BCS National Championship Preview: Why Auburn Defense Has No Hope against Oregon Offense
No, Boise State fans, you didn't miss anything. The season isn't over yet, and yes, you still have a chance to play for the BCS National Championship.
But, in the heart of bowl projection season, the experts almost unanimously agree that Oregon and Auburn will play for the crystal football.
Both teams have looked unstoppable this season, sporting high-powered offenses. Oregon runs a fast-paced attack led by quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James, while Auburn has ridden almost entirely on the back of its Heisman favorite, quarterback Cam Newton.
In a battle of two great offenses, something has got to give.
Surprisingly, this game would likely come down to the mediocre defenses. And in this matchup, Oregon seems to have the upper hand. Check out five reasons why the Ducks' offense would best the Tigers' defense and bring a national championship to Eugene.
Throughout the season, Pac-10 coaches have praised Oregon not for its athleticism, but for its conditioning. The Ducks run a hurry-up offense, meaning that the offense is working the entire time that it is on the field. Teams can keep up for a quarter, sometimes a half, but eventually run out of steam.
"How do you stop them? I think everyone's asking that question right now," said Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson after his team's 42-31 loss to the Ducks.
The best way to stop the Oregon offense is to be in good enough shape to run with them for four quarters. Unfortunately, Auburn's defense has had trouble stopping teams that run the hurry-up. The Tigers would be completely overwhelmed by the Oregon offense, and they don't have the team speed or conditioning to keep up.
The Auburn Offense Won't Stay on the Field Long Enough
It may sound strange, but one of the Auburn defense's achilles heels in this matchup would be its own offense.
Oregon's defense isn't great itself, and Cam Newton and company shouldn't have any problem scoring. If it scores too quickly, the defense won't have enough time to rest.
Auburn isn't built for long, methodical drives. The last team to beat Oregon--Ohio State--did so by methodically driving down the field, allowing its defense to rest.
Auburn is built around the big play, meaning its defense would only get a couple minutes of rest after each series. Rest is critical against the Oregon offense, which would run all over a tired Auburn defense.
The Oregon running back has been one of the best players in the country this season, and although Auburn's Cam Newton is hogging the spotlight--sometimes for the wrong reasons--James deserves just as much Heisman consideration.
James leads the nation in rushing with 1,422 yards, while averaging 6.3 yards per carry and racking up 17 touchdowns. He is elusive, but also can run between the tackles.
Auburn will not have seen anyone like James before the National Championship game, and it will have little luck stopping him, as he will cruise to another outstanding day.
After the Jeremiah Masoli fallout, Oregon fell out of the preseason national championship picture. Few experts believed that the Ducks could recover from losing their star quarterback. His replacement, Darron Thomas, had little experience and didn't seem capable of leading a team to Glendale.
Boy, were the experts wrong.
Thomas has stepped in very nicely for Masoli, running the Oregon offense even more efficiently than last year. He has accumulated 2,225 yards passing and 23 touchdowns on only six interceptions. He is also a proven runner, racking up 434 yards on a 5.6-yard average.
Like James, the Tigers defense has never seen a quarterback like Thomas. Like every team, they would struggle trying to contain both players in this matchup.
The Dual-Threat Offense
Oregon's option offense is widely known for its running capabilities, and deservedly so. James is the nation's leading rusher and Thomas has 434 yards as well. But the Ducks offense is also successful because of the passing game.
Few option offenses are successful in the passing game, i.e. Georgia Tech, but Oregon has made teams pay through the air this season.
Thomas has thrown 23 touchdowns this year and has a respectable 153 passer rating.
The dual-threat capabilities of Oregon would be too much for Auburn to contain.
The Tigers would have a chance if they only had to focus on stopping the run and could commit members of their secondary to that role. But because Oregon also has a passing option, Auburn must respect the pass.
If the Tigers drop too many players back, Thomas or James will gash through the run defense. But if Auburn commits too many players to stop the run, Oregon will win with the passing game.