This is the first meeting between Oregon and Auburn and takes place on the NCAA’s biggest stage. This is Oregon’s 6th consec bowl appearance and the 2nd str under AP COY Kelly who dropped his 1st postseason game LY in the Rose Bowl. Oregon is playing for their 1st Nat’l Title and nearly missed out on playing for the Title in ‘01 when an 11-1 squad was relegated to the Fiesta Bowl and smashed Colorado 38-16. Auburn is playing for their 3rd Nat'l Title (last 1957) and will try to keep alive the streak of 4 straight BCS Titles for the SEC. A 13-0 Auburn squad was passed over in ‘04 as undefeated USC and Oklahoma played for the Title. This is Chizik’s 2nd bowl game as a HC and LY he led the Tigers to a 38-35 OT win over N’western in the Outback Bowl. The Ducks have 11 Sr st’rs among 16 upperclassmen while Aub has 12 Sr st’rs and 18 upperclassmen. Oreg has ply’d 6 bowl elig tms going 6-0. One thing to point out however is that in those 6 contests, UO gave up 25 ppg (7 pts over ssn avg) and 432 ypg (100 yds over ssn avg). Aub is 9-0 vs bowl tms outscoring those opps by 38-26 (462-370 yd advantage).
The Ducks off (#2, 49 ppg, 538 ypg) became the talk of the college football with their fast-paced, no-huddle schemes that saw them deliver 25 TD drives TY in less than 1:00. Soph QB Thomas won the starting job late in fall camp and has had a banner year. Something to keep an eye on however is the backup QB situation as Costa, who was competing for the job in the summer was inj’d a month ago and will miss here leaving no depth. Despite Thomas’ splendid 1st season as a st’r, some of his accolades may have to take a backseat to Heisman finalist RB James who finished as the nation’s #1 rusher despite not playing in the opener. Barner started for James in gm 1 and posted 225 ttl yds with 5 TD’s. Barner was inj’d midssn on a KR and missed a few gms before returning to form over the L/3 wks of the reg ssn. The OL avg 6’5” 296 (3 Sr) and paved the way for 304 rush ypg (6.1) while all’g a miniscule 7 sks (2.0%). The UO def (#14, 18 ppg, 332 ypg) dominated the 2H of gms TY all’g just 77 pts incl an unfathomable 24 pts in the 4Q. The DL (6’4” 259), led by Sr’s DE Rowe and DT Bair all’d 118 rush ypg (3.3) while the unit as a whole comb for 20.5 of the team’s 31 sks (66%). The LB unit is led by 1st Tm P10 Matthews while soph CB Harris came alive in the 2H of the season to help lead a UO secondary that all’d 214 ypg (54%) with a 13-20 ratio (#5 pass D ranking). Harris was also the stalwart on the ST’s with an NCAA best 4 PR TD’s guiding the unit to my #3 ranking.
Auburn’s season has been riddled by controversy surrounding Heisman winning QB Newton. Newton was able to stay focused and play through the troubles seemingly without missing a step and the Tigers rode their playmaker into the BCS Title game. Newton was a perfect fit for OC Malzahn’s spread offense and leads the NCAA in pass eff and is #15 in rush ypg (#1 SEC). True frosh Dyer emerged as the top RB starting the L/4 gms. WR Adams is a big play threat but his numbers were a little down from LY due to the improved running game. Auburn leads the SEC in rush ypg at 287 (71 ypg more than #2 Miss St) and scoring off (43 ppg). The OL is led by AA LT Ziemba and has all’d 21 sks (8%). Their #33 defense isn’t unbeatable allowing 25 ppg but is solid in rush D allowing just 112 ypg (3.5). The DL avg 6’4” 277 with 2 Sr st’rs. DT Fairley won the Lombardi Awd and led the SEC in sks (10.5) and tfl (21) despite double and triple tms. The LB corps is led by #1 tkl’r Bynes and ‘09’s #2 tkl’r Stevens (#4 tkl’r TY, susp 2) who are both Sr’s. The biggest weakness is on pass D (#81) as they allow 251 ypg (63%) with a 23-10 ratio but luckily they face a Ducks team that prefers to run the ball. The Tigers are #29 in my ST rankings but struggle in punting 37.5 avg (34.7 net) and on PR’s (6.2 tm avg). K Byrum is reliable on FG’s but only has 1 att from 50+ (missed).
On paper this is one of the more intriguing National Championship games in years and definitely has the chance to be the most entertaining one since the 2005 Nat'l Title game between USC and Texas. Both offenses are explosive while both defenses are capable but do have their weaknesses. After breaking this game down for the past month, the only thing that really separates the two teams is Cam Newton who is clearly the best player on the field and it's tough picking against that kind of a player and a conference that has won 4 str championships. War Eagle, the Auburn Tigers bring home the Championship!