Auburn 43, Virginia 24
- You're close, Virginia, but you're not quite there yet.
- People seem to forget that Onterio McCalebb was a superstar recruit, too. Michael Dyer might be special, but McCalebb has top-shelf talent.
- McCalebb isn't big enough to be an every down back in the NFL, but what he proved to the NFL scouts once and for all is that he should have a terrific career as a jack-of-all-trades playmaker in a Darren Spoles sort of mold. Get the ball in his hands ten times a game and hope he can make big things happen.
- It took all year, but the Auburn lines finally showed up.
- But the secondary still stayed bye-bye.
- There's going to be a ton of talk about how this is going to set a tone for next year when the Tigers come back experienced and ready to rock. Unfortunately, the key piece of the puzzle will be the head coach at Arkansas State.
- Auburn will never replace Cam Newton. No one could.
- No, a combination of Barrett Trotter and Kiehl Frazier isn't going to work. One of them has to take a next step up in the progression this offseason.
- Basically, it looked like Auburn stepped up and said, "Virginia, we might not be that great, but we can run."
- The ACC is loaded with talented veteran teams next year, and Virginia is going to be one of them. Michael Rocco might not have gotten the win, but he more than showed he can handle a fast, athletic defense.
- The Cavalier defense might be a bit of a work in progress next season, but the offense should be efficient and effective. The talent level is quickly coming back to the Al Groh days.
- This is a devastating loss for the ACC. Auburn was barely a bowl team coming out of the SEC, while Virginia was a game away from playing for the conference title.
Not that Arkansas State needed any extra proof that it made a great choice for head coach, but it feels better than ever about bringing Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to Jonesboro. Without the services of RB Mike Dyer, Malzahn had a great game versus an underrated and well-coached Virginia D.
The Auburn line, comprised of A.J. Greene, Chad Slade, Reese Dismukes, Brandon Mosley and John Sullen had a whale of game opening holes for backs Onterio McCalebb and Tre Mason, arguably its best effort of the season,
Yeah, it was a tough loss for the Cavs on many levels, but just by getting to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and earning all of those December practices, they won big time even before the opening kickoff.
Auburn's effort will serve as a tremendous launching point to 2012 for a young squad that's poised for marked improvement. This memory, not the dreadful second half of the regular season, is what the Tigers needed to latch on to before heading into the offseason.
Just to be safe, Virginia special teams coordinator Anthony Poindexter might want to keep his resume up to date. The Cavaliers slogged through a dreadful, crushing performance on special teams, allowing a pair of blocked punts, failing on a fake field goal attempt and giving up a long return to Quan Bray to squelch a little second half momentum.
Gus Malzahn didn't have to toe any line. He didn't have to work under considerable constraints. He was out the door. In national championship games, this dynamic can work against the team about to lose its coordinator to another program. In a non-championship, non-BCS bowl, the same level of pressure doesn't exist. Malzahn made this lack of pressure work in his favor. A fun Peach Bowl (yes, the official corporate name is known… relax…) was the result.
Inside the body of every college football journalist or pundit lies the heart of a fan and the soul of the little kid who fell in love with this sport at an early age. As fans, we love to see gadget plays, but the not-so-secret element of college football – compared to the pros – is that go-for-broke playcalling is conducive to improved outcomes unless the game flow clearly demands a conservative approach. If an opposing team's offense is hamstrung and you find yourself immersed in a hard-hitting slobberknocker slugfest, you shouldn't take all that many chances.
On a general level, however, the lack of evenly-distributed talent on a
college roster – particularly in secondaries – enables offensive
coordinators to attack defenses with relentless creativity. Few men in
America can dissect a secondary with the artfulness Malzahn brings to the table. The Virginia Cavaliers saw just how devastatingly brilliant the new Arkansas State head coach can be. It's going to be a fun time in Jonesboro, Arkansas, in 2012. We'll see if ASU can indeed become the Boise State of the Sun Belt. If the Red Wolves can pull off the feat, how much more fun will college football be across all of the 11 FBS conferences?
Long story short, Malzahn threw one of the most entertaining New Year's Eve parties I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing.
- Bold move by Gene Chizik calling for the onside kick in the second quarter right after the Tigers tied the game at 14. After the recovery of the onside kick, Auburn seized control of the game, and never looked back.
- Gus Malzahn continues to distinguish himself from other college coaches. While serving as a head coach at one school, and offensive coordinator at another would distract most people in the coaching profession, the situation did little deter Malzahn. Malzahn prepared an excellent game plan, and threw everything but the kitchen sink at the overmatched Virginia defense.
- With that said, why didn't Malzahn use Onterio McCalebb more this season? The Cavaliers had absolutely no answers for him defensively.
- How likely did it seem at the beginning of the game that Barrett Trotter would be the difference maker for the Auburn offense? Credit the junior signal caller for handling his demotion to second string with class, and being prepared when the opportunity arose. With a new offensive coordinator coming in, Trotter might have opened up the QB competition in the spring.
- Coming into the season, many said that Virginia was a season or two away from contending for the ACC crown. After watching QB Michael Rocco throw for over 300 yards against a talented Auburn defense tonight, I can safely say that they will challenge for the Coastal Division title in 2012.
- It is only fitting that Kris Burd capped off a solid career with another 100-yard performance. The Cavs will definitely miss him next season.
- Is the SEC really that much better than the ACC? Apparently so. Auburn looked very average in the SEC this year, but tonight against one of the upper division ACC teams, it looked to be far better both physically, speed-wise, and just plain athletically in general.
- Speaking of which, the SEC is now 2-0 in bowls. Commence the chest thumping....
- Virginia despite showing some improvement this year still has a case of flopping in the national limelight. Here's another case, and its fans have to be bewildered by the inability to perform when sitting at the big boy table.
- When will the ACC ever realize the potential that was supposed to be there when the league was created? Since poaching the league poached the Big East, Miami has fallen off and Virginia Tech has had some inexcusable and unexplainable losses to keep it from being a national player. Now UNC is going to go into an NCAA coma, Clemson keeps being Clemson, and Florida State can't seem to realize the talent on its roster. Virginia getting its doors blown off by an SEC team that is nowhere near the top of the league this year is another indictment on how far the league has to go.
- It's still hard to tell how good of a coach Gene Chizik really is. Last year could very well have been a product of having superman in a helmet with Cam Newton, and this year has been average for Auburn standards. A national title buys a guy a lot of time, but let's see where the Tigers are in a couple years.
- Virginia actually could have made a game of this and has enough to hang in there athletically, but it would have needed a lot of breaks to go its way. The difference--special team miscues by Virginia and a defensive line that got pushed around all night by a more physical Auburn team.