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.

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Will Auburn have all its players eligible for the title game?

SPORTSbyBROOKS has news that will make many Auburn Tiger fans spit up their Cheerios this morning.

All indications are that Heisman winner Cam Newton will be eligible to play Oregon in the BCS National Championship Game in two weeks. But there have been reports that indicate that some Tigers could be facing academic issues for the game.

But just when Auburn fans thought they could relax, a cryptic comment by head coach Gene Chizik last week indicated the barn door on eligibility issues for the Tigers hasn’t swung shut just yet.

The MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER reported last week:

Chizik said Auburn is “still getting some things cleared up academically” and isn’t yet sure if all players are in good academic standing.

Jay Coulter at the Auburn website Track ‘Em Tigers reiterated the lingering concern today in a blog entry:

There’s still no word on whether Auburn had any academic casualties that could cause some players to miss the championship game. Auburn coach Gene Chizik has been mum on the subject for the past month. You can bet the rumor mill will be in overdrive this week if Chizik doesn’t address the issue. Keep your fingers crossed…

It’s not fair to speculate at this point which players may be ineligible because none of them may be. If you read between Chizik’s comments it certainly seems that he could be without some of his players, but maybe he’s misleading the media. Or maybe the issues will be cleared up by January 10th (whatever that means).

Of course, if Auburn is without Newton then it changes the entire landscape of the game. But as of right now, Tiger fans seemingly have nothing to worry about.

Cam Newton named AP Player of the Year

Cam Newton can now add AP Player of the Year to his list of accomplishments in 2010.

From ESPN.com:

The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback led the Tigers into the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game against No. 2 Oregon with a mix of flair and poise and enough highlight-reel plays to widely split the vote among a handful of coaches and teammates asked for their favorite.

Newton received 51 votes from the 60-member AP football poll panel. Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore received three, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck got two, and four ballots went unreturned.

Scandal or no scandal, Cam Newton is one hell of a football player and turned in quite a performance this season. Football is the ultimate team game but if Auburn goes on to win the national championship, it’ll be because of Newton. He’s one of those rare players that can completely take over a game on his own. Watching him battle with Oregon in a couple of weeks will be incredibly fun to watch.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Newton is that he kind of came out of nowhere. Auburn fans knew he was special but he wasn’t really on anyone’s radar in preseason and he certainly wasn’t being considered as a Heisman candidate at the start of the year. Yet he won the prestigious honor running away and then scooped up the AP Player of the Year award in a landslide. Amazing.

Cam Newton says he chose Auburn “the right way,” is already using third person like a champ

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 04: Quarterback Cam Newton  of the Auburn Tigers stretches before the 2010 SEC Championship against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

Cam Newton recently told ESPN that Auburn was “best for Cam Newton” and that’s why he chose to play there and not Mississippi State. Not because his dad shopped around his services to the highest bidder.

“I had no dealings with nobody at Mississippi State during the time that I came to Auburn,” Newton said. “But Mississippi State knows it was between Mississippi State and Auburn. And if you’ve been following this, there’s no secret. But I felt that, as a whole, Auburn possessed what’s best for Cam Newton, and that’s why I decided to come here on my decision.”

He said telling Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen — who had been an assistant at Florida when Newton went there two years prior — he would be going to Auburn was difficult. ESPN reported Nov. 9 that Newton had told a Mississippi State recruiter that his father had chosen Auburn because “the money was too much.

“I’m not here to talk about any reports,” Newton said.

“I called Coach Mullen. I told him what I had in my heart at the time. I talked to him and his wife, Miss Megan, and we had an excellent conversation. They wished me the best, and I wished them the best.”

Uh, huh.

Newton may be telling the truth but a couple of things don’t add up here. First of all, did he tell a Mississippi State recruiter that his father had chosen Auburn because of the money or not? If he didn’t and he has nothing to hide, why not deny the report? Instead, he skirts the issue by saying he’s “not here to talk about any reports.”

Granted, maybe somebody instructed him to say anything but I thought honesty was always the best policy? If you have nothing to hide, then scream it from the rooftops until somebody listens.

The other thing that doesn’t add up is why he chose Auburn over Mississippi State. It’s not like Auburn was a powerhouse program before he got there and he already had a relationship with Bulldogs’ coach Dan Mullen. So why Auburn? Was it money perhaps?

Anthony Stalter is having a hard time believing that Cecil Newton didn’t ask Mississippi State for cash and when they didn’t deliver, he turned around and got something from Auburn instead. That’s just one outsider’s opinion, but it’s not difficult to connect the dots. The sad part is that Cam is now caught up in something from which he may or may not have benefited. Anthony Stalter is not suggesting he’s innocent, but it sure sounds as though Cecil was the catalyst for this entire situation.

And shame on him (Cecil, not Anthony Stalter) if he was.

Auburn favored over Oregon for BCS title game

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04: Quarterback Cam Newton  of the Auburn Tigers celebrates after their 56-17 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks during the 2010 SEC Championship at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Even before the BCS crunched all of its mythical numbers to come up with a mythical matchup for a mythical national championship, oddsmakers had already made Auburn a 2.5-point favorite over Oregon in the national title game.

The line has since gone up to Tigers –3, while the over/under total is currently sitting at 74.5. After beating South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game, Auburn held onto its No. 1 spot in the BCS rankings, while Oregon stayed at No. 2 following its 17-point beating of Oregon State in the Civil War.

Oregon finished with a 12-0 record and covered in seven of those games with one push (vs. Washington). But they failed to cover in two of their last three games, which were against Cal (15-13), Arizona (48-29) and Oregon State (37-20).

Auburn finished 13-0 and covered in nine of those games, including six of their last seven. They crushed the Gamecocks 56-17 as a 4-point favorite and also rallied to beat Alabama 28-27 as a 4.5-point underdog despite falling behind 24-0 in the second quarter.

Odds have yet to be released for the Rose Bowl (TCU vs. Wisconsin), Fiesta Bowl (Connecticut vs. Oklahoma), Orange Bowl (Virginia Tech vs. Stanford) and Sugar Bowl (Arkansas vs. Ohio State), but when they do I’ll update this post.

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