Can't Duck the huge fact: SEC football rules

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton celebrated with fans after his Tigers beat Oregon, 22-19, in the BCS Championship Game on Monday in Glendale, Ariz.
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton celebrated with fans after his Tigers beat Oregon, 22-19, in the BCS Championship Game on Monday in Glendale, Ariz. AP

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It looks different. It's faster. You don't have time to read the ads in the program between plays. And you have to get your mind around all these funny numbers — 40 points a game, 500 yards, five wide receivers, defenses that congratulate themselves on holding you to 30 ...

But it is still football.

"We told our guys all week," Ted Roof said. "We said it still comes down to whipping that guy in front of you."

Ted Roof, standing in the midst of this field with confetti in his hair and his children stepping around big TV cables, is Auburn's defensive coordinator.

He is the former coach at Duke and is now the guy with the headphones who is not known as a genius. That reputation belongs to offensive counselor Gus Malzahn.

But on this night Roof and Auburn were smart enough, unlike some of us, to remember truths that should have been self-evident.

Football titles are won by the big people. Usually, the big people from the Southeastern Conference.

The final score of this BCS Championship Game was 22-19. That is not an accurate measure of the mass-and-force advantage both Auburn lines, particularly the defensive line, held over Oregon.

The hearts, however, were about equal, as the Ducks showed when they put aside their bruises and tied it up.

Cliff Harris recovered Cam Newton's fumble, Darron Thomas picked up a fourth-and-5 with a 29-yarder to D.J. Davis, and then Thomas connected with LaMichael James for the touchdown.

Oregon still needed two, to cancel out a safety that Michael Blanc had recorded by tackling LaMichael James. Jeff Maehl got it by high-pointing Thomas' pass in the back of the end zone.

"They were a tough team," Blanc said. "They did exactly what we thought they might do."

So, with 2:27 to go, Auburn had a championship to win. The guy who brought it home wasn't Newton but freshman Michael Dyer, who apparently was brought down by Eddie Pleasant.

"But I knew the whistle hadn't blown and the coaches said keep going. And Darvin Adams kept telling me, go, go, I got the block for you," Dyer said."

Dyer wound up with 37 yards, and then spurted 15 yards to set up the 19-yard game-winner by Wes Byrum.

And an exhausting, incongruous, and ultimately compelling game finally ended with a booming crescendo from the orange-and-blue hordes, with no one outside Fort Worth, Texas, wondering if there were any lingering questions about college football, 2010.

"I hope y'all enjoyed the show," Harris said, as Coach Chip Kelly smiled.

Auburn's defense did.

■ Oregon averaged a national-best 303.8 rushing yards during the regular season. Auburn gave the Ducks 75.

■ Oregon had 27 runs during the season that went 25 or more yards. Its longest run here was a 14-yarder by James. During the season James rushed for 1,682 yards and a six-yard average. Here he was bottled for 49 yards and a 3.8 average.

■ Oregon scored 42 touchdowns in the red zone this year, in 63 entrances, and also kicked 11 field goals. Here, Josh Bynes stopped Kenjon Barner on the 1-yard line in the third quarter, and Oregon got points in only three of five red-zone trips.

"We didn't see any defensive highlights about us all week," Bynes said. "So we said, look, the offense doesn't have to win every game for us. We're going to win this game. Just like the SEC championship game, when everybody thought it would be 99-89. Well, it was 56-17.

"I don't know where we were ranked as a defense. All we said was, this game, we were going to be the best defense in the country."

Oregon had no argument.

"I think probably the matchup between our offensive line and their defensive line was probably one of the changing points," Kelly said.

But what we all learned was that defensive tackle Nick Fairley is every bit as instrumental to Auburn as Newton is, especially on a night when Newton is trying to function with an aching back and a feisty, quick Oregon defense.

"That safety, that was all Nick," Blanc said. "I was there for the tackle, but he got into the gap, and the running back saw him and had to turn away, right into me."

Fairley fulfilled his rep for over-the-line behavior, drawing a penalty for trying to squish James' helmet into the turf and coming close to at least one face-mask penalty.

James and Fairley hashed it out afterward, although James was laughing about it.

"I called him a cheater," James said.

"It was just two football players out there talking," Fairley said.

Now the talk was over, and truths remained. For the fifth consecutive year a Southeastern Conference team rules the game.

You know the South. Slow to change.