Posts Tagged ‘Cam Newton’

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

Despite our every intention to consistently write about the 2011 football season, life has a way of derailing even the most ardent blogger.  With a work schedule that demolishes every Saturday and Sunday, it is nearly impossible to enjoy the games AND write about them.  Choosing work over tailgates and games is a serious dilemma for a real football fan, but given the economy and the cost of shoes, what’s a Gridironglamourgirl to do?  So as we approach the half-way point of the NFL season, here are a few of our observations on what is good, bad and ugly thus far.

THE GOOD: 

The Packers, Saints, Patriots and THE 49ERS?!!

The Packers, Saints and Patriots continue to top the NFL power rankings.  But after many disappointing seasons, the 49ers are the surprise team of 2011, standing at 5-1 and first in the NFC West.  Much of the turnaround can be traced to the off season.   The road to success was paved last January when Trent Baalke was named GM and Stanford University Coach Jim Harbaugh was hired as Head Coach.  Their off season acquisitions have proved to be brilliant.  From their decision to re-sign a bewildered and beaten down Alex Smith at QB –  to their choice of linebacker Aldon Smith as 7th overall in the draft – to the addition of a slew of talented players during the draft and free-agency – the decisions made thus far have been masterful and show real insight and aptitude.  With a schedule over the next 4 weeks that includes the struggling Cardinals, Redskins and Browns, the 49ers look to solidify their place among the top teams in the league.

Is Cam Newton as Good as All the Hype?

The franchise QBs that never fail to disappoint – Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees –  are posting impressive stats.  Their numbers and performances are nothing out of the ordinary for QBs of their stature.  Perhaps the most unpredictable surprise amongst QBs this season is Cam Newton.  The Carolina Panthers QB has demonstrated that his number one spot in the draft last spring was deserved.  While the Panthers are struggling with a 2-5 record, Newton is proving he can make the transition from college to the NFL.  Newton had plenty of critics, including me.  But the guy has legitimate talent and is challenging defensive coordinators to recognize and address his dual threat capabilities.

His 7 rushing TDs tied Vince Young’s record for most in a QB’s rookie season and there are still 9 games remaining.  While he has more INTs than TDs, each week he is showing signs that he is capable of leading his team.  His confidence and ability to master a full array of play calling are impressive for a rookie.  It will be fascinating to watch Newton develop the rest of the season, but if his start is any indication, he may just find his name mentioned among the elites very soon.

THE BAD: 

The St. Louis Rams

Pre-season predictions had the Rams winning the NFC West.  They now stand winless at a pitiful 0-6 record.  As the Saints come marching in this weekend, could it be that the Rams end up 0-7?  It’s quite likely.  St. Louis is suffering from a multitude of injuries and has had 7 different cornerbacks this season.  QB Sam Bradford missed the last game and is questionable against the Saints.  The receiving corps is not performing and the defense is ranked 29th in the NFL, giving up and average of 410 yards per game.  The Rams may very well be the worst team in the NFL right now.  The only solace Rams’ fans can take is that their team will likely get some early draft picks as a result of their abysmal season.

Rex Grossman

Washington QB Rex Grossman is just plain BAD.  He has the highest interception percentage over the years since he was first drafted.  This season he threw 6 TDs and 9 INTs, but unlike Newton, shows no signs of improvement.  In fact, when questioned about his performances, he seems downright delusional.  We wouldn’t be so harsh if perhaps Grossman could recognize his mistakes, but he seems blissfully ignorant of his lack of fundamentals and poor decision making at game time.  For that reason, he gets our vote as just plain BAD!

THE UGLY:

Is Michael Vick the Cause of the Eagles’ Ugly Season?

Any devoted reader knows that no blog is complete without discussing our favorite player, Michael Vick.  But putting him under a heading with the title “ugly” is downright wrong!  Sure, the Eagles look ugly – as though their wings have been clipped by a hedge clipper – but our faith in Vick remains strong.  What looked like a dream team at the beginning of the season has now turned almost nightmarish.  With free agency acquisitions that had owners and managers throughout the league green with envy, the only green Vick has been experiencing is his body implanted in the turf.

So how did a much touted team with a roster full of talent find itself with a 1-4 start?  There’s no easy answer, but part of the failure is due to new coaches, young players on the O-line and games plagued with turnovers.  So far this season, Vick has thrown 8 INTs, been sacked 8 times and has committed 7 fumbles.  Compare that to the entire 2010 season, when he had a mere 6 INTs and 11 fumbles, and you can begin to discover at least PART of the reason the Eagles have stumbled and Vick has found himself running for his life against defenders.

Vick’s passing numbers are decent – 9 TDs and over 260 yards per game passing – but they do not compare to the phenomenal numbers he posted last year. The victory two weeks ago over Washington ended Philly’s losing streak and left them with a 2-4 record.  Combined with a bye last week and three home games ahead of them, the Eagles hope to keep the momentum going.  If Vick can work on making better reads and getting rid of the ball more quickly, he could salvage the remainder of the season.  The bottom line is this:  Vick is a scrapper AND a dual threat that makes defenses respect him in and out of the pocket.  Head Coach Andy Reid has an extraordinary record coming off a bye week – 12-0! – and he will use Vick to continue that winning streak.  With Vick’s leadership, unparalleled athleticism and grit, the Eagles will once again soar.  Vick can then be removed from the “ugly” category and return to his rightful place as a football fashionista’s favorite!  Let’s face it, only Vick can turn flip flops, shorts, and a jacket and tie into a good look!

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.

2011 New Year’s Resolutions Around the Gridiron

We have been gone for a few days, squeezing out the last of the holiday festivities before getting back to reality.  As we head into 2011, we have made our list of resolutions, hoping to accomplish at least a few of the things we long to do this coming year! 

In that spirit, we offer the following New Year’s resolutions for some of our favorite (and not so favorite) football-related individuals and others from 2010.

Mike Shanahan

I resolve to faithfully read the “Miss Manners” advice column so I can learn the meaning of respect and apply it to those around me, particularly legendary quarterbacks who have earned it. 

I resolve to go to my local Barnes & Noble to purchase “Coaching Football for Dummies” in hopes that I can learn SOMETHING useful to salvage my professional career.

The New York Jets

We resolve to hire Strength and Conditioning coaches who work on OUR players and not the other team’s players.

We resolve to recognize that women are more than just Barbie Dolls and can actually contribute to sports.

Brett Favre

I resolve to get rid of my cell phone.

I resolve to take the hint from the injuries Gods and finally retire for REAL.

Randy Moss

I resolve to keep all thoughts about the superb abilities of former coaches and teammates tucked away securely in my head, especially during post-game press conferences.

I resolve to keep all comments regarding catered foods and canines to myself.

Roger Goodell

I resolve to keep Vince Lombardi from turning in his grave by never postponing games due to snow and wind.

I resolve to keep the word “Wussie” from ever being associated with the NFL again.

I resolve to keep the NFL from turning into the National Flag League by concentrating on REAL player safety issues instead of legitimate hard hits.

Cam Newton

I resolve to never listen to my father’s advice.

I resolve to take lots of pics with my Heisman, since I will undoubtedly be returning it within the next few years.

Ohio State

We resolve to stop being an NFL player factory and at least APPEAR to provide an education.

We resolve to duct tape our President’s mouth whenever he attempts to discuss football.

Eli Manning

I resolve to stop giving the camera that Gomer Pyle  “Gaaw-aawl-ly” look when I throw an interception.

I resolve to call my big brother and get advice on how to transform my naïve country boy persona into one fitting a New York quarterback.

NCAA

We resolve to fairly enforce our rules and not allow players from big football programs (read Auburn and Ohio State) to get off the hook.

Tucker Carlson

I resolve to actually practice the Christianity I profess and learn that forgiveness is one of its tenets.

I resolve to never speak about football, or any other sport, again.

I resolve to loosen my bow tie, in hopes that it sends oxygen to my brain so that I think before I speak.

Michael Vick

I resolve to finish my story book-like comeback with a fairy tale ending and take my team to the Super Bowl.

I resolve to continue to be THE most exciting player in the NFL while showing the world that redemption is truly possible.

What’s on Tap for Today? Two Terrific Traditions!

Today two college football traditions take place – the classic Army/Navy game and the awarding of the Heisman Trophy.   As we move towards the vast array of bowl games ahead, it seems fitting that the end of the regular college football season celebrates two historic traditions that are the foundation of college football today.

Army-Navy Game

The annual game between the United States Military Academy at West Point (Army) and the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis (Navy) began in 1890 and represents one of the great rivalries in college football.  From the time a cadet enters their particular academy, whether an athlete or not, he or she is immersed in the “Beat Army” or “Beat Navy “mantra. 

Navy has won the last 8 games and leads the overall series with 54 wins, while Army won 49 of the games.  Today’s game takes place at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and will be broadcast on CBS, with kickoff at 2:30 PM EST. 

Both academies have a tradition of running with a football from their campus to the site of the game.  At a West Point pep rally Thursday night (where a large sailboat was set fire to emulate beating Navy), a football was handed to the captain of the marathon team.  The 20 member team (14 men and 6 women) took turns running the 179 miles to Lincoln Financial Field through the dark roads of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Meanwhile, approximately 140 midshipmen from Company 13 began their 125 mile long trek after a send off by their commandant on noon on Friday.  Both groups of relay runners will present the balls to their academy’s football team captains on Saturday on the field just before kickoff.  This decades old tradition symbolizes not only the discipline and sheer grit of both academies, but also illustrates the intensity of the rivalry.

Army and Navy football players will most likely never play in the NFL.  These men play for the pure love of the game.  Upon graduation, they will serve our country in their respective branches, leaving behind football as nothing but a fond memory.  That’s what makes this game so special and makes it one of the best traditions of college football.

The Heisman Trophy

The 76th Annual Heisman Memorial Trophy will be awarded tonight at 8 pm.  The four finalists contending for the Heisman are Auburn QB Cam Newton, Stanford QB Andrew Luck, Boise State QB Kellen Moore and University of Oregon RB LaMichael James.  The Heisman winner is determined by votes cast by 870 members of the media, all former Heisman Trophy winners and an overall fan vote.

Cam Newton appears to be the frontrunner, despite the pay-to-play scheme his father orchestrated.  The NCAA ruled that Newton’s father had indeed tried to solicit money for his son to play at Mississippi State, but that they have no evidence that Cam knew of his father’s plan.  The NCAA investigation continues, so if information surfaces that Cam was aware of his father’s actions, another Reggie Bush Heisman scandal could be on the horizon.  Let’s hope that the NCAA finds Cam truly was oblivious to his father’s actions because another Heisman winner having to return the award only tarnishes it.  It appears most Heisman voters have simply dismissed the potential scandal and focused instead on Newton’s on-field performance.

Newton’s mind-blowing stats are simply hard to dismiss.  He led the SEC in rushing, with 1409 yards.  Newton also threw for 2589 yards and had the nation’s best passing efficiency rating.  He threw 28 TDs, ran for 20 TDs and also caught one!  He led Auburn to an undefeated season, an SEC Championship and the BCS National Championship game that will take place on January 10th vs. Oregon.

The candidate who will most likely earn 2nd place in the Heisman voting is Stanford QB Andrew Luck.  He passed for 3051 yards and 28 TDs.  While he is not as well known as Newton, it is widely believed that he could be the number one draft pick in the NFL.  His 7th ranked passing efficiency helped lead his team to their best record since 1940.  Luck will take his Stanford team to the Orange Bowl on January 3rd to play Virginia Tech.

It is hard to predict who will rank 3rd and 4th in the Heisman voting.  LaMichael James is the sole running back in the group.   He rushed for 1682 yards and 21 TDs and helped his team achieve the number one ranked offense in the nation.  James and Oregon will play for the national title against Auburn in Glendale, Arizona on January 3rd.  Meanwhile, Boise State’s Kellen Moore passed for 3056 yards and 33 TDs.  He may not be the prototypical big time college QB, but his stats cannot be ignored.  Moore and Boise State play in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl versus Utah on December 22nd.

In this season of holiday tradition, take time out today to enjoy two of college football’s most prestigious and enduring traditions.  The Army/Navy game and the awarding of the Heisman Trophy celebrate the honor, excellence and determination of these young men.  Both are positive components of college football and their ability to make us feel good about athletics is the perfect way to end the regular season.  Enjoy!

Today’s Menu: College Football Conference Championship Games!

The college football season is winding down, and in just a few weeks, the bowl games will be in full swing.  Today the ACC, Big 12 and SEC conferences hold their championship games.  There are some great match ups!  Here is our take on today’s slate of title games. 

ACC Championship

The 15th ranked Virginia Tech Hokies face off against the No. 21 Florida State Seminoles at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina tonight at 7:45 pm (ET).   The winner of tonight’s game will play in the Orange Bowl in Miami on January 3rd, while the loser will play in the December 31st Chik=fil-A Bowl in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.

Since the Hokies joined the ACC in 2004, they have earned three ACC Championships and four Coastal Division Championships.  Against ACC rivals, their record is 46-10.  While their dominance within the ACC is apparent, tonight’s game with the Seminoles is a real test for Virginia Tech.  The Hokies have had a tough time with FSU over the years, losing the last 13 of 14 contests.

The Seminoles have revamped their program after a disappointing last few seasons.  With the retirement of legendary coach Bobby Bowden last year, Jimbo Fisher is trying to re-establish FSU as one of the top program’s in the country. A win against the Hokies tonight would clearly put FSU back among college football’s elite.

After a poor start this season, including an embarrassing loss to James Madison, the Hokies have shown resiliency and character.  They have won 10 straight games and have gone undefeated in ACC games, the first team to have done so in 10 years.  Tonight they will continue their hot winning streak.  Look for a close game, coming down to some exciting 4th quarter drama!  We think Hokie QB Tyrod Taylor, the ACC Player of the Year, will lead the Tech to its 4th ACC Championship title and road trip to Miami in January.

Big 12 Championship

Cowboys Stadium will host the 9th ranked Oklahoma Sooners vs. and No. 13 Nebraska Cornhuskers.  Oklahoma and Nebraska have had one of the longest rivalries in college football history.  The two teams have met 86 times and the tradition between them is legendary.  Their 1971 game is known as the “Game of the Century”.

While tonight’s game does not hold any national championship implications unlike many past contests, it does have special meaning.   With the Cornhuskers set to join the Big 10 next year, this will be the last Big 12 Championship since NCAA rules require at least 12 teams to hold a title game.  The old-fashioned rivalry is a perfect story book ending to the Big 12 title game.

Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini’s hot temper and sideline antics will certainly entertain fans.  While he is widely criticized for his tirades, we admire his intensity.  Sure, he should try not to publicly dress down his star QB.   Pelini should also attempt to keep his profanity-laced tirades aimed at referees to a minimum, but it is actually refreshing to see a coach who cares that much!  Should Nebraska pull of the victory, it will be amusing to watch the Big 12 Commissioner hand him the trophy as he and Nebraska heads off into Big Ten country.

Both teams enter today’s game with injuries to some key players.  The 10-2 Cornhuskers could be without starting QB Taylor Martinez, while the Sooners may be missing their leading rusher, DeMarco Murray.  If these players miss today’s conference championship, it could have a huge impact on the outcome of the game.

The Cornhuskers have the nation’s 5th ranked defense, which will be put to the test by Oklahoma’s powerful offensive duo of QB Landry Jones and receiver Ryan Broyles.  Together, they have made the Sooners the 4th best passing team in the country.

Look for a close game, with Oklahoma ending the Big 12 Championship series with a victory.  Kickoff is 8 pm ET.

 SEC Championship

Number one Auburn takes on 19th ranked South Carolina in the SEC title game at the Georgia Dome.  Auburn’s QB Cam Newton was cleared to play earlier this week after the NCAA ruled that he had no knowledge of his father’s pay-to-play scheme.   Newton will try to keep the Tiger’s perfect season and lead the team to both an SEC Championship title and BCS National Championship game.  Of all the conference title games today, this is the one that could be an upset!

Auburn and South Carolina played earlier this season, with the Tigers winning 35-27. South Carolina has improved since that last meeting in September, but in order to defeat Newton and Auburn, they will have to play a near-perfect game.   In the last game, SC’s defense had 17 missed tackles and 33 missed assignments.  Offensively, SC had 4 turnovers in their last 4 possessions! They cannot afford that kind of sloppy play if they have any hope of sneaking away with an upset win. 

Newton is not the #1 Heisman candidate without good reason.  His performance has simply been extraordinary.  Alone, Cam Newton averages more rushing yards than 5 SEC teams.  To slow down his running game, SC will need to load the line of scrimmage and force him to pass. 

If SC can slow down Newton’s rushing game, there is still plenty to worry about since his passing game is also phenomenal!  In the last 4 games, he has completed 72% of his passes.  He is second in the nation in passing efficiency.  In order to contain Newton, SC will have to stack the box, provide pressure and sack Newton to prevent him from throwing. South Carolina leads the SEC in sacks and will need a big day in this category if they are to be successful.

South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier won 6 SEC titles while at Florida and knows how to win the big games.  Today’s SEC Championship is indeed a big game.  If SC can control the time of possession, contain Cam Newton and keep from committing turnovers, they can pull off the upset!  Get ready for an exciting matchup.  Game time is 4:00 ET.

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.

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!

Badgering the Badgers – Is Sportsmanship Missing in Wisconsin?

Tonight’s college football game features #11 ranked Alabama vs. Georgia State.  Georgia State?  Yes, the Tide is not facing Georgia or Georgia Tech this evening.  They are playing a first year program.  The Tide should easily roll over Georgia State’s young and inexperienced roster, giving their backups a chance at some game play.  Alabama faces #2 powerhouse Auburn the day following Thanksgiving in what is dubbed the “Iron Bowl”.  A “soft” game like tonight’s will give them much needed time to prepare for Cam Newton and the ferocious Tigers.

Alabama is predicted to win against Georgia State tonight by about a 40 to 50 point margin.  Expect Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban to take his starters out early.  It will be interesting to see just when he sends his back ups in and how far he runs up the score.  Running up the score has recently become a point of controversy.  After last weekend’s 83-20 slaughter of Indiana by the Wisconsin Badgers, the topic has once again been brought to the table.

The large margin of victory caused sports commentators throughout the country to jump on the anti-Wisconsin bandwagon.  Wisconsin was similarly criticized earlier in the season when they crushed Austin Peay 70-3.  In a game against Minnesota, the Badgers were up by 25 points with just under 7 minutes left in the game and went for a 2 point conversion.  Wisconsin’s 83-20 massacre generated lots of talk in the college football sports arena this week about the Badger’s lack of sportsmanship this season.

Wisconsin’s huge score certainly appeared excessive to anyone who simply looked at the numbers scrolling across the bottom of their TV screen last Saturday. It is easy to see the 83-20 score and listen to the pundits who claim it was unsportsmanlike and leave it at that.  But to accuse the Badgers of such disrespect, you really need to know the particulars of what happened.

Let’s look at some indisputable facts about last Saturday’s game.  First, the game was tied 10-10 in the 2nd quarter when Indiana’s starting QB got injured.  When he left the game, the Hoosier offense simply fell apart.  Even when Wisconsin put their backups in, it seemed Indiana had lost their motivation and desire to win.  How is that Wisconsin’s fault?

This is college gridiron.  It is not Pop Warner or Pee Wee youth football.  At this level, players and coaches need to be competitive and play hard.  When the backup players enter the game, are they supposed to go light? Of course not!  They are out there to try and execute plays!  It is the responsibility of the coach, in fact it is his paid JOB, to prepare all the players on his roster.  That means letting them gain real game time experience when the victory is already in hand. 

The main play that critics point to in last Saturday’s game is the 74 yard TD pass by Wisconsin half way through the 4th quarter.  For anyone who actually watched the game, the pass was the result of a broken play by their THIRD STRING BACKUP QB!  The Badger’s coaches did not call this long pass play, it just happened.

Stories like the 83-20 defeat by Wisconsin make sensational, scandalous fodder for sports pundits.  Did these same pundits point out the two games earlier this season where the Badgers took a knee late in the game to run out the clock, rather than go for the score?  Where were these same critics when Oregon crushed New Mexico 72-0?  Did sports writers and commentators cry about Boise State’s 48-0 and 59-0 shut outs of weaker opponents earlier this year?

Those of us who actually watched the game, or those who COACHED in it, have a much different opinion about whether or not Wisconsin showed a lack of respect and sportsmanship for its opponent. Indiana Head Coach Bill Lynch said he does not feel Wisconsin ran up the score.  Instead, he put the blame on his own team who simply lost their ability (and will, it seems) to stop the Badgers.

Earlier in the year, superstar QB Peyton Manning was playing the NY Giants. The Colts were leading by a big margin and there was no doubt the victory was theirs.  I remember watching Peyton, late in the game, arguing against a referee’s call.  Despite the fact that the game was in hand and that his little brother was taking a beating, Peyton’s competitiveness and drive could not be suppressed.  At game time, it’s just who he is.  As I watched him vehemently argue with the officials, I truly admired his passion and intensity.  It is what has made him one of the most successful QBs in the NFL. 

That same drive and competitiveness that Peyton Manning exhibited is expected in college football.  Wisconsin demonstrated it and earned a nice lead in the game.  Then the Badgers allowed their backup players to go out and execute plays.  They didn’t send them on to the field to simply stand around.  If Indiana was unable to stop them, perhaps the same critics who want to create a salacious story about sportsmanship should instead analyze why the Indiana squad seemed to simply give up.

Heisman Watch – After Cam Newton, Who is #2?

The “pay to play” allegations around Cam Newton continue.  This past weekend, speculation was rampant about whether the Heisman frontrunner would be suspended by Auburn.  Newton played and his performance was once again stellar.  He led the Tigers to a 49-31 victory and an SEC West Title.  Newton had 151 yards rushing and 2 TDs and 148 yards passing, for an additional 2 TDs.  He is the first player in SEC history to rush for 1000 yards and pass for 2000 yards in a single season.   

But since allegations and rumors about Newton still swirl around him, are Heisman voters looking for their second choice?  Fair or not, the Heisman voters are certainly going to consider the “what if” scenarios when it comes to Newton and the prestigious award. 

Voters do not want another Reggie Bush-like scandal that found the 2005 Heisman winner had received improper financial benefits while at USC, thereby making him ineligible.  This past September, Bush forfeited his Heisman before the Heisman Trust could meet to decide whether they were going to strip him of the award.  So, despite Newton being the best player in college football at the moment, voters may indeed look at the next possible candidate. 

Right now, the #2 prospect appears to be Oregon running back LaMichael James.  The sophomore is part of college football’s number one ranked team.  His speed and elusiveness have helped him rush for over 1400 yards this season.  Don’t let James’ size deceive you.  He may be only 5’ 9 “and 185 pounds, but he plows through defenders with his shoulder down like the big brutes.

This past weekend’s game against Cal he managed only 91 yards due to an ankle injury suffered in the second half.  Despite the injury, he fought his way through the final minutes of the game.  The Ducks faced third down and 5.  James put his head down and pounded his way for a first down to help run out the clock and avoid another Cal possession and possible upset.

The Heisman ballots are due by December 6.  The NCAA investigation into Cam Newton will likely take months, perhaps even years, as was the case with Reggie Bush. Since a resolution is unlikely, voters are left with a tough decision.  They can vote for Newton based on his spectacular 2010 performance and hope the allegations around him are unfounded.  Or they can go to their second choice as a means of preserving the “excellence with integrity” aspect of the Heisman. 

In a criminal matter, suspects are innocent until proven guilty.  In an NCAA investigation, no such notion exists.  If Newton is indeed innocent of all the allegations, it is unfair that he could lose the Heisman based solely on accusations and rumors. But, voters are human beings.  The Newton scandal will cause many of them doubt and to simply vote for their second choice based on their gut instinct.  For LaMichael James, being second best may just win him the Heisman this year.

BCS Standings, Week 11…Upsets Ahead for the Unbeaten Top Four?

As we head into this weekend’s slate of college football games, let’s take a look at the current BCS rankings. 

BCS Rankings, Week 11

  1.  Oregon
  2. Auburn
  3. TCU
  4. Boise State
  5. LSU
  6. Stanford
  7. Wisconsin
  8. Nebraska
  9. Ohio State
  10. Oklahoma State

The top four teams enter this weekend with perfect records.  Will they remain unbeaten and retain their BCS standings?  Here is a glimpse of the top 4 and what this weekend just may bring…

Number one Oregon (9-0) travels to Berkeley to take on 5-4 California.  Cal is unbeaten at home and smells an upset.  But the Ducks have a powerful, speedy offense that is unstoppable.  We think the Ducks break Cal’s home game winning streak on Saturday to keep its top position in the BCS rankings. 

Auburn (10-0) heads into the weekend at number two to face the 5-5 Georgia Bulldogs, who have won 4 of their last 5 games.  Auburn QB and Heisman hopeful Cam Newton is in the midst of “pay to play” allegations.  Each day the scandal seems to escalate and there is speculation that the NCAA may POSSIBLY ask Auburn to suspend Newton from game participation while the issue is investigated.  It seems unlikely that Newton will be benched for this weekend’s game, but the scrutiny and attention on him must be nerve-wracking.  Is it enough to derail the Tigers?  Nope!  We think Newton and the Tigers handle the off field distractions and earn a decisive victory.

TCU (10-0) earned the number three spot last week after a resounding 47-7 win against then #5 Utah.  Saturday, the Horned Frogs (some mascots are quite amusing, aren’t they?) face San Diego State, who enters the game at 7-2.  If an upset in the top 4 unbeaten teams is to occur, this could be the game! But, we think TCU’s defense (ranked first in the nation) will prove to be too powerful for the Aztec’s offense.  TCU should keep its perfect record heading into next week.

Fourth ranked Boise State (8-0) meets in-state rival Idaho tonight in a game that should be a blow-out.  The Idaho Vandals defense, ranked 103rd in the country, gave up 844 yards last week against Nevada.  Boise State, ranked 2nd in scoring offense in the nation, will simply be too hot to handle.

Week after week, bombshell upsets on the college gridiron shock and amaze us.  It is one of the reasons that college level play is so thrilling!  With the top 4 teams flaunting perfect records as they approach this weekend’s games, will they falter and become part of the “upset alerts” scrolling across the bottom of the TV screen?  Not likely.  The top 4 will preserve their unbeaten statuses this weekend and maintain their current BCS standings as we head into the final stretch of the college season.  As for upsets?  There’s always next week!

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