With their blowout win in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday night, Auburn clinched a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.
And Auburn's quarterback, Cam Newton, should have locked up the Heisman Trophy.
But did he? Or did his father cost him the award?
The story of Newton reads more like middle school fiction than college football reality. He was a top recruit coming out of high school, and chose a national powerhouse - the University of Florida. However, when Tim Tebow decided to return to Florida for his senior season, Newton decided to take his talents elsewhere.
Newton left Florida and went to Blinn College, a junior college, where he passed for 2,833 yards and 22 touchdowns, and rushed for another 655 yards and 16 touchdowns.
That's where the trouble started.
It appears now that Newton's father, Cecil, saw how special his son could be and decided to look out for his own interests. As the second round of Cam's recruiting progressed, Cecil apparently placed a financial component into the equation. According to reports, Cecil wanted $180,000 as part of the package his son received for a commitment to play somewhere. The university specifically held hostage in these allegations was Mississippi State.
Mississippi State's recruiting of Newton actually began during Newton's freshman year at Florida; the Gator's offensive coordinator, Dan Mullen, was instrumental in getting Newton to Gainesville but left to take the head coaching job at Mississippi State. His relationship with Newton made it appear that becoming a Bulldog was a no-brainer.
But at the last minute, it was Auburn that emerged as the winner of the Cam Newton Sweepstakes.
The SEC has always been a hotbed of political garbage, and Newton was far from exempt.
In early November of this year, as Newton was beginning to emerge as a Heisman candidate, the rumor mill began. It started with allegations from Mississippi State that a former Bulldogs player named Kenny Rogers had, on behalf of the Newton family, attempted to solicit money from Mississippi State.
Newton's family denied involvement.
Then came reports that Newton was going to get kicked out of Florida if he hadn't left.
Newton was allegedly facing expulsion from Florida for academic cheating when he transferred to junior college in the spring of 2009. He was supposedly caught cheating three times, including putting his name on someone else's paper without that student's knowledge. He was also arreseted in Nov. 2008 after he bought a stolen computer.
Early this week, the NCAA ruled that Newton is eligible to play the rest of this season despite his father admitting to playing a role in a "pay-for-play" scheme with Rogers. NCAA President Mark Emmert acknowledged that "many people are outraged" that a parent could "shop around" a student-athlete and the player not lose any eligibility.
Emmert said in a statement on the NCAA's web site Thursday that his organization will "work aggressively" with universities to change bylaws and avoid situations like Newton's in the future.
This comes on the heels of Reggie Bush's Heisman being vacated earlier this year because he was ruled to be ineligible by the NCAA largely because of violations by his family.
So what makes Newton different? And why does he deserve to win the Heisman?
Because Newton is the best.
Looking at his numbers paints a clear picture of his dominance.
They are the only two players in NCAA history to pass for 20 touchdowns and rush for 20 touchdowns in the same season. Newton now has 28 touchdown passes and 20 touchdown runs. Tebow had 32 touchdown passes and 23 touchdown runs during his 2007 Heisman Trophy winning season.
In fact, it hasn't even been close this year.
In the last 13 seasons, only six players have been worth the price of admission, and only four of them won the Heiman. Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, Randy Moss, Reggie Bush and Tim Tebow are the only players in that time period that are even close to the same impact level as Newton has been this year for Auburn.
Look at Newton's numbers on the biggest stages. In his five games against ranked opponents this year, he's been ridiculous.
Sept. 25 vs #12 South Carolina: 16/21, 158 yds passing, 2 pass TDs, 176 rush yds, 3 rush TDs
Oct. 16 vs #12 Arkansas: 10/14, 140 passing yds, 1 pass TD, 188 rush yds, 3 rush TDs
- Oct. 23 vs #6 LSU: 10/16, 86 pass yds, 217 rush yds, 2 rush TDs
- Nov. 26 @ #11 Alabama: 13/20, 216 pass yds, 3 pass TDs, 39 rush yds, 1 rush TD
- SEC Champ. Game vs #19 South Carolina: 17/28, 338 passing yds, 4 passing TDs, 73 rush yds, 2 rush TDs
Now consider that Newton was putting up these numbers against good defenses. He personally ran for 40 yards more than Arkansas or LSU were allowing per game this year, and he's adjusted his performance based on the situation.
Also, if you need a signature performance to win the Heisman, as Woodson did against Ohio State, then you don't need to look any further than Newton leading Auburn on a 24-point comeback at rival (and defending National Champion) Alabama.
This is one of those rare years that the Heisman Trust doesn't need to invite more than one player to New York.
In the past there have been players who have set precedent with their performance. Woodson was the first defensive back to win the award, and Orlando Pace was a good enough offensive tackle at Ohio State to receive consideration.
Unfortunately, the benchmark that may be established with Newton is that the NCAA will have to educate parents as much as they work with high school and college players to know what they can and can't do within the boundaries of eligibility.
However, he fact that the NCAA made a statement supporting Newton's eligibility this week should cement his place within the elite college football players of all time.