Ever since the Cam Newton controversy crept across the bottom of our TV screens, we have been hearing about what a distraction it would be for an Auburn team in the running for a national championship.
Did you notice how distracted Auburn was in the second half as it was rolling past Georgia 49-31 last Saturday? Did you also notice that every close-up camera shot of Newton showed a championship smile?
If he's burdened and distressed by the investigations into his NCAA eligibility, he's as good of an actor as he is a quarterback. And if Auburn is losing its focus, you couldn't prove it by the Bulldogs.
I have no idea where this story is headed: national championship, Heisman trophy, NCAA probation, or all three. But my best guess is that it's providing more motivation than distractions.
"Lack of respect" has become the most common motivational ploy in sports. And logic rarely has anything to do with it.
Regardless of a team's success or volume of praise, its antennae are always receptive to the slightest perceived insult. The same coaches who seem utterly devoid of a creative call in the heat of a game can become wondrously innovative in convincing a team that it has been disrespected by outside sources.
So what if the truth gets twisted beyond recognition in the process. This is a result-oriented venture. And based on its popularity, it works.
That's why Auburn coach Gene Chizik has the easiest motivational job in the country. He doesn't have to raise an eyebrow, much less his voice. The truth requires no embellishment.
Whether his players are more attune to history or current events, there's mounting evidence the general populace is out to get them.
Check out the BCS rankings, which have unbeaten Oregon No. 1 and unbeaten Auburn No. 2.
The Tigers have beaten four teams currently ranked in the BCS top 25. Oregon has beaten one.
Auburn's FBS opponents have a 59-43 record. Oregon's are 39-50.
The Tigers have beaten five FBS opponents with winning records. The Ducks have beaten two.
Give Oregon plenty of credit for style points. But based on what the teams have accomplished, Auburn is more deserving of a No. 1 ranking.
The inspirational advantage from that is minimal compared to how the Tigers have been might be impacted by the criticism heaped upon their star quarterback. Just a few weeks ago, he was the subject of one feel-good-story after another, most of which focused on his circuitous route from college football obscurity to Heisman favorite.
Then, he was implicated in a story that said an agent tried to get money for him to attend Mississippi State. Next, a source-driven story said he committed academic fraud at Florida. Finally, there have been more stories alleging that Newton's father was shopping him to the highest bidder. The sheer volume of the yet-to-be-proven allegations have created enough smoke to influence some Heisman voters to look elsewhere for a candidate.
How's that for a lack of respect?
There's also history to consider. Six years ago, an unbeaten Auburn team didn't even get a chance to play for the national title. Just another reminder for the Tigers to feel as though the world is out to get them.
They still have plenty of work to do. They must beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Thanksgiving weekend and beat South Carolina a week later in the SEC championship game to reach the national championship game.
They might not be good enough to pull it off. But they won't lack for motivation.
John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at htpp://twitter.com/Johnadamskns.