I delivered these closing remarks at the end of my CBS College Network Show on Tuesday night and wanted to share them with you on Thanksgiving. I added in the note about the great Furman Bisher because I was happy to see his annual “I’m Thankful” column on the editoral pages of this morning’s AJC.
We’ll be back tomorrow with our Fearless Friday Forecast. I am very thankful for all of you and hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your families.
Here we go:
Folks I’ve dedicated all of my professional life—and a big chunk of my personal life—to the sport of college football. I’ve loved it since I went to my first game at the University of Georgia when I was 13 years old. I have never, ever wanted to do anything else for a living other than talk about and write about college football.
But when you cover a story like Cam Newton, you wonder if that love has been misplaced. You wonder if the money has gotten so big and the stakes for winning and losing so high, that
It’s Thanksgiving week so let’s do our Five Burning Questions a day early:
1. What can Alabama do to contain Cameron Newton? Seven SEC opponents have tried to come up with a game plan to slow down Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton. Newton, however, will enter Friday’s Iron Bowl as the first player in SEC history to pass for over 2,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season. This much we know. Alabama head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart will have a plan. I’ve talked to a bunch of coaches about how to defend Newton and they all said it would require discipline, constant pressure, and an exceptional day of tackling. It would help a lot if Rolando McClain and Terrence Cody were still on the Alabama defense, but they are not. But I’ll bet linebacker Dont’a Hightower will never be far from No. 2 on Friday.
2. Do Georgia and Georgia Tech REALLY have anything to play for on Saturday night? Absolutely. And if you’ve ever played
Okay. This is pure speculation but that is what we do here at Mr. College Football. Consider this:
If No. 2 Auburn beats Alabama on Friday and then beats South Carolina in the SEC championship on Dec. 4, then things are pretty simple: The Tigers will be 13-0 and will play somebody—probably Oregon—for the BCS national championship on Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz.
But what happens if Auburn LOSES to Alabama and then wins the SEC championship to finish 12-1? That leads me to two more questions:
Question No. 1: Can Auburn, at 12-1, get into the BCS championship game ahead of 12-0 Boise State or 12-0 TCU?
Question No. 2: Will the ongoing NCAA investigation into the recruitment of Cameron Newton and the uncertainty that comes with it have any effect on the voters in the human polls?
Let’s look at Question No. 1: I think the answer is yes. The key is how far Auburn falls in the BCS Standings if it loses to Alabama. My belief is that if the game is competitive and Auburn
As my friend and author Bill Cromartie once wrote, it’s “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate” week. While it is the season of Thanksgiving, it is also the season when it’s okay, within reason, to hate your biggest rival. The late, great Lewis Grizzard used to say that this week is not about football, it’s about “our way of life against theirs.”
What happened last Saturday sets the table for this week. So what have we learned?
1. Bo Pelini is headed to the principal’s office: The Nebraska coach thought he was getting hosed last Saturday night at Texas A&M. The Big 12 officiating crew called 16 penalties on the Huskers and two on the Aggies. The zebras made a very questionable (bad) roughing the passer call on Nebraska to keep a drive alive at a crucial point in the game. Pelini, who comes from Youngstown, Ohio, a working class city where you don’t accept things lightly, was all over everybody and chased the officials after the 9-6 loss. Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman was not
I don’t know about you, but I could sure use a break from the Cameron Newton story. So back by popular demand (okay, two guys asked about it) is the Fearless Friday Forecast:
1. Duke at Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech (5-5) needs this one to become bowl eligible with a trip to Georgia coming up next week. The Tech defense had better get some pressure on Duke QB Sean Renfree or this one could be a problem for the Jackets. Georgia Tech 31, Duke 24.
2. Troy at South Carolina: The Gamecocks have already clinched a spot in the SEC championship game and may look a little sloppy in this one. South Carolina 28, Troy 14.
3. Appalachian State at Florida: It will be senior day at Florida but I wonder how excited the Gators (6-4) will be against the Mountaineers (9-1)? Jerry Moore’s team was ranked No. 1 in Division I-AA until they lost their only game to Georgia Southern. Florida 24, Appalachian State 17.
4. Virginia Tech at Miami: Miami is on a little run behind freshman quarterback
Five burning questions questions as we head into the weekend:
1. Could the TMZ report be a game changer in the Cameron Newton investigation? Everyone was all a-Twitter yesterday when TMZ reported that the FBI is asking questions about an Auburn booster in relationship to the Cameron Newton investigation.
Understand that TMZ (which broke the Tiger Woods story) did not say there was a connection between dog track owner Milton McGregor and Newton. Specifically:
“It’s unclear what, if any, direct connection McGregor has to Newton. Back in 2008, McGregor did donate a million bucks toward construction of a new arena at Auburn.”
The report said that the FBI was asking people in the Newton investigation if they were familiar with the fact that McGregor was one of 10 people arrested last month in a bribery scandal. Through his attorney McGregor denied any contact–”direct or indirect”–with Cam Newton or Cecil Newton.
So we need more information. But it is the first time outside
Nobody asked me but:
1. Nick Fairley will get a lot of scrutiny in the Iron Bowl: I think the SEC office got it right when it didn’t suspend Nick Fairley for the Iron Bowl on Nov. 26. The shot to the back that Fairley put on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray was way over the line and he was penalized for it. The shot on the knee to Murray was a football play. But at that point I don’t think anybody from Georgia was in the mood to give Fairley the benefit of the doubt.
And please, I don’t need the emails and the photos and the video that there was rough play on both sides. I don’t need to know that a bunch of Georgia players ran on he field. I get all of that. Let’s talk about what happens as things move forward.
Because of what happened last Saturday at Jordan-Hare, the dynamic on Fairley has changed. I’m not saying if it is right or wrong. I’m just telling you that it has.
If Fairley puts the same kind of hit on the Alabama quarterback as he did on Murray, there
It’s Tuesday, we’re tired of talking about Cam Newton, and the new BCS standings are out. So let’s update our projections.
BCS Championship: No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 2 Auburn.
Update: Just about every team that plays for the BCS national championship dodges at least one bullet along the way. For Oregon that was last Saturday night against California. Cal missed a 29-yard field goal that would have given the Bears the lead. Auburn (11-0) still has to win at Alabama and has to beat South Carolina for the second time this season when they meet in the SEC championship game on Dec. 4.
Rose: Wisconsin vs. Boise State.
Update: If Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan State all finish at 11-1 the tiebreaker will go to the highest ranked team in the BCS Standings. That will be Wisconsin after the Badgers hung 83 on Indiana last Saturday. Boise State (9-0) still has three games left (Fresno State, Nevada, Utah State) but if the Broncos win out I beleive they will jump over TCU
It’s Monday. There are three more Saturdays left in the regular season. So what have we learned?
1. It’s going to be a long 11 days until the Iron Bowl. After one of the more bizarre weeks I have seen, Cameron Newton played and played very well in beating Georgia 49-31 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The kid is just a great football player and, in a perfect world, would be a lock for the Heisman Trophy. Newton is the best player in college football and right now it really isn’t close. Newton remained eligible to play on Saturday and he should. Right now there is no concrete evidence to sit him. But between now and the Auburn-Alabama game on Nov. 26 a lot can happen. The FBI is going to be talking to some of the principals in this case. Reporters are going to be asking questions. There will be digging. And leaking. This story moves so fast. I predict Newton will play against Alabama because Auburn, absent any hard evidence, really has to be all in on the kid. Stay tuned.
It was my hope this morning to take a break from the ongoing, sordid saga that as become the Cameron Newton story and write about what is going to be another great football weekend:
We have the No. 2 team in the nation (Auburn) trying to stay alive in the race for the national championship against a traditional rival (Georgia) which needs a signature win to save its season.
We have the drama of a winner take all game at Florida where Steve Spurrier, the former Gator coach, has a chance to take South Carolina to its first-ever SEC championship game.
But the Cameron Newton story has sucked all of the oxygen out of this college football season. It’s sad. But you can’t ignore it even if you want to.
So for the second straight week we will not do our Fearless Friday Forecast. Here, based on a very long Thursday, is where I believe we are on the Cameron Newton Story:
We are quickly reaching critical mass. Two big events happened yesterday that make me feel this way.