Published December 2, 2010 - 10:45am
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The stage has been set for a few weeks and the tickets have been printed. On Saturday we will get to witness the SEC Championship game live from Atlanta as South Carolina will represent the East, and Auburn will represent the west. We have already looked at what the championship game means to the Gamecocks so now we are going to take a look at what it means to the Tigers.
Auburn has gotten accustomed to controversy over the last couple of years. Think back to when Gene Chizik was booed getting off the plane as he was named the new head coach. Allegations about the recruitment of Cam Newton lead to one comedian joking that it was a great weekend for Pro Football with NFL Games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday, and Auburn playing on Friday. And against Georgia a couple of weeks ago, things got a little out of hand and assistant coaches were wrapping themselves around their players’ ankles and being dragged down the field. About the only thing that hasn’t been controversial for Auburn is their record: 12-0.
Newton has lead the Tigers to an undefeated season with his legs and arms, and he has them only one win away from a spot in the BCS Championship Game against Oregon or TCU. It hasn’t been an easy road for them, especially over the last few weeks. Alabama had a 24-0 lead before Auburn turned up the heat and took the Iron Bowl on the sacred ground of Bryant-Denny Stadium and the Tigers rallied to come back and beat Georgia in a wild game a couple of weeks ago. Throw that in with a tough win against South Carolina and squeaking out a win on a last second field goal at Kentucky – you can’t deny that fact that Auburn is tested and deserves a shot at a National Championship.
That is what this championship game means for Auburn. South Carolina doesn’t have much to lose in a contest like this. Let’s be frank, the yard birds are content with just proving to the world that they can make it to the SEC Championship game. If they lose, so what? They will still go to a pretty nice bowl game and I know the difference between a BCS Bowl and the Capital One Bowl is about $12 Million dollars, but still, the Gamecock faithful will be similar to the Cincinnati Reds and just be happy they made it.
Auburn, on the other hand, has everything to lose. And let me put this in the context of right here, right now. The white elephant in the room is Cam Newton. Did he or didn’t he (or, better yet, did his father Cecil) pimp out his football skills to the highest bidder during the off-season? As of this moment right now, it doesn’t matter. Yesterday, the NCAA ruled him an eligible college athlete, and he is a great one at that. He should be the odds on favorite for the Heisman and could very possibly be a first round pick in next years NFL Draft. But if he Auburn stumbles and loses to South Carolina and misses out on the BCS National Championship game, then this has to be considered a failure. Remember, I’m talking about the here and now. Sure, if I would have said that losing a game in the sixth, seventh or eighth week of the year would have made the season a failure, you could have called me crazy. But now that you have gone undefeated and have a chance to play for all the marbles, then losing is absolutely not an option.
And let me play devil’s advocate for a moment and let’s say that Newton is later ruled ineligible. If you are going to have to forfeit a season, would you rather forfeit a 13-1 season or a 14-0 season? I know for me, I would sleep better vacating a perfect season and national championship because I could at least say that we played everybody, we beat everybody, and no matter what the record book says, there is still video proof somewhere that we were the best team in college football during the 2010 season. But if you don’t take care of business against South Carolina on Saturday, it doesn’t matter what happens to your season and your quarterback in the future. It doesn’t matter that you came back in the Iron Bowl. It won’t matter if you beat anybody else in any other bowl game. All that matters is beating Steve Spurrier in the SEC Championship game, and then beating Oregon or TCU or whoever might get the call for the BCS Championship game.
So for the Tigers, the SEC Championship game simply means a trip to the BCS Championship game. Everything else is just like dominos: take down the first one and all the others will fall into place.