So, who gets the credit for this one? Cam Newton, who generated 330 yards of total offense but threw "only" two touchdowns? The defense that held Oregon to fewer yards than all but three opponents and fewer points than all but one? Wes Byrum, who kicked the game-winning field goal to clinch the Tigers' first national title in 53 years and the SEC's fifth in a row? Or another player whose contribution we've forgotten?
Maybe it's the wrong question. For a team that was supposed to be all about one player, it took just about everyone on the roster to win the crystal football Monday. The offense churned out 520 yards but only got 22 points. No problem; the defense would hold Oregon to a relatively low 455 yards and shut down the Ducks' running game in allowing just 19 points. And when that defense finally snapped and allowed Oregon to tie things up, Byrum came up with the clutch kick.
The defense got the play that swung the momentum when Mike Blanc tackled LaMichael James for a safety with Oregon leading by four late in the second quarter. From there, the Tigers quickly took the lead and never trailed for the rest of the game -- due in no small part to a more than 38-minute shutout from the defense. No one can say that Gus Malzahn won this national championship on his own. No one did. Auburn would sink or soar on the entire team's merits Monday night -- and when the time came to decide which one it was, they soared.
Of course, there are still the lingering questions from an NCAA investigation that is by all accounts still active. Because of that, there will be some fans that will wait to see how much stock to put into Auburn's latest title, and some who never view it as an honest accomplishment.
That's your right, and Auburn fans will likely follow their right to ignore you. No, the Tigers wouldn't have made it to Glendale without Cam Newton, but they ended up needing more players than one to win the title. At least in that respect, no one can argue with the notion that Auburn won the national championship the way that any team should.