SEC: Casey Matthews

By hoisting the crystal football in January, Auburn cemented itself as the best team college football last fall. The Tigers went undefeated in the nation's toughest conference (the SEC) and brought home a national championship.

There was a Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Cam Newton, a freak of a defensive tackle in Nick Fairley and four All-SEC selections from the 2010 team.

But after looking at how the Tigers did in the NFL draft this weekend, it's hard to argue that last year's team relied on Newton more than people thought. And that says a lot.

Despite having a senior-laden team (and returning only six starters this spring), the Tigers weren't well represented in this year's NFL draft. Outside of Newton going first overall to the Carolina Panthers and Fairley going 13th to the Detroit Lions, Auburn's only other two draft selections came in the seventh round. Defensive tackle Zach Clayton went to the Tennessee Titans with pick No. 212 and offensive tackle Lee Ziemba went 244th to the Panthers.

Auburn's BCS opponent, Oregon, produced just one draft selection this year: linebacker Casey Matthews, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Florida had just three players drafted -- wide receivers Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy, and tight end Cornelius Ingram -- in the 2009 NFL draft following the Gators' Orange Bowl victory over Oklahoma, but returned a majority of that team for the 2009 season.

Oklahoma had the lowest amount of draft selections for a defending champ since 2000, with just two draftees -- linebacker Torrance Marshall and quarterback Josh Heupel -- in 2001.

The SEC's seven national champions since 2000 have produced 37 draft picks, with LSU leading the way with 14 of those selections and Florida having a SEC-high nine selections in the 2007 draft.

Instant analysis: Auburn 22, Oregon 19

January, 11, 2011
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Auburn made it five in a row for the SEC, winning a defensive battle of all things to defeat Oregon 22-19 on Monday night in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.

Here’s an instant analysis of the game:

How the game was won: Auburn drove 73 yards in seven plays for Wes Byrum’s game-winning 19-yard field goal as time expired. The Tigers needed that final drive after Oregon scored and added the tying two-point conversion following a Cam Newton fumble. It wasn’t the offensive shootout everybody was predicting. The two defenses were the show most of the night, and Auburn made more plays on that side of the ball than Oregon.

Turning point: On Auburn’s second play during its game-winning drive, freshman running back Mike Dyer looked like he was down. But the whistle never blew, and he took off for a 37-yard gain down to the Oregon 23.

Turning point II: It looked like Auburn might be on the verge of putting the game away in the fourth quarter, but Newton had the ball poked out of his hands by Oregon’s Casey Matthews. The Ducks, trailing 19-11, took over and tied the game with a touchdown and two-point conversion.

Star of the game: Even though Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley made one bonedhead play when he shoved LaMichael James in the helmet while James was on the ground, Fairley was a dominant force in the middle of that Auburn defensive line and was a big reason the Ducks never really got untracked.

Unsung hero: Dyer came up huge for the Tigers on that final drive. Not only did he have the big 37-yard run, but his 16-yard run down to the 1 set up Byrum’s game-winner.

Stat of the game: Auburn wouldn’t allow Oregon to run the ball and held the Ducks to 75 rushing yards on 32 attempts.

What it means: Auburn completed a stunning two-year turnaround. The Tigers suffered through a losing season in 2008, and two years later, they’re the national champions. It was Auburn’s first national championship since 1957. It’s also the fifth straight year that an SEC team has won the national title. That’s five titles by four different SEC schools, too.



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