The Auburn Tigers are the 2010 college football National Champions. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone paying attention. The Southeastern Conference has now taken five straight National Championships home and three out of the last four Heisman winners. The state of Alabama has brought in the last two titles.
Throw a stone at the pre-season SEC conference and you were almost guaranteed to hit a bigger stone on someone’s ring finger. We try to ignore it. Try to believe there’s a better conference, a conference that can match its speed, even a conference more powerful in the trenches. The end result is always the same, however.
With Auburn's 22-19 title win over Oregon, the Tigers brought in their first National Championship since 1957. It wasn’t pretty, and it didn’t come without a bit of luck, but Auburn pulled it off.
It took a Heisman winner at quarterback in Cameron Newton (above), an absolute beast within the trenches of the defensive line in Nick Fairley (below) and a freshman running back with a never die attitude in Michael Dyer. It took a kicker to convert his third game winner of the season in Wes Byrum. It took a coach in Gene Chizik, out-calling another coach that treats the field like a fast paced magic show.
When it boils down to it all, though, Fairley should have been the first to touch the crystal ball. He should have received his own. Newton scores the touchdowns, Fairley gives Newton the chance. Call him a dirty player, sure, but the man can play some football. All emotions aside.
The Tigers wouldn’t have beat Mississippi State without him. They wouldn’t have beat LSU or even Alabama without Fairley. And Monday night, they wouldn’t have beat Oregon without their man in the middle.
Fairley terrorized one of the best offensive lines in the country,disrupting nearly every offensive play on his way to a three tackles for a loss and a sack performance. The plays that didn’t make the stat sheet shouldn’t go unnoticed, though.
An offense that averaged 49 points a game and over 500 yards, couldn’t move the ball. A running back that averaged over 150 yards a game, couldn’t find daylight. An offensive line that allowed the second fewest sacks, couldn’t block one man.
To be fair to Fairley, and the Ducks offensive line, he played like more than one man.
The play of the game, though, came from the freshman Dyer. In a play that epitomizes the Tigers season, Dyer took a handoff six yards to the right, being stopped by Oregon safety Eddie Pleasant. Only he wasn’t down, like the 78,000 people in the stadium thought. Like the millions of viewers watching thought. Like Dyer himself thought.
Someone yelled run. So he took off. The end result was a 37 yard gain into field goal position and a heck of a job by the refs to catch the fact Dyer wasn’t down. In the new happy whistle world of football, these refs held back:
Never down. That’s the way the season had gone for the Tigers. They weren’t down when Clemson sat pretty at 17-0 in the second quarter. They weren’t down when South Carolina lead 20-7 in the first meeting. When Arkansas took the lead in the fourth in a 43-37 game. Not even when Alabama held a 24-0 lead in the Iron Bowl.
So was there anyone on the Auburn sidelines that felt they were heading down when Oregon converted on a two-point play to tie the game at 19-19 with 2:33 left? Down and out? Not Gene Chizik. Not Cam Newton. Not even a true freshman named Michael Dyer.
Photo Credit: Newton - Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images