Burrowing Into Box Scores, Week 11: Is Cam Newton Better Than Michael Vick?

AUBURN AL - NOVEMBER 13: Quarterback Cameron Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigers celebrates after a touchdown against the Georgia Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13 2010 in Auburn Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

A wild week in college football featured a huge day by Wisconsin and enough greatness from Cam Newton to warrant an investigation of a different sort.

Is Cam Newton Better Than Michael Vick? We still have no idea whether Cam Newton's record-breaking season will ever be inked into the Auburn, SEC, and NCAA record books. But as long as we have the numbers, they point to one stunning conclusion: Newton might be better in 2010 than Michael Vick was at Virginia Tech at the turn of the century.

Checking Vick's stats as a Hokie is still enough to make eyes pop. That 210-yard, three-touchdown game against Boston College was especially electrifying, but Vick was unlike any player before him in how he combined unearthly wheels with a jaw-dropping arm. (Though, obviously, he was a very raw passer at Virginia Tech, and he has evolved substantially since.) But in two years at Virginia Tech, Vick accounted for 40 touchdowns.

In 11 games at Auburn, Cam Newton has accounted for 38.

Vick had eight games with 200 or more passing yards; Newton has five, but topped 300 yards, which Vick never did. Vick ran for more than 100 yards four times, topping 200 once; Newton's eclipsed that century mark six times, and his 217 yards against BCS contender LSU is substantially more impressive than Vick's 210 against a Boston College team that finished 7-5.

Throw in the fact that Vick's Virginia Tech squads had solid defenses, while Newton has often needed to outgun SEC foes that score at will on the Tigers, and assign whatever "adversity quotient" is appropriate for Newton doing his damage while under the nation's microscope, and I'm inclined to give the edge to Killa Cam even before this season's up.

And, lest we forget, Newton still has three games left this season, and they will be his highest-profile tests of the season: at Alabama, against South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game, and a potential BCS National Championship Game against Oregon. If Newton is already arguably ahead with Vick, one of the greatest dual-threat quarterbacks in college football history, his 2010, should he finish Auburn's undefeated season with a national championship, may be the individual performance in the game's existence.

Big Ten Football Ties Big Ten Basketball. Last season, the Wisconsin men's basketball team's notoriously low-scoring swing offense scored 83 points just once in Big Ten play, against Indiana at home. Last Saturday, Bret Bielema's newly powerful football Badgers put up the exact same number on Indiana in Madison.

83 points is a ton — it's Wisconsin's new modern-era scoring record, topping this team's 70-point outburst against Austin Peay in September — but it's how the Badgers rolled all of them up that is truly astonishing. Wisconsin didn't punt on Saturday, and 10 of its 12 possessions ended in touchdowns. (The other two? Field goals.) The Badgers made great use of good field position, too: every drive went at least 24 yards, but while five separate possessions covered 60 or more yards, Wisconsin never had to go 80 yards to score.

The total yardage numbers aren't great &mdash Wisconsin racked up 598 yards, a total Oregon has surpassed four times this year — but the offense churned a staggering 8.8 yards per play. And though that statistic is helped by a late touchdown from freshman quarterback Jon Budmayr to freshman receiver Jared Abbrederis, it's a number that Oregon's offense hasn't touched this year. (Also, the Badgers were even better against Austin Peay, at 9.1 yards per play.)

And though critics may charge that Wisconsin ran up the score, especially with a touchdown in the final two minutes, it's clear that the last scoring play, a 17-yard run by third-string quarterback Nate Tice, was not designed to get six points.

Tice gets teased by his teammates because his father, former Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice, is an assistant with the Chicago Bears. He also gets teased because his 40-yard dash time is eye-popping for the wrong reasons.

"He'll probably be the first to tell you," UW coach Bret Bielema said, "he is probably a 5.5."

But with UW leading, 76-20, and looking to close out the game with one more first down before running out the clock, offensive coordinator Paul Chryst called a bootleg for Tice.

"When Coach Chryst called a naked (bootleg)," Bielema said, "it brought a variety of laughter on the headsets."

Tice ran the play beautifully to the left and then wove his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame through several defenders and into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown with 1 minute 57 seconds left.

"I told the kids afterward we found our fifth-string tailback," Bielema joked.

If Indiana can't stop that, there are much bigger problems in Bloomington than whether or not Wisconsin wanted to use the Hoosiers to score style points.

Oregon's Berkeley Brownout. The best team in the nation shouldn't need a missed field goal in the fourth quarter to beat a Cal team that has lost to Nevada. Yet Oregon did, and, for once, the Ducks can blame their offense.

Chip Kelly's usually breathtaking crew was choked off on Saturday, producing season-lows in a few major categories. The Ducks' 3.8 yards per play was 2.1 yards fewer than their previous low; the 317 total yards was 68 yards lower than the previous nadir, and came on 16 more plays; the 15 points was a season low by 27 points, and the lowest Oregon output since the disastrous season opener against Boise State last year.

Last week, I wrote, "If you leave these Ducks breathing for long enough, they will find a way to dive bomb you." That never happened against Cal, as the Ducks had no plays of more than 30 yards. If another team can do to the Ducks offense what Cal's defense did, it seems unlikely that the iffy Oregon defense will be able to keep them flying high again.

The one bit of promising offense news from Saturday for Ducks fans: that breakneck offense can burn clock, too. On Oregon's final drive, the offense ran 18 plays and chewed up the last 9:25 of the clock to survive its scare in Strawberry Canyon.

The Still Sponsor-Free Conference USA Shootout of the Week. Tulane 54, Rice 49. The Green Wave and Owls combined for 1,054 yards, and after Rice took the lead with just over two minutes remaining, Tulane took it back for good with just over one minute left.

The Also Sponsor-Free MAC Foot-Shooting of the Week. Navy 38, Central Michigan 37. After throwing all over Navy for 394 yards, Ryan Radcliff misfired on a two-point conversion that would have given the Chippewas the lead with four seconds left, ruining a day of daring from Dan Enos, whose team went five of seven on fourth down.

On the bright side: Akron didn't lose! (That's mostly because the Zips didn't play this week, but, hey!)

The Sun Belt Agonizing Moment of the Week. Tie: Western Kentucky 36, Arkansas State 35, in overtime, and Florida Atlantic 24, Louisiana-Lafayette 23. The Hilltoppers beat the Red Wolves in the extra period on a two-point conversion — just the last bit of agony for Arkansas State, which committed five turnovers, went two for eight on third down, and held the ball for less than 20:00 — while the Owls staved off the Ragin' Cajuns by stopping a two-point conversion with less than two minutes left in regulation.

The FCS Score of the Week. Stony Brook 55, Gardner-Webb 3. In case you don't remember: Gardner-Webb beat Akron.

The Division II Or Below Score of the Week. Mary-Hardin Baylor 81, Texas Lutheran 3 can't quite edge out Nebraska-Omaha 62, Truman State 61, mostly because the Mavericks blocked the Bulldogs' first extra point, then scored the go-ahead touchdown in the last minute.

Honorable mention: Colorado School of the Mines 55, Nebraska-Kearny 53; the Orediggers topped the Lopers with a game-winning two-point conversion in triple overtime. (And I swear I didn't make those team names up.)

Notable Numbers. Stats too brief for elaboration, and too good for tweets.

Northern Illinois and Toledo combined for 51 points in the third quarter of the Huskies' 65-30 win. ... Miami of Ohio kicker Trevor Cook nailed a 33-yard game-winner to lift the Redhawks past Bowling Green, which wouldn't be impressive, except for the game being played in dense fog. ... Marcus Lattimore had more carries (40, for 212 yards) than Florida had rushing yards (35). ... Against Northwestern, Iowa had two third-down conversions — and three fourth-down conversions. ... Minnesota lost 17-7 and 24-20 leads against Illinois, and still beat the Illini, 38-34. ... Tennessee scored 52 points (I know, right?) despite having just one red zone possession against Mississippi, and could still end up bowl eligible despite a 2-6 start. ... BYU beat Colorado State 49-10 and could still end up bowl eligible despite a 1-4 start. ... Army is now bowl eligible for the first time in 14 years after topping Kent State 45-28. ... North Carolina had six turnovers against Virginia Tech in a 26-10 loss. ... Syracuse, after a 13-10 win over Rutgers, is now bowl eligible, and still hasn't scored more than 20 points against an FBS team. ... LSU beat Louisiana-Monroe 51-0 despite Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee combining to complete eight of 22 passes for 95 yards. ... In a 17-13 win over Arizona State, Andrew Luck completed a 40-yard pass while falling down, which is the sort of thing that makes me think play charts deserve chess notation. ... Dustin Hopkins' 55-yard field goal to beat Clemson 16-13 was the first walk-off kick in Florida State history, and it, too, would deserve exclamation points on a play chart. ... Washington State beat Oregon State 31-14, and I don't have a quip for that.

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