Tuesday’s Morning Links

Steve O Speak

National Championship Game Ends In Spectacular Fashion: This was one of the oddest National Championship games in recent memory, as the two best offenses in the country were stopped cold and held to a combined 41 points. Both team’s star players came up with big plays, but they just weren’t able to find the end zone with their usual regularity. The Oregon offense wasn’t its usual self as three of their red zone trips ended up with a field goal or a turnover. Two turnovers in the red zone, including a 4th and goal from the 1 is the difference in this game. Now it wasn’t just Oregon’s lack of execution that held them back, but rather Auburn’s defense playing their best football with their backs up against the wall. Nick Fairley and company dialed up their intensity and held the line when the game mattered the most. Fairley in particular had a great game, but really stepped up his play in the red zone. Although Auburn had its share of offensive stars Fairley was the true MVP of the game. None of Fairley’s heroics though might not have mattered, if not for Michael Dyer’s crazy run.

Dyer a true freshman had a great overall game, but it was not until the last drive that he really showed how special of a player he can be. On first and 10 from the Auburn 40, Dyer took the hand off and ran for about 5 yards until he was ‘tackled’, except his knee never hit the ground, and while all 22 players on the field didn’t realize a whistle never blew, the Auburn sideline knew and yelled for him to keep running. Keep running he did as he turned a 5 yard gain, into a 37 yard back breaker. Dyer wasn’t done with his heroics, as three plays later on a 3rd and 4 from Oregon’s 17 yard line Dyer ran 16 yards to the half yard line. Not only is a 36 yard field goal no guarantee in college football, which is what it would have been if Oregon stopped him, but it meant Oregon would have gotten the ball back with 35+ seconds on the clock. While it would have been a long shot, one or two big plays could have set up a game tying field goal. Considering the big play ability of Oregon, and the fact that the clock stops for first downs it might have been enough time to get it done.

Pitt Names Todd Graham Their New(est) Head Coach: After Pitt’s first head coach, to replace Dave Wannstedt, Mike Haywood was arrested and subsequently fired, the Panthers decided to open up their check book to ensure they could get a better option this time around. Todd Graham is one of the top young names on the coaching circuit as he has rebuilt, both Tulsa and Rice, as well as being a top notch coordinator. While Graham has his background as a defensive coordinator, he always brings high powered offenses where ever he goes. Pitt’s offense and defense will undergo a makeover, as the offense will become more of a spread attack, and their defense will likely be more of a 3-3-5 (or some hybrid version of that). Graham will be hurting a bit when it comes to talent as three top juniors declared for the NFL draft yesterday, to go along with the loss of a number of key seniors. Graham needs to sit down with Pitt’s remaining players and ensure that no one else declares for the draft or looks to transfer. While Pitt doesn’t have the perfect personnel to run Graham’s system they have some key pieces and they need to make sure those players know how they will be utilized. Graham also needs to rebuild Pitt’s recruiting class that has been dropping left and right with all the coaching issues in Pittsburgh. Graham can’t let anyone else move on to another school, and he needs to try to land one or two good prospects to go with the remaining class. It could be a bad year for the Pitt program, but I think Graham is a good fit for the job. I understand there is some concern about Graham moving on to greener pastures (aka more money) in a couple years, but that is the reality of the college game. If LSU can’t ensure they can keep Les Miles, how can Pitt ensure they will keep Todd Graham, it just doesn’t happen like that anymore and people need to realize that. Graham can hopefully have a successful run, so Pitt’s program will be near the top. If he leaves, that hurts, but if the right man takes the reins Pitt might not miss a beat. I wouldn’t worry about a few years into the future, until Graham starts winning big at Pitt.

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