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Zemek - Simply Put, The Better Team Won
Auburn WR Darvin Adams
Auburn WR Darvin Adams
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 11, 2011


Oregon might have played well, but in the end, the better team won.



CFN Bowl Analysis ... BCS Champ. 

The Better Team Won


By Matt Zemek
 
- Auburn Wins The National Title
- CFN Analysis - The Fizzling Oregon O
- CFN Analysis - The Auburn D On Fire
- CFN Analysis - The Duck D Did Its Part

- 2011 BCS Champ. SOC Notes - Pregame
- 2011 BCS Champ. SOC Notes - 1st Quarter
- 2011 BCS Champ. SOC Notes - 2nd Quarter
- 2011 BCS Champ. SOC Notes - 3rd Quarter
- 2011 BCS Champ. SOC Notes - 4th Quarter

Auburn was a better team than Oregon.

Sure, the margin was close, but the Tigers carried the play for most of the night. Auburn, when it needed to in the key final moments, drove the ball the length of the field to come up with the one drive it had to have to earn the national title. And most importantly, Auburn was able to adapt, being able to beat Oregon and the vaunted Chip Kelly spread option attack despite a less-than-imposing performance from Heisman Trophy winner, Cam Newton.

Auburn accomplished more of what it set out to do. Auburn stuffed Oregon twice inside the three and was the tougher team time and again from a team that fought like champions. Oregon did what it could, and it fought its tail off, but in the end, Auburn was simple better.

While the SEC earned another win in the BCS title game, the Pac-10 – finally given a chance to compete with the SEC in a BCS bowl game – didn’t back down.

It’s not a knock against Auburn or the SEC; it’s simply a recognition of the fact – and it is a fact – that on a night when Oregon’s calling card struggled so profoundly, the Ducks still stayed in the ring, traded punches, and made Auburn take a full 60 minutes to land the decisive blow. As Auburn continued to stuff Oregon’s spread option in the second half – drive after drive after drive – the majority opinion was that the Tigers and Mr. Newton were on the verge of blowing the game wide open. It was just about to happen here, it was just about to happen there, it was just about to happen everywhere. Newton stood on the precipice of a kill shot. The Tigers and their bigger, beefier front lines were this close to registering a knockout punch.

Only they didn’t.

If you had told Kelly before kickoff that his defense would allow 20 points, he’d have taken that scenario in a heartbeat. Yes, the Pac-10 was not as deep this season as it has been in the past, but emerging from this bowl season, it’s quite clear that both Oregon and Stanford could carry their lunch pail with the best of them. The Ducks and the Cardinal were both anything but soft. Yes, Oregon made a bunch of mental errors, but UO’s defense never folded the tent despite ample opportunities to do so.

This razor-close game between the Pac-10 and the SEC, in the first BCS bowl between the two conferences (in 57 total games over the past 13 years), only magnifies the great unanswered question of college football over the past decade: What if USC had been able to play LSU (2003 and 2007), Auburn (2004), and Florida (2006, 2008) in BCS bowls and/or plus-one-type settings? It’s a crime – a small one, but a crime nevertheless for the diehard college football fan – that USC never got to test itself against the best teams from the best conference in the country.

It’s a shame, too, that Auburn and Stanford never got to play. Ditto for LSU and Oregon, Arkansas and Stanford, or Alabama and Oregon. Any upper-tier bowl that either has an expiring contract or a tenuous contract should negotiate to put a top-three SEC team against a top-three Pac-10 team on the field. Bowl tie-ins are bad on a general level, but if there’s one conference matchup the nation needs to see on a more regular basis, it’s clear: The SEC and Pac-10 need to put their best teams against each other.

This result evens the historical record and compensates for past injustices done to Auburn.

The Tigers and their fans deserve their moment of victory; one should be particularly cognizant of the past 30 years of college football history, in which the Tigers got shafted at the end of two separate seasons, not just one. Teenagers and early twenty-somethings are aware of Auburn’s unjust fate after the 2004 campaign. However, older college football fans and observers also remember that Auburn was jobbed in the 1983 season as well. The Miami Hurricanes, in the old “poll and bowl” system, climbed from the bottom of the top five past No. 3 Auburn and into the No. 1 spot following their 1984 Orange Bowl win over Nebraska. Auburn, at No. 3, beat Michigan in the Sugar Bowl but got leapfrogged.

At the very least, Auburn should have shared the 1983 national title with the conqueror of Nebraska. Miami, after all, did get to play the Huskers on its home field in South Florida. It’s too cheap and convenient to say that this championship makes up for both 1983 and 2004, but one can say that it evens the scales rather than making them even more imbalanced.

Mental mistakes – they acquire such profound importance in national championship games, which is why the Weekly Affirmation has always frowned upon overly specific and layered pregame analysis of these kinds of contests.


The biggest key to each and every BCS national title game is the ability to avoid major mental errors. Avoiding a Mark Bradley muffed punt, or a Reggie Bush lateral, or a Brian Robiskie dropped touchdown pass is the highest priority for the teams who dive into a pool of raging hormones and overflowing adrenaline. The pent-up excitement surrounding the BCS championship game – which builds over more than five weeks and is cranked to unholy levels by the mass-media Wurlitzer – generates such intense emotions that it’s hard for title-game participants to play polished and precise football out of the gate.

Florida produced the last complete performance by one team in a BCS title game when it demolished Ohio State in January of 2007. The last great half of a BCS championship showcase was the second half of the 2006 Rose Bowl. These games rarely match the hype; they rarely witness peak execution by the competing offenses. Teams that avoid the bigger mistakes in the more meaningful moments are the teams that win. Auburn made plenty of gaffes and goofs on Monday night, but Oregon’s miscues were magnified even more.

Sure, Cam Newton overthrew wide-open receivers on post patterns. Yes, Newton’s late fumble enabled Oregon to tie the game at 19-all. Undoubtedly, Auburn receivers dropped a number of balls while coach Gene Chizik’s defense committed multiple personal foul penalties. Yet, for all the ways in which Auburn impeded its own progress, Oregon engaged in a greater act of sustained self-sabotage. Darron Thomas failed to run for a first down on the second play from scrimmage, and after that body-snatched episode, he continued to make baffling decisions that killed his team. Thomas failed to make the proper read near the goal line on Oregon’s first foray inside the Auburn 3. Thomas should have handed off to LaMichael James but instead kept the ball and ate a seven-yard loss thanks to Nick Fairley, AU’s team MVP for the night. Thomas later wasted a timeout in the final minutes of regulation… a timeout that would have enabled Oregon to perhaps get the ball back with 45 seconds left instead of seeing Auburn drain the clock to the very end of the fourth quarter.

Aside from Thomas, Oregon’s illegal-motion penalty – which negated a nine-yard gain on a shovel pass right after the Ducks stopped Auburn on the 1 – arguably served as the game’s most influential turning point in the latter stages of the second quarter. Auburn had just taken 16 plays to march down the field. Oregon, at that precise moment, needed to hold onto the ball and keep its defense fresh. When the illegal-motion penalty pinned UO inside its own 1 and denied the Ducks a second-and-one situation, Auburn’s defense pounced on a chance to register a safety. After that sequence, the Tigers controlled the line of scrimmage and displayed more stamina than their Pac-10 opponent. Oregon’s illegal-motion penalty reminds us that all five-yard penalties are not created equal. Some mistakes are more significant and consequential than others, and Oregon made the kinds of mistakes that were harder to withstand. It’s hardly surprising that those blunders were more mental than physical.

BCS championship pressure forced a lot of mistakes from both sides, but Oregon displayed even more unsteadiness between the ears.

Both teams had their moments of blink, but in the end, the better team won.

- Auburn Wins The National Title
- CFN Analysis - The Fizzling Oregon O
- CFN Analysis - The Auburn D On Fire
- CFN Analysis - The Duck D Did Its Part

- 2011 BCS Champ. SOC Notes - Pregame
- 2011 BCS Champ. SOC Notes - 1st Quarter
- 2011 BCS Champ. SOC Notes - 2nd Quarter
- 2011 BCS Champ. SOC Notes - 3rd Quarter
- 2011 BCS Champ. SOC Notes - 4th Quarter