Somewhere in the desert there is a Shaman who is sitting, legs crossed, in a traditional Navajo dwelling. As he blows smoke from his lungs into the air he wafts it with his free hand conjuring up visions of winners and losers. The visitors wearing orange, blue, green and yellow are on the edge of their knees sweating with anticipation of interpretation.
What will he say? Who will get the nod and why?
Here we are on the outskirts of another BCS National Championship game and the predictions are coming from far and wide. It is the PAC 10 versus the SEC in the big dance for the first time ever in the BCS era. How did this not happen previously? That is of no consequence.
The first big question that is on everyone's minds are how many points will be scored? I think the over/under opened at 74. That is possible. And, that is what we all want to see—an exciting, high powered offensive attack.
However, I don't think it is going to be like everyone thinks.
Speed kills, and all I have been hearing about is the Ducks offensive speed. They have such a fast paced offensive attack that most opponents don't have time to sub on the defensive side of the ball. This is what the Duck fans are quacking at the Tiger fans.
True, Auburn has not seen an offense that hurries up as fast as Oregon does. Problem is, Auburn can line up just as fast if need be. People forgot last year how Gus Malzahn used the hurry-up offense in order to offset the lack of talent on that side of the ball.
The issue here is not who can score the fastest, because both can, but more of who can hold onto the ball the longest and wear down the other defense. Which team will make long, back breaking, touchdown drives? And who will create better field position?
Both teams have been comeback babies or second half teams so to speak. Their resiliency speaks volumes about their character. However, what teams have they had to come from behind to beat?
Auburn has been behind against Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Alabama. They have beaten five current teams in the BCS top 25. They have outscored their opponents 132-45 in the fourth quarter.
Oregon has been behind against Oregon State, Arizona, California, Southern Cal, Stanford, Arizona State and Tennessee. They have played one team in the current BCS top 25. They have outscored their opponents 129-24 in the fourth quarter.
This set of analysis tells us that both teams don't fear being scored upon first. Oregon has not played the level of competition Auburn has played, but Oregon has played better ball control in the fourth quarter, albeit against lessor opponents.
How lessor of opponents you ask? Oregon has played three teams with winning records. A winning record is above .500 folks. Six teams they played had losing records. The combined opponent records for Oregon is 63-81.
Auburn has played seven teams with winning records and three teams with losing records. The combined opponent record for the Tigers is 92-65.
Furthermore, when categorized, the level of competition across the board the Tigers faced are marginally better. Well, in some places more than marginal.
Oregon's average total offensive opponent ranks 67th while Auburn's ranks 51st. Defensively, (total), the opponent average for the Ducks has been 72nd while the Tigers has been 47th.
Let's put this into perspective. While Oregon possess the fourth ranked rushing attack they have faced an average rush defense ranked 69th. Conversely, Auburn holds the sixth ranked rushing position while facing an average rush defense ranked 48th.
As for each teams rush defense they both are highly ranked lines. Oregon is 16th while Auburn is 11th in the nation. They have faced rushing attacks ranked 69th and 54th on average respectively. The best rushing attack Oregon faced was Stanford, ranked 17th, and they allowed 177 yards. Auburn's best rushing attack they faced was Mississippi State, ranked 16th, and they allowed 117 yards.
Does the aforementioned state that Oregon will not be able to handle Auburn's rushing attack and Auburn will be able to handle Oregon's? Not necessarily. Take the Ole Miss game for reference. The Rebel-Black Bears hung 218 yards rushing on the Tigers. And, 134 of that was done by a running back, not Masoli.
One thing that people might not realize is Oregon has a stout offensive line comprised of several seniors just like Auburn. They create a first crease for the running back and thereafter a shifty LaMichael James out maneuvers the secondary. They get the ball off the snap and out of the quarterback's hands quickly which is part of their uptempo offense and hence why they don't allow many sacks.
This doesn't mean that Nick Fairley is not going to get into the back field, it just may only mean that by the time he gets to where he thinks the ball may already be gone. However, that hasn't stopped him from tackling a quarterback before.
Another note is Oregon's passing efficiency. With such a quick-get-to-the-line offense, they are ranked 18th in this category, one would think that they would have a worse rating. That is pretty impressive and shows some skill sets and that is why Darron Thomas is ranked 21st nationally. Guess who is ranked first in passing efficiency?
Speaking of first, James leads the nation in rushing touchdowns and is averaging 5.99 yards a touch. He is a speed demon that possibly has more than two gears down the stretch.
Auburn is not to far behind. They have a 6'6", 255 pound Cam Newton that averages 5.82 yards per touch, which is just basically falling forward for him. They also have 215 pound Michael Dyer who averages 5.94 yards a touch.
Don't think because I mentioned Auburn player's weights that Oregon couldn't handle them defensively. They have handled big boys, like USC's Marc Tyler, but have also let some of the little ones through as well. The issue here is that they have never handled a guy, a quarterback, like Newton. And then just when you think you have seen it all from Cam, Auburn hits you with Dyer.
Both teams have porous pass defenses, but Auburn has a long way to go to catch up. They have given up the big play more than once. However, what they are good at is adjusting during the game in order to minimize those plays. Remember when I mentioned Fairley trying to get to the ball. This is how Auburn adjusts to stop those big air plays.
The problem I perceive is that Oregon can't keep passing underneath to move the ball. And, waiting around to beat the defensive backs is hazardous to a quarterbacks health. The running game for Oregon has been a bread and butter for them, but that was against rushing defenses that are purely not that good.
Also, Oregon is great at collecting turnovers but they are equally as good at giving turnovers. And, unfortunately for the Ducks, Auburn is good at protecting the ball and not so shabby in collecting those fumbles and errant passes.
As I look at the numbers the scales just seem to keep tipping in Auburn's favor. And even though I see where the Ducks lead them in certain categories I keep coming back to the level of competition. I just think that Auburn is more battle tested and more sound in the categories that count. They may just execute better than any team out there.
And, they have Cam Newton and Oregon doesn't.
Go for the under.
Auburn 41, Oregon 24.