Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Alamo Bowl Pick

I think Arizona has a lot more to prove in this game after getting humiliated last season by Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. OSU will also be ready to play after their narrow loss to Oklahoma to get into the Big 12 Championship game however I question how excited they are about playing a 7-5 team. Arizona has a good run defense that will give Oklahoma State fits at times and are athletic enough to cover the field east to west. Oklahoma State will win this game if they stretch the Wildcat Defense deep early and often softening up the middle for delayed runs and intermediate routes. Arizona has a very good offense that can ball control to keep OSU off the field if it has to. Nick Foles will need to play well, get rid of the ball quickly and make sound decisions for the Wildcats to win. If Foles doesn't play well it could be a long night for Wildcat fans. All in all I think if this game is played 10 times OSU would win 7 but I think in this 1 game scenario with Arizona not expected to win they will come out loose, focused, aggressive and play well enough to beat OSU tonight. Confidence on this pick is lower but I think Arizona will benefit huge from its time off, and is happy to be in the game.

Arizona 41 Oklahoma State 38

Thanks for reading!

The Fan

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How to Stop Cam Newton

Anyone know how to stop Cam Newton??? I think this is the question of the year for college football fans outside of Auburn. When I watch him, I think of Terell Pryor vs Oregon last year in the Rose Bowl...but better. I compare his clutch ability to Vince Young wearing the Mighty USC defense down in the 4th quarter and eventually strolling into the endzone to halt the dynasty. I think of watching Tim Tebow running over and away from defense after defense. I think of Michael Vick vs FSU, I think of Tommy Frazier running all over Florida...I could go on for quite some time remembering all the great players that Cameron Newton reminds me of and at the end of the day he might be better than all of them. If he wins against the Ducks on January 10, 2011 he will have to mentioned as one of the all time single season greats in college football history and arguably the greatest. He will need to beat Oregon or all of the talk will be forgotten and he will be remembered for his off the field problems, his controversial Heisman Trophy and not much more. He will eventually become an after thought in college football history.

Is he unstoppable?

What makes him seem unstoppable, oddly enough starts with understanding that he has made mistakes this year, and has had several throws that could have been intercepted, dropped. At times he has been obviously confused by defensive schemes on when or where to run and throw. This has happened many times in the 13 games Newton has played however no team has been able to stop him for an entire game. The reason could be because he gets significantly better as the game goes on and he plays better against tougher competition. He has improved as the competition has gotten tougher, the stakes higher, and the odds against him. The evidence is that he threw only one INT in November and December 4th and completed 68% of his passes during that time. He also completes 92% of his passes on 3rd down with 4-6yds to go. He has thrown only 1 interception vs teams with a winning record this season vs 5 INT's against teams with losing records. The same is true for Ranked teams (1 INT) vs  Unranked teams (5 INT). His passer rating when Auburn is trailing by 1-7 pts is 180.25 going 34 of 44 with 5 TD's and 0 INT's. He is at his best in the 2nd and 4th quarter and when Auburn is either trailing or leading by 7pts or less. Oh and when his team was really against the wall in the Iron Bowl he was 6 of 10 for 167 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 0 INT's. He also had 2 completions over 25 yds and 4 over 15yds in that span when they were trailing big! His passer rating when they trailed big in Tuscaloosa was a cool handed 266.28. We remember great players for what they do in the clutch, late in the season or game, with everything on the line. If we judge Newton from this criteria then its easy to see why he is perceived as unstoppable!

So how do you stop him?

Nick Saban had a great game plan against Auburn, mix coverages,  blitz occasionally, pressure Newton wtihout letting him break contain, and when you get to him wrap up and make the play. When the game started they got pressure on Newton time and time again. They tackled him when they had the chance, sacked him a few times, and whenever the slower defensive linemen got to him they broke down, opened their hips, and fired their feet like a disciplined open field tackler instead of charging & lunging at him like an ill tempered teenager in his first fist fight. The also kept contain and were able to finish the plays. The coverage schemes confused and frustrated Newton and it indeed was the right game plan to stop him.

Then it happened...

For about 28 minutes this worked to perfection for Alabama. They led 24-0, threatening to score when they dropped a sure touchdown, the next play Nick Fairley forces a fumble and recovers it, Auburn scores soon after to end the first half 24-7 and then wins the second half 21-3. Alabama did  everything correct in the first 28 minutes, however they were not conditioned to play at that pace with the same intensity for 4 quarters. That is what Cam Newton did to Alabama. Its the same thing Oregon has done to virtually all of their opponents this year. Alabama came out with energy, adrenaline if you will, pumped up celebrating every play like they had just won the game. It was similar to what Oregon had done to Tennessee, Stanford, USC, and Oregon State. They let their opponents throw their best punches early while just feeling them out throwing jabs. They stayed in the fight, counter-punching and playing defense then saw the opponent getting tired and when the opportunity was there they pounced in with the knockout combo. That is Auburn & Cam Newton and that is the Oregon Ducks.

So what's the Secret Formula?

Remember the 1980 USA team beating the USSR in Ice Hockey??? I was only 3 years old when the actual game was played but I do remember the movie and it was conditioning, guts, and determination that led that team to victory. Huge Key was being CONDITIONED and believing you can stop any opponent regardless of who they are, dare I say "faceless".

The secret formula to stopping Cam Newton may not include kryptonite or a super complex NFL scheme game plan. Success against Newton is about having a good game plan but even more about having bullheaded determination and will to get up and get after him play after play after play for 60 minutes. No matter what happens early Oregon must know that they are in for a 60 minute battle! No matter if they sack him every down of the first three quarters, no matter if they have a 31-0 lead at half no matter what happens they have to know that its a 60 minute grind. Not 28 minutes, not 35 or 40 minutes, not 59 minutes but 60 minutes. The schematic blueprint is there and my gut feeling is Oregon knows winning this game is the same as the other 12 they have played this year. The competition is different but everything else is the same. The keys will not change for Oregon even though they will face their best competition all season, they must know to keep doing what they have all season and play a complete 60 minute football game.

Thanks for reading,

The Fan!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Auburn vs Oregon: Who's the man???

"To be the man you have to beat the man"

"The SEC is the Man"

"The SEC is the toughest football conference in America...Period!" I hear this a lot in college football media these days and with good reason. The SEC has won the past 4 BCS National titles and 6 of 12 since the inception of the BCS in 1998. They are 6-0 as a conference and have 4 different teams that have won the prestigious championship, Tennessee, Alabama, LSU, and Florida with LSU and Florida each winning twice. So its hard to argue that they are not the most dominant football conference in America because its been proven on the field the last 4 years with them beating the Big 10 in 2006 & 2007 and the Big 12 in 2008 & 2009. They also posted a victory over the ACC in 1998 and another over the Big 12 in 2003.

"USC was the man"

Paging Cam Newton...OK for arguments sake I'm going to forget Reggie Bush's sanctions and stick to the on the field performance. Even with the USC Trojans dominance from 2002-2008 they never faced an SEC team in the championship game. The Trojans did win 2 National Championships in that time period but only one was a BCS Championship. So why the nation largely believes that the SEC is the toughest and most dominant conference in college football I think the people out west disagree rather strongly and with good reason. The Pac 10 is the only conference to post a winning record over the SEC in the past 10 years. The Pac 10 has the most dominant team of the 2000's in USC but only 1 BCS Title in two BCS title game just doesn't smell right. This is why this 2011 BCS Championship Game is so important for Oregon and the Pac 10.

"Oregon beat the man twice in a row but is still not the man..."

Oregon is now the team holding the flag for the west coast. Though they beat the pants off USC two years in a row losing to Ohio State and Boise State last year tainted its perception nationally. This is a team that is known for its fancy uniforms, its fast paced offense, and well known sugar daddy Phil Knight. The perception is that Oregon is an offensive show with a "just good enough" defense. The perception is that Oregon is fast and not as physical as the mighty SEC, that they play a "gimmick offense" and are not challenged each and every week like the teams from "the south". People point to the fact that Boise State and Ohio State shut Oregon down last year and how the Ducks struggle to put up points against good athletic defenses like the one Auburn has this year. People are saying that the Ducks have to just hope they can score enough points to keep Cam Newton off the field because if Cam couldn't be stopped by the powerful SEC defenses then there is no way that a Pac 10 defense is going to stop him. That in a nutshell is the perception "out there" right now. So my guess is the perception won't change much if Oregon loses this football game.

"Sticks and stones..."

The thing about Oregon is it doesn't care at all about its perception. Its coach doesn't care, its players don't care, and quite honestly I'm not so sure its fan base cares that much either...OK some fans don't care but some do. What I know is that as good as Auburns offense is, and as good as the SEC defenses are, Oregon will be BY FAR the best team Auburn has played this year. Oregon's defense is better than any defense in Yards Per Play Allowed (4.53) that Auburn has faced this season. I've already explained that Oregon's Offense is not as explosive as Auburns however Oregon's offense will be BY FAR the best offense that Auburn has faced. Oregon has scored 21 more touchdowns than Arkansas which is the best offense that Auburn has played this year. Oregon also has the luxury of understanding how to prepare for a BCS game and has played against Terell Pryor who is the most similar player in FBS to Cam Newton. Though it was a year ago and the Ducks lost the Rose Bowl to Pryor they locked up some valuable experience in their memory banks that I'm sure they will be withdrawing and using for this game. Oregon also played a pretty good QB by the name of Andrew Luck and forced him into many mistakes that he didn't make against any other teams  this season.

"The Dons"

Kelly vs Chizik. I'm sure for Gene Chizik its truly a blessing to be able to coach a player as gifted as Cam Newton. He can make you look good all the time no matter what. He can make a bad play caller look good (I am not saying that is the case at Auburn and I think that Gus Malzahn is a fanstastic coach) but it can work against you as well. I think at times Auburn has relied so heavily on Newton's production that he has covered up some very flawed game plans. You need to look no further than games against Alabama, LSUASU's Dennis Erickson. ASU had the best chance to beat Oregon this year. I know people will say it was Cal but the fact is Oregon held the ball for the last 9 minutes of that game and wore Cal down. If they needed a TD they would have gotten it. Cal used Erickson's game plan and also feigned injury for those of you that were paying attention, which is a foundation also laid out by Erickson and ASU. Oregon also has an experienced big game coach in Defensive Coordinator Nick Aliotti. It seems as though when Oregon needs a big game from its defense, it gets it. In 2001 when Oregon faced Colorado the Buffalo's were the hottest team in the country. The National Media had a love fest with them similar to what's now happening with Cam Newton. The Buffalo's had the best running attack in the country, an All-American tight end, and a strong and physical defense that had just punched mighty Nebraska in the mouth. Well it was 38-16 when it was all said and done and it probably shouldn't have been that close. I'm not saying that Auburn is Colorado of 2001, I am saying this has happened before and the feeling going into the game was eerily similar.

"To sum it up"

There is an old saying that goes like this; "if you want to be the man you have to beat the man". For america "the man to beat" is the SEC, for the Pac 10  Oregon has already "beat the man (USC)" two years in a row...I guess the saying is only true if we can all agree on "who the man" really is, either way we will find out on January 10 in Glendale!

Thanks for reading!

The Fan

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why Auburn will pluck the Ducks

As we all know this years National Championship Game will feature two of the most prolific offenses in recent college football history. Yes there have been a few statistically better however these two teams actually matter. When I talk to people and what I observe in the national news is that Oregon has the best offense in the country. People talk about the points they put up, the yards per game they average, and the pace at which they score. While these are all great statistics there is one key statistic that Oregon will be the second best team on the field at heading into the National Championship. Anyone know what offensive statistic that is? Well my guess is those of you that bet sports know what it is and thats Yards Per Play. Oregon averages 6.78 ypp which is currently tied for 10th in the FBS. Auburn on the other hand is 2nd in FBS at 7.50 ypp only behind Hawaii which plays a much softer schedule. This may surprise many but it means that Auburn actually has the more explosive offense. Obviously Cam Newton is the main reason for this stat but don't sleep on Dyer and McCalebb. Onterrio McCalebb is an absolute burner much like LaMichael James of Oregon. They are similar in size and McCalebb actually averages 8.6 yards per carry and 15.2 yards per catch. He doesn't touch the ball nearly as much as James but that's because Michael Dyer gets the majority of the touches. Dyer is a 5'9" 215lbs bowling ball that can punish you all game long and he plays very well against stout run defenses. He's only had 3 100+ yard games this season but 2 of them were against South Carolina and LSU, two very athletic defenses that are great against the run. He runs very well between the tackles and is powerful enough to get the tough yards when needed. He averages 5.9 yards per carry and he, mixed with Newton make the Auburn run game a nightmare for opposing defenses.

If for some reason Oregon figures out how to stop the Auburn rushing attack I doubt the Tigers will panic. The reason they won't panic is because Cam Newton is the #1 rated passer in the country. While Newton only averages 19 pass attempts per game he completes almost 13 of them. While those stats might seem somewhat human what's truly supernatural about Newton is his ability to stretch a play out and turn a sure loss into a huge gain, also known as a momentum play. That is probably his biggest attribute and the fact that he is clutch like MJ. Newton seems to get better when the situation gets tougher, and he has uncanny instincts when it comes to deciding rather to run or stretch a play to give his receivers time to get open downfield.

If that wasn't enough of a coach's nightmare this might be. Auburn's Defense is better than any defense the Ducks have played this year. No don't tell me ASU, Stanford or Cal was better because there is no D line better than that of the Auburn Tigers. The Defense that will most resemble the Tigers from the Pac-10 is Arizona State. The Tigers defense is fast, athletic, and battle tested. It's leader is DT Nick Fairley who is an absolute nightmare for opposing offenses. He is big, strong, and moves more like a DE than a 300lb tackle. He is a relentless pass rusher and pretty much can clog the interior of the line by himself. He will be the best defensive lineman Oregon has faced all year. The Tigers have great mobility at linebacker and plenty of speed in the secondary. While they have had some coverage issues at time, much like the Ducks this defense has played its best football when the pressure is on in the second half. They are a well conditioned unit that gets better as the game progresses.

With all these weapons and the resolve this team has shown all season its hard to see them losing any game especially one for the National Championship!

Thanks for reading,

The Fan

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why we need a playoff in College Football NOW!

If you are wondering why we need a playoff in College Football (FBS) you can simply point to Basketball and March Madness. Can you imagine if we took the top two rated teams in the final RPI, gave them 5 weeks off after their last regular season game and declared the winner of that game the "National Champion". I've heard some very interesting arguments about why NOT to have a playoff and listening to Colin Cowherd on ESPN this morning just solidified how weak the argument against a playoff truly is. I say that because I think Cowherd does a great job of being contrarian and can normally take any foolish argument and make a solid point of it, he didn't do that this morning.

Yes, college football has the best regular season of any sport. Yes, there will always be something to complain about even with a playoff. Yes the teams from the SEC & Big 12 benefit the most from our current system! Just look at the teams that have had one loss and got to the Championship game.

2000-Florida State
2001-Nebraska (didn't win conference)
2007-LSU(two loss)/Ohio St

From the AQ Conferences only the Big East and PAC 10 have never sent a one loss team to the championship game. Whose been left out of the title game from the Big East & PAC 10 with an equal record to a team competing in the Championship Game:

2000-Big East-Miami (Which Beat Florida St) and Va Tech. PAC 10 Washington (which beat Miami) and Oregon State. These teams finished #2, #3, #4, & #6 in the final polls.

2001-Oregon which ended up #2 in the final regular season AP Poll was left out to a Nebraska team that got drummed in its final game by Colorado. Oregon ended up beating Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl 38-16 and Nebraska got thumped in the National Championship Game.

2003- USC which ended up winning the AP National Championship

2007-USC had 2 losses the same as LSU which beat Ohio State in the Championship Game
2008-Again USC which lost at Oregon State in September its 3rd game of the season. The PAC 10 went 5-0 in bowl games that post season.

We could go on and on about which teams and conferences get jobbed every year by the system but the point is that there are more than 2 teams in the country that deserve a shot at the Natty. Non AQ's as well. That's what basketball gives us that college football doesn't, a chance for a 5th seeded team to win the Championship, or the first round upsets, the regular season juggernaut getting dethroned by the mid major. This is why we should play it out on the field. College Football is my favorite sport, but I can't think of how much greater it would be with a playoff. I would start with a 8 team playoff, expand to 16 but never higher than 32. I would make the higher seed the home team throughout just like the NFL. I would have the Championship Game rotated annually through the 4 current BCS venues.

I'm sure there are better options that what I stated above, however I think another important factor is you need to keep the teams playing, and not give them 5 weeks off. Many times its like the first game of the season in the first half of the championship game. Turnovers, out of sync offenses, and early mental mistakes. We should get to see the teams playing at their peak instead of having to hit the restart button.

The argument will rage on but don't buy into the regular season is great because we don't have a playoff or "its a playoff every week", really, so playing inferior FBS opponents down the stretch is a playoff??? An undefeated team playing a 5-6 team is a playoff??? Really, seriously??? It's like your parents telling you to be thankful the lights are on and there is food on your plate. Yah thats great but I think we deserve a little more. The regular season is great because we are passionate about Football, we love college football. It has nothing to do with the regular season being "like a playoff". I mean its like me telling my wife that her 1978 Toyota Celica is like the Range Rover she wants. "Hey babe it has 4 wheels and gets you from point A to point B..its way better than walking...I mean its tradition right...we've drove this thing for 32 years and its fine, plus we just gave it a tune up 12 years ago and do annual maintenance". The argument about ticket sales is ridiculous as well. If some people choose not to go to the later regular season games because they want to see the playoffs, the colleges will still sell tickets to people that normally don't get a chance to go to the games. I don't think the universities are going to care about the secondary ticket market for a game or two. The NFL is a great model and has passionate fans too, and the great news is that the good teams still sell tickets late in the season, and they make a ton of revenue in the playoffs. Don't buy it fans, you deserve a playoff, the athletes deserve a playoff, we all deserve a playoff. It starts one fan at a time, if you want to make it happen you gotta be loud and let the decision makers hear your voice!!! If you like it Share It with your friends and let me hear your thoughts.

Thanks for Reading,

The Fan

Why be a fan???

Do you ever sit back and think what makes you love your team, athlete, or whomever it is you root for? I mean seriously why spend the money? Why go through all the heartache and pain? We could easily pick up less emotionally draining hobbies and spend more time with our families & friends right??? The thought has crossed my mind a few times recently which is way more than usual for any particular thought in general. It probably stems from all the hype around my team the Oregon Ducks being in the hunt for its first official NCAA Football National Championship, I say official because in the 1917 Rose Bowl Oregon beat Penn 14-0 in a battle of the best from the west vs the best from the east...I mean who else was the National Champions that year???  Anyway what makes us care so much? I think for me its a few things. First off I remember as young boy running through the bleachers at Autzen Stadium playing catch with my friends. Yes the bleachers that are now filled to capacity every game were that empty. I'm not exactly sure but I think I was 5 or 6 at the time. I don't remember a ton, but I do remember the Washington Huskies put a pretty good whooping on the Ducks that day & other days where UCLA & USC would commonly put the smack down on us (notice I say "us"). I used to catch them on the radio because that was usually the only way to know how they were doing unless you wanted to wait for the local news to play the highlights. I remember sitting in my living room watching "The Pick" the most famous play in Oregon Football History to date, and coming to tears of excitement later that season when Dino Philyaw scored late in the Civil War to put the Ducks ahead for good to send us to our first Rose Bowl in the modern era. I also remember a time in the year 2000 when I was enlisted in the Army on a training exercise in the desert of California called NTC. I asked our Observer known as "OC"if the Ducks had beaten the Huskies. I remember he looked at me as if I was crazy because we had just gotten done with a pretty intense combat simulation and you weren't really supposed to talk to them anyway especially about things that didn't have to do with training, but I asked him again and he finally radio messaged a buddy of his and about 10 minutes later told me "Yes". Ah yes from waking up at 6am to watch them play Wisconsin in Madison to Staying up til after midnight to catch Sports Center highlights the roots are planted deep within.

I imagine this sense of ownership develops in a similar fashion for most people who are passionate about their teams. Its almost like a learned behavior or belief. I mean why else do people get in fights and banter back and forth at these events? I guess you could be like Jamie Foxx and "Blame it on the Ah ah ah ah ah alcohol" or other extracurricular activity associated with the games but I have seen guys nearly get in all out donnybrooks over sports teams. So does it start when you are young, when you go to college, is it different for everyone???  Is it like politics and religion? For some of you super freak athletes that actually had the privilege to play at a high level, maybe its because you played the game for that particular team or organization. But for the rest of us I pose the question, where does it start, why are you so passionate, and why continue to be a fan?

Thanks for reading,

The Fan

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Cam Newton Issue...

As I was sitting there watching the Heisman being presented to Auburn's Cam Newton I couldn't help but notice how great of a moment it must have been for him, his family, and all the people that had a hand in this young man's incredible feat. I mean lets face it the guy is a freak! He can throw it better than your quarterback, run it better than your running back, and he can simply turn it on like a switch. It's true, you know it, I know it, and lets face it Cam knows it! His personality is electrifying, his talent is unique, and his MoJo would even make Austin Powers envious. Yes as I was watching Cam Newton win the Heisman the thought crossed my mind that I may be watching history...and this is where it gets sticky. You see, just as I believe Newton is one of the greatest football players in NCAA history for a single season, I also believe whole heartedly without an ounce of doubt in my body that he is guilty of NCAA violations and gave his father consent to be solicited to MSU and Auburn. Obviously this has not been proven and won't be for quite some time but I look at it like this. If I had to bet my life, my career, my family, or anything else of the highest significance with the highest consequence that he was innocent or guilty, it would be overwhelmingly guilty! I wouldn't second guess my decision for a second, would you? I believe if the Heisman voters would have taken the voting with this kind of seriousness it would have been a much closer race. Mel Kiper Jr talked about if you based your voting on speculation of unproven fact that you weren't doing your job as a voter and should have your vote taken away. I wonder if he would apply that same logic in two years if Newton is found guilty? You see where there is smoke there is usually fire, and Cam Newton is smoldering. Now for the record I do believe he has violated NCAA policy but I do not at all agree with the policy itself. I personally think that certain college athletes should get much higher compensation than they currently do but that is another discussion. So its now a dilemma that I face as a fan on how to feel about the situation. He broke a stupid rule but a very important rule that everyone else has to follow. Should he be prosecuted for breaking the rule or should I as a fan accept what is done and understand that if it was me in the situation I very well could have done the exact same thing? Hmmm....I think for me I will choose to just enjoy it for what it is, be happy for him that he won the award and know that if he did in fact break the rules then it will be him and Auburn (mainly Auburn) that has to deal with the aftermath...Another rule that needs to be changed, but who's keeping track right...