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Oregon vs. Auburn: Who's the Real No. 1?

Alec DoppCorrespondent IOctober 31, 2010

Oregon Vs. Auburn: Who's the Real No. 1?

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Let's face it. In a year where one cannot safely predict anything, there seems to be two shining lights at the end of the tunnel: the Auburn Tigers and the Oregon Ducks.

    Coming into Saturday's action, Auburn was ranked No. 1 in the country for many reasons we simply cannot put into words.  Their speed, over everything else, is the main reason why the Tigers have dominated so many fellow SEC opponents.

    Meanwhile, the Oregon Ducks (the nation's highest-scoring offense, I might add) traveled to Southern California to try and dethrone the Trojans of USC once and for all from the Pac-10 ranks.

    It's clear these two teams are the cream of the crop this season, and may eventually end up playing each other when it's all said and done.

    For now, as we try to break down which of these teams is the true superior, we must take an in-depth look at the numbers, matchups and breakdowns of past games.  Only then will we truly know who is the "best of the best."

    Who do you think No. 1 is?

Quarterbacks

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    Cam Newton vs. Darron Thomas

    The Ducks have one superb victory on the season, coming against No. 9 Stanford, a game in which Darron Thomas threw for 238 yards along with 3 TD and 2 INT.

    Oregon has still yet to face off against No. 15 Arizona at home, a game that may determine the rest of the Ducks' season.

    With the group of dependable receivers coach Chip Kelly has instilled in this Oregon offense, it's hard to question Thomas' skillset at the quarterback position.  

    Through eight games this season, Thomas has thrown for 1,827 yards and 21 TD complemented by a 160.56 passer-rating.  Hard to argue with Thomas' resume.

    Meanwhile, the current No. 1 team in the land has the current do-all Heisman leader in Cam Newton.

    In Saturday's victory over Ole Miss, Newton threw for 209 yards and 2 TD along with completing 75 percent of his passes.  But that's not all. Newton also ran for 45 yards, along with catching a 21-yard TD pass.  Talk about "all-purpose."

    It's easy to see why Newton is leading the Heisman race: 1,573 passing yards, 15 TD and a 172.62 passer rating.

    Running the football is another story: Newton has 1,122 yards on the ground, complemented by 14 TD and a 6.7 yards/attempt average.

    The game that could decide the entire BCS outlook comes against No. 7 Alabama on November 26.

    It's tough enough comparing the two (much less giving the advantage), but if you want an all-purpose quarterback leading your team to the National Championship game, Cam Newton is your guy.

    Advantage: Cam Newton

Running Backs

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    Cam Newton/Michael Dyer vs. LaMichael James

    A battle of Heisman-hopefuls here.

    The true sense of running the football has to give James the initial advantage.  Not to mention the dominance up-front from the Oregon offensive line.

    Saturday's game at USC really showed us the Ducks' resiliency and poise with a dominating win on the road.  We can expect a whole lot more of that from this superior, high-scoring Oregon offense in the weeks to come.

    Through eight games (seven in which he has actually played), James has rushed for 1,210 yards and 14 TD, including 3 TD in Saturday's win over USC.

    On the other hand, you've got Auburn, a team with mind-blowing speed from three running backs (one of which includes their very own quarterback).

    It's ridiculous how Cam Newton has rushed for nearly as many yards as James has, since he passes half the time and hands off to Michael Dyer.

    Auburn's offensive line hasn't gotten the credit it has deserved so far this season, giving up nearly no sacks.

    The deadly combo that has run through the SEC's toughest of defenses has shown us why there is a magnitude of reasons to believe in the Tigers' offense.

    Although LaMichael James is a surefire Heisman contender, you have to give the advantage to the dual-threat that is the Auburn offense.

    Advantage: Cam Newton/Michael Dyer

Wide Receivers

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Cam Newton's ability to escape the pocket automatically reduces the potential of the Auburn receiving corps. 

    Auburn's leading receiver, Darvin Adams, has 527 yards receiving on the season, along with 3 TD.  After Adams, there doesn't seem to be any other receiver worth mentioning as a difference maker for this offense.

    As amazing as it might seem, Newton's abilities actually limit the Auburn offense to an extent.

    Meanwhile for the Ducks, WR Jeff Maehl is dominating opposing secondaries.  Racking up 675 yards and 9 TD, Maehl is the centerpiece of this Oregon receiving group.  When the pressure is on, look for Darron Thomas to throw to Maehl.

    LaMichael James adds another piece to the Oregon receiving corps, with his screen playmaking abilities.

    All in all, the Tigers' running game takes opportunities away from the Auburn wide receivers, and Darron Thomas will only continue to progress for the Ducks.

    Advantage: Oregon

Defenses

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Oregon's defense (if anything) is their true weakness, giving up 337.25 yards/per game on the defensive side of the ball.

    While only allowing 17 TD to opposing offenses, Oregon has an immediate advantage over any team that matches up against them.  Limiting opposing quarterbacks is the name of the game for the Ducks on defense.

    Playing in the SEC doesn't make things a whole lot better for the Auburn Tigers.  Allowing 358.33 yards per game is one of the biggest differences between Oregon's defense and Auburn's defense.

    Giving up 28 total TD to opposing teams, compared to Oregon's 17, is truly the "end of discussion" factor for the Ducks.

    If you want to beat the Ducks, you'll have to wear down their defense, which isn't likely to happen.

    Advantage: Oregon

Coaches

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Tough one to break down here.

    Although Chip Kelly and Oregon have completely dominated the Pac-10, Gene Chizik has only doubled Kelly's accomplishments.

    As if playing in the SEC wasn't hard enough, Chizik has led this Auburn team to No. 1 in the country by beating only the best of the best.

    Victories over No. 12 South Carolina, No. 12 Arkansas, No. 6 LSU and at Ole Miss has cemented his team to the top of the BCS polls.  They've certainly deserved it.

    Recruiting Cam Newton was the biggest of his accomplishments. Without Newton, the Tigers certainly would not be where they are.

    A hard-working, dedicated coach such as Chizik is one of the best in the business, and that is apparent when his top-ranked Auburn Tigers step onto the field each and every Saturday.

    Chip Kelly deserves all the credit in the world for what he's brought to Oregon's football program, but Chizik is exactly what coaches all over America envision themselves being someday in the future.

Final Decision

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Without a doubt, Oregon and Auburn are the two biggest powerhouses to be reckoned with so far this season.

    Comparing the two was a long, difficult process that requires time and deep thought.

    But when we look at the bigger picture as of right now, you have to give Auburn the initial advantage over Oregon.

    Victories against bigger, faster and better teams certainly gives Auburn the credit it deserves, no disrespect to what Oregon has been able to accomplish.

    The talent both teams possess is stunning, and should these teams match up in the BCS National Championship game, it would be a surefire shootout.

    Sure, a Boise State or a TCU may be able to contend with either Oregon or Auburn, but in the end, it wouldn't be much of a contest.

    It really speak volumes to what both of these teams have been able to accomplish so far this season, and rest-assured, it won't be a disappointment when they face off for the National Championship in January.

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