
Auburn vs. Oregon
Glendale, Ariz.
U. of Phoenix Stadium
Jan. 10
8:30 p.m.
ESPN/ESPN3D

Does the NCAA Stand for “No Cam Accountability Allowed”??

We have been supporters of Auburn’s Cam Newton all season long.  His performance has deservedly made him the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy.  He’s the first player in the SEC to have passed for over 2,000 yards AND rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a single season.  Newton has the led the Tigers to a number one national ranking and, in all likelihood, a real shot at the BCS national championship.  On Saturday, he and Auburn will play for the SEC championship in a game versus South Carolina.  Looking at these stats, it is easy to justify Newton’s position as the #1 Heisman hopeful.

“Pay to play “allegations have been swirling around Newton and his father, Cecil Newton, for weeks.  The accusations were that Cecil and a former Mississippi State Bulldog player (who is now the owner of a scouting service) worked together to asked Mississippi State boosters to pay $180,000 in order for Cam to play for the Bulldogs.  Both Cam Newton and his father have denied all allegations.

For weeks, Cam Newton has refused to speak to the media about the ongoing NCAA investigation.  Instead, he has continued his phenomenal performances and has handled the scrutiny and pressure quite well.  Last weekend, he brought the Tigers back from a 24 point deficit against #9 Alabama.  The victory was a real testament to Newton’s incredible athletic abilities and focus.  Cam accounted for all  TDs in the comeback and his performance truly reinforced his first place standing in the race for the Heisman.  Based on ability alone, Newton should win the Heisman hands down.

But the past few days have brought new information to light.  The NCAA has been investigating the pay-to-play allegations since the summer.  Based on their investigation, they ruled that a violation of NCAA rules had been committed by Cecil Newton and Kenny Rogers, the former Mississippi State player.  Specifically, on Monday the NCAA ruled that a violation of Cam Newton’s amateur status had occurred.

Following NCAA guidelines, a school must rule an athlete ineligible if they are told that a possible violation has occurred.  Therefore, on Tuesday, Auburn ruled Cam Newton ineligible to play and then immediately requested that he be reinstated.  The very next day, Wednesday, the NCAA cleared Newton to play “without conditions”.

The NCAA statement said, in part…

The student-athlete’s father (Cecil Newton) and an owner of a scouting service (Kenny Rogers) worked together to actively market the student-athlete as a part of a pay-for-play scenario in return for Newton’s commitment to attend college and play football. NCAA rules (Bylaw 12.3.3) do not allow individuals or entities to represent a prospective student-athlete for compensation to a school for an athletic scholarship.

The NCAA went on to say that they did not have “sufficient evidence” to prove that Cam was aware of his father’s attempt to sell his athletic services.

These fast and unexpected developments have certainly raised a few eyebrows.  Isn’t it quite convenient that the NCAA could reinstate Newton so quickly, given the importance of this weekend’s game against South Carolina?  If Newton had not been ruled eligible to play, Auburn’s chances against South Carolina would be greatly diminished.  If Auburn were to lose, the third ranked BCS team, TCU, would be the next contender for the national championship game.  Is it possible this factor influenced the members of the NCAA?  Yes, it seems that given the money and prestige of the BCS, the idea of a much less prominent school like TCU in the title game could have influenced the NCAA’s decision.

Furthermore, given the strict and rigid rules of the NCAA, how could they so easily accept the idea that Cam Newton was unaware that his father was trying to sell him to the highest bidder?  The NCAA routinely cracks down on small, simple violations by athletes, like accepting a dinner invitation or small gift!  In this case, there are SERIOUS allegations and now, apparently, enough evidence to implicate Newton’s very own father.  Frankly, it is just plain hard to believe that Cam was not aware of his father’s actions.

The NCAA’s ruling that Cam Newton is eligible to play was made by the body’s reinstatement committee.  However, the NCAA’s enforcement staff, a separate and independent group from the reinstatement committee, is continuing its investigation.  While Auburn may very well go on to win the SEC title and the BCS National Championship, and Newton may win the Heisman, the case is far from over. 

When allegations surfaced about NCAA violations involving Reggie Bush and USC, it took 4 YEARS for the case to be closed.  That case resulted in Bush returning his Heisman award and USC receiving major sanctions against the football program.  So, for Auburn and Cam Newton, the NCAA ruling is good news in the short term.  In the long run, this latest ruling could be meaningless.

Cam Newton’s football performance this season is Heisman worthy.  There is simply no argument about it.  With only 4 days left for voters to return their Heisman ballots, it is quite likely the winner may have already been selected.  We believe Cam Newton will win the coveted award.  What is unclear is whether he, like Reggie Bush, will be forced to relinquish the Heisman should more proof about what he knew come to light.

The NCAA’s lenient ruling in the Cam Newton saga truly is puzzling.  Given the stakes involved, it is more than surprising that they simply took Cam at his word that he was unaware of his father’s illegal and immoral actions.  For whatever reason, it seems the NCAA has decided to stand for the “No Cam Accountability Allowed” body, rather than the stringent, authoritative governing organization it has always been. 

Only time will tell whether the NCAA made the right call on Cam, or whether they were influenced by outside forces to allow him to continue his run for the Heisman, SEC title and possible national championship title.  What is clear, however, is that the NCAA’s latest Cam Newton ruling opens the door for other student athletes to simply deny knowledge of any potential violations committed by others on their behalf.  The ruling has set a dangerous precedent and is a potential serious problem for future NCAA investigations into player conduct.

Boise State Falls to Nevada in OT… Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz Oh What a Relief it is!

College football’s most divisive team, Boise State, lost 34-31 in overtime to Nevada last night.  The Broncos were ranked 4th and were undefeated this season.  In fact, they had not lost a game since 2008, when they fell to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl.  Poinsettia Bowl?  Honestly, I did not even know that bowl existed.  This loss makes it quite likely Boise will end up in a similarly named bowl of obscurity.

If you detect a bit of mockery in my tone, you are right.  Politically correct or not, I am willing to admit that I am celebrating Boise State’s defeat.  I have felt all along that they were undeserving of their 4th place ranking.  Given the current structure of the BCS, I have little faith that the actual top teams will be playing for a national title.  The idea of Boise State playing in a BCS bowl game seemed so unjust and bizarre to me.  Thankfully last night’s loss will ensure that the Broncos will not be national championship contenders.  Whew!  What a relief. 

A few days ago Ohio State University President Gordon Gee offered his opinion about Boise State and 3rd ranked Texas Christian University being possible BCS contenders.  Since that statement, he has been widely criticized.  While Gee’s words were perhaps not as eloquent as one would expect from a university president, the basic concept he was trying to convey resonated among many fans.  During an AP interview, Gee said

I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it’s like murderer’s row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day. So I think until a university runs through that gauntlet that there’s some reason to believe that they not be the best teams to (be) in the big ballgame.

It was an insensitive way to basically argue that schools like Boise State and TCU do not play with the “big boys”.  However, the OSU President should have looked at strength of schedule stats before making such a controversial, public statement.  It turns out that OSU’s strength of schedule (59) is only slightly better than TCU’s (68) and Boise’s (73).  These strength of schedule (SOS) stats have now been used against Gee by basically every sports commentator and writer around.

But to dismiss Gee’s arguments by simply quoting SOS data misses the bigger picture.  There is validity in what he was trying to say.  Frankly, the WAC and Mountain West conferences, which Boise and TCU play in, are NOT as competitive as the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-10 or the ACC.  While teams like these do play weaker opponents, the majority of their games are against teams in more powerful conferences.  For example, #2 ranked Auburn has faced Arkansas (#12 at the time), LSU (#6 at the time), South Carolina (#12 at the time) and Alabama (#11 at the time).  Conversely, Boise State’s ranked opponents have been Virginia Tech (#10 at the time) and # 19 Nevada, whom they lost to last night.

Consider the argument from yet another perspective.  If you are a high school football player, being recruited to play at the collegiate level, would you choose a school from the Mountain West over ANY school in the PAC-10, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12 or SEC?  Of course there are exceptions, but the majority of elite high school prospects choose colleges from the powerhouse conferences.  This means that week after week teams like Auburn, Alabama and OSU face athletes who are simply stronger, faster, bigger and yes, better.  So until Boise State and TCU can compete against better caliber opponents on a consistent basis, football fans like me will continue to doubt them.

All the controversy about strength of schedules, BCS computer rankings and so forth could be eliminated if a college football playoff system was implemented.  It would put an end to the endless arguing about who deserves to play in the major BCS bowls.  Gordon Gee is not a proponent of a playoff system and prefers the status quo.  If he truly believes OSU is far superior to teams like Boise and TCU, he should welcome NCAA playoffs. 

In the meantime, people like me have to sit back and hope that the football media darlings, like Boise State, fall from grace and get eliminated from the national championship discussion.  If you listen closely, you can hear the sigh of relief from football fans throughout the land.

Cam Newton is the Comeback Kid!

If you watched Auburn vs. Alabama today in the Iron Bowl, I hope you didn’t turn it off at halftime to go grab some Black Friday bargains.  The game was one of the most exciting deals you could ask for and it was certainly a tale of two halves!

Auburn entered the game ranked 2nd in the nation.  The atmosphere at Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium was hostile, with much of the hatred directed at Auburn QB Cam Newton.  Newton has been embroiled in pay for play allegations for weeks.  As the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, it is not surprising that Alabama Crimson Tide fans targeted Newton.   They threw play Monopoly money at him as he entered the stadium and the loudspeakers blared out the song “Take the Money and Run” during pre-game warm-ups.  In the end, though, Newton would silence all his critics with the biggest comeback n Auburn’s history!

The first half was dominated by 9th ranked Alabama, who at one point led 24-0 in front of their home crowd.  Alabama tore the Auburn Tiger defense to shreds and it looked as though a blow out was developing.  In fact, the Tide controlled the first half so completely that it was 21-0 before Auburn even gained a first down! 

Cam Newton had a dreadful start and at the end of the first quarter was 0 for 1 in passing and had 5 carries for negative 6 yards.  Late in the 2nd quarter, Auburn finally answered back with a 36 yard TD pass from Newton to wide out Emory Blake to close the scoring gap to 24-7.  Little did anyone know it was just the beginning of the Cam Newton Comeback Show.

In the second half, Newton threw a 70 yard TD pass on the second play to make it 24-14.  The Tiger defense stepped up and forced Alabama to punt, allowing Newton and his offense to work their magic.  Late in the 3rd quarter, Auburn scored again, this time on a Cam Newton run, to bring the score to 24-21.  With just over a minute left in the 3rd quarter, Alabama kicked a field goal and led 27-21.

In the first half, the Auburn defense gave up 379 yards to the Crimson Tide offense.  But Auburn’s defense looked like a different unit when they emerged from the locker room and held Alabama to just 67 yards in the second half!  Another Cam Newton passing TD early in the 4th quarter gave Auburn the lead for the first time, 28-27.  The Tigers would keep that lead and prevent Alabama from scoring for the rest of the game.

Cam Newton’s performance was indeed magical.  Alabama had won 20 consecutive home games and it looked as though they were about to seal their 21st victory.   But Newton would not be deterred.  His determination to keep Auburn’s undefeated record and national championship hopes alive was remarkable and should solidify his #1 position in the Heisman race. 

Despite the hostility directed at him and the incredible media scrutiny he is under, Newton was able to keep his composure and lead his team from what seemed an insurmountable 24-0 deficit.  He threw for 216 yards and 3 TDs, as well as running for a TD.  At the end of the game, he not only defeated the Crimson Tide football team, but also silenced the more than 100,000 fans who left the stadium in stunned silence.  On so many levels, Cam Newton truly was the Comeback Kid today!

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