SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On Why Auburn Wins
What's in a name
What's in a name
Posted Jan 7, 2011

CFN's SEC Bloggers give you five different perspectives on why Auburn wins the conference's fifth straight BCS National Championship. Shocked, aren't you.

Barrett Sallee: On offense

One number: 60. As in, Auburn's offensive line outweighs Oregon's defensive line by an average of 60 pounds per player.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Auburn knows that the best way to negate Oregon's high-octane offense, which is designed to wear out opposing defenses, is to keep it off the field.

So the simple solution rests up front. Auburn will play old school smashmouth football, control the line of scrimmage and the clock, and wear down the Duck defense. That will keep LaMichael James and Co. off the field and open up big play options later in the game, should the Tigers need them.

It's against the grain and not typically how Gus Malzahn likes to run his offense, but in this particular situation against this particular team, it's the way Auburn will get the win.

This will not be the track meet that many are predicting. Not by any stretch.

Gabe Harris: On defense

Defense wins championships. Isn't that what we've been told all these years? The 2010 season seems to state otherwise, with two of the most dynamic offenses in recent memory facing off for the BCS championship.

Yet these offenses are exactly why defense wins championships. The team whose defense, not offense, makes the most plays Monday will win this game, and that is where Auburn has the edge. Even though the stats don't show it, Auburn has made the defensive plays when it counted over and over, and because of that has gotten stronger as the season progressed.

Auburn's secondary has been the weak link all year, but has gotten better with each game. It has consistently struggled with big, physical receivers who excel in creating mismatches. Oregon doesn't have those. What they do have is a very smart and deep corps that thrives on the big play. It is imperative for the AU defensive line to create pressure on Darron Thomas before the Ducks WRs have a chance to get deep into their routes.

The Tiger linebackers are experienced and deeper than they have been in the past two years. What they lack in great sideline to sideline speed they more than make up for in physicality and smarts. There is no better leader than middle linebacker and senior Josh Bynes. Craig Stevens is unsung but an important part of this defense. Eltoro Freeman and the other young linebackers need to stick to their assignments and tackle well. If LaMichael James can get into the secondary, it will be a long day for Auburn.

Auburn's strongest position is defensive line. The Tigers have controlled the line of scrimmage in every game this season, and this one won't be any different. Oregon is a run first team, which plays into Auburn's strength. Most importantly, the Ducks have not seen a line with the size and speed they will face Monday night, and that will be the difference in this game. Nick Fairley and company have lived in the backfield all year long, and come Monday night the Oregon Ducks will see why. Up close.

Billy Gomila: On special teams

The punting game could actually be the most intriguing matchup on Monday night. That is, IF either team punts -- Auburn's only done it 13 times the entire season. Oregon even less (12).

However, the Ducks do average 18 yards per return as a team, and scored five touchdowns this season on punt returns. Meanwhile, Auburn's coverage units have only allowed five yards per return. Something has to give.

It will be interesting to see what sort of margin for error there will be should Oregon's Cliff Harris (who has four of those return touchdowns and led the nation with a 19.4-yard average), gets a solid pitch to hit.

Both teams field strong kickoff teams, though Auburn's had a few issues in coverage, with nine returns of 30 yards or more allowed this season. Given that we should be in for a high-scoring game, that could be a factor, especially with Kenjon Barner returning kicks for Oregon. Demond Washington is solid for the Tigers, but Oregon allows just 19 yards per return despite an astounding 90 kickoffs on the season.

Neither team has an amazing kicker, but when you can score touchdowns this easily, it doesn't matter so much. That being said, Auburn's Wes Byrum has made a couple of clutch kicks in his career, and gets the slight nod.

Brian Harbach: On Oregon

Most SEC fans don't respect Pac 10 football. They see a top heavy conference (four bowl teams) that feasts on its weaker league opponents and then gets smoked out of conference. "USC and everyone else" is essentially what the Pac 10 was for nearly a decade. However, assuming Auburn is going to stroll into Glendale, show Oregon their SEC Championship rings and watch the Ducks cower in fear is ridiculous.

Yes, Oregon is a system offense, but a system offense that works. They don't run a lot of plays, they don't have a ton of different formations, but they can run any of their plays from any of their formations making them very hard to defend.

Quarterback Darron Thomas is an accurate passer; he has as many touchdown passes as Cameron Newton, Auburn fans. The running backs, Kenjon Barner and LaMichael James, may be clones of each other, but they don't dance… they are quick north and south runners.

The guys catching Thomas' passes are good but not necessarily elite; the tight ends have good hands but are better suited for blocking, and Jeff Maehl should remind SEC fans of former Kentucky wide receiver Derek Abney. Obviously the offense runs at a very fast clip, but it is valid to question whether a month of preparation for an offense that is fast but simplistic is overkill for Oregon. The instrument can be over-strung.

The Duck defense is fast but not necessarily big. The front seven really got roughed up by a Tennessee team in the second game of the season. The Vols were able to overpower the Oregon defensive line, running right over them with one of the worst offensive lines in the SEC. Fortunately for Oregon, Tennessee didn't have enough depth. Auburn doesn't have that problem.

If the first word that comes to mind about Oregon's D is fast, the second would be opportunistic. They force a lot of turnovers; most in the second half. 23 of the Ducks' 37 turnovers have come in the second half, when teams were struggling to catch up. If Oregon can get a lead on Auburn, its defense has been able to make plays in the second half all year and it could very well happen again next week. But it'll have to be a big enough lead to take Auburn out of its game plan – and that's unlikely.

In order for Oregon to leave Glendale victorious, it will need a great effort from its defensive line, great tackling from its linebackers and great success converting on third downs. That's a lot of great. It sounds simple, but these tasks are far easier to write than execute.

Oregon has earned the respect a national championship contender deserves, SEC fan. Auburn will not walk all over the Ducks… they will have to earn their crystal football.

Russ Mitchell: On numbers

Six. That's the number of times SEC teams have played for the national championship since the fatherless birth of the BCS. Ironically, it's also the exact same number of times the SEC has won the BCS national championship. 6-0.

Five. With this win, Auburn will become the fifth different SEC team to win a BCS national championship. Only one other conference has multiple winners. That conference? The Big 12, and it has only two: Oklahoma and Texas.

Four. What you call out when playing golf – ok, what I call out when playing golf. What does golf have to do with SEC football, you ask? It costs a lotta scratch to play golf, and the SEC has covered the spread in every single BCS championship in which it has participated. Auburn is favored on Monday. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Ahmad.

Three. Plus zero equals 30 (go with us on this one). That's about the total number of minutes (29 to be precise) that an SEC team has trailed in a BCS national championship game – combined. Six full games, and the SEC has trailed for less than a half.

Two. We offer to the championship football gods a coach named Gene. You send some guy named Chip. Chip? No way a guy named Chip should win the national football championship. Not even a BCS one. Too west coast.

One guess who comes out on top this Monday.

Please follow Russ Mitchell on Twitter @russmitchellsec, Brian Harbach @harbabd and Barrett Sallee @barrettsallee.