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January 10, 2011

College Football Bowl Picks - BCS National Championship Game:

Tostitos BCS National Championship Game

#1 Auburn (13-0) vs. #2 Oregon (12-0)

8:30 PM, ESPN, Monday, Jan. 10, Glendale, AZ

We’ve waited more than a month for tonight. Sat through the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl, the Rose Bowl, and 31 other bowls just to get to this point: The BCS National Championship has finally come. Quick, though, name the publications that had Oregon and Auburn matched in the big dance before the season. If you can’t, you’re not alone. The coaches, players and all around expectations at both universities exceeded anything beyond those on the Oregon and Auburn campuses could have hoped for. There’s not a doubt in anyone’s mind that the Ducks and Tigers are the best of the best, though. There are still some questions to be answered, however. Who is the best, within the best and who is going to become the undisputed 2010 college football National Champion?

Quarterback: Auburn clearly has the advantage at the quarterback position with Heisman winner Cameron Newton lining up under center. It’s actually not as big as a lead as most would think, however. Newton is without a doubt one of the games most exciting players. He’s a 6-foot-6 250 pound wrecking ball that runs like a deer. He also set an NCAA mark for season completion percentage with a 188.16 rating. Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas, also a first year starter, is no slouch, though. Thomas passed for over 2,500 yards and 28 scores, completing 60.7 percent of his passes. The edge has to go to the Heisman winner, though. Advantage: Auburn

Backfield: Auburn has a Heisman winner at quarterback, but Oregon has the Doak Walker Award winner at running back. LaMichael James is a scat-back by looks, power-back at heart. At just 5-foot-9, and under 200 pounds, one wouldn’t think most of James yards come through the tackles, but they do. He’s so fast and runs with such low pads that he’s a load to bring down, as he led the nation with 1,682 yards. Auburn packs a one-two-punch with true freshman Michael Dyer and sophomore Onterio McCalebb. Dyer finished second on the team in rushing with 950 yards, while McCalebb brought in 763 yards on an 8.6 average. Add in senior Mario Fannin to the mix, the best receiver, and you’ve got the more complete backfield. Advantage: Auburn

Receivers: The two teams are very evenly matched at the wideout position. Auburn brings three guys with size and speed to the position in Darvin Adams, Terrell Zachery and Emory Blake. Adams led the three in receptions and yards with 48 grabs for 909 yards. If they get beyond the secondary, Newton can always find them. All three averaged 15 yards or better per catch this season. Oregon gets things done a little different in the passing game. They have their No. 1 wideout in Jeff Maehl, but really spread the ball around otherwise. Maehl led the team with 68 catches for 943 yards, while also bringing in 12 scores. Good depth surrounds Maehl in D.J. Davis, Josh Huff and Lavasier Tuinei. At tight end, David Paulson has been credited with the best hands on the team, while bringing in 21 catches for 370 yards. Auburn H-Back Philip Lutzenkirchen has been a big-play weapon this season. Auburn brings the speed, but Oregon has the better all around unit. Advantage: Oregon

Offensive Line: The Auburn offense line wins the name battle. Left tackle Lee Ziemba was a consensus All-American this season for the Tigers, while center Ryan Pugh brought in All-SEC honors by the coaches. Guard Byron Isom has also become a household name. The group paved the way for the nation’s No. 5 rush offense, averaging 287 yards a game. The Ducks offensive line doesn’t exactly pass the name test to the casual fan. As a unit, however, there may not be any better line in the country. Tackle Bo Thran and center Jordan Holmes brought in All-PAC 10 honors, while other starters Carson York, C.E. Kaiser and Mark Asper have combined to bring in an offense line that has allowed the nations second lowest total of sacks given up, with just eight. Not many rushing offenses are better than Auburn, but Oregon is one of them, bringing in an average of 303.83 yards a game. Advantage: Oregon

Defensive Line: If Auburn's defensive line only featured defensive tackle Nick Fairley, they still might win this category. The consensus All-American and Lombardi Award winner has been an unblockable force in his junior season. Fairley brought in 21 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks, one shy of the Auburn mark. Defensive end Antoine Carter often doesn’t get the respect he deserves but he also made plays for Auburn, bringing in 10 tackles for a loss and 17 quarterback hurries. Oregon has a few playmakers of their own along the defensive front. Tackle Brandon Bair is a huge body at 6-foot-7 and led the team with 15.5 tackles for a loss. End Kenny Rowe led the team in sacks with six, while tackle Zac Clark acts as a big body inside for the Ducks. Advantage: Auburn

Linebackers: Oregon and Auburn both have a leader and playmaker at linebacker. For Auburn, it’s senior Jeff Bynes. Bynes led the team in tackles with 71, with 5.5 for a loss. He also drops well into coverage, bringing in three interceptions on the season. For Oregon, it’s Casey Matthews, who led the Ducks in tackles with 73, with 8.5 for a loss. Matthews makes plays all over the field for the Ducks, with three sacks, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries. The winner of the supporting cast of linebackers has to go to Oregon. Middle linebacker Spencer Paysinger, who finished second on the team with 68 stops, is an excellent blitzing linebacker, and outside linebacker Josh Kaddu adds solid run support. Auburn’s Craig Stevens is a phenomenal player, but I’d take the Oregon cast over the Tigers linebackers. Advantage: Oregon

Defensive Backs: The Tigers have a talented veteran secondary, the problem is, they haven’t played like it at times this season. With two seniors and two juniors in the backfield, Auburn brought in the nation’s No. 106 ranked pass defense this year, allowing an average of 250 yards a game. Safety Zac Etheridge, and corner Neiko Thorpe have been the most consistent players in the secondary, but it hasn’t been enough to keep opposing pass offenses at bay. While Auburn struggles in pass defense, Oregon thrives. Corner Cliff Harris picked up All-American honors this season, while leading the nation with 20 passes defended. Harris also tied with safety John Boyett for the team lead with five interceptions. Corner, Talmadge Jackson and safety Eddie Pleasant also contribute to the nation’s No. 6 pass efficiency defense. It’s not even close who takes the nod here. Advantage: Oregon

Special Teams: It’s hard to go against a kicker who’s got two game winners on the season and is 15-20 on the year in the Tigers Wes Byrum, so Auburn may win the kicking game. Special teams are about a lot more than just kicking, though. When it comes to returning kicks, there isn’t a better player in the country than Oregon’s Cliff Harris. Harris was a consensus All-American for his punt return specialties this season, with a 19.5 average and four scores. Oregon also has a weapon in the punting game, in punter Jackson Rice. Rice average 43.1 yards a kick, downing 17 inside the 20. Advantage: Oregon

Coaching: This may be the closest category between the two. Both have second year head coaches who a lot didn’t expect to be taking their teams to the National Championship in year two. Heck, the Tigers Gene Chizik was even booed when he arrived from Iowa State. Chip Kelly has some guts to him. He’ll make the unsuspecting fake punt or two-point conversion call at any point. Auburn has a never-die attitude to them, though, and it starts with their offensive coaching staff and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. The come from behind win against Alabama, where the Tigers were down 24 points, was a spectacular work of second half coaching. It’s a near flip a coin decision for better staff, though. Advantage: Auburn

And the Winner Is… They've had over a month break off from the last time they played, so we could see quite a few new wrinkles in both teams’ games. That could be good news for viewers expecting a lot of points and exciting offenses. A month long break benefits Oregon more than Auburn for the simple fact that the Ducks have had more time than anyone to figure out how to slow down Newton. Apart from Mississippi State earlier in the season, slowing down Newton hasn’t exactly been done this season. As dumb as it sounds, as he’s led the nation in pass efficiency, the Ducks have got to make Newton try to beat them with his arm. Bringing a lot of blitzes at him might not be the best idea. Hopefully over the long break, Auburn has worked on their game stamina as the Ducks will come out in an amazingly fast pace and try to keep it that way. It’s a toss-up of better offense, but the Auburn defense, particularly their secondary, should be what holds the Tigers back. Darron Thomas has the ability to shred a secondary if the line gives him time. Look for a lot of points, a lot of action and a lot of excitement. But also look for Oregon to end the SEC’s National Championship streak. Pick: Oregon 43 – Auburn 37

1 comment:

Shina Willson said...

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