Cameron Newton put on a tremendous performance in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game to win the MVP Award, which was well deserved, but it took 10 other guys on the field carrying out their assignments to allow the quarterback to be able to do his thing.
The quarterback has made it clear that he understands the importance of the team aspect of football as he makes sure he spreads the credit around for his personal success and his team's success to his teammates on both sides of the ball. That is appropriate because even though Newton and the offense have been the most impressive part of the 2010 team, when games have been on the line the defense has consistently stepped up and made big plays and the same can be said of the special teams.
Looking at Auburn's 13 wins this season, I give the coaching staff a lot of credit for how this team has developed. In my opinion the coaches have done a good job of helping all parts of this team improve and the Tigers look to be playing close to their potential in all areas. Playing to potential is easy to say, but it is hard to get accomplished, especially against such a tough schedule in the SEC during a season that had some distractions along the way that the team handled in a classy manner.
Cameron Newton (2) was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press.
It was no surprise Auburn defeated South Carolina in the rematch at the championship game in Atlanta, but I think some were surprised by the large margin of victory. I don't think that was the result of what South Carolina didn't do. It was a case of the Gamecocks not being able to handle what Auburn did.
Now the Tigers have the big one coming against Oregon, which has had a great year. Being on the Legends Coaches Poll I have had the opportunity to look at the Ducks throughout the year and that is an explosive football team on offense. Defensively, they are a lot like Auburn. Oregon is a better than a lot of people realize. It is a complete football team that is also very good with its speciality teams.
Auburn will need to have great preparation and a great plan to beat Oregon. The biggest key to winning this game for Auburn is dealing with the speed the game will be played at out in Glendale, Ariz. Oregon has good speed on its roster, but I think that Auburn will be able to deal with that. The bigger challenge, in my opinion, is for the defense to cope with how fast Oregon runs its offense. I think that is how the Ducks separate themselves from other teams around the country.
There are a lot of folks around the country who have speed at the skill positions like Oregon has got, but there are not many who can really speed up a game and get in as many plays in 60 minutes of football as Oregon does. The Ducks seem to do that better than anybody.
Oregon's offense not only has a physical effect on defenses, it has a mental effect, too, because it cuts down on the time for the defense to process the pre-snap reads and make adjustments before the football is snapped. As a defensive player if you can anticipate what the offense is getting ready to do you can react to it a lot better. Auburn will need some great scout team work to prepare for what the Tigers are going to see from the Oregon offense.
This year's matchup should be a great football game. Both teams have skill people who can make big plays and both have outstanding quarterbacks.
Oregon also has LaMichael James, who is perhaps the top running back in the country this season. He isn't an overly big guy, but he has great speed and the kid can score from anywhere on the field. It will be a challenge for Auburn's defense to stop him.
LaMichael James is a candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
This is an exciting time for all Auburn Tigers. As a former coach at Auburn, I would like to say thanks to this coaching staff and group of players on behalf of Auburn's former coaches and players who are thoroughly enjoying watching this team play. We understand and appreciate the hard work that has been put in to make this type of season happen.
It is particularly exciting that Auburn can win the national championship without having to wait on the results of a poll or the results of another game. This championship will be settled the way all championships should be settled and that is head to head on the field.
Watching Auburn's coaching staff and kids play this year, I am sure they will be ready on Jan. 10th. I am expecting the same thing from Oregon. It should be a great football game.
From the mailbag:
College athletes have long been known as "student athletes." How did you balance (or not) your players being athletes as well as students? Did it work? What would you do if you were coaching today?
First of all as coaches we demanded our kids go to class and we had tutors available for the players who needed help. If a player got behind in his academic work he had mandatory study halls to attend. As coaches it is our responsibility that our players are serious about their education and working toward a degree, which is the most important thing they can do.
Just heard you on the radio and was pleased to hear your comments regarding the integrity of both Jay Jacobs & Coach Chizik. I was a student during your tenure at Auburn and have always respected your opinion and philosophies of dealing with young people at such an important transitional stage in life. It is so great to know that the Spirit of Auburn remains in good hands with your constant and steady oversight for all of the Auburn Family who have been fortunate to share in the experience. May God continue to bless you and Auburn. War Damn Eagle!
Class of 1993
Auburn, the institution, has a special spirit about it than nobody can understand unless they are part of the Auburn Family. You can't sit down and describe it to somebody in words. You have to be a part of it and feel the passion that develops over a period of time when you are in school as a student. It happened to me during my 12 years as an Auburn coach and my time at Auburn since then. It has been close to 20 years since I first came to coach the football team.
I have always thought that Auburn is a place that you can come to and have a chance to go to the top. That is the case for an athlete and it doesn't matter if it is swimming, baseball, football, tennis or whatever. I?think it is just the same academically. When you come to Auburn as a student if you want to have a chance to fly the space shuttle, go to the moon or be the CEO of some big corporation it has been proven you have the chance to do that because Auburn students have done those things.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com)
Editor's Note: This part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn who was also head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming, Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns a week--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.