How do you put into words what’s transpired at Auburn over the past eight weeks or better yet, the last two years? If someone asked you to explain how this football team went from December 2008 to October 2010, could you?
Less than 22 months ago, Auburn bid farewell to the fourth-winningest coach in school history and said hello to Gene Chizik, a man nobody wanted. Go ahead and admit it. I shamefully will.
A program in shambles with a divided family has in short-order gotten in lock-step and moved itself to the top of the college football world. What makes it all the more impressive is that it’s being done while Alabama is the reigning national champions.
Cam Newton may get all the attention, but Chizik deserves much of the credit. Like former Auburn coach Pat Dye did with Bo Jackson, Chizik has found his linchpin in Newton and it has allowed him to put the program on the fastest of tracks. It’s funny how history repeats itself.
Twenty-five years after its last Heisman Trophy winner, Auburn fans are seeing Newton do for the quarterback position what Jackson did for running backs in 1985.
Back in Bo’s day, fans were amazed that a back his size could move so fast. Today we are seeing the same thing with Newton behind center. How does a man that stands 6’7 and weigh 250 pounds move like that from the quarterback position?
Dye was asked to describe Newton last week and like the rest of us, found it hard.
“Somebody called the other day and asked me to compare Cameron to the other great quarterbacks at Auburn,” said Dye, Auburn’s coach from 1981-92. “I couldn’t do it. There was no point. Because there ain’t never been anybody else like him at Auburn. Never. There ain’t been nobody like him in this conference. Never.”
Maybe Newton’s statistics can speak for him. They are simply mindboggling to type. His 217 yards rushing and two touchdowns against LSU pushed Newton past Jackson and former Heisman winner Pat Sullivan in two big statistical categories. His final touchdown Saturday gave him 27 on the season, eclipsing Sullivan’s record set in 1971.
For the fifth time this year, he rushed for more than 170 yards, topping Jackson who did it four times in 1985. Newton now has 1,070 rushing yards on the season, tops in the SEC. Did I point out he’s only eight games into the year?
Did I mention that last year’s Heisman winner, Mark Ingram still plays in the SEC? One more thing, Newton’s now the SEC’s all-time leading rusher among quarterbacks. Did I mention he’s only eight games into the season?
Lost in Newton’s heroics is the play of defensive tackle Nick Fairley. It could be argued that he’s been every bit as valuable as Newton in getting Auburn to 8-0. Auburn defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, the true measure of great Tiger linemen, has cloned Fairley in his likeness. There’s goes history repeating itself again.
The results could be another Outland and Lombardi Trophy sitting in the Auburn Athletic Department. Has a school ever produced a Heisman, Outland and Lombardi Trophy winner in the same year? Give me even money on both Newton and Fairley.
While Auburn sits number one in the land this morning, the odds say staying there are long. The last three number ones have fallen like rain. Prior to Saturday’s game, ESPN posted the Las Vegas odds of Auburn winning all its remaining games. The probability: 2.9%.
With remaining games against Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama, plus a possible SEC Championship appearance, you can understand why few in Vegas believe in Auburn. That’s just par for the course with this program.
I wonder what the odds of Chizik getting to this point now were back in late December 2008? What were the odds on Cam Newton being the leading Heisman contender now when he left Florida in 2008?
There are plenty of naysayers out there today. I’d advise caution. Just ask Clemson, South Carolina, Arkansas and LSU.
Ole Miss: You’re on deck.