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Friday Night Dawg Bites: Is the NCAA Doing Cameron Newton and the Auburn Tigers Dirty?

It’s basketball season in Bulldog Nation! All right, it’s Mississippi Valley State, but still. I’ll tell you what; we’ll focus on football until what’s transpiring on the hardwood gets more interesting than what’s taking place on the gridiron.

This week’s edition of Kit Kitchens’s podcast is up and running, and, while it contains my attempt to explain why I hate Auburn, my answer pales in comparison to Charles Barkley’s thoughts on the Cam Newton scandal.

Regarding Newton, and at the risk of surrendering my genteel status, I agree with tankertoad that the idea that the NCAA might recommend suspension is preposterous. I understand why the NCAA does such things from a legal standpoint, but Auburn is ten games into an undefeated season, and the Tigers’ 10-0 record is attributable primarily to a player who either was eligible for the whole season or ineligible for the whole season. While the suspicious "no comment" raises questions, it seems to me that the potential reward of playing him far outstrips the potential hit of keeping him in the lineup, particularly now that Auburn is outside the five-year recidivism period following its most recent NCAA probation in 2004.

What irks me about the NCAA’s stance is that it mirrors the organization’s mealymouthed stance on bowl games. Drill sergeants don’t suggest that military recruits run the obstacle course, management doesn’t recommend to labor that it increase productivity, and fathers don’t advise children to clean their rooms and eat their vegetables. If you don’t want to be in charge, fine; abdicate in favor of someone who does. If you are in charge, and you want to remain in charge, though, quit pussyfooting around and give a dadgum order.

The NCAA dragged its feet with North Carolina, dragged its feet with South Carolina, dragged its feet with Georgia, and is dragging its feet with Auburn, leaving each of those teams in limbo and very likely altering numerous outcomes over the course of the college football season; it is not at all unreasonable to say that, if A.J. Green hadn’t been suspended and Cameron Newton had been declared ineligible prior to the start of the season, Georgia and LSU would be preparing to meet in the SEC Championship Game right about now.

The NCAA either has something or it doesn’t. If it does, it should order Cam Newton suspended. If it doesn’t, it should shut up until it does. The idea that the NCAA "could" make a "recommendation" is weak, and, as much as I hate Auburn, no one in the Loveliest Village should be put in the untenable position of having to choose between sitting the Tigers’ best player for the two biggest rivalry games on the schedule or risking greater punishment for playing a student-athlete who has not been declared ineligible and is innocent until proven otherwise.

How likely is a Bulldog victory on the Plains in tomorrow’s game? Andy Hutchins says it’s 20 per cent likely. Andy also says Oregon, Texas Christian, Boise State, Louisiana State, Wisconsin, and Stanford have a combined upset likelihood of just 21 per cent between them, so Georgia fans actually have to like those odds . . . well, Georgia fans other than Depressive Doug, at any rate.

Finally, Patrick Garbin makes the following interesting point (with emphasis removed):

Of the 64 Georgia teams from 1946-2009, only 18 had a scoring margin of 12.0 or more points, 17 outgained their opponents by an average of 75 yards or more, and just 22 had a turnover margin of 0.5 or better.

Of those 64 Bulldog squads, just 11 - 1946, '48, '67, '68, '71, '76, '81, '97, 2002, '03, '05 - achieved (as the 2010 team is currently doing) all three of these one-sided margins. Everyone of these Georgia teams, besides the '67 Dogs, won at least eight regular-season games and were either SEC champs or came within a game of being so. Combined, the 11 teams had a remarkable winning percentage of .864.

Despite its 5-5 record, this year’s Georgia Bulldogs are statistical matches for those prior Red and Black squads. So far this season, the ‘Dawgs have outscored the opposition by 14.4 points per game, outgained the opposition by 89.1 yards per game, and won the turnover battle with a margin of +0.7 per game.

This confirms how close Georgia is to being a good team and explains why Georgia and Auburn are statistical equivalents, much as they were expected to be before the season started. What is interesting to me, though, is the fact that the 2010 Bulldogs appear to be on their way to being the twelfth Georgia outfit of the postwar era to excel in all three categories.

If those figures hold up through the end of this autumn, it will mean that, of the dozen statistically strongest Red and Black clubs after 1945, two were coached by Wally Butts in his final 15 seasons on the Sanford Stadium sideline, five were coached by Vince Dooley in his 25-year career as the Bulldogs’ skipper, one was coached by Jim Donnan during his five years on the job, and four were coached by Mark Richt in his first decade in Athens. The Willie Martinez parenthesis notwithstanding, Coach Richt has fielded some pretty fundamentally sound football teams. Perhaps that is, or ought to be, food for thought in deciding whether regime change is needed.

Go ‘Dawgs! Auburna delenda est!