The best and worst of college football

Yesterday was an epic day in college football. On rivalry Saturday, Auburn won the Iron Bowl in stunning fashion as a last-second field goal try by Alabama was returned for a touchdown. It was one of those jaw-dropping plays that will be replayed and remembered forever.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day, another legendary rivalry game also produced an instant classic, as Michigan’s Brady Hoke decided to go for two at the end of the game, leaving Michigan with an unforgettable 42-41 loss against their bitter rivals in The Game.

Unfortunately, one of the greatest days in college football history immediately led to the inevitable and idiotic debate of who is more deserving of a spot in the National Championship game. What should be happening is both Ohio State and Auburn celebrating a spot in a playoff with these wins (assuming they win next week). The same is true of Missouri.

Instead we have to argue whether an undefeated Big Ten team should be jumped by a one-loss Auburn team. I have strong opinions about this, mostly because I’m biased. Auburn had a great miracle win against Alabama, but they also had a fluke Hail Mary win on their resume as well, while Ohio State has won 24 straight games!

But everyone is biased when it comes to this debate. Surely SEC fans have an argument that a one-loss SEC team deserves a chance to play for the national title. Still, if the SEC is so dominant, why is Missouri in the SEC title game?

Some will claim they aren’t biased and can make a logical argument for their position. But it’s just a subjective determination! College football will be forever tainted as long as opinion trumps the notion of deciding a champion on the field. The winners of the five power conferences should automatically go to a playoff. We can have some spot for at-large teams based on a committee, but winning a conference championship should put you in a playoff so you have a chance to measure yourself against another conference winner. This notion of winners playing other winners for the chance to call yourself a champion rules every other sport, other than Division I college football.

Today, we should be looking forward to possible playoff matches, and any argument between Ohio State and Auburn/Missouri fans could ultimately be settled the way it should be – by playing games. But we’re left with an absolute mess.

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Auburn mounts epic comeback to save national title hopes

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 13: Quarterback Cameron Newton  of the Auburn Tigers celebrates after a touchdown against the Georgia Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Admit it, when Alabama went up 21-0 in the first quarter today against Auburn, you thought it was over. You thought that all of the experts were right, and the Tide were stronger than an Auburn team that was nothing more than a great quarterback.

I know that’s how I felt. But then Cam Newton and Auburn mounted the biggest comeback in the history of the Iron Bowl, and the biggest comeback in school history to pick up a thrilling 28-27 win over the Tide. The win keeps Auburn undefeated, and could possibly be impressive enough that voters choose to move the Tide to No. 1, ahead of Oregon.

It probably also cements the Heisman for Newton, who was near flawless in the second half and finished with three touchdowns through the air and another on the ground. He wasn’t nearly as effective running the ball as he had been in past games, but that doesn’t matter. He already had Heisman stats, now he has a definitive Heisman moment. It will take an NCAA ineligibility ruling in the next two weeks to derail his Heisman campaign, because in order for him to lose it on the field at this point, the Tigers will have to lose to South Carolina and Newton will have to throw seven interceptions, lose three fumbles and slaughter a puppy at midfield.

As good as Newton was, though, the Auburn defense deserves a ton of credit for the way it played. The Tigers allowed just three points in the second half, and that came after a fumble on a punt return that set Alabama up in field goal range. Nick Fairley may be a prick, but he’s damn good, and led quite a charge in the final 30 minutes of the game.

Of course, I should probably mention Alabama helping Auburn out a little bit, too. The Tide choked pretty hard in this one, committing poorly-timed penalties and turning the ball over in the redzone twice. There was also Mark Barron’s “should I go for the pick or the hit” indecision on Newton’s second TD pass to open the third quarter that gave Auburn immediate hope.

I don’t say that to take away from Auburn’s win, I just feel it needs to be addressed.

But as big as this win was for Auburn, it was equally devastating for Boise State and TCU. The two non-AQs had to be ecstatic watching the first half of this one, only to be denied the best remaining opportunity they had to get into the championship game. Now they need Oregon to lose to either Arizona or Oregon State (in Corvallis, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility) or Auburn to lose to South Carolina.

I don’t see any of that happening. Then again, I didn’t see Auburn coming back, either.

Top teams make Friday the new day for college football

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 6: Quarterback Cam Newton  of the Auburn Tigers celebrates a touchdown against the Chattanooga Mocs November 6, 2010 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Cam Newton’s done a lot of smiling so far this season. He’s the Heisman Trophy front-runner on the undefeated No. 2 team in the country.

A lot of people, including Vegas, don’t believe he’ll be smiling after today’s Iron Bowl, however.

The Tigers come into today’s game (2:30 p.m. ET on CBS) as a 4-point underdog against their biggest rival, Alabama, despite coming into the game with the undefeated record, Newton and two wins against the teams that have given Alabama its two losses.

It’s the game that is supposed to open the door for Boise State, or perhaps TCU to break into the national title game. It’s the game that’s supposed to save the NCAA from being embarrassed down the road if Newton is found to be ineligible after the Tigers have won a national title.

But will it be? Read the rest of this entry »

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