National championship picture taking shape, Auburn's Cam Newton $180,000 controversy, and big games this coming week.
By Michael Brown, Sentinel Sports Writer Alabama’s hopes of winning a second consecutive national title were extinguished last Saturday after it fell on the road to SEC rival LSU, ending an opportunity for the Tide, but perhaps, giving a shot to another team.Oklahoma’s chances of playing for the title are finished after it lost at Texas A&M. Both losses bold well for TCU which blew out Utah on the road, and Boise State which did the same at home against Hawaii.TCU’s “statement win” at Utah helped it garner more points ahead of No. 4 Boise State in the Bowl Championship Series rankings this week, thereby making the Horned Frogs the favorite to play for the title if top-ranked Oregon or Auburn stumble.Oregon and Auburn maintained the No. 1 and 2 spots by doing away with Washington and Chattanooga, respectively, and remain on a collision course for the title.LSU’s win propelled it to the fifth spot, which is tops among teams with a single loss. TCU and LSU had the week’s most impressive performances, but other ranked teams such as Stanford and Oklahoma State also lit up the scoreboard on their way to victories.Auburn didn’t have a problem on the field against Chattanooga, but had a distraction off the field when allegations surfaced that a man claiming he knows dynamic quarterback Cam Newton, may have solicited a school for the signal caller’s services. Also, the upcoming week’s games don’t feature the marquee match ups of the past few Saturday’s, however, there are several games on the schedule featuring teams jockeying for bids to specific bowl games. Impressive performancesTCU’s Horned Frogs defied any doubters about its merits of being a legitimate national title contender by going on the road and annihilating Utah, 47-7.Going into the contest, TCU had the nation’s best defense, which allows 8.5 points per game. The Utah Utes found out firsthand how dominate the Frogs could be as it was limited to 199 total yards, and didn’t score until the fourth quarter.Utah was the sixth straight team TCU held to under 10 points, and the seventh out of the Frogs’ 10 wins to fail to score in double figures.LSU’s much maligned head coach Les Miles, made the gutsiest call of the week during his team’s 24-21 win against Alabama.Late in the game, the “Mad Hatter” as Miles is known to fans and critics alike for his puzzling clock management and questionable coaching decisions, went for it on fourth-and-1 by calling a reverse, good for 23 yards.The conversion set-up a 1-yard go-ahead touchdown, and was a departure from the “conventional wisdom” that coaches at all levels tend to cling to. Miles deserves props for the daring call.Sixth-ranked Stanford scored a key victory against No. 18 Arizona, 42-17. If Oregon wins out and advances to the title game in Glendale, AZ, Stanford, currently second-place in the Pac-10, would likely go to the Rose Bowl.Oklahoma State continued to put up prolific offensive numbers in its 55-28 win against Baylor.Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden went 34 of 42 passing for 435 yards and three touchdowns and wide receiver Justin Blackmon caught 13 receptions for 173 yards and two touchdowns. Oklahoma State amassed 725 yards of total offense.Legendary Penn State head coach, Joe Paterno, won his 400th game when the Nittany Lions polished off Northwestern, 35-21. Cam controversyLast Thursday, a report appearing on ESPN.com claimed that a man who alleges that he represented Cam Newton, solicited Mississippi State for $180,000 in exchange for the quarterback signing a national letter of intent.Newton has denied the allegations, but has neither confirmed or denied whether he knew the person involved, saying instead to a reporter: “Unfortunately, sir, I wish I could talk about it right now but I can’t. That’s how it goes.”Auburn’s Athletic Director Jay Jacobs told USA Today that the school began looking into the allegations during the summer, after they won the intense recruiting battle for Newton who played at a junior college after transferring from Florida.Nothing concrete has surfaced yet with regards to this controversy, but Newton’s character is being questioned after FoxSports.com reported Monday that the quarterback was busted for academic cheating at Florida. He was also disciplined for stealing another student’s laptop.Newton’s Florida infractions likely have nothing to do with the allegations being made, but the information could prove damaging to the Heisman Trophy front-runner.The NCAA investigation may not result in any penalties for Auburn or Newton this season, but the suspicion and appearance of wrongdoing could deter Heisman voters from choosing Newton.Heisman voters aren’t obligated to adhere to any set criteria. The trophy is awarded based on the subjective opinions of the individual voters.As soon as these reports surfaced, Reggie Bush’s name came to mind. Bush returned his Heisman a few months back, shortly after USC was hit with probation stemming from the tailback receiving improper benefits.Voters will undoubtedly face a dilemma with the Newton situation. If they award him the trophy and he’s found to be in violation, they may have to revoke the award at a future date. With other viable Heisman contenders such as Oregon’s LaMichael James; Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor and Boise State’s Kellen Moore, I think Newton’s chances have taken a hit. One could argue for any of the aforementioned players. Character may be considered in a tight race.Aside from the award, the allegations speak to a bigger issue. It would be hypocritical of the sanctimonious NCAA to drop the hammer on Newton for this alleged infraction while looking the other way when companies such as Nike, Reebok and Adidas funnel college football and basketball players toward certain schools and coaches that the companies have business relationships with.At the core of the issue, Newton’s alleged representative and the shoe companies are all taking part in a form of human trafficking.It’s always hard for me to feign outrage when any of these kids or their parents take money, while the NCAA monopoly, which is tax exempt by the way, continues to rake in record profits from corporations and lucrative TV deals.Big games this weekNo. 20 Virginia Tech will meet North Carolina in a battle of two programs left for dead earlier this season after disappointing losses.No. 17 Missouri will attempt to regain its footing after consecutive losses when it host No. 24 Kansas State, which blew out Texas last week.The SEC features two interesting match ups when No. 19 Mississippi State visits No. 12 Alabama, and No. 23 South Carolina faces No. 22 Florida.