The Top 3 Overlooked Players in the BCS Title Game

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In tonight’s Bc$ national title game, there will be a lot of phenomenal athletes show are sure to show up in plenty of NFL mock drafts over the next few months. Everyone knows about Cam Newton and LaMichael James; and to lesser extent Nick Fairley and Darron Thomas. But here are three guys who will make a huge impact on Monday night in the biggest stage of college football before later gracing your television screens on Sundays.

We’ll start with Cliff Harris:

  • One of 10 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award
  • SI.com midseason All-America at cornerback (first team) and punt returner (second team)
  • National leader in punt return average (22.3) and touchdowns (4)
  • Three-time Pac-10 player of the week in 2010
  • Three-time CFPA national punt returner of the week

Here are some of Harris’ best soundbites from media days this week

Are you guys preparing anything exotic in practice? It’s going to be a show. It’s going to be a battle. Buckle your seatbelts.

What did Kobe Bryant say to the team after the Lakers-Suns game this week? Players were asking him questions, like how he approached life and how he approached games. He just said he’s like a great white shark. He just swims on the surface slowly and eats every dude in front of him when he comes onto the court, and that stuck with me.

Should Oregon State fans root for the Ducks on Monday? Yeah, they should.

Why? Because they can look at is as we’re representing the Pac-10. It’s the Pac-10 against the SEC.

Have you dreamed about this game? I’ve dreamed about this game my whole life. When I was younger, I was watching the USC-Texas game with Vince Young and Reggie Bush. I was like, ‘Man, I want to play in that game right there.’ Just the liveliness and the atmosphere, everybody going crazy. It’s kind of surreal that I’m kind of living that game now.

Did you really ever think you’d be here? No. That’s why I say it’s kind of surreal. It’s just something that just you look back on and you’re like, ‘Wow.’ While you’re going through it, you don’t know what you’re really doing, the accomplishment that we’re really making right now.

Do you get tired of talk about the SEC? We can play football with anyone. We’ll line up with any team and we’ll go toe-to-toe. If the SEC thinks they’re going to just walk over us because they’re the SEC and we’re the Pac-10, then they’ve got another thing coming to them.

Oregon Linebacker Casey Matthews

  • Semifinalist for the Butkus Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy
  • On the watch list for the Lombardi Award

On if the attention the Oregon offense takes away from the defense and if it’s a motivator: We know we get overlooked, it’s motivation, all the exposure the offense gets. We just know we need to go out there and try to get exposure for ourselves, but at the end of the day, if we’re winning games, it doesn’t matter. As long as we give the offense a chance to score.

On stopping Cam Newton and Auburn’s offense: It’s going to be tough. All the film we watch, he gets them down the field and we know how hybrid he is and they are. His weakness? Not sure he has any.

ziemba

Auburn OL Lee Ziemba

Coaches’ Second-Team All-SEC … Associated Press Honorable Mention All-SEC … Phil Steele’s Second-Team Midseason All-SEC

On what ‘War Eagle’ means: There’s a long story behind it. Obviously it’s war eagle, it’s our battle cry. It’s the same thing as an Arkansas fan saying ‘pig-sooey’ or a ‘Bama fan saying ‘Roll Tide.’ It’s what we say. You can use it a lot of times to break the silence. Like our center over there (points to Ryan Pugh), he tells a lot of bad jokes, and so whenever nobody laughs, it’s kind of awkward for a while, some of yell, ‘war eagle.’ You can use it in any context.

Back at the end of the 19th century, there was a civil war veteran who found an eagle on the battlefield with a broken wing, brought it back home to Auburn, which was Alabama Polytechnic at the time, and he kind of kept it as a pet, nursed it back to health, but still couldn’t fly, though. We were playing Georgia and we were behind, and that eagle took off on its own, flew around the field and Auburn scored, and that eagle dropped dead on the field and everyone yelled, ‘war eagle.’ That’s the story about it.

On the expectations he has for Monday: All the expectations I’ve had up to this point have been exceeded, and I don’t expect anything different on Monday. It’s just amazing.

On something most or all might not know about Cam Newton: He’s just a big kid. The kid laughs during football games more than anybody I’ve ever seen in my life. He’ll get tackled funny, or one of us, a big lineman will get in his way, and he just starts cracking up. It’s hilarious.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com

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