BCS Championship 2011: Nick Fairley, Cam Newton and More Heroes and Zeroes
BCS Championship 2011 Recap: Nick Fairley, Cam Newton and more: The BCS National Championship, which had been mired in a mini-streak of boring for several years, finally provided a thriller last night.
The Auburn Tigers prevailed over the Oregon Ducks, 22-19, on a last second field goal by placekicker Wes Byrum as time expired.
The star of the game was Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who was dominant at the point of attack and made several penetrating plays in the backfield.
Largely because of Fairley, LaMichael James Oregon’s running game never got rolling. The Ducks offense—which came into the game averaging 49 points—was held in check.
Aurburn’s Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton turned in a spotty but gutsy performance. He missed some open receivers and was largely contained on the ground, but he made enough big plays to cap off his storybook, undefeated season in style.
The victory also provided redemption for Auburn coach Gene Chizik, who was an unpopular choice when he took over the program in 2009.
Brady Hoke to Michigan: Nostalgia for Lloyd Carr Sets in Quickly
That was quick. Those of us over the age of 18 might remember how urgently Michigan fans wanted to kick Lloyd Carr to the curb a few short years ago.
That was 2007, and actually for some time before that. Carr was “out of touch,” everyone said. He had “lost his edge.” People ran circles around him in recruiting. Christ, the guy lost to Appalachian State!
My, how absence makes the heart grow fonder. That and the crazy science experiment that blew up in Michigan administrator’s faces: bringing Rich Rodriguez and his spread option offense to Ann Arbor.
So here comes Brady Hoke to restore sanity, to restore a pro-style offense, to restore understatement, to bring back to Michigan a little more… Lloyd Carr.
Brady Hoke to Michigan: Does his Pro-Style Offense Dash Denard’s Heisman Hopes?
Denard Robinson is a spread option quarterback. He knew that, and he chose Michigan over other suitors because he knew he’d get to be one under coach Rich Rodriguez.
But RichRod was offed after two disastrous years, and DRob might be the collateral damage.
It’s an open question if DRob can make the adjustment to Hoke’s pro-style offense. It’s an open question whether he’ll even try. He has two more years of eligibility, and transferring is not out of the question. When asked last week about his future after Rodriguez’s firing, Robinson had no comment.
An optimist would point to the pragmatic flexibility Hoke and his offensive coordinator, Al Borges, have both shown at various coaching stops. Here’s hoping a tenable arrangement can be reached between Michigan’s new coaching staff and its best player.
Brady Hoke to Michigan: Good Hire or Letdown?
There are really no flaws on Brady Hoke’s resume. In short order, he turned around longtime doormats Ball State and St. Diego State. With Michigan’s resources and history at his disposal, it seems likely that he’ll keep doing what he’s always done: win.
At least that’s what Michigan fans are telling themselves. Fans of the maize and blue are stretching their credulity to the max. They want so badly to believe athletic director Dave Brandon, who insisted that Hoke was the top choice from the beginning.
But deep down, Michigan fans are skeptical. If Brandon had offered the job to other candidates, they know he probably wouldn’t admit it.
And deep down, in the recesses of their consciousnesses, they’re pining for Les Miles, for Jim Harbaugh, for a big name they know would restore a big-time program to the Big House.
Brady Hoke Michigan Football: Brady Who?
On the heels of Les Miles’s “Thanks but no thanks,” the new favorite to replace Rich Rodriguez is now Brady Hoke.
If you’re a little underwhelmed, you’re not alone. Hoke – the coach at San Diego State since 2009 – isn’t even the most famous coach at his own school, losing out to Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, the school’s baseball coach.
Still, Hoke’s credentials are impressive enough, and Michigan’s persistent interest in him speaks well of him. He turned around programs at Ball State and San Diego State, capping off his tenure as Aztecs coach with a 35-14 thrashing of Navy in the 2011 Poinsettia Bowl.
Plus, he has experience in Ann Arbor, having served as Michigan’s defensive line coach before taking the head job at Ball State in 2003.
But Brady Hoke? For Michigan? Really?
Michigan Football: Les Miles and Jim Harbaugh Were Smart to Avoid This Mess
Les Miles: What Does His Return to LSU Say About Michigan?
For those who are into continuity in the lateral-moving world of college sports coaches, Les Miles’ return to LSU was a victory.
For those who are into the University of Michigan football program, his rejection of the Wolverines was a bitter defeat.
It goes beyond the Wolverines moving on with their search and hiring a new coach. Rather, Miles’s said, “Thanks but no thanks” to a program that holds itself out as one of the nation’s elite, that holds its head coaching job as one of the sport’s most prestigious.
The program made a deal with a devil when it lured Rich Rodriguez away from his alma mater. They appealed to Miles’s sense of sentimentality, but it rang hollow.
Les Miles: Did Miles Make the Right Choice By Staying at LSU?
First, the easy way to answer this question. According to recently published Vegas odds, LSU is a 20:1 bet to win the 2012 championship; Michigan is 80:1.
But there’s more to it that that. See, Miles, despite his 2007 National Championship, despite his 62-17 record in six seasons at LSU, is still not a universally revered figure.
Critics paint Miles as a benefactor of a program that Nick Saban built, one that has actually fallen behind Saban’s Alabama program since.
At best, his critics say, he’s a capable steward. At worst, he’s a buffoon whose clock-management meltdowns are a window into his limited IQ.
If he went to Michigan, his alma mater, he’d be the beloved native son replacing the villain. In public perception, he’d go from piggybacking off someone else’s success to creating his own legacy.
Cecil Newton: Can You Blame Him for Attending BCS Championship Game?
It was a fitting ending to a season for the Auburn Tigers and their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Cam Newton.
We’re not talking about the game-winning final drive that Newton orchestrated to cap off a championship season. We’re talking about Newton’s father, Cecil Newton, who if one’s eyes are to be believed was at the game despite the wishes of Auburn higher-ups.
Brent Musberger delivered an awkward mid-game interjection explaining that it had been predetermined that Cecil would not show up for the game. Musberger said that the involved parties, including Cecil himself, deemed it in “the best interests” for both Cam Newton and the Tigers that Cecil not show.
So much for that. In a year whose biggest subplot has revolved Cecil Newton’s blithe disregard for the rules, it was the perfect ending.
Still, it’s hard to blame a guy for wanting to be there for his son’s biggest achievement.
Les Miles: Staying Put at LSU
Les Miles wasn’t born on the bayou – but he might die there.
Miles turned down an offer to return to the University of Michigan, his alma mater, and will return to LSU.
Michigan made the offer to Miles in a Monday meeting.
But the affable, clock-managementally-challenged coach is staying in Baton Rouge. He has four years left on a contract that pays him $3.75 million per year.
Auburn University: Will the Tigers Be Better than Alabama in 2012?
Auburn’s victory in the BCS Championship game yesterday? That’s yesterday’s news.
At least if you ask fans of the Alabama Crimson Tide, who prefer to focus on news that emerged today: According to the latest Vegas odds, the Crimson Tide are 15:1 odds to win the 2012 BCS Championship. The Auburn Tigers, who will probably be without all-world quarterback Cam Newton? 50:1.
According to these odds, the overall favorite is Oklahoma, at 5:1. Florida and Florida State tied for second at 8:1. This year’s runner-up, Oregon, is at 15-1.
But don’t worry, Auburn fans. There’s plenty of time to enjoy this one. You’ll always have Glendale.
War Eagle: Auburn’s Peculiar Battle Cry Has Its Day
If you’re not a college football fan and you happened to catch Gene Chizik’s on-field post-game interviews, you could be forgiven for wondering what in the world “War Eagle” means.
Empirical evidence bears this out: According to Google trends, “War Eagle” was the eleventh most popular search term as of noon today. A nickel says most of that traffic was driven by people’s curiosity about this peculiar battle cry.
Through the years, this enduring curiosity has spawned a handful of myths about the origin of the phrase.
There is by no means a consensus, but the most common theory nowadays is that the phrase first took hold at a pep rally in 1913 before a game against Georgia. During the rally, one cheerleader declared, “This means war!” At that moment, another student, clad in military garb, noticed that a metal emblem of an eagle had dropped from his hat while he bellowed.
Asked what it was that had dropped, he shouted in reply, “It’s a war eagle.” The rest is history.
Cecil Newton: Conspicuously Absent at Last Night’s BCS Title Game
College football’s persona non grata warranted a brief, awkward mention during last night’s BCS title game.
As was the case with his son’s Heisman Trophy ceremony, Cecil Newton wasn’t in attendance, basically because he’s banned from the program.
When discussing the issue on air, Brent Musberger made it sound like the Ol’ Man’s absence was the product of a consensus among reasonable people, Newton included.
But Musberger’s take whitewashed he obvious sadness of the situation: a father being barred from watching his own son enjoy the biggest moment of his life because of cynical public relations considerations.
Cecil Newton has been made a scapegoat, but keeping him out of the building won’t fix what’s wrong with college football.
Update: Cecil Newton did in fact attend the game, according to Deadspin.com.
Auburn Oregon Score: Was the BCS Title Game a Classic? Yes it was as close as it could be, and yes, it was decided by a field goal as time expired.
But was this game -- in which Auburn prevailed over Oregon, 22-19 -- a classic? Probably not.
For one, each defense neutralized the offensive facet their opponents do best. Fans tuned in to watch Cam Newton light it up with both his legs and his arm. He didn’t do either, struggling through a back injury, mechanical issues, and a swarming Ducks defense.
The Ducks, for their part, never got their vaunted, spread-open ground game going. Fans reading about Chip Kelly’s revolutionary offense for the past couple months could be forgiven for wondering what the fuss was about.
Secondly, for two teams at the peak of their sport, there was something disappointing about the game’s four turnovers.
Lastly, even the game-winning field goal wasn’t as dramatic as you’d think it was.
Close, compelling game? Yes. Classic? Nah.
Michael Dyer: 2012 Heisman Candidate? For most of this year, Michael Dyer took a backseat to Cam Newton in the Auburn running game.
Last night, the roles were reversed. And on the heels of his 22-carry, 143 performance on the sport’s biggest stage, Dyer has gone from the backseat to the status of a frontrunner… in the 2012 Heisman Trophy sweepstakes.
Dyer’s power, balance, and acceleration were vividly on display on his two crucial runs on Auburn’s final drive. With Newton likely to go pro, the defending national champions will likely lean on their sophomore back from Little Rock, Ark.
In his squat physique and no-frills running style, Dyer reminds scouts of Mark Ingram, Alabama’s Heisman winner in 2009. By this time next year, they might have even more in common.
Nick Fairley: Dominating the Game at Defensive Tackle. In the second half of last night’s game, television commentator Kirk Herbstreit paid Auburn’s Nick Fairley the ultimate compliment: He said he dominated games from the defensive tackle position just like Ndamukong Suh.
That’s no faint praise: In 2010, Suh transitioned from dominating college defenses at Nebraska to dominating NFL defenses in his rookie year with the Detroit Lions.
But Fairley deserved the compliment. He had three tackles for a loss, including a sack and a tide-turning fourth down stop in the third quarter. He was a disruptive force all night long.
Fairley also displayed his immaturity by drawing a 15-yard personal foul when he shoved Oregon’s LaMichael James’s face into the ground after a play. You can bet NFL talent evaluators will take the talent first and worry about the shenanigans later.
Cam Newton: From NFL Draft Boom to Bust in One Game? The commentariat can talk all it wants about Newton’s “gusty” performance, and how this proved how much of a “winner” he is.
But here’s the truth: Newton played poorly in the biggest moment of his career last night.
He botched several throws to wide open receivers, made a host of poor reads, and was unable to do any damage with his legs.
Much of his inability to run owed to Oregon’s designing its defense to contain him. But his passing was alarming suspect; he missed two wide-open receivers on plays that would have resulted in touchdowns.
Newton’s performance reinforced questions about his accuracy and footwork (the two are interrelated). His raw ability is beyond question, but he has a long way to go before being considered an NFL starting-caliber quarterback.
Related Article: 2011 NFL Draft: Is Cam Newton Destined To Be An NFL Bust?