It’s every fan’s worst nightmare. You get all fired up for a game on the biggest possible stage. Your team is in a position it’s rarely or never been.
Maybe you travel a long distance to see the game live. Maybe you invite dozens of fellow fans over to take part in the big event. Maybe you take the entire week prior off from work to drink and eat yourself into football frenzy.
Then, it begins to happen. Your worst nightmare unfolds before your eyes. The pit in your stomach grows as the game wears on. You want to stop watching but can’t. And the carnage gets worse. You go catatonic.
Think Oklahoma-USC in 2005. Florida-Ohio State in 2007. Well, Ohio State or the Big 10 versus anyone for that matter.
So what sequence of events could send the Auburn faithful into such a sad state?
Let’s look at these National Championship Game nightmare scenarios for the Auburn Tigers.
The Crimson Tide slapped up 24 points in the first half against the Tigers, and it would have been 38 had Mark Ingram and Greg McElroy taken care of the ball.
Auburn’s defense looked like it belonged in the WAC for those two quarters. Alabama was slinging the ball around like it was a scrimmage.
The good news is Oregon’s Darron Thomas doesn’t throw the ball like McElroy. But they play very, very fast—both during and between plays.
If the Ducks find an unprepared defense like ‘Bama saw in that first half, it could be a long night for Auburn.
While the defense was bad that half, the offense was giving them a run for their money.
Its first three drives and the last one resulted in 3-and-outs. There was a 6-and-out in there as well. The only bright spot of the half was on a sustained drive midway through the second.
Against this Oregon offense, seven points in the half won’t cut it.
This Auburn team wasn’t built for big comebacks. Sure, they did so against Alabama, but the Crimson Tide melted as much as Auburn stormed back.
If Oregon gets out to a 14-0 or 21-7 lead, Newton and co. will be forced to pass more than they’d like, and that’s not a great thing for a team that was just 69th in the country in passing offense.
Newton is brilliant, but his legs are a big part of that. Turn him into a drop-back passer like Florida State did to Michael Vick in 2000, and things get very tough.
I don’t think anyone will argue both teams will need to score pretty big to win this game.
Oregon’s secondary certainly needs to do a good job bottling up Auburn’s receivers. However, that can work against the defense if they let Newton get free.
Washington’s Jake Locker saw a lot of success in 2009 because teams did just that, and Locker was able to get yards scrambling. However, in 2010 Washington wasn’t nearly as successful, as teams learned to keep a linebacker assigned to him come hell or high water.
Oregon’s defense has had plenty of time to work on spying Newton. If his receivers can’t get open and a linebacker is always at his heels, it will be tough for Auburn all night.
Similarly, if Oregon is able to limit first-down carries and turn 2nd-and-10s into 3rd-and-longs, Cam Newton will be forced to make big passes.
He’s certainly done that this year, but some games (remember Clemson and Mississippi State?) he’s been hard pressed for accuracy when pressured.
Again, it would start to look like the first two quarters of that Alabama game.
Looking back at the schedule and results (especially after bowl season), Oregon really only played one great team—Stanford.
But in that game, LaMichael “Don’t Call Me LeBron” James ran up 257 yards en route to a 52-point outing . And the Cardinal gave up just over 17 points a game this season.
Keeping the Duck backs in check this season was done only by Cal this year, in a game that’s anomalous as you look over the results for Oregon.
If James gets started early, the Tigers may find themselves pecked to death.
This could have been a nightmare before the Championship game even started (and anyone who reads the rules knows it should have been), had the NCAA enforced the rules rather than kowtowing to money pressures.
But what if the ongoing investigation brings something to light the NCAA can’t circumlocute away?
What if they find a check stub from a prominent Auburn booster made out to Cecil Newton? Or what if video surfaces of Cam accepting a cookie paid for by an assistant coach during a film session?
Sadly, I think this scenario is highly likely. I can’t help but keep hearing “The money was just too much” over and over again in my head. I can’t help but believe that in the offseason this investigation will bring the fire to the surface that has caused all this smoke.
I believe every dog gets his day, good and bad. I’m betting an Auburn title gets stripped.
But in the end, that doesn’t matter to fans and media. You think Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and USC fans care about the Bush investigation findings?
You can’t take from us what we saw with our eyes. But it's sad the spineless, inept and geriatric NCAA lets it happen.