Bcs Controversies Revisited: 2010 - Auburn Springs, Boise Falls, & Tcu A-rose


Hartselle Tigers (15-0) 5-A State Champ
Jul 28, 2008
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From the moment the 2010 BCS national title game ended with Alabama's first-ever win over Texas, the word 'dynasty' began to be bandied about all over the college football landscape. This was a young team with a returning senior quarterback that had just ended a decade-long SEC title drought, a 17-year national championship drought and a 75-year Heisman Trophy drought in the matter of just five weeks. The Tide was returning enough firepower on both sides of the ball to seriously contend for one of the great teams in history.

Across the country, the mouths began running in favor of the eternal underdog, Boise State. Based upon two irrelevant pieces of non-evidence: 1) Boise's win over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl; and 2) Alabama's
shocking upset loss to Utah in the 2009 Sugar Bowl, the pundit crowd began to suggest that Boise State was deserving of a national championship, disparaging the BCS in the process. After an entire off-season of nonsensical discussion, Boise State got their wish in the opening poll of 2010 - high enough to win out and with a little luck play for all the marbles.

1) Alabama (54)
2) Ohio St (3)
3) Boise St (1)
4) Florida
5) Texas (1)
6) TCU
7) Oklahoma (1)
8) Nebraska
9) Iowa
10) Va Tech

There was one major problem facing Alabama: by hook, by crook, or just plain bad luck, the Tide had the misfortune of playing SEVEN opponents in a row that drew Alabama after a bye week. This would play a major role in how the season unfolded.

Reigning Heisman winner Mark Ingram missed the first two games of the season, not that it mattered. Boise was in a do or die situation immediately on Labor Day, and the Broncos passed with flying colors when they upset Va Tech, 33-30. So incredible was this accomplishment that Boise immediately gained seven first-place votes from Alabama. But the credibility of that win was damaged only five days later, when upstart James Madison shocked the Hokies, 21-16, and had less difficulty with them than Boise had. The Broncos' sole decent opponent of the year had laid an egg by starting 0-2. The Hokies loss immediately returned those seven votes back to Alabama, a bizarre development that suggested something other than believing Boise was a great team had gotten them votes in the first place. With minor fluctuations between #5 and #10, the polls held until week four, when UCLA thumped Texas, 34-12, to send the Longhorns sprawling and their program into a tailspin from which it has yet to recover as of this writing.

October 2 saw an exhilarating day of SEC football. In Baton Rouge, LSU lost - and then WON - a controversial finish against Tennessee while Alabama pulverized Florida, 31-6, to seemingly take command of the SEC. So dominating was Alabama's performance that the next morning's episode of "The Sports Reporters" featured multiple writers saying this Alabama team was the greatest football team they'd ever seen. As always happens when this argument is invoked BEFORE a championship is won, the Tide did not have long to wait to taste defeat. And by "not have long," I mean, six days.

In their first match-up with a rested opponent, Alabama waltzed into Williams-Brice Stadium against South Carolina with their heads held high from their demolition of the Gators the previous Saturday. Sixty minutes later, the Tide was headless, going down to a 35-21 defeat that ended their 19-game winning streak. Naturally, South Carolina somehow managed to lose the next week to a 6-7 Kentucky team. Ohio State was the new #1 in the final pre-BCS poll so, naturally, the Buckeyes choked away the Wisconsin game to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten.

At about the same time that both Alabama and Ohio State were hitting trouble, Auburn University, led by their new star quarterback Cam Newton, was quietly and methodically dispatching opponents through a series of close games. Having won four of their first six games by one score, the Tigers exploded against Arkansas while watching their passing secondary get shredded by backup quarterback Tyler Wilson, who was 25 of 34 for 332 yards and four touchdowns - a feat all the more impressive when you realize that Wilson didn't even enter the game until three minutes before halftime. It was a scoring slugfest that saw Auburn give up 43 points but score 65. While these numbers suggested Auburn might have problems with a decent defense (such as Alabama's), the fact was that as the first BCS poll came out on October 17, there were only two remaining SEC unbeatens, Auburn and LSU...two teams that conveniently met to settle that debate just six days after the first BCS poll came out.

1) Oklahoma
2) Oregon
3) Boise St
4) Auburn
5) TCU
6) LSU
7) Michigan State
8) Alabama

The top 7 were the unbeaten teams, with one-loss Alabama ranked at number eight.

Two groups of Tigers met on October 23, and it was the Cam Newton-led Auburn version that won, 24-17, to give Auburn the inside track on the SEC (and potentially national) championship. This quality win raised Auburn, a team with a phenomenal offense but questionable defense, to the top spot in the country. LSU's loss combined with Missouri's upset win over Oklahoma knocked both LSU and the Sooners from the ranks of the unbeaten while elevating Mizzou to #6, one spot ahead of Alabama. One week later - just as after Alabama had beaten Florida and South Carolina had beaten Alabama - Mizzou went down to defeat against one-loss Nebraska, ending the Mizzou Tigers as a threat.

And then on November 6, Alabama's dreams of a repeat - already on life support - were ended when LSU pulled a stunning 24-21 upset, a win that devastated the Tide and lifted the Tigers back up into the national conversation at #5. The problem for LSU, however, was the top four appeared to have them completely blocked.

1) Auburn
2) Oregon
3) TCU
4) Boise St
5) LSU

LSU needed Auburn to lose BOTH of the their last two games - plus win out. Alabama needed to win out, hope LSU lost both remaining SEC games (against Ole Miss and Arkansas), and hope Auburn also lost to Georgia. It would take some sort of intervention from above to help LSU and Alabama. As it turned out, they got a lot of help but failed to capitalize anyway.

On Thursday, November 11, 2010, former Mississippi State football player Kenny Rogers dropped a bombshell on ESPN Dallas, alleging that Auburn quarterback Cam Newton's father had requested somewhere between $100K and $180K in order for Cam to sign with the Bulldogs and play for his former offensive coordinator, Dan Mullen.

To put it mildly, all hell broke loose. Auburn Coach Gene Chizik immediately issued a typical politcally worded "nondenial denial," and accusation after accusation unfolded, swallowing the rest of the college football season into a tale of intrigue, a tale made all the more bizarre by the fact that Cam Newton was unquestionably the best player in college football, and the likely Heisman Trophy winner as of the date of the allegations. If LSU or Alabama needed a distracted Auburn in order to win the West, they now had it.

It didn't matter. Auburn manhandled Georgia, 49-31, and clinched a berth in Atlanta. This was actually good news for Boise and TCU, particularly since the Tigers' opponents would be the same South Carolina team they had barely beaten in September. The late loss would help either of those teams get into the title game if it happened.

Oregon survived a lackluster win against California, 15-13, but now the college football world was in full cry against Auburn and Cam Newton, many calling for Auburn to not be permitted to play in the post-season and probably every one of them hoping Auburn would lose. And for most of the next game, it appeared Auburn would make a chaotic season off-the-field ever more chaotic on the gridiron.

On the day after Thanksgiving, Auburn walked into a rarity - an openly hostile crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium, a crowd (and team) now hoping to salvage a lost season (by Tide standards) by knocking Auburn out of the national title picture. With more and more rumors percolating, Newton was losing votes in the Heisman race by voters fearful that he may someday be stripped of the trophy. Alabama did their part early, building a 24-0 lead despite leaving points on the board several times. But when Newton hit Terrell Zachery on a bomb that beat an injured Mark Barron, Auburn only trailed, 24-14, with most of a half remaining. In the end, Auburn pulled together and Alabama didn't have enough to stave off Newton or disaster. Auburn won, 28-27, and it now appeared there was a decent chance the crystal hardware would stay in the state of Alabama for another year.

Almost forgotten in the aftermath was the stunning upset later that night of Boise State by unheralded but talented Nevada team, led by future professional protester, Colin Kaepernick. And it was right about now that the national media's fixation on Boise State suddenly became an obsession with ranting about an alleged 'injustice' towards TCU, a team so oppressed they were actually going to the Rose Bowl. The Andy Dalton led Horned Frogs defeated Wisconsin 21-19 in the Rose Bowl to finish the season undefeated.

Auburn and Oregon met in a classic BCS national title game, won by Auburn on the final play with a short field goal. Newton won the Heisman and the later NCAA investigation basically determined there was not enough evidence to sanction Auburn, even though they felt it necessary to close what had become known as "the Cam Newton loophole."


Without question. There was little controversy this year. In fact, this was two years in a row that was relatively free of actual controversy, suffering only from the manufactured variety. But storm clouds were on the horizon and three weather events - a tornado, a cyclone, and a raging Tide - would destroy what was left of the BCS over the next 12 months.
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