I was discussing the Alabama & Auburn offenses in 2010 with a friend of mine the other day, when a thought occurred to me. The basic premise of the discussion with my friend, an Auburn fan, was his inclination to take offense at the notion that Auburn is "a one-man offensive show," that Cameron Newton isn't doing it all by himself.
OK, I thought. The argument has merit. And it's not as though Auburn is without weapons beyond its quarterback: currently freshman Michael Dyer has over 800 yards rushing this year, while Onterrio McCalebb has over 600 (plus 9 touchdowns).
On the other hand, here are Newton's numbers in 2010: 206 carries, an average of more than 6 yards per rush, 17 TDs, plus 135-198 passing, 2,038 yards and 21 TDs, plus one receiving touchdown vs. Ole Miss. That's 405 plays, and doesn't even remotely count the plays in which he's handed off to someone on a read-option.
(Note: Gus Malzahn, I think, hasn't received nearly enough credit for essentially throwing out his entire playbook from 2009, to better suit No. 2. I know it sounds weird, but it can be really hard for an offensive coordinator with Malzahn's reputation to essentially forego his ego the way he has.)
So if Auburn isn't a one-man offensive show, it certainly relies heavily on the talents of one guy.
To what then shall we compare it? What about this one: Auburn's offense is like "24."
Just hear me out. My two favorite television shows of the past few years have been "Lost" and "24," two great shows that work for different reasons.
"Lost," for example, worked because of an eclectic cast that featured (at least) six different regular characters: Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Locke, Hurley, Jin & Sun, Ben Linus, Boone & Shannon, Sayid, Charlie, Claire ... and so forth. The show was unique because it found a way to blend all those characters into one over-arching story, one of the only times a cast that large has actually worked.
(Note: I'm still not ready to discuss the final season of "Lost," one of the many factors that caused me to actually stop blogging entirely for several months in the spring. We're going to pretend it didn't go down that way for purposes of this entry.)
In a sense, what made "Lost" work is similar to what makes Alabama's offense work: multiple characters (McElroy, Julio, Maze, Ingram, Richardson), all strong in their own ways, all important to the plot in some way — and no, I don't have time to sit here and decide which Alabama offensive skill player is which character (though I'm fairly certain Nick Saban is either Jacob or The Man in Black).
Which brings us to "24," a show that primarily centered around the life story of one extraordinary guy: Jack Bauer.
As with Auburn's offense, "24" did have other characters: Tony Almeida, George Mason, Chloe O'Brian (I'm making the Chloe face as I'm writing this) and some others. But the fact of the matter is, without Jack, terrorists would've infiltrated the country about 19 different times and plunged Los Angeles into mass chaos.
The same is true for Auburn: while Dyer, Adams and McCalebb have come up large for the Tigers at various times, nothing they do would be possible without the force of nature that is No. 2. Everything ultimately centers around him. It works even better when you consider all the various times Jack was captured, beaten up and tortured, including the time in Season 2 when he actually died, was revived by paddles and started killing people within 10 minutes of regaining consciousness. Cam Newton could probably pull that off, right?
The truth is, as a fan of great TV, I loved both of these shows, much how I like both of these offenses as a football fan. But Jack Bauer never took on the ensemble cast of "Lost" in any kind of contest to see who could be involved in the more ridiculous plot, or anything.
These two offense get to match scores this Friday. And it should be fun.