BCS Championship Game Preview

Some games you get a feel for .  Some games are tough to get a good read on.  Some people in the media, I think because fans, readers, listeners, etc, expect it, take a passionate stand on one side or the other in every game.

Not me.  Not for this one.  I’d love to tell you definitavly that Auburn will crush Oregon and bring another title to the mighty SEC.  I’d love to tell you that the Ducks blur offense will leave the Tigers with blurred vision as they leave them in their wake on their way to victory.  I just can’t.

The SEC has won four title in a row.  But they’ve done that with dominant defensive teams.  Florida, LSU, Florida, and Alabama were all loaded on the defensive side.  You absolutely cannot say that about Auburn.  So to me, talking about history serves no purpose.  Auburn is a difference beast from the east.  They are carried on offense by Cam Newton who is finishing one of the greatest seasons in college football history.  The defense has some talent, no question, but they rank 54th nationally in scoring defense.  They are much better against the run than the pass, but some of that is circumstancial because when you are up in games, they are passing against you and not running, which was often the case this year against the Tigers.  On offense they can bump and grind 10 plays or hit you quick with good skill players that clearly benefit from the greatness of Cam Newton.  They don’t beat themselves, as only 9 teams turned it over fewer than the 15 times the Tigers did.  Their kicking game is good.

Oregon’s offense keeps chugging for 60 minutes.  They blew everyone out all year with exception of one game, at Cal.  Some of those blowouts happened quick, some took into the fourth quarter.  They are #1 in total offense and #1 in scoring offense.  They chunk teams for big gains, but will struggle if they are forced to methodically move the chains because they have small backs and a small ball kind of approach.  The defense is aggressive and finished 12th in scoring defense.  I would not consider them great however.  I do think their offense works against them at times, scoring so quickly that they endure more plays against them than most teams.  They do force a lot of turnovers, 35, which is 3rd in the nation.  Their kicking game is good.

Oregon started strong, but showed some chinks in the armor down the stretch.  Auburn struggled early, winning multiple close games, but finished in style with an incredible second half against Alabama and SEC Title Game against South Carolina.  If the two teams played on December 11, I think Auburn would have an edge.  But they are playing 5 weeks later, not 1 week.  Who knows what that does to each team.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating.  I think both these teams are great, but I am not 100% convinced they are the best two teams in the country.  I think TCU, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Stanford, and even Boise State could beat either one of them.  All 5 of those teams play better defense.  Auburn and Oregon might be the two scariest offensive teams to defend, and they get each other instead of a defense that has ruled the day in BCS Title Games of years past.  This year is definitely different.

Okay, I get it.  You want a pick.  So here it is:

I’ve seen plenty of both teams.  Here are the scenarios for both squads.

For Auburn to win, Cam Newton must continue to dominate.  He is bigger than 8/11 starters on the Ducks defense.  He will play smart, turnover-free, and pick up 3rd downs to keep the Ducks offense on the sidelines.  On defense, get penetration, and keep the Ducks behind the chains making the play calling more predictible.  Don’t let Jeff Maehl beat you when they pass.

For Oregon to win, Darren Thomas will be the star.  He’ll make the proper reads in handing it off and be a threat running because Auburn will want to take LaMichael James out of the game.  He must spread the ball around to his recievers and hit the big play when it is there.  On defense, tackle, tackle, tackle.  You cannot give up yards after contact to Newton or the Tigers runners.  Don’t give up easy touchdowns off play action which makes things easy for Newton.

Finally, I see both Newton and Thomas being stars in Glendale.  Strength of schedule oddly favors Oregon even though Auburn (9) played more bowl eligible teams than the Ducks (6).  They did play South Carolina twice, and one more game total (SEC Title Game).  Oregon played the best opponent (Stanford), but Auburn played more real good teams (Arkansas, LSU, Alabama).  By my calculations, Auburn deserves to be ranked first, but they had to work harder for it.  The Tigers won 6 close games, but two of those were against mediocre teams (Clemson, Kentucky).

The Ducks played one close game all year.  Cal held them to 15 points.  Their next lowest point total?  37.  In that game they turned it over, missed two field goals, and had 8 penalties.  I watched the whole game.  They just couldn’t get any mojo, but their defense played well after giving up an early score.  So, to me, that was the fluky game of the year for them.  They will score plenty of points.

Oregon NEVER trailed in the 4th quarter this season.  Auburn lived on the edge all year.  So, I think Auburn has to get the lead, and play with it.  Coming back is something the Tigers have done, but Oregon is a different animal.  They don’t take their foot off the accelerator.  Ultimately, I think Oregon will continue scoring, and do too much of it for the Tigers.