The big one is finally here. The powerful offenses of Auburn and Oregon are going to finally be on the same field after a 5+ week break. There are a lot of ways you can break this one down, but any way you slice it, it is going to be a high scoring match up. Nike versus Under Armour...here we go.
In one corner you have the Hesiman Trophy winning Cam Newton leading the Gus Malzahn offense. In the other you have a balanced offense that can score in the blink of an eye led by LaMichael James. I think the offenses are probably even in this one with Oregon having more of an efficient attack that will be able to wear down the very average Auburn defense. They have scored 592 points (first in the nation) in 337 minutes of offensive time of possession, which averages to 1.76 points/minute. Auburn on the other hand has scored 555 points (fourth in the nation - in one more game) in 377 minutes of offensive time of possession, which averages to 1.47 points/minute. Although you could never label a Malzahn offense as a grind-it-out style, it is when you compare it to the relentless, fast pace of the Oregon offense. Cam Newton has been unstoppable up to this point; I expect him to do more of the same Monday night, but remember that Oregon can match him.
Oregon's defense doesn't get any credit because they are overshadowed by the Duck offense. Auburn's defense doesn't get any credit because it doesn't really deserve any; the Tigers have basically outscored a lot of their opponents. The Ducks defense is a credible 25th in the nation; the Tigers are 55th. Remember that since the BCS began, all of the national champs have had a defense in the top 25. Auburn's defense is not a championship defense. Two of the teams that gave the Auburn offense the most trouble were LSU (ranked 8th) and Alabama (ranked 5th). While Oregon's defense is not on that level, this will be the third best defense the Tigers will face this year. Something else to consider - Oregon is sixth in the nation in interceptions. I believe they can get their hands on some Newton passes and maybe get a pick six or a TAINT (Touchdown After INTerception) as my friends and I like to call it. It looks like Oregon will blitz Auburn a lot tomorrow night. Cam may run wild because of it, but we will see.
Special Teams & Intangibles
I don't have the stats on it, but I sure have seen Oregon score a few times on special teams this year with their fast group out there. Wes Byrum has been at Auburn for at least 23 years, so I will give him the advantage in the kicking game (if only because he is wiser).
I have a startling stat regarding the apparent conditioning of Oregon: They have outscored their opponents 139-24 in the 4th quarter this year. That is an average score of 12-2 in the final quarter. They have outscored their opponent in every game in the second half this year while Auburn has 11 of the 13 games.
Recently, Heisman winning QBs have had a rough time in the national title game. The thinking is that they spend so much time in the 30 plus days between winning the Heisman and the title game going to banquets, traveling and being away from the team that they struggle come game time because they haven't spent as much time studying game film, working out, etc. I have to wonder if this has affected Newton, and I guarantee you Darron Thomas has spent more time studying film than Newton has. I also think Oregon will have more of a chip on their shoulder playing the Heisman winner and an SEC team.
A couple of things going Auburn's way is obviously the SEC's run in the big game. The SEC's tough conference schedule prepares the champion more than any other conference to succeed in a game like this. Auburn has played a way more difficult schedule, but they have also struggled with the likes of Clemson (won in OT) and Kentucky (won on a last second field goal). I think the SEC's streak in the title game goes down tonight. Give me the Ducks to take the title in a very exciting game. Quack Quack 47-38.