CFN's Final Thoughts - Before The BCS Champ.
Oregon LB Casey Matthews & Auburn RB Michael Dyer
Oregon LB Casey Matthews & Auburn RB Michael Dyer
Posted Jan 10, 2011

Happy BCS Championship Day! After weeks of speculation, and an entire bowl season to get through, now the national title is finally on the line when Casey Matthews and Oregon try to stop Michael Dyer and Auburn. The CFN writers give their final thoughts on what to look for, what should happen, what it all means and more.

Final Thoughts 

Before The BCS Champ.

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- BCS Championship Preview - Auburn vs. Oregon

E-mail Pete Fiutak
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It's not fair that these two teams haven't played in over a month. It's insane to think that either of these two are the exact same teams they were in late November. Some will argue that the time off allows everyone to heal up and get healthy. I'd rather have a battle-shape team that's in sync.

This is the case every year in the buildup before the national title; the two teams are made out to be more unbeatable than they really were. Remember, Clemson missed a field goal that would've forced a second overtime in the war against Auburn, while Cal gagged away a win over Oregon with an illegal procedure call on Giorgio Tavecchio, stutter-stepped before hitting a 24-yard field goal, and then missed the retry.

It's this simple. If defensive tackles Nick Fairley and Zach Clayton are huffing and puffing in the first quarter, it's uh-oh time for Auburn.

It's this simple. If the smallish defensive front is getting flattened early, and Cam Newton and Michael Dyer are pounding away up the middle, it's uh-oh time for Oregon.

An Oregon win would be the best thing for college football. It would show that yes, really, someone other than USC can play football on the Left Coast.

After all the nonsensical whining from TCU, Nevada, and other non-BCS programs about how they tried to win one for the "Little Guy," in a different sort of way, that's what Oregon is trying to do for all non-SEC schools intimidated by the SEC brand name. The SEC doesn't lose BCS Championships.

Another SEC win further cements the conference as the only one that truly matters. If Auburn wins in a walk, then for the foreseeable future it'll be impossible to argue against the idea that the SEC Champion deserves to play for the national title no matter what its record is.

Oregon fans, enjoy this. You might be getting the entire offensive backfield back, but the the receivers might be an issue and the defensive front seven will be gutted just enough to prevent any dreams of going to New Orleans on January 9, 2012.

Starting the year off against LSU won't help the cause.

Starting the year off against LSU with Les Miles coaching in Ann Arbor won't help the cause.

Auburn fans, enjoy this. The running back situation will be special in 2012, but seven players will be gone off the defense, four starters on the offensive line are done, and $180,000 will be tip money for No. 2 in about four months.

Not helping the cause will be as brutal a four-week stretch as anyone in America will have to deal with: at South Carolina, at Arkansas, Florida, at LSU.

Throw in Mississippi State, at Clemson, at Georgia, and Alabama, and suddenly a January 2nd bowl doesn't seem so bad.

January 1st, 2012 is on a Sunday. Yes, college football fans, your big day will be the second day of the new year.

In case you care, the Rose and Sugar will be on the 2nd, the Orange will be on the 3rd, the Fiesta on the 4th, and the BCS Championship will be on the 9th.

Sorry. I know, they haven't kicked the ball off yet in Glendale and I'm doing bowl projections for 2012. Call it the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl glaze. I'm back now.

Don't be shocked if Auburn's performance has the exact same look and feel of Ohio State's 2010 Rose Bowl win over the Ducks.

It's been lost in the shuffle. How did Ohio State manage to hang on against the Hogs?

I'm 98% comfortable with the idea that Oregon and Auburn would beat TCU without a problem. I'm 89% comfortable with the idea that Auburn would beat Boise State. I'm 4% comfortable with the idea that Oregon would beat the Broncos.

One big key: Can Gene Chizik and the Auburn coaching staff get in the officials' heads when it comes to substitutions? If Oregon is worrying about the timing and the tempo, it'll get rattled.

Time makes everyone forget. The silence over the controversy surrounding Newton and his agent, Cecil, has been deafening.

Don't forget, JaMarcus Russell was supposedly weighing his NFL options before the 2007 Sugar Bowl. One huge performance against a miserable Notre Dame secondary, and Russell was the No. 1 overall pick. Vince Young supposedly couldn't throw at an NFL level (and still can't), but no one seemed to care after what he did to USC. The same could be true for Newton. If he has an above-average game and Auburn wins, watch Carolina take a really, really hard look at him with the top pick. Blaine Gabbert is the I Think We Can Win pick. Cam Newton is the I Want To Win Multiple Super Bowls shot for the stars.

I want to see if Oregon can slug Auburn in the mouth at any point. The finesse attack needs to at least threaten that it can work up the middle from time to time, and I don't think it can.

While I've been saying from well before the matchup was even announced that I think Auburn's will win in a walk, strike that if Darron Thomas has the game of his life. What have we learned from the BCS Championships? Running backs don't really make the difference; it comes down to which quarterback owns the game. Thomas, the Auburn secondary is there for the picking. Make it happen.

Oregon can play a perfect game. LaMichael James can get rolling, the points can be flying on the board, and the tempo can be exactly the way Chip Kelly wants it, and none of it will matter if Cam is Cam.

While this will be Auburn and Newton's game, everyone will be talking about Oregon LB Casey Matthews on Tuesday.

Considering his first name, Chip Kelly's agent has to be fired if there isn't some endorsement deal on the table with the Tostitos people.

Gene Chizik, national championship head coach. Iowa State fans are right to ask for their money back.

However, there hasn't been much screaming from Charles Barkley about Turner Gill lately.

Auburn 38, Oregon 26.

By Richard Cirminiello

In an evenly-matched game, always go with the team that has the one transcendent figure, in this case Auburn QB Cam Newton. Think Vince Young in the 2006 Rose Bowl in terms of a player's ability to elevate a team to a higher level.

Whether it's on defense or special teams, Oregon CB Cliff Harris will make at least one spectacular play ... and at least one head-scratching blunder.

Why would Oregon QB Darron Thomas taunt Auburn DT Nick Fairley by suggesting he's a dirty player? If he truly believes he bends the rules in an attempt to dish out more pain, wouldn't that be the last guy you'd want to taunt?

With Fairley commanding so much attention, it'll be up to DE Antoine Carter and DT Zach Clayton to generate pressure against a terrific veteran Oregon offensive line. If unsuccessful, Thomas could have just enough time to carve up an average Tiger secondary.

Cecil Newton, Cam's father, will be in attendance Monday night. Does he go incognito to avoid the inevitable derision and taunts of fans, or does he draw more attention by wearing the No. 2 Auburn jersey? I'm guessing the latter.

This game was already won or lost in December, when both teams' conditioning either slipped or improved. Particularly with Auburn, if it got lax in this area in any way, it'll get destroyed by the frenetic pace and tempo of the Oregon offense.

The lateral speed of the Oregon D versus Auburn's skill position quickness will be one of the most fascinating games-within-the-game. It'll be fun watching those Duck linebackers and safeties chasing down Tiger backs Onterio McCalebb and Michael Dyer.

While hardly without flaws, don't sleep on Ted Roof's Auburn defense, which was at its best over the last seven quarters versus Alabama and South Carolina. Plus, it's hard to forget how pedestrian the Oregon attack looked in last year's Rose Bowl, when Ohio State had a month to prepare for it.

If Auburn wins on Monday night, the SEC will have claimed the last five national championships. Equally impressive is that it would have been captured by four different programs.

It could be a huge night for Oregon WR Jeff Maehl. He's one of the most polished and underrated receivers in America, and Auburn has been consistently soft in coverage this season. For that matter, sticky-fingered TE David Paulson should be a threat as well.

It's been so long now, it's easy to forget that Oregon has gotten to this point despite losing star QB Jeremiah Masoli before the season even began. Given a little time, Chip Kelly is so good, he could coach you into All-Pac-10 honorable mention.

Admit it. As much as you would have like to have seen chaos and dissention in the BCS system, getting these two high-octane programs on the same field will be worth a lack of controversy.

Somewhere pioneering QB Doug Williams is smiling. For just the second time—the 2007 game being the other—in the 13-year history of the BCS, both starting quarterbacks of the title game are of African-American descent.

By Matt Zemek

- This is a game that, due to the creativity and aggressiveness of the offensive gurus involved, will not acquire a typical set of tension points. So many of the things that normally decide football fistfights might very well loom large on Monday night in suburban Phoenix, but if they do, they won't enter into the fray in a typical way. Sure, turnovers could be important, but only if they're committed at the wrong places on the field or at times when the competitive balance is fragile. Time of possession is an overrated metric in football, but it could matter at University of Phoenix Stadium… if, that is, it wears down an opposing defense in tandem with the clever use of (non-)substitutions. Field position definitely won't matter. The line of scrimmage could become a factor, but only if Auburn takes a multi-possession lead into the second half and attains a position of strength. Lots of normal game keys in football could definitely surface over the course of 60 scoreboard-clock minutes (and the four hours this game is likely to take), but certain confluences of factors will need to unlock their relevance.

-In a big game, pay attention to the less-heralded players and units. In other words, focus more on Darron Thomas than Cam Newton. Focus more on Auburn's defense than its offense. Focus more on the Ducks' receivers than their running backs. Wherever you think the epicenter of this game is located, shift it a few degrees, and you might be surprised at what you find.

-Remember, too, the primacy and centrality of a Mark Bradley moment, a split-second occurrence that radically changes the tone, tenor and trajectory of a title tilt. Bradley's fumbled punt altered the course of the 2005 Orange Bowl between Oklahoma and USC, much as Reggie Bush's misguided lateral changed the early flow of the 2006 Rose Bowl between USC and Texas. Brian Robiskie's dropped touchdown pass changed the 2008 BCS National Championship Game between Ohio State and LSU. And so it goes. Who will make the big blunder that sabotages the confidence of a whole sideline, an entire football family?

-One hyped confrontation that will indeed become as important as all pundits are leading you to believe: Second-half stamina. The team that grinds down the other is likely to be the team that prevails. A 10-point halftime lead won't mean much; only a 17-point lead or more will serve as cause for alarm on the part of the trailing team.

-You might have read this before, but be reminded: This is the first time in 57 BCS bowls that the SEC and Pac-10 will meet on the field. Finally.

-Oregon's offense seemed to wear down more than Auburn's did near the end of the regular season. Will the Ducks' freshness turn into a top-shelf performance, or will Oregon be blunted by the 37-day layoff following its most recent game (on Dec. 4)? That could be the question that matters most in the desert.

By Barrett Sallee

For 37 days now, all you've heard is "shootout, shootout, shootout." If that's what you're expecting, you will be disappointed. The showdown for the crystal football in Glendale between Auburn and Oregon will not be the track meet that many are expecting.

These two offenses like to play fast; but if Auburn wants to win, the Tigers need to play ball control football and keep the ball out of the hands of LaMichael James, Darron Thomas and Co. – and they have the personnel to do it.

Auburn's offensive line outweighs Oregon's defensive line by an average of 60 pounds per player, so if Auburn's easiest avenue to success is to run it right at the Duck defense. By controlling the line of scrimmage and the clock, Auburn will take Oregon's best weapon – tempo – out of the game. A lot has been made of Newton's size advantage over the majority of the Duck defense, and taking him out of the game will be job No. 1 for Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. That's easier said than done. Newton's the Heisman Trophy winner for a reason, and he will dictate the tempo of the game, not Oregon.

It won't be all Newton though. Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb are big parts of this Auburn offense, and both of them will play major roles in a more conservative Auburn offense on Monday night. Instead of trying to build a lead quickly, expect Auburn to grind it out early with Newton, Dyer and McCalebb until the Ducks prove that they can consistently stop it.

I don't think they can.

Auburn's defense better be ready to run, because the Ducks are going to hit the edges. The strength of Auburn's defense is up the middle with defensive tackles Nick Fairley and Zach Clayton, and linebacker Josh Bynes, but Oregon can negate its size disadvantage by attacking the edges and wearing out the larger Tiger defenders. If Oregon can consistently get the edge, then this game may turn out to be a shootout and Auburn will be forced to expand the playbook. Stops will be gold in this game, and if Auburn can get three or four, that will be enough to get the win – especially if the Tigers controls the ball.

The long layoff will definitely have an impact on this game, especially early. It will be interesting to see how both offenses work back into game speed. Whichever team does it first may be the one that walks out of University of Phoenix Stadium with the crystal football. I give the advantage to Auburn in that department. As we saw in the game-winning drive against Kentucky, "Cam left, Cam right" is a pretty effective game plan, and Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzhan will use that to his advantage to knock the rust off early in this game.

Once again, the BCS has accomplished its primary job by matching the nation's top two teams in a national championship game. While this one may not be the shootout that people are expecting, I think it will be one of the most compelling championship games of the BCS era.