Three & Out appears every Sunday and Wednesday in 2010 to give you three SEC thoughts, news and notes. In the final edition of the year, we take a look back at the SEC Championship Game.
LEGEN…WAIT FOR IT...DARY
If Cam Newton wasn't a shoo-in for the Heisman Trophy before the SEC Championship Game, it didn't take long to seal the deal once Auburn and South Carolina kicked off Saturday afternoon. The NBA likes to market its catch phrase: "where amazing happens." I saw "amazing" for four hours on the floor of the Georgia Dome. Its name is Cam Newton.
Just how amazing was Newton's performance? He tied the SEC Championship Game record for most TD's responsible for (6), set the record for yards per play (9.7) and set a career-best mark, throwing for 335 yards. His second rushing touchdown of the game made him only the third player in FBS history to rush for 20 touchdowns and throw for 20 touchdowns in the same season, joining Florida's Tim Tebow (2007) and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick (2010).
No matter what Newton did on Saturday, he was successful. His offensive line gave him all day to pick South Carolina's defense apart, he made NFL-caliber passes all game long and he punished South Carolina's linebackers with his running ability.
In the postgame press conference, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said that Newton was the best football player that he's ever seen. Saturday's performance, in arguably Auburn's biggest game in school history, Newton had the game of his life. In the process, he essentially wrapped up the Heisman Trophy, became an SEC Champion and punched a ticket to Glendale.
Not a bad day, to say the least.
Even though Auburn put up an SEC Championship Game record 589 yards, South Carolina stayed in the game and had its chances. They just couldn't capitalize.
Some will point to Auburn's Hail Mary touchdown at the end of the first half as the back-breaker. Others say that it was T'Sharvan Bell's interception return for a touchdown that did the Gamecocks in. But the game was really lost in the second quarter, and it involved no scoring whatsoever.
South Carolina held Auburn to two scoreless drives early in the second quarter, but didn't cash in any points for themselves. When playing an offense as potent as Auburn's, you can't survive if you don't capitalize when Auburn's offense opens the door. If South Carolina would have converted just one of those two drives into points, the game could have been different.
But, just like all season, Auburn's defense stepped up to the plate. Following a Cam Newton fumble, Nick Fairley got pressure up the middle and forced Stephen Garcia to throw an interception to Darren Bates. Later in the second quarter, Nosa Eguae sacked Garcia on a 3rd and four, forcing a 51-yard missed field goal from Spencer Lanning.
BCS GETS IT RIGHT
The BCS has its flaws. There's no debating that. But its primary job is to match the nation's top two teams in the national championship game, and it has done that again this season. Auburn and Oregon are the two best teams in the country, and there's no doubt in my mind about that.
Some will argue that a playoff system would be preferable, and that may be true. Personally, I think a poorly-executed playoff would be much worse than the current BCS system, especially if conferences demanded automatic qualifying spots – which they would.
But if we were operating under the old bowl system, Oregon would be playing in the Rose Bowl, Auburn would be playing in the Sugar Bowl and we would be staring a split national title in the face.
Is the BCS perfect? No. Is it the best we can do? Probably not. But more times than not, it provides us with a game that's as close a true "national championship" as the current system allows.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at
Don't forget to check out "Y'all Play Nice" from CFN's Russ Mitchell and Brian Harbach every Thursday during the season.
2010 Three & Out Archive