First, congratulations to the both the Oregon Ducks and Auburn Tigers, Monday night was worth the more than a month long lay-off.
With the nation's top two offenses averaging close to 50 points-per-game squaring off in Glendale, Monday night's National Championship was supposed to break the scoreboard. Four hours later, Auburn kicker Wes Byrum drilled a game winning 22-19 field goal right through the uprights - ball game.
Led by 6'5", 298 lb. NFL ready, defensive tackle Nick Fairley the Auburn defense held Oregon's high-powered offense to under twenty-points for the just the second time this season. Oregon super-back LaMichael James (1,682 regular season yards) was stifled to just 49 yards on 13 carries. From wire-to-wire, Oregon's offense ran into the teeth of an SEC powerhouse defense that just wouldn't bend. The safety punishing LaMichael James in his own endzone right before the half. Stuffing the Ducks on 4th and goal at the end of a 10 play 72-yard drive. Forcing Oregon to punt in back-to-back drives to start the final quarter. Time and again, the Auburn defense showed up and wrote the story of the BCS National Championship, the fifth straight winner from the SEC Conference. It may have been the Heisman Trophy winning Cameron Newton which led the Tigers to close wins in Starkville and Tuscaloosa, but it was their defense which delivered in Arizona on the games biggest stage against the games most explosive offense. Tip your cap to Gene Chizik and Auburn for "doing what they do" in the National Title game and letting the celebration begin at Toomer's Corner. War Eagle.
A Few Last Words:
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck just made a huge mistake in my opinion. For every Sam Bradford and Peyton Manning, quarterbacks who weren't hurt by choosing to return to the college game rather than jumping to the NFL early, there is 10-15 cases of a players stock plummeting by doing that same thing. Andrew Luck's hype was at a pinnacle in the post-Orange Bowl media circus. Coming off his sophomore season there was no signal caller within thirty-miles of Luck's game. However, his return to Palo Alto for his junior season has warning signs written all over it. A new head coach coming in, Harbaugh is headed to the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers. The risk of injury, Sam Bradford being the exception and not the 'norm.' His development taking a step back, see Washington quarterback Jake Locker. I'm sure that a degree in architectural design from a school as good as Stanford is a desirable thing for anyone, but hands down, lock it up, #1 guaranteed pick, well that's not something you just pass up for one more dinner at the student union.
Michigan's moving in the right direction. Choosing former Wolverine defensive coach (1995-2002) Brady Hoke, was absolutely the best choice for athletic director Dave Brandon and the Michigan fans. With fans rabid for this program to be great again, Brandon was poised to pin down exactly the guy fit for the position in Ann Arbor. With Michigan alum and former Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh headed to the NFL, rumours began swirling around fellow alum and current LSU Tiger Les Miles. Miles was considered previously in 2007 when this position came open but ultimately the school chose Rich Rodriguez. So three years later, with a 1.25 million dollar Michigan buy-out written into his current LSU contract, it should have come as no surprise that Miles may bolt the 'Bayou in favor of his Alma Mata. The holdup? Brandon had other plans in mind. The one time CEO of Domino's Pizza turned Michigan AD hadn't been around the first time Miles' name had been floated about in 2007, and didn't care. After making quick work of Rodriguez' tenure in Ann Arbor, Brandon wanted someone both familiar with the program, knew what it took to recruit here, with experience in turning around programs, and ultimately, someone who could win in the Big 10. Enter Brady Hoke: Hoke was on this staff for eight seasons, he watched Charles Woodson become a Michigan legend, he turned around both Ball State and most recently at San Diego State, but more importantly he was on that 1997 National Championship winning Wolverine staff. You don't get much more Michigan than Brady Hoke, and that was everything Rich Rodriguez was not.
Finally . . .
I don't want to forget Andy Dalton and TCU. The Horned Frogs have the unfortunate luck of being the only team this side of Auburn with a similar unblemished record and no National Title to pair with it. Behind senior quarterback Andy Dalton the Horned Frogs took their 12-0 record to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl while standing toe-to-toe with a 1-loss Wisconsin Badgers team, and came out 13-0. Beating the Badgers on New Year's Day in the Rose Bowl was exactly what TCU needed to earn some respect as a non-automatic qualifier in a BCS Bowl Game. Yet at the end of the day, I'm still feeling a bit dissatisfied with the NCAA football season. The Horned Frogs held the country's fifth highest scoring program to their lowest point total of the season, just another day in the life of an undefeated team. While I agree that Auburn is good enough to be the National Champions and well deserving, can you argue that they'd stomp TCU? Could you argue that TCU and Gary Patterson wouldn't put together a gameplan to slow Cam Newton? Can you argue that Andy Dalton, a player that was sacked only eight times this season, would become just another quarterback for Nick Fairley and the Tiger defense to torment? At the very least, send the Horned Frogs an invite to play Auburn in the near future.
Wrapping up another incredible college football season, a National Championship game that was everything we expected, a Heisman winner as controversial and dominating as the one we had, and excitement heading into 2011. Roll Tide.