2011 BCS Champ. - UO vs. AU
Players, How to Win, & Pick
By Pete Fiutak
CFN 2011 BCS CHAMPIONSHIP POSITION BREAKDOWN
Running Backs |
Defensive Lines |
Special Teams |
Championship Preview - Auburn vs. Oregon
Players to Watch: Everything about Cam Newton is unprecedented. Sure, there have been 6-6, 250-pound quarterbacks, but they didn't run for 1,409 yards and 20 touchdowns. Sure, mobile quarterbacks are a dime a dozen, but they don't lead the nation in passing efficiency and throw for 28 touchdowns and just nine picks. Newton is so slippery, he appears to be gliding down the field, and all of a sudden he cranked out a 16-yard run. He's so big and so strong, he's able to be Ben Roethilsberger and hold on to the ball for two days before having to get rid of it. Forget sacking him with just one player. Even the controversies have never been seen before, with the history writers sure to remember the NCAA ruling that kept him eligible and the precedent it set as much as for what he did on the field. The 2010 Heisman winner is the star of stars in Glendale. This is his game and this is supposed to be his moment when he cements his place as one of the greatest college football quarterbacks of all-time. Newton might have had a phenomenal year, but Sam Bradford had an all-timer of a 2008 and he didn't get a title.
If there national title was against anyone else but Cam Newton and Auburn, LaMichael James would be the star of the show. The 2010 Doak Walker winner has already announced that he's coming back for another year, and but first he has to carry the Oregon offense. Newton will be the focal point for Auburn, but considering the stars in the backfield and the good receivers to work with, he doesn't necessarily have to do as much as James will. The 5-9, 185-pound speedster who came within an eyelash of going to TCU, is a tough, pounding workhorse as well as a flash of lightning on the outside, carrying the ball 281 times this year with 25 carries or more in eight of the last nine games. While he has nice hands, he's not used as a receiver with just 13 catches on the year; his job is to bust off the big play to take the will away from the defense. Not counting the suspension served against a miserable New Mexico team, it's no coincidence that the two times this year James failed to run for 100 yards – the 42-31 win over Arizona State and the 15-13 win over Cal – were the team's two closes calls.
Newton might have been a surprise superstar, but Auburn DT Nick Fairley's emergence has been an even bigger shocker. He was good as a junior, making 28 tackles with 1.5 sacks, but even though he was seen as a promising interior pass rusher, being a Lombardi winner wasn't in anyone's plans. The line desperately needed a star to build around, and that became Fairley from the start as he became an unstoppable force in the backfield with an SEC-leading 21 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. Active, he also made 55 tackles as a key to the run defense, while always seeming to come up with the big play at the big times with two sacks against both Alabama and LSU, while blowing up the Tiger offense with six tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. The 6-5, 298-pound junior is a lock to be one of the top ten players picked in the 2011 NFL Draft, assuming he's coming out, and one more big game on the national stage could cement him in the top three.
Oregon will win if ... the Auburn defensive linemen are huffing and puffing in the first half. It's not like Oregon is bad in the first quarter, scoring 120 points, but the offense tends to rock as the game goes on and after the defenses start to tire a bit. Even when things don't go smoothly, like in the Tennessee and Stanford games, eventually, the Duck offense will get its one little seam, its one little break, and James is gone and the floodgates will open. It would be one thing if this game was played in early November, but even though Auburn has had a month to prepare, it has also been a long, long time since Fairley and the big Tiger defensive front have seen game action. Some teams like the time off to rest up and heal, but in this case, conditioning could be a major issue against an Oregon offense that likes to move at warp speed.
Darron Thomas has to be hot early. The Tiger secondary can be thrown on, and if Thomas can keep his cool on the move in the face of the aggressive pass rush, and if he can wait just a half-click extra for his magnificent receiver, Jeff Maehl, to work his way open, the big plays through the air will be there. The Ducks are known for their ability to run the ball at will, but the passing game is also among the most efficient in the nation, and the balance should keep the tiring Tiger defense on its heels.
The Duck defense has get to Newton and the Auburn running game before it can get started. If Newton gets time to work, or a head of steam, forget about it. Oregon is 18th in the nation in sacks and seventh in tackles for loss, and the Auburn offensive line isn't exactly a brick wall. Newton is strong enough to bounce off tacklers, so the Ducks will have to take a few big chances to get several players swarming around the Heisman winner.
Auburn will win if ... it becomes Wisconsin. At least, the Wisconsin that decided to run the ball with power on its first drive and its last. Oregon isn't exactly TCU size-wise, but it's not all that far off with all the linebackers smaller than Newton and with 270-pound defensive tackles who'll have to hold up against the beefy Auburn offensive front. The Tigers O line doesn't have the bulk of the Badger offensive front, and it's nowhere near as good, but the offense could take over this game at times by simply lining up and powering the ball. Oregon wants to wear down with Auburn with speed, but the Tigers can tire out the Ducks with power.
Defensively, Nick Fairley and Zach Clayton need to dominate on the inside. Oregon has seen a few decent defensive tackles, including Oregon State's Stephen Paea, but its running game has sputtered a bit against some of the better defensive fronts. The offense worked against Stanford, but it didn't against Cal and needed a while to get going against Tennessee. If Fairley and Clayton can keep James from running up the middle on a regular basis, then the quick, disciplined linebackers should be able to clean things up on the outside.
Oregon can play extremely well and the offense can work, but if Cam Newton goes off, it's over. Newton has handled the pressure all year and has been a brilliant decision maker, and now he'll have to be even more careful than ever. The Duck secondary is great at swarming around the ball and changing games with big turnovers. Newton can't force anything that's not there and he can't take chances. He's bigger than most of the Duck defensive front seven, and he should be able to barrel for yards here and there when he's not able to get them in chunks.
What will happen: So what have we learned about the first 12 BCS championships?
1) The team that relies more on precision and timing tends to struggle after the long layoff. Whether it's the record-setting Oklahoma attack in the 2009 BCS Championship loss to Florida, or Florida State in the 2001 Orange Bowl against Oklahoma, or even Ohio State, whose passing game fizzled, along with everything else, in the 2007 loss to the Gators, the team with the
fewer moving parts tends to come out on top. Both teams are flashy, but Auburn can co Cam left, Cam right, Cam up the middle. Advantage Auburn.
2) Usually, defenses win championships when it comes to the national title. That doesn't really apply here, but Oregon's is better. Advantage Ducks. />
3) Running backs don't matter as much as quarterbacks. With the exception of the 2000 Sugar Bowl, when Michael Vick's Virginia Tech lost to Florida State, who had Chris Weinke, the team that gets the better quarterback play, wins. Advantage Auburn.
4) The SEC doesn't lose. Tennessee kicked it all off with a win over Florida State in the 1999, LSU beat Oklahoma in 2003, and it's been all SEC over the last four years. There have been 12 BCS Championships and six have been won by the SEC, going a perfect 6-0. You don't mess with a streak. Advantage Auburn.
Oregon's offense will move at times, but the problem with going as fast as the Duck offense does is that the three-and-outs come in a hiccup. Newton will overcome some early problems to get the ground game going, while the beef of the Tiger offensive front will slowly take over as the game goes on. Oregon will get a quick strike and a little momentum, and then let the coronation begin. SEC, it'll still be your world, and we're all just taking up space.
CFN Prediction: Auburn 38 … Oregon 26 ... Line: Auburn -2.5
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BCS Championship Game History
2010 Alabama 37, Texas 21
2009 Florida 24, Oklahoma 14
2008 LSU 38, Ohio State 24
2007 Florida 41, Ohio State 14
Pick ATS: Auburn
Confidence Score: 164
OVERALL CONFIDENCE (35 most - 1 least): 34 out of 35
Pete Fiutak: Pick ATS - Auburn
Pick Confidence -
- The world will focus on the offenses, but the two teams got here by also showing up every week against the run. Auburn and the defensive front will finally, FINALLY provide real test for a Duck ground game that struggled with ... Cal? Oregon has a fast, aggressive defense that should be able to keep Cam Newton neutralized, at least somewhat, but this will end up being about each team's running game. The both have similar styles, with Auburn using more power and Oregon more about speed and tempo, and whichever ground game is more effective should walk away with the national title.
Richard Cirminiello: Pick ATS -
Auburn Pick Confidence -
- Conditioning will be huge in a game involving two up-tempo teams, so this one might be won between now and Jan. 10. Some kids are prone to getting out of shape this time of year. Neither of these two staffs can allow that to happen in December.
Matt Zemek: Pick ATS - Auburn Pick Confidence -
- It's about time the SEC and the Pac-10 played in a BCS bowl. Auburn should be favored, and I'm picking Auburn to win, but do keep in mind that No. 2 often rises up in the BCS Championship Game. The No. 2 team wears a chip on its shoulder while No. 1 reads too many press clippings. Right, Florida and Ohio State? That game was played in Glendale. Where's this game? Oh, yeah, right.
Russ Mitchell: Pick ATS - Auburn Pick Confidence -
- What all of us wanted for the holiday season. We believe that champions are forged during the season, and if so, Auburn has clearly played a tougher slate of games. Oregon's a bit of a trick offense – and given more than a month to prepare, we believe Chizik, Roof and Malzhan will be ready. Still, Oregon's performance in the second half of ballgames has been staggering, though that's more easily accomplished against weaker competition. Oregon's offense is predicated on defenses struggling to keep up with LaMichael James, which then opens up the passing game. But if the Ducks are losing in the second half, is the running game as much of a threat?
Barrett Sallee: Pick ATS - Auburn Pick Confidence -
- Criticize the BCS if you will, but its primary job is to match the nation's best two teams in the national championship game. It has achieved its goal in 2010. Get your popcorn ready, but take the under. It won't be a the track meet that some are expecting.
Gabe Harris: Pick ATS - Auburn Pick Confidence -
Brian Harbach: Pick ATS - Auburn Pick Confidence -
Matthew Smith: Pick ATS - Oregon Pick Confidence -
Billy Gomila: Pick ATS - Oregon Pick Confidence
Clucko (A coin flip): Pick ATS - Auburn Pick Confidence