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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Kenjon Barner is really good at football

EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 12:  Kenjon Barner #24 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Purdue Boilermakers at Autzen Stadium on September 12, 2009 in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Raise your hand if you don’t live in Oregon and know who Kenjon Barner is. OK, now evaluate your life after physically replying to a command you read on a sports blog (I kid, I kid).

Barner is about to be on everybody’s radar screen, as the Oregon sophomore running back had one heck of a game today against New Mexico. In one half. Barner rushed for 146 yards and scored four times on 17 carries in the first half for the Ducks, and added a 60-yard touchdown reception just for good measure.

Yes, it’s against New Mexico, but it’s still scary good. Barner’s teammates have been pretty good, too, leading New Mexico 59-0 after 30 minutes of play.

Some other tidbits at halftime of the mid-afternoon games:

– Denard Robinson is looking like the quarterback Rich Rodriguez needs to run his offense. Shoelace (he doesn’t tie his shoes, which is repeated ad nauseum here in Michigan) has 131 yards and a touchdown on the ground for the Wolverines in the first half against Connecticut. Perhaps more importantly, he is 8-for-9 passing for 71 yards. Last year, Robinson couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn with his passes. Unless said barn was wearing the opponents jersey. Michigan went into the half up 21-10.

– Brian Kelly’s fast-break offense has shown flashes of brilliance in the first half against Purdue, but has only produced one touchdown and two field goals. Surprisingly, it’s the Irish defense that has been most impressive, holding Purdue to a field goal as Notre Dame led 13-3 at halftime.

I’ll have more after the games.

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