Dec. 4, 2010: Heisman Trophy winner, Cam Newton (middle), leads his team out of the tunnel in the Georgia Dome. The Tigers will depend on him to take them to the Promised Land.
“No college team can stop Cam Newton. They can only hope to be able to contain him.” That’s the mantra, but what does Oregon think about it? I’ll tell you at the end of this piece.
Breaking defenses off like the pieces from the loaves Jesus and the disciples fed the multitudes with, Newton has followers. With a multitude of accolades and magnificent plays in tow, like George Bush, history will be his judge.
For the BCS National Championship, the University of Oregon Ducks will try to judge him and his Auburn University Tigers. They square off on Jan. 10 in Glendale, Arizona. For the second straight year, finalists for the Heisman face one another in the national championship game. Last year, it was Colt McCoy and the Texas Longhorns against Mark Ingram from Alabama. This year, the host facility of the Fiesta Bowl will be quacking and roaring at the same time.
Roaring into town, the Tigers will face the No. 1 scoring offense in the nation—Oregon (12-0, 9-0). But Auburn (13-0, 9-0) has a pedigree few other teams do. The Southeastern Conference Champions are trying to win the SEC’s fifth straight national championship. To the BCS dynasty of the SEC, there seems to be no end. It also means a lot of pressure on Auburn’s secondary.
Second to none in the nation in no-huddle offense tempo, the Ducks are known for their frenzy. They love playing at a frenetic pace, quickly snapping the ball after plays end. Scoring 49 points per game, they lead the Football Bowl Subdivision. This is good for ratings, though, as this could be one of the highest-scoring national championship games ever.
The Ducks and their scoring machine and Heisman finalist tailback, LaMichael James, will try to restore some honor.
The Pac-10 won the next to last national championship before the SEC went on its run. The Big 12 (Texas) won the national championship in 2005. Since 2006, either a Big Ten or Big 12 team has been the runner-up (Ohio State twice, Oklahoma and Texas once).
At almost 153 yards per game, James led the FBS in rushing yards per game. He also led America in rushing touchdowns (21). With 20 rushes for scores, Cam Newton wasn’t far behind.
Can he do it? Of course he can. Opponents know it. "We've talked about Cam," Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Dont'a Hightower said. "But they have other guys."
Other guys like receivers Darvin Adams and Emory Blake will contribute for the Tigers—no doubt. Coach Nick Saban from the Tide is a witness.
"It takes a lot of discipline for everybody to do exactly what they're supposed to do and be where they're supposed to be. Because they attack the perimeter just as effectively as they do the interior," he said. "On every play, you've got to be sound in every area.”
He’s also impressed with Auburn’s rush offense. "They've got other guys that complement each other as runners," he explained. While Oregon is ranked No. 4 in rushing offense, the Tigers have the No. 6-ranked unit.
In the backfield flanking Newton are Michael Dyer and/or Onterio McCalebb. Dyer broke loose for 859 yards this year, breaking Bo Jackson’s Auburn freshman record.
Running and rolling off tackles like thunder, Dyer compliments the lightning speed of sophomore Onterio McCalebb. To top it off, Auburn's offensive line has over 150 collective career starts.
In Darron Thomas, Oregon has yet another dynamic quarterback. He could be a Heisman finalist in a year or so. The Ducks should be extremely focused on providing him with a clean pocket against Auburn’s 105th-ranked passing defense.
Oregon’s pass defense ranked No. 56. The ranks of both team’s passing defense are pedestrian. This could be due to their opponents having to pass the ball to catch up, and reserves playing big minutes.
T’Sharvin Bell is a hybrid defensive back from Kissimmee, Florida. A starter, he makes big plays on defense. The sophomore had a big sack against Alabama and was all over the field. In the SEC Championship, he picked up a pick-six.
I saw nothing in the Oregon pass defense to make me believe the Ducks can stop Auburn’s offense. Nick Saban’s Alabama team couldn’t do it for a full game. Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton will have had almost a month to dissect Oregon’s defensive back scheme.
Oregon ranks No. 16 in rushing defense, while Auburn is No. 11. Allowing an average 114 yards per game rushing, they’re both OK against the run. Auburn’s defense against LSU and the running backs of the SEC like Mark Ingram showed they can step up.
Speaking of stepping up, this is Gene Chizik’s second year coaching the Tigers. He was hired amid many questions about his resume.
TNT’s Charles Barkley called the hiring motivated by race, and he said Turner Gill should have been hired. Barkley wasn’t the only alumni or supporter booing Chizik's hiring. Some fans started a YouTube campaign to protest it. Now Chizik is on the cusp of a national championship. Of course, a guy named Newton will have something to say about that.
This friendly encounter will be both the University of Auburn and the University of Oregon’s first BCS National Championship Game. I have an inclination, from all the research, on who will make it No. 1 for their school.
Prediction: Heisman Trophy winners have a history of not performing well in bowl games and Oregon isn’t afraid of Newton. The role of underdog could ignite passion and extreme dislike in Oregon. They’ve been hearing about stopping Cam Newton. But, no team has stopped Cam Newton for a full game, not even in the mighty SEC.
I’m confident Auburn can pass it against the Ducks, but I’m not confident Oregon can pass against the Tigers. I believe T'Sharvin Bell will have a great game and Auburn’s pass defense will step up. Dime packages against Newton usually end up biting the dust. But Oregon’s defense has faced a similar offense in practice, the difference being the opposition’s best runner is their quarterback as opposed to a running back like James.
About this player, opposing teams have to wonder if the guy getting off the bus first is a defensive end. No. It’s their quarterback. Jeez-o-Pete. That could be what the opponent says every time they face the Auburn Tigers of the SEC.
Defenders know—Newton can truck you running for a touchdown, or hit the fade pass in the red zone. He’s Tim Tebow with more speed and a better touch. He can even catch the ball.
I believe Oregon’s defense will rise to the occasion, but will fall short in the end. One of these schools will win their first national championship. It will be Auburn, 44-31.