— That Auburn dominated South Carolina Saturday night in Atlanta wasn't a huge shock: yes, the Gamecocks flirted with an upset at Jordan-Hare in September, but the truth is Auburn's much better than they were then, and playing with the confidence that comes from an undefeated season that includes a 24-point comeback on the road against your archrival (it's killing me to write that). But the seminal moment, for me, was Darvin Adams' Hail Mary reception right before halftime, the one that basically sealed the game in the Tigers' favor. When you're catching 50-yard Hail Mary passes on the SEC's biggest stage, it's pretty much your year.
And that's sort of what I was getting at in my post a week ago: The difference between very good teams and championship teams, for the most part, is getting the bounces. The Alabama that won the national championship in 2009 didn't drop easy touchdown passes, didn't fumble at inopportune times and didn't get outplayed in the second half. The Auburn team that's going to win the championship in '10 can do similar things.
— If I were Gene Chizik, I think I'd wear a t-shirt with middle fingers on the front and back 24 hours a day, if only to remind everyone what they said about him when he was first hired. As an Alabama fan, however, there's a part of me that kind of wants Auburn to win the title in January, to coach Chizik the kind of job security that would come with such a feat.
The fact is, anyone wondering why the same guy who finished 5-19 at Iowa State without a hint of improvement in two seasons is suddenly on the verge of a national championship, is it really such a mystery? The Iowa St. version of Chizik didn't have Gus Malzahn as his offensive coordinator, didn't have Trooper Taylor beating the bushes for recruits and didn't have the best player in the country taking his team from good to great. Chizik deserves unending credit for swallowing his ego and letting his guys do what they do. I think that's commendable. But it's also worth noting that Auburn's head coach who is a career defensive specialist coaches a team that isn't even in the top 50 in total defense.
— That reminds me: Nick Fairley had a fantastic quote from the "NOBODY BELIEVES IN US" file Saturday night in Chris Low's blog.
“People say our defense is suspect. I’ve been hearing that all year. All that does is give us motivation to go shut people down.”
Look, I know the tendency of everyone when they're successful is to say no one believed in you (even if, as in the case of Auburn in 2010, they were the odds-on favorite in every game they played except the Alabama game). At the same time, Nick, do you know why people have said your defense is "suspect" this season? Because it is. Auburn surrenders an average of 360-plus yards per game through 13 games, and nearly 5.3 yards per play. Auburn's defense hasn't received the label of "suspect" because of some inane predilection media members and football pundits have to bash Auburn.
To the unending credit of the AU D, they have come through every time they were badly needed (vs. 'Bama, vs. LSU) and they played their best game of the season Saturday vs. Carolina. They're rounding into form at the right time.
You know what it reminds me of, actually? The Alabama offense in 2009. Everyone will remember the Heisman Trophy and the domination of Florida, but Alabama's offense went through a remarkably putrid period during midseason, only scoring two touchdowns from the Ole Miss game (Oct. 10) through the first half of the LSU game (Nov. 7). It's not even really accurate to say they did just enough to win, since the Tennessee game, without Terrence Cody's heroics, would've been lost.
But the 09 offense caught fire in the last month, staged late rallies to beat LSU and Auburn, then showed out in the biggest game of the season in Atlanta, just like Auburn's defense has this season. That's what happens for championship football teams.
— Happy though I guess everyone was for South Carolina (for reaching Atlanta for the first time), Steve Spurrier is still receiving way too much credit from pundits and fans. First of all, anyone who pretends this South Carolina team experienced some kind of revelation this season is kidding themselves; the Gamecocks won the SEC East primarily because the rest of the division regressed so egregiously that they were suddenly the best positioned squad. On a neutral field, SC would be at least a one-touchdown underdog against every team in the West except for (maybe) Ole Miss. In fact, everyone predicting them to pull the upset in Atlanta was conveniently ignoring the fact that, in their most recent meeting with a team from the West (Arkansas), they lost by 21 ... at home.
Moreover, the 2010 version of Steve Spurrier isn't an evil genius; he's just a guy. Every pundit who picked Carolina to win — like, say, Lee Corso — mentioned Spurrier in their prediction, "The Ol' Ball Coach," who would surely draw up some plays to upset big, bad Auburn like in the old days. Which would be fine, except Spurrier's not that kind of coach anymore: Carolina finished the season 47th in passing offense, with Stephen Garcia the 65th best passer in the nation (Greg McElroy, by comparison, is 50th). To be perfectly honest, Carolina didn't do anything particularly well on offense in 2010; their total offensive ranking is 50th nationally, 2 spots behind the Georgia team everyone decried as a fraud all season. Color me unimpressed.
— I really don't have the strength to discuss CBS' coverage of the SEC Championship Game, which was its usual low caliber. I will say this: what he lacks in general TV skill, Gary Danielson makes up for by saying things that make very little sense. Early in the game, during a piece about how big WRs have hurt Auburn's secondary in 2010, Danielson verbalized a bizarre stream of consciousness that had to be heard to be believed (I didn't DVR the game, but hopefully someone who did will back me up here). The essence of it, I think, was that because the NFL doesn't allow college freshmen to enter its league — like the NBA does — athletes are allowed to mature physically and psychologically, and are thus quite imposing by the time they're upperclassmen.
That was the essence of it. What he actually said, I can't replicate. I just can't.
UPDATE: Friend of the blog Amanda von Herrmann DID pull her DVR of the game, found the rant, and transcribed it. And it is as amazing as I remember.
At 47 minutes in ...
Verne: Well, we've seen Auburn play, and I know you've pointed out the big wide receivers.
[graphic displaying receivers they've faced this season- Jeffrey, Childs, Green, Jones, and Jeffrey again]
Gary: (interrupting) Well... well... and all of these guys. One of the oddities, if you look, there's Jeffrey in the first game in the beginning and here he is at the end. It's one of the oddities about college football is you can't turn pro early. Okay so these guys, if these are basketball players, they're a tough matchup in the NFL. And so now they're out here in college football, they're a really tough matchup in this game.
(Note: I'm not going to cover the "Cammy Cam Juice" thing, because if I do I'll be sorely tempted to share a completely inappropriate text from one of my cousins that would get us all in trouble and possibly get me uninvited to Christmas. Suffice to say, CBS should probably re-think how it covers college football in the future.)
— As Gentry Estes notes, if the BCS were a 16-team playoff, Alabama at Auburn would be a first-round matchup. Gawwwd.