NCF Nation: Kodi Burns
The defending national champs visited the White House and President Barack Obama for a ceremony in the East Room.
“It wasn’t always an easy road,” Obama said. “This team played one of the toughest schedules in all of college football last year. In nine games, they came from behind to win -– including after being down 24-0 on the road to Alabama. Unbelievable. That was an unbelievable game. I watched that game. I’m busy, but I watched that game. That was unbelievable.”
Talk about inflating the significance of this rivalry.
Kodi Burns presented the president with an Auburn football helmet and a Tigers jersey with Obama’s name on the back.
“As soon as President Obama got elected, I remember telling my parents, friends and everybody that one of my goals in life was to be able to meet him," Burns said. "It felt great seeing him in person. Being at the White House was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Added Cam Newton: “It was special,” he said. “It is something that you look at on TV and you just wish and wonder what that feels like. Now we’ve been blessed enough to have this opportunity to meet President Obama. The whole experience was incredible.”
Auburn coach Gene Chizik said he and President Obama discussed the devastation in Alabama caused by the horrific tornadoes in late April. The president toured the destruction two days after the storms, while Chizik and a strong Auburn contingent helped with some of the relief efforts shortly after the storms hit.
“It has been great to be at the White House with the national championship football team,” Chizik said. “What a great honor and privilege this has been for the Auburn family. It’s so neat that so many of our seniors could come back. This is one of the last times this group will be together and what an honor it is to be together here at the White House and celebrate an unbelievable season.”
Auburn sent 150 individuals, including around 90 players from the 2010 championship team.
“It’s a great day for these players,” Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said. “Nobody gave them a chance at the beginning of the year, and to be at the White House is really special for these players, coaches and the Auburn family. It’s been great to see so many seniors come back for this special occasion. It’s been like a reunion for the team.”
The team also toured the nation’s capital, including the Lincoln Memorial, an extremely special moment for wide receiver Emory Blake.
“I walked up the stairs and saw the plaque where Dr. King was standing when he gave the ‘I have a dream’ speech,” Blake said. “I took a picture of it with my phone and I will definitely save that because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see where history was made.”
Members of Auburn’s football family weren’t the only Tigers in town. After the ceremony, the team signed autographs and posed for pictures with Auburn fans who were invited.
“This was an awesome experience and I’m so glad I decided to come,” Josh Bynes said. “It was overwhelming to actually see the president in person and to shake his hand. This was probably the one and only time in my life that I will ever be in the White House. It’s been an exciting experience and I’m glad I came.”
One of the Tigers' senior leaders, Burns caught his first touchdown pass of the season in the second quarter against Oregon, a 35-yarder putting Auburn ahead 7-3.
Burns is one of the most popular players on Auburn's team. A former starting quarterback, he moved to receiver for the good of the team after the Auburn coaches made the decision to go with Chris Todd as the starting quarterback last year.
He never grumbled. He didn't cause problems in the locker room, and he didn't question the coaches.
Instead, he stood up in front of the team and asked the players to get behind Todd and support him.
Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn calls Burns one of his favorite players he's ever been around.
Harris appeared to grab his second interception of the game, but the replay officials agreed with the field officials: No pick.
A play later, Cam Newton found a wide open Kodi Burns for a 35-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead.
The Ducks telegraphed a blitz, and Newton found a wide open hole in the coverage.
Thomas just hit Jeff Maehl for 81 yards.
Seems like the QBs are finding their rhythm. This is starting to look like what we thought we'd see.
Without him, his teammates freely admit that they wouldn’t be here right now soaking up the desert sun and preparing for what they hope will be their first national championship in 57 years.
As Oregon cornerback Talmadge Jackson says, Newton creates some things a lot of quarterbacks can’t.
And what Auburn has created is the ideal supporting cast to go around its Heisman Trophy winner.
Newton might be the marquee offensive playmaker on this team, but he’s far from the only playmaker.
“It’s really been the perfect year for us as far as personnel,” Auburn senior offensive tackle Lee Ziemba said. “Everybody has contributed.”
The Tigers have had 11 different players score offensive touchdowns, and eight of the 11 have scored at least four touchdowns.
What’s more, 10 different players have gains from scrimmage of 30 yards or longer this season.
And three different players, including Newton, have each rushed for more than 750 yards.
“We have a lot of different people who can beat you,” Newton said. “It’s not just me.”
The beauty of it for Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is that it’s been a different player in every game stepping forward to complement Newton with key plays.
In fact, there might not have been a more important offensive play all season for the Tigers than Onterio McCalebb’s 70-yard touchdown run on a sweep to break a 17-17 deadlock against LSU.
Auburn had run up and down the field that day and piled up gaudy offensive numbers, but couldn’t shake loose from LSU. McCalebb’s dash to the end zone with 5:05 to play was the decisive blow.
McCalebb, the Tigers’ speed option at running back, scored 10 touchdowns this season. Seven of them were 12 yards or longer, and four were 49 yards or longer.
“In the second half, when teams are tired, that speed is even more of a factor,” Newton said.
Against Alabama, Emory Blake’s 36-yard touchdown catch in the waning minutes of the first half finally got Auburn on the board. And then in the opening minute of the second half, Terrell Zachery pulled in a 70-yard bomb for a touchdown to set in motion the greatest comeback in Iron Bowl history.
A week later against South Carolina in the SEC championship game, it was Darvin Adams snaring Newton’s Hail Mary for a 51-yard touchdown right before halftime on a pass that was deflected in the end zone. The Gamecocks were never the same the rest of the way.
Earlier in the first quarter, Adams got behind the South Carolina secondary for a 54-yard touchdown.
The Tigers head into Monday night’s Tostitos BCS National Championship Game with 25 offensive touchdowns of 25 yards or longer. That's tied for second nationally with Hawaii. Oregon leads the way with 27.
“Big plays are contagious,” Ziemba said. “Coach Malzahn tells us that. This offense is at its best when it goes 5 yards, 5 yards, 5 yards and then 30 yards. That’s what this offense is built on, and a lot of different people are a part of that.”
Newton has gone to every one of them, too, at different points in the season.
Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen had three of his five touchdown catches in the final three games of the season.
“We’re fortunate enough to have talented enough players that when they’re called on, they can make plays,” Malzahn said. “They’re very good at what they do and fit well around Cam.”
Senior receiver Kodi Burns, who actually threw a touchdown pass this season to Newton, added, “Pretty much anybody who touches it on offense can take it the distance. That’s really what this offense is about, taking what the defense gives you, but at the same time, having explosive plays.”
Oregon’s defenders say they won’t be lulled to sleep by focusing only on Newton and forgetting about everybody else.
Still, it’s obvious where most of their attention will be concentrated Monday night.
“If you look at their offense, they do have a lot of playmakers, and they’re very balanced,” Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews said. “But Cam is what makes their offense go.”
Oregon's senior linebacker Casey Matthews and sophomore cornerback Cliff Harris are different sorts in more ways than one, but they will be two of the key pieces in the Ducks most challenging chess game on defense this season: How do you slow Auburn and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cameron Newton?
Harris, who earned All-American recognition as both a corner and return man, will be at the center of a secondary trying to contain Auburn's downfield passing attack. The Tigers lead the nation in passing efficiency.
In both instances, the focus will be on Newton, who is extremely efficient and productive -- 28 touchdowns and six interceptions -- and one of the best running quarterbacks in recent memory -- 1,400 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns.
Oh, and Newton is 6-foot-6, 250 pounds.
"He will be very tough to tackle," Matthews said. "He's not your ordinary quarterback. I mean, he's huge. He's got a pretty powerful stiff arm ... he makes a lot of his plays on third and long. If no one is open, he is going to take off and run. We had problems with that last year in the Rose Bowl. That's one thing we knew we had to work on going into this game."
Matthews refers to the career game that Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor produced against the Ducks in the previous year's Rose Bowl. Pryor is 6-foot-6, 233 pounds, so the Ducks know how hard it is to contain a big, fast quarterback who can complete passes downfield. Only Newton is way better.
Oregon hopes its No. 16 run defense will hold down Newton's scrambles -- something it didn't do against Pryor -- and force him to throw into a secondary that ranks sixth in the nation in pass efficiency defense, and has grabbed 20 interceptions. Five of those picks went to Harris.
"[Harris] has a great overall game," Auburn receiver Kodi Burns said. "He's just a great talent. He's somebody we're really going to have to deal with."
Matthews is the steady leader with good instincts. He led the Ducks with 73 tackles and is the quarterback of the defense. Harris is more of a wild card. He can grab a pick-six at any moment. Or he can get busted on a double move. He's got impressive skills, but he also can lose focus or freelance, which often draws the ire of coordinator Nick Aliotti and even other Ducks.
"For all the big plays he makes, he will sometimes slip a little bit," Matthews said. "It comes back to the mental discipline, just taking your assignment. Sometimes you will try to make the big play on a double route or stop and go and he will jump it and then [the receiver] will be wide open. But you can't go yelling at people, telling them to do this. You just got to keep them calm and remember how he had his success. He's a great corner. Just around the receiver when the ball is thrown, he has got a chance to pick it. That's the big part about him -- his big-play ability."
Matthews obviously has plenty of help becoming a smart, disciplined player. His brother, Clay, is a star linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. His father, Clay, Jr., played the third most games in NFL history (278) over 19 seasons as a linebacker. His uncle, Bruce, is in the NFL Hall of Fame as an offensive lineman.
But it was his mother, Leslie, whose recent advice most resonated.
"My mom told me I had to be slightly insane with my play," Casey Matthews said. "That is one thing I haven't heard her say ever, but she did tell me that."
As for Harris, he wasn't one of the players brought to the news conference featuring Ducks defenders. Part of that is the belief of Oregon coaches that senior Talmadge Jackson is the Ducks best corner, despite Harris' flashy play. Jackson didn't earn All-American honors, but he did get the first-team All-Pac-10 nod over Harris as voted on by conference coaches.
Jackson has served as a bit of a tutor to Harris, who only became a starter in the season's seventh game.
"I try to help him improve his overall knowledge of the game," Jackson said. "He's a great athlete. He's very smart. And he's willing to work at anything you tell him."
As for Harris' sometimes demonstrative personality or his occasional blown coverage, Jackson said there's a fine line between correcting and browbeating.
"Cliff is a very exciting guy to be around," he said. "You don't want to mess up anybody's personality or try to take anything away from him. You want to let him play his style of football but keep it respectable."
Considering how high-powered the Tigers offense has been this season, if Matthews, Harris and the Ducks keep things respectable, Oregon could end up with the national championship.
“Any time you’ve got this much time for a defensive staff to prepare for you, I’m sure there will be some wrinkles,” Malzahn said. “We’ll be feeling each other out probably through the first quarter to get a feel for exactly what’s going on. We’ve got to be able to make adjustments. That’s going to be a big key to this game with that big of a layoff.”
Of course, that works both ways.
Malzahn’s always going to have a few new gadget plays that he puts in for every game.
You know they’re coming. You just don’t know when.
Earlier this season, Auburn scored its first touchdown in the Ole Miss game with Cam Newton catching a pass from Kodi Burns.
“It doesn't have to be early in the game,” Malzahn said. “We're just trying to put as much pressure on the defensive coaches as possible. At the same time, we're trying to steal points. A lot of people say they’re trick plays, gimmicky plays. But they're really just part of our offense.”
Burns added, “We have a lot of stuff in our playbook we haven’t pulled out yet.”
Nobody knows that better than the folks on the Plains.
We’re talking, of course, about the shadow cast by the University of Alabama’s football team, a shadow that grew to epic proportions last season when the Crimson Tide capped a perfect season with their first national championship in 17 years.
Consider it the Tigers’ answer to what the Crimson Tide did a year ago.
And what an answer it’s been.
Auburn (13-0) is unbeaten with a Heisman Trophy winner leading the way. Only two of the Tigers’ last seven opponents have come with 17 points of them, and they’re averaging 42.7 points per game for the season.
Alabama’s run had a similar ring to it a year ago, although the Crimson Tide did it with a suffocating defense.
The Tigers’ players insist they saw this coming, and the only thing they’re focused on now is finishing the job against an Oregon team that’s been even more explosive offensively this season.
“We’ve been long overdue for a national championship,” Auburn senior receiver Kodi Burns said. “We felt like this was our year. We had a lot of senior leadership on this team and just getting here has been a blessing. To win it would be great.”
It would also go a long way toward tearing down that “Little Brother” stigma that has dogged Auburn in its own state since the days of Bear Bryant.
“They had their time. This is our time,” Auburn senior offensive tackle Lee Ziemba said. “What matters now is what we do with it.”
Even before he broke his first tackle in an Auburn uniform or made his first jaw-dropping run, Cam Newton dropped a pretty subtle hint back in August that this was a team that wouldn’t be content with living in anybody’s shadow.
Alabama was receiving all the preseason hype. Alabama was the team everybody was talking about in terms of repeating as national champion, and Alabama was the team everybody was hailing as the most talented in the country.
When the preseason polls were released, Auburn was ranked near the bottom in both the Associated Press and coaches’ polls. Alabama was right at the top.
Newton immediately took offense.
“Any time you turn on the TV or you turn on the sports talk radio show or anywhere, they’re talking about the other team,” Newton said of the Crimson Tide. “Of course, we know they’re an excellent team as well. We feel like we’re not being mentioned as we should be.”
Turns out in addition to being the best football player in the country that Newton was also a prophet.
“We weren’t going to back down from anybody,” Newton said.
Burns said the Auburn players drew confidence from Newton’s words and had already been talking about it among themselves.
“We all were talking about it like, ‘Hey, we can do this. Alabama did it last year. Why not us?’ ” Burns said. “We reversed the tables. We’re here at the national championship now, and hopefully, we can go out and win it.”
Nothing drove home the point that those tables had been reversed any more than Auburn’s stunning comeback from 24 points down to beat Alabama 28-27 in the regular-season finale at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Burns said he’ll never forget that feeling walking off the field that chilly November afternoon in Tuscaloosa.
The shadow had been replaced by the glare of the spotlight.
“The most impressive thing was when we were down 24-7 and went in at halftime,” Burns recalled. “Nobody said a word. Everybody was looking around, and finally we say, ‘Alabama’s done. That’s all they got.’ Then we go out the next half and score at will. It was one of the best feelings I’ve had, an awesome feeling.
“There were times we might have felt inferior (to Alabama). But, now, things have changed. We knew that 8-5 season last year was just a sign of something about to come … and here we are.”
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” said Burns, who started in seven games at quarterback during the 2008 season. “There were some other schools who wanted me to come there and play quarterback, and I could have taken, I guess, what you would call the easy way out and transferred. But I stuck it out, and look at me now.
“We’re playing for the SEC championship and hopefully more.”
If you’re into statistics, Burns’ move hasn’t had a profound impact on the Tigers. The 6-foot-2, 207-pound senior has 10 catches this season without a touchdown.
But if you’re into team chemistry, sacrificing for the good of the team and being what they refer to around the Plains as “an Auburn man,” then what Burns did last preseason, and more importantly, the way he did it, has meant everything to an Auburn team just one win away from playing for its first national championship since 1957.
In many ways, Burns has embodied the spirit of this team.
Four different times this season, Auburn has trailed by two touchdowns or more, including a 24-0 deficit last week at Alabama, but the Tigers have overcome those deficits each time and found a way to win.
It was the same way for Burns, whose heart was admittedly broken when he was asked to switch positions. But he wasn’t going to do anything that might break the team, especially with Gene Chizik and the rest of the staff just getting started.
So Burns stood up in the locker room, took a deep breath, and told his teammates that he was willing to do whatever he could to help Auburn win football games.
If that meant giving up his dream of playing quarterback, so be it.
“I looked everybody in the eye as a man and said, ‘Yes, I’m obviously hurt, and it’s painful, but you’re not going to see me going around and stirring it up in the locker room and I hope nobody else in here will, either,’ ” Burns recounted. “I just emphasized to them that we needed to stay together as a team.
“It was about winning, about Auburn, about championships, and I think everybody really bought in. We had a pretty good year last year, and those same guys who were on that team and heard that speech are on the team this year.”
Burns has practiced what he’s preached.
In addition to starting all 12 games at receiver this season, he went to the coaches about being on special teams and became a starter on the kickoff and punt return teams.
“I’m just trying to help the team win any way I can, and obviously special teams are important,” said Burns, who has a touchdown run this season and also threw a touchdown pass to Cam Newton in the Ole Miss game.
“I figure if the younger guys see me, a senior who used to be the quarterback here, busting it out there, that they’re gong to do the same.”
As this season has progressed for the No. 1 Tigers, nobody has lost sight of what Burns’ sacrifice has meant.
“That’s one guy who won’t leave here with any regrets,” Chizik said. “He’s one of those guys that, when you look back at it, is going to be a success story for a lot of guys after this.”
Perhaps so, but all Burns is focused on right now is doing his part to make sure the Tigers finish out this season the right way.
“It’s been a bumpy road for me with a lot of ups and downs,” Burns said. “But I’m proud of the way it’s turned out for all of us. We’ve bounced back as a program these last two years, and I really believe we’re going to see this thing out to the end.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
The spread is back at Auburn.
That's right. Another spring, another new offense.
|AP Photo/Dave Martin|
|Gus Malzahn's version of the spread offense has worked wherever he has coached.|
This time, it's Gus Malzahn bringing his version of the spread to the Plains. He's not real interested in what they've done before at Auburn, how miserably the spread failed last season at Auburn or how his offense might be perceived around the SEC.
It's worked everywhere Malzahn has been, and that's good enough for him.
"Nowadays, there are so many versions of what people call the spread," Malzahn said. "We're going to have a physical, hard-nosed attitude, and that's the No. 1 thing we want to do. You look back at the history of Auburn, and that's kind of been their trademark. We'll focus on running the ball downhill and be a run/play-action pass team. That's a little bit different than what they did here last year.
"It's a new start, and we'll see what happens."
First-year Auburn coach Gene Chizik, who has a defensive background, didn't have to look long to find his offensive coordinator. He wanted somebody who was creative and wanted somebody who was proven.
Those prerequisites led him straight to Malzahn, whose offenses at Tulsa were ranked first nationally in total offense each of the past two seasons. Malzahn had also previously coached in the SEC when he was at Arkansas as offensive coordinator in 2006. Moreover, he's one of the people who engineered the rebirth of the single wing that's now the rage in college football.
At Arkansas, they called it the Wild Hog. They call it the Wild Rebel at Ole Miss, and it's also known as the Wildcat package. Even the Miami Dolphins ran some of it last season with Ronnie Brown. Malzahn's been running it since he was coaching at Springdale High School in Arkansas.
Malzahn has already identified some candidates to run it at Auburn, namely Mario Fannin.
But a more pressing priority this spring is finding his quarterback. Notice he didn't say "quarterbacks." Malzahn wants one guy and hopes to find him this spring. The Tigers open practice on March 24.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
We check in with the Internal Affairs department from around the SEC:
1. Tackle by committee: Florida is banged up in its defensive line heading into Saturday's game at Florida State, which means you could see all sorts of combinations at tackle. The Gators will be without backup tackle Matt Patchan, who has a sprained knee, and it's unknown how much starting nose tackle Lawrence Marsh will be able to play after spraining his MCL last week against The Citadel. Sophomore Terron Sanders will move in as the starter at tackle, and if Marsh can't play, junior Brandon Antwine will start at nose. Sophomore Torrey Davis is moving from tackle to nose to provide depth at that position, but a number of players may see action at both interior positions against the Seminoles. Redshirt freshman Jaye Howard is another one that will see time at tackle behind Sanders.
2. Loading the line: It sounds simple enough, although not a lot of teams have made it work against Georgia Tech. But look for Georgia to do everything it can (including putting everybody in the box) to take Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer out of the game as early as possible. This is a big game for the Georgia linebackers. They have to tackle well and play with some discipline against Georgia Tech's option offense. Georgia as a defense has not been consistent with its tackling this season, and stopping the run has also been an issue of late. The Bulldogs have given up 185 yards or more on the ground in three of their last four games, and the Yellow Jackets are fourth in the nation in rushing at 270.8 yards per game.
3. Adams back in: Vanderbilt is searching for anything right now to get its offense going. Coming off one of their worst offensive showings of the season in a 20-10 loss to Tennessee (where they had just 25 yards of total offense at the half), the Commodores will go back to Mackenzi Adams at quarterback this Saturday against Wake Forest. Adams at least gave Vanderbilt a pulse in the passing game in the second half last week after Chris Nickson threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown and also lost a fumble near midfield. Nickson had started the last two games and played well in the win at Kentucky. But a shoulder injury from earlier in the season has limited his ability to throw the ball. The only thing that could hold Adams back this weekend is a knee injury he suffered against Tennessee, although Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said he didn't believe it was serious.
4. Kodi to the rescue: The truth is that Auburn's coaches aren't going to ask sophomore quarterback Kodi Burns to go out and win the game for the Tigers on Saturday when they travel to Bryant-Denny Stadium for only the seventh time in this storied rivalry. If anything, it will be just the opposite. Burns' directive is not to lose the game, and when Auburn has its chances, he has to be poised enough and savvy enough to capitalize on those chances. Punting the football away won't be such a bad thing Saturday against Alabama. Burns is playing much more settled now that it's clear he's Auburn's quarterback. He hasn't thrown an interception in his last two games. That's after throwing six in his previous three games.
5. Then there was Jefferson: LSU coach Les Miles hasn't said so officially, but it appears that true freshman Jordan Jefferson will be the Tigers' third different starting quarterback this season when LSU faces Arkansas on Friday in Little Rock. Jarrett Lee injured his ankle against Ole Miss and didn't practice Monday. Andrew Hatch, who started the first three games, remains out with a leg injury. Look for the coaches to give Jefferson more of the playbook than he had against Ole Miss. He's always a threat to run and showed flashes of being a good passer in that game, too. He just needs experience, and given the Tigers' struggles at quarterback this season, he probably deserves more playing time than he's gotten to this point. It's pretty clear that he's LSU's quarterback of the future.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Taking the stroll throughout the SEC to see what everybody else is writing and saying about the league:
- For the first time, Florida coach Urban Meyer embraces the national championship talk.
- Columnist Cecil Hurt of The Tuscaloosa News writes that Alabama showed its mettle when times got tough against LSU.
- Alabama athletic director Mal Moore is soaking up the Crimson Tide's success this season.
- After running for 158 yards last week, Auburn quarterback Kodi Burns leaves everybody wondering: What's next?
- Struggling Jarrett Lee is still the starting quarterback, but LSU coach Les Miles says true freshman Jordan Jefferson will get his chance this Saturday against Troy.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
There were a ton of Texas Tech fans in the state of Florida on Saturday night. The more the Big 12 beats up on each other, the better it is for the Gators. Texas Tech's upset of Texas further cleared the way for a one-loss Florida team to play its way into the BCS National Championship Game if the Gators can win out, including winning the SEC championship. The Gators will now be rooting against Texas Tech the next two games against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Alabama doesn't need any help. The Crimson Tide just need to keep winning. They will almost certainly go to No. 1 in the new BCS standings on Sunday. Here's a look at what we learned in the SEC in Week 10:
A drama-less last month? It looks like the month of November may be pretty boring when it comes to the two divisional races. The SEC Championship Game is all but set, and we're barely into November. Florida can clinch the Eastern Division title by winning next weekend at Vanderbilt. Alabama can clinch the Western Division by winning next weekend at LSU. And even should the Crimson Tide lose that game, they could still earn a trip to Atlanta by winning their last two against Mississippi State and Auburn. So in other words, Florida and Alabama fans had better start looking for SEC Championship Game tickets now ... if they don't already have them.
Don't mess with Meyer: Whether you like Urban Mayer or not, there's no debating one thing: He has it going on right now at Florida. And if they truly measure coaches by how they fare against their rivals, then Meyer has very few peers. The Gators' 49-10 pummeling of Georgia improved Meyer to 10-1 against Florida's three biggest rivals: Tennessee (4-0), Georgia (3-1) and Florida State (3-0). He said in his new book that the Gators would "handle" the Bulldogs' end zone celebration from a year ago. Well, they handled it all right, and just for good measure, Meyer made sure the Bulldogs had a few extra minutes to wallow in the most lopsided loss of Mark Richt's coaching career by calling two timeouts in the final 44 seconds of the game.
Georgia exposed: The Bulldogs are still a talented team, and they may well go on to win 11 games (including the bowl) and finish in the top 10 for the sixth time in eight seasons under Mark Richt. But a season that started with so much talk about winning a national championship will be remembered for Georgia simply not measuring up (nor showing up) in its two biggest games of the year. The Bulldogs were down 31-0 at the half to Alabama at home before losing 41-30. They were trampled 49-10 Saturday by Florida. That's 90 points in two games. In the Big 12, that's good enough to still be playing for a championship. In the SEC, it's a one-way ticket to Orlando for the bowl season and the dubious "We're not ready for primetime" label that goes with it.
End of an era at Tennessee: Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton won't say it, and Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer doesn't want to talk about it. But the reality is that we're seeing the final chapter at Tennessee of a Hall of Fame coaching career by Fulmer. He's making it easy for Hamilton now. The Vols (3-6, 1-5 SEC) lost 27-6 to South Carolina on Saturday night in another dismal offensive showing. It's not a matter of "if" with Fulmer now. It's a matter of "when." Having spent more than 30 years of his life at Tennessee as a player, assistant coach and head coach, he deserves for this thing to end in a classy manner. He also deserves to go out on his terms, but that's not going to happen now. The Vols are looking at their second losing season in the last four years, and no coach at Tennessee -- not even one who's won 150 games in his career -- would be able to survive that kind of swoon.
Another blow for Tuberville: It's hard to imagine it getting much worse for Tommy Tuberville and Auburn. The Tigers lost their fourth straight Saturday, this one a 17-7 setback to Ole Miss that saw Auburn never cross midfield in the first half and then self-destruct in the second half with quarterback Kodi Burns throwing three interceptions. At this rate, it would be a miracle if the Tigers (4-5, 2-4 SEC) finish with a winning record with two tough SEC games remaining against Georgia and Alabama. And if they fall below .500, that's an ominous sign for Tuberville. Two of the last three Auburn coaches who finished with a losing record (excluding their debut season) didn't return the following year -- Terry Bowden in 1998 and Doug Barfield in 1980. The third, Pat Dye, lasted just one more season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
What now for an Auburn football team that's sinking faster than the stock market?
Better yet, what now for Tommy Tuberville?
There are bad losses, and then there are future-shaping losses. Unfortunately for Tuberville, I'm afraid the 34-17 loss to West Virginia on Thursday night may be the latter.
He left himself wide open for all of his critics. His football team looked unresponsive, disinterested at times and has now lost three straight and four of its last five games after yielding 31 unanswered points to the Mountaineers.
The Tigers (4-4) are going to be hard-pressed to finish above .500 this season. They still have to play at Ole Miss, Georgia at home and then Alabama on the road to end the regular season. The only thing remotely resembling a win the rest of the way is Tennessee-Martin at home on Nov. 8.
It's hard to believe this is the same team that started the season ranked in the top 10.
Auburn has now lost two in a row since Tuberville fired offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, and the Tigers did go back to more of their traditional power football on offense against West Virginia. They jumped out to a 17-3 lead in the first half, but managed just 33 total yards after halftime.
Even in the first half, when they put together a 20-play drive and had the ball down inside the 3-yard line, they couldn't punch the ball into the end zone and had to settle for a short field goal.
Clearly, Auburn's offensive woes are far from fixed, and you have to wonder if Kodi Burns has what it takes to play quarterback at this level.
But enough about the offense. Everybody knew the Tigers were struggling on offense.
The big disappointment from Thursday night was the defense, which was supposed to be the strength of this team. But the Tigers couldn't hold a 14-point lead and were shredded to the tune of 445 total yards.
Their tackling in the second half was especially poor and they allowed West Virginia receivers to get wide open for big gains or easy touchdowns on a couple of different occasions.
If the defense goes south on this club, it could really turn ugly.
Then again, it's probably already gotten to that point. These are not tranquil times on the Plains.