Tuesday, January 11, 2011

That was a title game?

If there wasn't enough talk about a playoff in college football, last night's BCS Championship game should continue to fuel the debate. You're telling me that teams like Stanford, TCU, Oklahoma and Ohio St couldn't have beaten both Auburn and Oregon they way they played last night?

The quarterback play in that game was far more atrocious than the numbers say. Darrin Thomas was 27-for-40 for 363 yards and Cam Newton was 20-for-34 for 265 yards, but both left lots of throws on the field. Most notably Newton short-arming a touchdown on fourth-and-goal and Thomas missing a key third-down pass late in the game.

LaMichael James was kept in check by an NFL-caliber defense despite two scores through the air, making his decision to stay in school seem wise. But one player who won't be staying is Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who had three tackles for loss including a sack and was a disruptive force for Oregon's offense all game long.

While Newton's stock as a quarterback dropped in my eyes due to inaccuracy and inconsistency, Fairley's rose. He is a game-changing presence along the defensive line and while he's not Ndamukong Suh, if he falls past Buffalo with the third overall pick I'll be shocked. I could see Carolina taking a pass rusher like Bowers and Denver considering help in the secondary, leaving the Bills with a difference maker to improve their shoddy run defense.

Newton wasn't the only quarterback who I downgraded after his bowl performance. I've always liked Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, but he's not ready and he showed that against Ohio State. He'll still go to the draft and probably be a first-round pick, but he needs to ride pine for a year or two before being thrown to the wolves. Then maybe he'll become Aaron Rodgers. Maybe.

With Luck staying at Stanford for his senior season, I'm not sure there's a cant-miss quarterback prospect in this class. Scouts love Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, but I haven't seen enough of him to make an educated assessment. He would probably be a reach for the Cardinals with the fifth pick, but that doesn't mean they won't take him. Gabbert would surely be an upgrade over John Skelton, Derek Anderson and Max Hall.

With the college season now over, let's just say I'm really looking forward to April's draft and the stock fluctuations we will see over the next three months. The players we're talking about now may not be the players we're talking about in March and April.

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