Auburn’s Newton overcomes controversy, wins Heisman and National Championship
Auburn, which started the season as the No. 22-ranked team in the nation, got an unexpected boost from transfer quarterback and 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. Cam led the Tigers to a 14-0 record, which ended with a 22-19 win over Oregon in the BCS National Championship Game. The win gave Auburn its first national title since 1957.
“Anything is possible,” Cam said after the game. “I guarantee you five or six months ago, nobody would have bet their last dollar to say that Auburn University is winning the National Championship.”
However, Cam didn’t just make headlines for his on-the-field performance this season. In early November, allegations surfaced that Cam’s father, Cecil Newton, attempted to solicit money from Mississippi State when his son was being recruited as a junior college transfer.
On Dec. 1, the NCAA ruled that although Cecil did in fact shop Cam’s services during his recruitment, neither Cam nor Auburn was aware of Cecil’s actions, so the association ruled Cam eligible.
On the field, Cam passed for 2,854 yards and 30 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns. Despite the controversy surrounding him throughout the season, he still earned the third-highest percentage of first-place votes in the history of the Heisman Trophy.
What does it take to be No. 1?
In October, five teams were ranked No. 1 in the nation in as many weeks.
After defending national champion Alabama lost its first game of the season to South Carolina on Oct. 9, Ohio State took the No. 1 spot.
The Buckeyes’ reign as the nation’s top team only lasted a week, as they dropped their Oct. 16 matchup at Wisconsin, 31-18.
“We have to bounce back because we can’t let this define us. We can’t lose another game,” Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor said following the loss.
Following OSU’s loss, Oklahoma rose to No. 1 in the season’s first BCS standings. However, just like the Buckeyes, Oklahoma couldn’t manage to maintain its position for a full seven days, as the Sooners lost their Oct. 23 game at Missouri, 36-27.
Oklahoma’s loss was Auburn’s gain, as the Tigers climbed to No. 1 in the following week’s BCS standings, only to have Oregon top them in the polls a week later. Auburn eventually reclaimed the nation’s top spot following its SEC Championship win over South Carolina on Dec. 3.
‘Little Sisters of the Poor’ wins ‘The Granddaddy of Them All’
January 2010’s Fiesta Bowl contenders Boise State and Texas Christian University entered the season at No. 3 and No. 6, respectively, leaving critics wondering what impact having both mid-major schools go undefeated in the regular season could have on the BCS.
Among those critics was OSU President E. Gordon Gee, who told The Associated Press that even if they were to go undefeated, neither TCU nor Boise State was worthy of competing for a National Championship because of the low level of competition both teams faced.
“We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day,” Gee said.
Boise State eliminated itself from national championship consideration with its 34-31 overtime loss to Nevada on Nov. 26. The loss snapped the Broncos’ 24-game winning streak, which dated to a 2008 Poinsettia Bowl loss to TCU.
Mountain West conference champion TCU went undefeated, finishing No. 3 in the regular season BCS standings and earning itself a bid to the Rose Bowl. The Horned Frogs defeated Wisconsin 21-19 in the bowl game.
“Today we played for us, and for all the schools that wanted a chance,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said following his team’s Rose Bowl victory.
TCU finished the season ranked No. 2.
Out with the old, in with the new
At season’s end, prestigious programs Florida, Miami (Fla.) and Michigan began searching for new head coaches.
Florida’s coaching vacancy came as a result of 46-year-old Urban Meyer’s retirement, following six seasons and two national titles with the Gators. Former Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp was named Meyer’s replacement Dec. 11.
Miami fired coach Randy Shannon before the Sun Bowl, after the team went 7-5 in 2010. In four seasons as the Hurricanes’ coach, Shannon’s record was 28-22. On Dec. 13, former Temple coach Al Golden was introduced as the team’s new coach.
Following its blowout loss in the Gator Bowl, Michigan fired coach Rich Rodriguez, who went 15-22 in his three seasons in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“Michigan is not used to this,” said Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon. “Michigan fans expect more than this, and so do Michigan athletic directors.”
Michigan announced Tuesday it hired former San Diego State coach Brady Hoke as its 19th head coach in program history.
Facing suspensions, Buckeyes overcome adversity, break losing streak vs. SEC
On Dec. 23, the NCAA announced that five OSU juniors — Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas — would be suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for selling awards, gifts and university apparel, and receiving improper benefits in 2009. A sixth player, Jordan Whiting, will be suspended for one game for receiving discounted services due to his status as a student-athlete.
“My selfish acts were very young and immature,” Pryor said in an apology on Dec. 28. “I’m just very deeply sorry about it. I didn’t mean to hurt anybody at all or bring anything down or bring embarrassment to our university.”
The suspended players were, however, allowed to play in the Buckeyes’ 31-26 Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas on Jan. 4. The bowl win snapped OSU’s nine-bowl-game losing streak against SEC opponents.
In the game, Pryor contributed 336 yards of total offense; Posey and Herron each scored a touchdown; and Thomas came up with a game-saving interception with less than a minute remaining in the game.
Despite their Sugar Bowl performances and looming suspensions, the suspended Buckeyes committed to returning to OSU next season.