BCS National Championship Preview: Oregon vs. Auburn

2011 BCS Bowl Previews: BCS National Championship | Fiesta Bowl | Rose Bowl | Orange Bowl | Sugar Bowl

Date: Monday, January 10, 2011
Time: 8:30PM ET

Why Watch: You mean, besides the fact that it’s the biggest college football game of the year and that the NCAA will get to crown a mythical national champion? With the way both of these offenses can light up a scoreboard, fans should get the shootout they expect. This matchup features two of the nation’s best players in Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and Heisman finalist LaMichael James. If the game comes down to defense, Oregon ranks 14th in the nation in scoring and Auburn is 54th. But as teams like South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss and Georgia found out this season, Newton often saves his best for the fourth quarter. This should be quite a game and one that lives up to its hype.

Game Facts: The Tigers are 20-13-2 overall in bowl games, which ranks them as one of the best programs in the nation when it comes to postseason play. They rank 16th in all-time bowl appearances with 35, are 13th all-time in bowl wins at 20, and are tied for 22nd in all-time bowl win percentage at .600. They’ve won three straight bowl games and six out of their last seven, which includes a wild 38-35 win over Northwestern in last year’s Outback Bowl. During Mike Bellotti’s tenure as head coach between 1995 and 2008, the Ducks went to bowl games every year except the ’96 and ’04 seasons. In 2010, Oregon fell to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, which dropped them to 1-4 all-time in Rose bowl appearances.

Key Player: Craig Stevens, Auburn.
We know that Nick Fairley can get the job done in the middle, and that Auburn can be very tough to run on because of his stout play. But Oregon attacks you on the edges and Stevens, an outside linebacker, will play a huge role in trying to stop the Ducks’ potent offense. If he can keep contain, Oregon might be in for a long day. But if he can’t, LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner will spend a lot of time running through the Auburn secondary.

Odds: Auburn -3
Auburn opened as a 2.5-point favorite but the line immediately moved to 3. Bettors tend to side with the team from the better conference and seeing as how the Tigers made it through a tough SEC schedule unscathed, it makes sense that the public would back them in the title game. But don’t count out a late push for Oregon, which will get plenty of backing closer to kickoff. Auburn has escaped more than a handful of close calls this year, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the line dropped to 2 or even 1 as bettors start to buy into an outright win for the Ducks. The over/under total opened at 74.5 and while it did drop to 74, don’t expect it to drop any further. Oddsmakers know both teams have the potential to score a combined 100 points.

How Auburn can win: By forcing Darron Thomas to throw the football. We know Newton will point points on the board – it’s just a matter of whether or not Auburn can slow down Oregon enough so that this doesn’t turn into a “whoever gets the ball last wins” type of game. Thomas is a very capable quarterback, but he and the Ducks aren’t going to win a national championship with his arm. If Auburn can slow the Ducks’ rushing attack or build a big early lead, that will force Thomas into obvious passing situations and the Oregon offense all of the sudden becomes a lot easier to defend. If that happens, the SEC will be celebrating its fifth straight national title.

Why Oregon will win: Conditioning. The Ducks represent the new way of wearing a team down. We’re used to it being a big offensive line leaning on a team and tiring them out, but not in Oregon’s case. This team simply runs you ragged. While Auburn runs an uptempo offense, and the Tigers will surely do all they can to prepare for the break-neck pace Oregon plays at, it’s impossible to simulate what the Ducks do in practice. Expect this one to be a shootout, but also expect the Auburn defense to tire as the game wears on, and the Oregon defense to still be going relatively strong. They’re used to playing 30-40 minutes a game, and it hasn’t bothered them yet.

Prediction: Oregon 48, Auburn 45

Contributors: Anthony Stalter and Paul Costanzo

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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