#2 Oregon Duck (12-0) vs. #1 Auburn Tigers (13-0) (-3) 73.5 o/u
The BCS National Championship game Monday night pits two of the nation’s top offenses, the Oregon Ducks and the Auburn Tigers against one another. Oregon will be playing for their first National Championship and Auburn their first since 1957.
In a collaborative post from Sportsglutton and Sportsgrinder, we’ll breakdown the National Championship game by position, explain which team has the advantage, and share our picks.
Oregon: Darron Thomas (So.) has looked incredibly poised for a first year starter, completing 60.7% of his throws for 2,518 yards and 28 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Thomas also compiled 492 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Critics have argued that he is the beneficiary of an incredible offensive scheme, but Thomas has performed his best when the Ducks have needed him most. Most notably the quarterback led Oregon to a comeback victory from 17 points down to Stanford.
Auburn: Arguably the best player in college football Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton (Jr.) has shown the ability to defeat teams both rushing and passing the ball. The junior quarterback has been incredibly consistent this season, performing well against the weaknesses of the opposing defense. Of particular interest for this game, in five games against teams with top 30 rushing defenses (Oregon ranks 15th), Newton averaged only 67 yards per game (his season average is 108.4). However, in those games Newton threw for over 209 yards per game, had 13 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, along with 6 rushing touchdowns. Oregon will have to choice whether to contain Newton’s rushing or passing attack.
Advantage: Both quarterbacks have the potential to have big games, but we give the edge to Auburn for Newton’s for his ability to take advantages of opposing defenses weaknesses.
The Running Backs
Oregon: The Heisman finalist, LaMichael James (So.) led the nation with 1,682 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. He is a threat to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball and is the most important player in the Ducks offense. James’ game breaking ability should open up the Oregon passing game, giving Thomas some shots down the field. Additionally, look for Chip Kelly to get Kenjon Barner (So.)some touches as well. He averaged 8.9 YPC in the Ducks season finale win against Oregon State.
Auburn: Auburn’s three headed rushing monster that is Cam Newton, Michael Dyer (Fr.), and Onterio McCalebb (So.) have rushed for 3122 yards and 34 touchdowns and unbelievably the Tigers are only ranked 5th in the nation rushing. Even though Newton might be neutralized by the Oregon rushing defense, don’t be surprised if Dyer and McCalebb have a big day. In games where Newton has been held to 73 yards or less rushing, Dyer and McCalebb have averaged over 145 rushing yards combined. With Oregon’s focus on Cam Newton, these two running backs might just be the surprise playmakers of the game.
Advantage: LaMichael James is a special talent at running back, but at the very least the Auburn trio counter Oregon’s advantage here. We’ll call this a draw.
The Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Oregon: The Ducks receiving corps could be the key to the game due to Auburn’s inability to contain the pass (99th in the nation). This is an experienced group led by Jeff Maehl (Sr.) who led the team with 12 touchdown receptions this year. Pay close attention to the down fielding blocking by Oregon receivers. They compliment each other on short screens, and provide excellent blocking when LaMichael James has the ball.
Auburn: The Auburn wide receiving trio of Davin Adams (Jr.), Terrell Zachery (Sr.), and Emory Blake (So.) has provided solid targets for Cam Newton this season. Even though Adams is coming off his best game of the season against South Carolina catching seven passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns, don’t expect any Auburn receiver to have a huge day. However, pay attention in the red zone to tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen (So.) who has five touchdowns this season, three of which were in big games against Georgia and Alabama.
Advantage: Neither team has a receiving corps which stands out, but we’ll give the slight edge to Oregon for their receivers’ ability to executed complex passing routes and provide downfield blocking.
The Offensive Lines
Oregon: When you run a high octane offense like the Ducks do, you must have an athletic offensive line. The Ducks spread-option calls for their linemen to be well conditioned, and be able to read certain defensive adjustments. This group might not be the biggest, but they are arguably the best overall unit in the nation and helped the 4th ranked Oregon rushing offense average 303.8 yards a game.
Auburn: The Tigers offensive line is composed of four seniors and one junior with a hefty average weight of over 304 pounds. Although the line has given up 2.5 sacks per game this year, they’re perhaps the primary reason that Auburn has run the ball so effectively this year.
Advantage: Although these are two completely different offensive lines we give the edge to Auburn due to their physicality and experience.
Oregon: Oregon’s rushing defense allowed only 117.6 yards per game and 3.33 yards per carry. The Ducks need to have someone apply pressure to Newton on a constant basis to keep the Auburn quarterback in check. Look for defensive end Kenny Rowe (Sr.) to be that individual (led the team with 6 sacks). Additionally, the Ducks boast two big time playmakers in the secondary(sophomores Cliff Harris and John Boyett) who accounted for 10 interceptions this season. If either of these corners can interception Newton at least once, it should be a game changing moment.
Auburn: The weakest link in for Auburn is their pass defense which is allowing over 250 yards per game through the air. However, their 10th ranked rushing defense should poise a challenge to Oregon’s potent rushing offense which averages 303.8 yards per game. The Tigers will rely on their defensive leader and playmaker defensive lineman Nick Fairley (Jr.) to shutdown the Ducks inside running game and pressure quarterback Darron Thomas. Although the Tigers pass defense has been continually exposed this season, the defense unit as a whole has shown resiliency and the ability to make timely stops and big plays.
Advantage: Auburn has the advantage on the defensive line and Oregon’s secondary is vastly superior. We’ll call it a draw here only because of the resiliency Auburn’s defense has shown.
Oregon: Jackson Rice (So.) is a strong punter averaging 43.1 per punt. I don’t like that senior kicker Rob Beard has only attempted 12 field goals this season (9/12). I would imagine that Kelly will try to stay out of field goal situations on Monday night, if at all possible. Cliff Harris is the premier punt returner in the nation. He leads the nation with four returns for touchdowns on punt returns (19.5 yards per punt return) and might be a difference maker in this game.
Auburn: The Tigers are terrible at both punting and returning punts. However, senior kick returner Demond Washington ranks 5th in the nation in return yards and should provide the Tigers good starting field position. Senior kicker Wes Byrum has been fairly solid this year making 15-20 field goals. Strangely though Byrum is only 62% from field goals of 30-39 yards, so don’t be surprised if the kicker misses one from this range.
Advantage: We’ll give the edge to Oregon here as Auburn’s punting unit is simply atrocious and could cause some major headaches for the Tigers.
Sportsglutton’s: It’s hard to imagine that this game won’t be a shootout, but Auburn has played tight “lower” scoring games this year against similar defenses. The Tigers may not always be perfect, but they have shown the ability to win difficult games with their offense and defense. I expect Auburn to win the time of possession, keeping the Oregon offense off the field and for their defense to make a few key plays.
Auburn wins, take Auburn minus 3 and the under
Sportsgrinder’s: Although it’s hard to give either team a definitive advantage over the other, I believe that Oregon’s quick dynamic offense will be able to take advantage of the porous Auburn passing defense. I also expect the Ducks’ cornerbacks Cliff Harris and John Boyett to have at least one interception, changing the momentum in a high scoring game.
Ducks win, take the Ducks plus 3 and the over