Strip away the crystal football trophy at stake in last night’s BCS Championship Game, and you’re left with a competitive bowl game that never came close to living up to the pregame hype.
The offensive fireworks that were supposed to be on display inside the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ never materialized.
Oregon head coach Chip Kelly did his part to make the game entertaining with a fake extra point attempt, a fake punt and other plays that most other coaches wouldn’t dream of calling in a regular-season game, much less in a championship game. But it still wasn’t enough.
For all of the buildup about the unstoppable Oregon Duck offense and Heisman Trophy-winning QB Cam Newton, this championship game unexpectedly became a defensive battle.
Though Auburn's Michael Dyer was named MVP for his 142 rushing yards on 22 carries, the game only featured one player who truly dominated—Nick Fairley.
When Andrew Luck announced that he was returning to Stanford for another year, he left a vacancy atop NFL draft boards. That vacancy may very well have been filled last night by Nick Fairley. The Auburn DT played a game that was reminiscent of Ndamukong Suh’s performance last year against Texas in the Big 12 Title Game.
It came as no surprise that Fairley’s name was called over and over again. He was considered to be one of the best in the country long before this game was even played. But what was surprising was the total lack of offensive prowess being shown by both teams.
The oddsmakers placed the over/under in this game at 73. Those who bet the under never even broke a sweat as Auburn and Oregon only put a total of 41 points on the scoreboard.
Some will blame the sloppy play on the terrible playing surface. Others will blame the sloppy play on the fact that there was too much time off between the last game of the season and the BCS Championship Game. Both points are valid, but it doesn’t change the fact that neither team looked very impressive.
Truly objective college football fans who watched the BCS Championship Game and the Rose Bowl between TCU and Wisconsin will admit that the Rose Bowl was the more compelling game of the two.
TCU athletic director, Chris Del Conte, said all of the right things with regard to “embracing the imperfect college football postseason system until a perfect system is presented,” but there is no way that he could have avoided wondering what might have been if TCU was invited to play in the BCS Championship Game.
It is not far-fetched to say that Wisconsin’s Rose Bowl performance was better than that of either team playing in the BCS Championship Game. Given the opportunity, they may very well have defeated Auburn or Oregon. And since TCU beat Wisconsin, there is no reason to believe that they couldn’t have won the championship if a playoff system existed.
Auburn’s victory by the narrowest of margins was ultimately sealed on a fluke run by Dyer in the waning moments of the game. Dyer himself didn’t even realize that the ball was still live when he landed on top of the Oregon defender who was trying to drag him to the ground. He only took off running when the coaches on the near sidelines told him to do so.
This is not meant to take anything away from Auburn, who earned their championship by winning all of their games. It is not their fault that the rule that allowed Dyer to break free may have contributed to their victory against Oregon. Nor is it their fault that there is no playoff system in place.
Auburn’s win made it five in a row for the SEC in BCS Championship Games. Although they easily could have lost this game, there is no doubt that the masses will wax poetic about the greatness that is the SEC. While it is an outstanding conference, it may not be as dominant over other conferences as their string of championships would seem to indicate.
TCU proved that they could beat the best that the Big Ten had to offer. Unfortunately, they never got the chance to put their staunch defense to the test against the best that the SEC or Pac-10 had to offer. So TCU will have to settle for a Rose Bowl victory, an undefeated season and the knowledge that they could have won the BCS Championship Game had they been given the opportunity.
It’s too bad that only three writers gave TCU their first-place vote in the final AP poll. If more writers had chosen to do the same thing, they could have disrupted the Utopian society that the BCS has carved out for itself, and forced the hand of college football to give real consideration to a playoff system.