Late Money on Oregon Makes Ducks Even, or Favorite Over Auburn

One of the fun games before the actual game is tracking the movement of the point spread. The line for the Oregon-Auburn BCS National Championship Game opened at Auburn favored by 1.5 points, according to the Las Vegas Sports Consultants. Most sports books actually listed Auburn as the favorite by 2.5 or three points. But much like super bowl betting where tons of people want action on the game, the line began fluctuating like crazy the day of the game. In fact, the line went in one direction — in Oregon’s favor.

So much money came in on the Ducks the day of the game that the point spread closed at a pick em, and in a few cases, Oregon as a one-point favorite. In case you’re not too familiar with the way sports betting works, it would take an overwhelming amount of money — multiple, multiple thousands of dollars — to move a line 3-4 points as it did Monday. That means either enough “wise guys” knew something and bet big on Oregon, or the public for some reason absolutely loves the Ducks. Either way, tons of dough came in on Oregon the day of the Championship Game meaning many people will be disappointed after they lose.

Only Guarantee Between Auburn-Oregon Is Lots of Points in Championship Game

Tonight’s BCS National Championship Game between the Auburn Tigers and the Oregon Ducks is sure to deliver a ton of scoring, specifically touchdowns. For those of you who like to watch lock-down defense, maybe you should focus on the Celtics-Rockets game. Both Auburn and Oregon allow an average of more than 20 points per game — not terrible by any means, but neither team has faced an offense like the one they’ll face tonight.

The Ducks led the nation in points per game with 49.1, putting them about a touchdown ahead of the Tigers’ fourth ranked 42.7. Oregon and Auburn rank first and seventh respectively in yards per game with 537.5 and 497.7. Both starting quarterbacks, Auburn’s Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and Oregon’s Darron Thomas, average right around 200 yards passing per game — the difference being Newton averages 108.3 rushing yards per game as well. Both have thrown 28 touchdowns this season, but Newton also rushed for 20 and caught one.

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Key to National Championship is MLB: Josh Bynes vs Casey Matthews

Over the past few weeks, every college football analyst known to man has recycled the same old game preview: Oregon middle linebacker Casey Matthews will be a rover in hopes of containing Auburn star quarterback Cam Newton. And while this is certainly an area of emphasis for Nick Aliotti and his defense, almost everybody has seemed to forgotten about Matthews’ counterpart for the Tigers.

Auburn MLB Josh Bynes is no slouch himself and he anchors one of the best second-half defenses in the country. The senior has been in on a team-leading 71 tackles this season (34 solo). Then there’s this fact: in Oregon’s two closest calls of the season, both opponents featured one of the top middle linebackers in the Pac-10.

Against ASU, Oregon faced a challenge in Vontaze Burfict, who made 10 tackles and helped hold LaMichael James to only 94 net yards rushing — nearly 60 yards under his average, and the second fewest total he had all season. James’ worst performance was the 91 yards he racked up against Cal in a 15-13 squeaker. In the middle of all that action was Cal’s standout middle linebacker Mike Mohamed, who had 16 tackles in a stellar performance.

It is clear through this trend that a good middle linebacker performance can be the key to shutting down LaMichael James, and in turn the Ducks’ offense. ASU and Cal are far inferior teams to Auburn, outside of MLB, and neither had a Heisman QB to lead the other side. So if Josh Bynes can have an impact on this game like either Burfict or Mohamed did against the Ducks, it might be just enough to lead Auburn to a national title.

Congratulatory TCU Billboards Pop Up in Ohio State Territory

An unidentified person or group of people has paid for 20 billboards in the Columbus area — surrounding Ohio State — touting TCU’s victory over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The billboards are an obvious jab at Ohio State’s president E. Gordon Gee, who stated a few months back that schools like TCU and Boise State don’t deserve a shot at a national championship because they don’t play enough quality opponents during the regular season.

Gee, the former president of Vanderbilt, claimed that those schools don’t have to go through gauntlets like the SEC and Big Ten. That’s true, but the Horned Frogs’ victory over the Badgers proved that schools from non-major conferences can compete against the “big boys,” despite soft conference schedules. Toss in the fact that Ohio State should have lost to Arkansas — granted they are an SEC school — in the Sugar Bowl, and Gee can officially insert his foot into his mouth. The billboards are “signed” by the “little sisters of the poor,” a reference to Gee’s estimation of TCU’s and Boise State’s conference competition.

The oddest aspect of this story is that someone in Columbus allowed it to happen. This is just an assumption, but wouldn’t the companies in charge of the billboards be able to block something like this from hitting the streets? Then again, money talks. In any event, Ohio State fans aren’t as rabid as I thought. Maybe the maze and blue faithful should look into spicing up the rivalry a bit with a billboard of their own.

Photo Credit: The Matador Sports

Brady Hoke Still Has Not Signed New Contract with San Diego State

It was only a month ago that we were raving about San Diego State’s stellar effort to retain head coach Brady Hoke. Hoke, who left Ball State and turned SDSU into a 9-4 team two years after they were 2-10, is a prime candidate for the Michigan head coaching job. He was a defensive line coach for the Wolverines from 1995-2002, and Michigan has made it clear they want a “Michigan Man” to lead the team.

Though it initially appeared as if San Diego State’s new offer would help them retain Hoke, the Michigan vacancy coupled with a new piece of information makes it more likely that he will eventually leave. The San Diego Union Tribune says not only has Hoke not signed his new deal, but paperwork for the new contract does not even exist. It’s pretty obvious that the announcement of the extension was a P.R. move as much as anything else.

The new contract was billed as a $5 million donation to boost Hoke’s salary and the amount of pay for the assistant coaches, and to upgrade the facilities. His “extension” also supposedly ran through 2015, though we know coach’s contracts are as strong as Nick Saban’s word. Hoke seems like a strong candidate for the Michigan job, largely because of his ties to the school. His 47-50 record is nothing special, but Gene Chizik, who went 5-19 at Iowa State, proves you don’t need a great career record in order to win at your next job (so long as you’re paying the right players). Don’t be surprised if an announcement is made in the coming days.

Andrew Luck Made the Right Call Staying at Stanford, Might Jim Harbaugh Follow?

Stanford sophomore quarterback Andrew Luck announced Thursday that he will stay at Stanford for junior season and pass on being the likely top overall pick in this April’s NFL Draft. Though Luck is returning for his junior year athletically, it will be his senior year academically; he will walk graduate with a degree in Architectural Engineering. In this day and age with a society that increasingly values the scheckle over the scruple, many fans — especially in Carolina — are calling Luck’s decision stupid. Before too many people crucify him for his decision, let’s examine the reasons behind his decision.

It’s become a trend for elite college quarterbacks to pass up the draft in favor of school. Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, and Matt Leinart all returned for an extra season with Leinart and Bradford likely passing up the top overall pick. This precedent has proven to work for many QBs, Bradford in particular.  At Oklahoma, Bradford was fresh off a Heisman win and a spot in the National Championship Game. Rather than leave and be (presumably) the number one pick in the 2009 draft, Bradford stayed, got hurt, and missed the whole season. Talk about worse-case scenarios: stay in college, get hurt, still get taken number one, and get paid accordingly. If Luck simply stays healthy and doesn’t have a Jake Locker-type disaster of a year, he will remain on top of team’s draft boards, this time armed with a degree from Stanford and possibly a Heisman Trophy.

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Ohio State Wins Sugar Bowl on the Strength of Soon-to-Be Suspended Players

The Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks in the 2011 Sugar Bowl on Tuesday, thanks in large part to the performances of players who never should have been on the field. By now you know that the Buckeyes have had five players suspended — all juniors — for the first 5 games of next season by the NCAA as a result of violations involving improper benefits.  However, the players were inexplicably allowed to participate in the team’s BCS bowl game.

As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, the soon-to-be suspended players had a huge impact in the Buckeye’s bowl victory. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor passed for 221 yards and two touchdowns, with seventy of the yards and one score going to receiver DeVier Posey. Pryor also rushed for 115 yards.  Running back Dan Herron rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown while offensive lineman Mike Adams was the only player without a measurable impact.

The fifth player, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, made the play of the game after a blocked Ohio State punt gave the Razorbacks the ball on the Buckeyes’ 18-yard line with just over a minute left. On the second play of the series, Thomas dropped into coverage and intercepted Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett’s pass, falling to the ground with 58 seconds left to preserve the five-point victory.

After the game, much of the talk from Ohio State players and coaches emphasized the notion that the suspended players “stepped-up” in this game. Despite the adversity they were facing, they were able to buckle down and help the team succeed. The only problem is they never should have been on the field. The fact that they played well only underscores the fact that the NCAA gave them preferential treatment. Don’t be surprised if Cam Newton plays lights out in the National Championship game, too. What brave, brave student athletes.

Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images