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Auburn Wins National Title: An Instant Classic? Hardly

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Something just didn’t feel quite right yesterday.

Sunday night, I prepared to release myself from the realities of the physical world and enter the refreshing yet fleeting world of dreams. I did as I always do and set my alarm for much earlier than I had any interest in being awake. As I was programming the clock, I laughed to myself a bit, knowing I would be up even before the insensitive chimes disregarded my desires and awoke me from my slumber. It’s just a way of life for me as a sports fan. On the morning of a big game biorhythms short circuit, neural transmitters fire, and I find myself fully alert well before I need to, unable to think of anything but the upcoming game.

Yesterday was a completely different animal though. Not only did I make it all the way to the alarm, but I found myself angry at the callous machine that rudely interrupted my hibernation. As I smashed the snooze button with a bitter vengeance normally set aside for fantasy players that don’t do as I say. I wondered what this all meant. Before I could process the thought fully, I was enjoying 9 more minutes of glorious sleeptime. I finally arose and was moderately miffed by the circumstances. The National Championship Game was in about 13 hours and my anticipation levels were lower than expected; still higher than most, but lower than usual.

Upon returning home from work, I decided to flip on the TV and check out some of the 11 hours of pregame coverage. To my surprise, my DirecTV HD/DVR hard drive crashed experiencing an “unrecoverable fatal error” in the process. While they were happy to overnight me a replacement at no-cost, that didn’t do me a whole lot of good yesterday. The signs continued…

I then hooked up a standard definition box to the 61” marvel of modern technology that I call a television. I swear when that component cable hit the input I heard the TV let out a brief sob. I digress, I flipped to the pregame festivities and waited… and waited… and waited some more. I was waiting for that feeling of butterflies that I get when anticipation is just about to meet reality. I was trying to get fired up by Lou Holtz, but could only laugh as he slobbered all over Mark May. Erin Andrews is usually an attention grabber, but I found myself distracted by the piece of Aggro-Crag that she was using as a ring. I wondered if she was actually on Nickelodeon’s GUTS, a thought that was somehow more exciting than the pregame build-up. Even Brent Musberger’s attempts to build drama were falling flat… well until one of his last lines of the day that is.

Then it started. Auburn’s Wes Byrum put foot to ball and we were underway in what was billed as one of the most exciting matchups in football history. Oregon’s Josh Huff must have missed the memo because he slipped and fell shortly after receiving the opening kickoff… This surely couldn’t be yet another sign of what’s in store… could it?

Oregon’s first drive can only be described as full of nerves to say the least, but utterly embarrassing to be honest. QB Darron Thomas looked like he had never played a down of football in his life, nor watched one. After 3 poorly executed plays, they punted. No way that Auburn would be as bad as the Ducks, right? Wrong. After a 1st down on the first play, The Tigers mixed in a terribly designed run, a sack-fumble, and a JaMarcus Russell-esque incompletion 30 feet over the receiver’s head to round out their first effort.

Oregon regained possession and aside from a nice run by LaMichael James, ran 4 plays for 7 yards. The drive ended with a terrible read and throw by Darron Thomas, which was intercepted by Auburn’s Demond Washington.  Fear not Ducks fans, for it only took Cam Newton 2 plays to throw an even worse pass that was intercepted by Oregon’s Cliff Harris.

Halfway through the first quarter I was utterly disgusted by the quality of  product that I was being subjected to. This is the National Championship game!? Seriously!? This had all of the feel and excitement of the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. I didn’t even have time to continue my rant before Darron Thomas was intercepted again. So much for 2 of the best offensive teams in the country doing battle…

Brent Musberger tried to start touting the defenses as full of speed and playmakers… Save it Brent. Oregon gave up 22 points per game on average against teams that actually field FBS football teams. Auburn was even worse, ranking 9th in the SEC; and don’t even start about how great the SEC offenses are, which makes the defenses look bad by comparison. SEC defensive players come from the same high schools, with the same speed as their offensive counterparts. The SEC produces tons of NFL stars on defense… but they do not play team defensive football. In order for a team to succeed defensively, they have to be less worried about who gets the tackle, and more worried about the greater good. Watching SEC defenses is like watching the combine workouts on NFL Network.  Seemingly they only care about pumping their draft stock, in the process taking unnecessary chances to make one highlight-worthy play for every 3 blown ones.

Nick Fairley was yesterday’s media darling for Auburn. He’s a great talent, no doubt, he’s always been a great talent, and has gotten by on talent alone to this point. His technique is some of the worst I’ve seen from a highly projected defensive lineman at his level. It’s obvious he either hasn’t been coached, or doesn’t care. When the ball is snapped, he stands straight up, and then makes his move. When he’s playing against college linemen his physical superiority is enough to be successful. When he gets to the NFL, unless he improves, he will be on his ass more times than Glass Joe in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.

Back to the game… This barn-burner closed out the first quarter scoreless at 0-0. Odds of that happening were 6/1 according to Vegas. Oregon kicked a field goal to take the lead early in the second quarter. Then after trading scores over the next 3 minutes, with Oregon leading 9-7, Chip Kelly reaches into his bag of tricks and pulls out a 2-pt conversion attempt with his holder pitching to the kicker. It worked, but at this point, I knew what I was watching was not a football game. Instead I was watching two 8-year olds who had just each finished a 2-liter of Mountain Dew and a jumbo bag of skittles, playing Madden. Once I came to that realization, the rest of the game was moderately more tolerable, but still left a sour taste in my mouth. I couldn’t believe that after watching 4+ months of college football, this was how the season was going to end. This game was going to be my last memory of college football until August.

The goal-line offensive play calls in this game made me cringe. Not only were they horrible calls, but they didn’t have a chance from the start. It was as if one of the sugar-buzzed 8 year olds was in the bathroom and the other was calling plays for both teams.  Auburn notched a safety and another touchdown before half, making the score 16-11 at the break. Nick Saban and Urban Meyer were helping out with the ESPN broadcast and both had disgusted looks on their faces. Sitting at the desk, forced to watch this crapheap of a game are two of the greatest gameplan strategists. Sure, Auburn staged an insane comeback to knock off Alabama by a point late in the season, but if yesterday’s game had been a rematch, it would’ve been 86-0 Alabama at half. Given the way Auburn & Oregon played yesterday, you could pick any team in the top 10 of the AP Poll, doesn’t matter who you select, they would absolutely trounce either of them.

The game didn’t get much better in the 2nd half, but to be fair, it couldn’t have gotten much worse. The 3rd quarter was highlighted by Oregon having 1st and goal on the 3 and running shotgun offenses, not giving the ball to LaMichael James once. Not hard to figure out that they were stopped on downs, or more correctly, stopped themselves. The 4th quarter was a punt-filled snoozefest filled with Cam Newton overthrowing everyone in sight and Darron Thomas making decisions like he swapped brains with Art Shell.

With 5 minutes remaining in the game, Cam Newton decided it would be a great time to add to his awful night by fumbling on his own 30 yard line. It took Oregon, and their “high-powered offense” 8 plays to traverse the short distance. They again went for 2, with Darron Thomas throwing a no-look prayer that was answered to tie the game. Auburn took possession, and on the 2nd play Michael Dyer took the handoff, got brought down, thought he was tackled, stood still, and then started running again. His knee never touched, so the 37 yard run stood, but that was a perfect microcosm for the night. The runner had to be yelled at from the sideline to run. He had no idea what was going on…AND HE HAD THE BALL.

Auburn was already with field goal range when Dyer broke a run to the 1 yard line with 10 seconds remaining. Auburn’s head coach Gene Chizik, as was apparent in his players, had no idea what to do. He set up in kneel down formation, but then had Cam Newton attempt to sneak it in. Oregon knocked them back a good yard and a half, but still the field goal attempt was a mere formality at this point. The lone highlight of the night was what happened next. As Wes Byrum lined up for the kick… Brent Musberger, like an angel from the heavens exclaimed: “This is for all the Tostitos!” The night had at least ended on a high note.

…And with that, ends another college football season ends. Auburn, the best team money could buy took home the title. Well, at least for a couple years until the investigation awards it to Oregon. With the win, Chizik is awarded a $500,000 bonus, or, in other words, 2 Cam Newtons. Chip Kelly is awarded exactly what he deserves, nothing. He came into this game without any idea what he was going to do. For most of it he was picking plays out of a hat. He ran a run-pass option with his punter on 4th down. There is a fine line between innovative and insane, yesterday, Kelly was firmly on the side of the latter.

Generally I’m not a proponent of stripping teams from titles. After all, I’ve seen the game, I have the memories, the players have their championship rings, but after watching this game, I hope the NCAA makes this game disappear forever. After watching 4 hours of bad football I felt hungover without even having a drop of alcohol.

To make matters worse, when I turned on the computer today, I was greeted with the poll: Was last night’s game the best BCS Title Game ever? I couldn’t decide if this was serious or a joke so I played along. I clicked “no” just to see the results. Over 20% of voters picked “yes” (update: now just over 15%). I understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and Auburn fans don’t care how they won, just that they won, but even the most senile Tiger boosters can’t possible think that the mockery that was broadcast last night was even a semi-decent game, let alone the “greatest ever.”

I feel the worst for TCU though. They finished the season undefeated, won the Rose Bowl, and don’t get a sniff of the National Title. 2 weeks ago, I would’ve said that they didn’t stand a chance against Auburn or Oregon, but after what I witnessed yesterday, it’s the other way around. Unfortunately, thanks to the NCAA we will never know. If anything highlighted the need for a playoff system, this game was it. Then again, the college presidents were probably too busy counting their money to actually be watching the game…it’s a tragedy. Almost as tragic is the fact that after that performance, one of those teams can call themselves National Champions.


2 Responses to “Auburn Wins National Title: An Instant Classic? Hardly”

  1. Did you ever think the so called “oregon” turf had anything to do with how these teams played or the 37 day layoff? I’m sure you are a better coach than Kelley or Chizik.

    Posted by Jef | January 12, 2011, 1:06 am
  2. The turf was definitely sub-par, but the turf doesn’t throw the ball 10 feet over receiver’s heads or to the other team. The turf didn’t hold the ball in a place where it could get easily get knocked free with 5 minutes to go in the game. The turf didn’t keep the ball away from it’s best player 4 straight plays with 1st and goal on the 3.

    As for the layoff, it’s not new. Oregon & Auburn have both had around 30 day layoffs the last 8 of their 9 previous seasons. Hell, both of them had one last year, and if I felt like looking further back than 2002, I’m sure the trend would continue.

    Not playing for a while is no excuse for not knowing how to execute a play or what to do with the football. It’s not as if they didn’t practice during that span, but from the looks of that game, maybe they didn’t.

    I think it’s an absolute joke that there is no playoff, but that said, neither Auburn nor Oregon played even decent football yesterday. If either would have executed like they did for most of the year it would’ve been a blowout. They didn’t, and what we were left with was a close game, but not a good one.

    Posted by Jason Marlo | January 12, 2011, 1:32 am

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