A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

6 Thoughts from Auburn vs Oregon

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1. Great game.  One of the best national championship games we’ve seen in recent years.

2. Disappointed to see a game get decided on a play like Dyer’s big run.  Oregon has no right to complain that it was a bad call, but there’s a clear reality that such a play is not something that can be replicated reliably by the team that benefitted from it.  Meanwhile, from the Oregon players’ perspective, clearly if there was no fear of being called for personal fouls, Dyer gets taken down.  It’s only the bizarre context of football with fears of being incorrectly seen as malicious that allowed Auburn to benefit here, and that’s a shame.

3. I was really glad Oregon got that last touchdown.  Not simply because it made the game more competitive, but because it helped damp down some of the silly narrative implying that Auburn was simply in a different league than Oregon.  The Cowherds of the world are still saying Auburn was clearly the better team, but until the last fluky drive, Oregon had gained more yards, and could’ve been up a couple touchdowns if this had broken slightly different in the red zone.

4. Cam Newton was still valuable for Auburn, but I was disappointed.  Unfair to some degree because I’m comparing him to Vince Young‘s god-like bowl performances against USC and Michigan which might be something no one can be expected to do without a good deal of luck, but Newton’s issues in this game can’t simply be chalked up to bad luck or Oregon’s ability.  Newton lost two fumbles, and could easily have lost a third.  It only produced one turnover, but it’s actually the other two plays that bother me.

On the first play (and first fumble), if you were watching the defender who caused the fumble, it looked like your classic fumble-causing play.  The defender was able to come from the side to blast into Newton at full speed, easy to see why that caused a fumble.  One problem though:  The defender didn’t come from Newton’s blind side, and Newton STILL didn’t feel him coming.

On the second play Newton was in the process of being tackled and put his arm out as if to throw the ball away.  Only he didn’t throw the ball away, he just kinda held it out there as he went down.  That he didn’t fumble is a testament to his strength, but this is a situation where you either throw the ball away rapidly, or you bring the ball into yourself for protection, and he froze somewhere in between.

Between these issues, and the fact that he struggled in the face of a good offense (weaker passing quarterback in the game, and not a ton of impact rushing), no one should think that he’s going to take the NFL by storm based on being some new breed of superior human being.  Not saying he can’t be successful, but he’s going to have to work hard to overcome struggles with the kind of determination Michael Vick didn’t have until after he went to prison, and he’ll have to show resilience in the face of these struggles than Vince Young seems clearly incapable of.

5. Gene Chizik is someone who will be on my mind for quite a while.  When he was hired 2 years ago there were cries of protest and confusion.  At that point Chizik had won a total 5 games over 2 years as head coach at Iowa State, and was hired over many other candidates who had had more success.  Now he’s coached a national champion, so it’s hard to take seriously the idea that Auburn’s AD doesn’t know what they’re doing, but what exactly does it say about coaching in college football when someone with so little previous success can have so much quick success with a new program?

It’s easy to say that a coach’s ability to recruit is what’s most important, but if Chizik is a master recruiter, shouldn’t we have seen some clear evidence of that in Iowa State before that became the basis for his hiring at a bigger school?  It really makes one wonder if Auburn’s confidence in the direction of their program has more to do with they and their boosters’ ability to recruit with any decently charismatic coach than they did with the coach himself.  This combined with the rumors about Cam Newton charging under the table money to the school he went with.

Also of note:  Chizik’s connection to Auburn as a former defensive coordinator, which is presumably where their confidence in him lies.  However, Auburn’s immediate improvement in the Chizik era last year (before Newton) came on offense.  Of course Auburn also hired noted offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to run that offense, so it’s not like success there comes out of the blue, but it’s just one more weird characteristic of Chizik’s success that he would not be the architect on the side of the football that really led to the title.

6. Final rankings came out today.  1. Auburn, 2. TCU, 3. Oregon.  Not a surprise, but utterly ridiculous.  Y’all have been spared my rants against the college football ranking and BCS system this year because it was so clear cut who the best 2 teams were going into the title game, but their irrationality is often blatant.  Oregon was the underdog going into the game, and they fought Auburn to a draw until the last seconds of the game when a fluke play doomed them.  There is no way that a majority of voters have actually changed their mind about Oregon vs TCU after the game, but they do the ranking shift anyway because it’s what’s expected..

Written by Matt Johnson

January 11, 2011 at 10:13 pm

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