Defense wins championships. Well, that is what everyone seems to think and say. However, this year’s BCS National Championship seems like it will be a little different as it features two teams with top-ten offenses and defenses that have been criticized throughout the year.
It is hard to think of a better place to start analyzing this game than to look at Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. The Tigers’ quarterback is clearly the best player in the NCAA. Along with the Heisman Trophy, Newton seemed to win every other award he was nominated or eligible for.
Newton leads an offense which was ranked seventh in the country in both points and total yards. Despite being the quarterback, Newton was also the leading rusher on a team that ranked sixth in rushing yards.
Newton, who was responsible for 49 total touchdowns, has been difficult for defenses to stop all year long. The Ducks will have their hands full with Newton, but he is not the only offensive weapon for the Tigers.
Running back Michael Dyer is a very talented freshman back. He rushed for 950 yards and will be a key contributor to the Auburn offensive attack.
While everyone has been talking about Cam Newton and the Auburn offense, many have ignored the Oregon defense. This defense ranked 14th in the country in total defense and is a lot better than people realize. The problem with the Ducks defense may be their size, but their conditioning and their skill do not deserve to be questioned as much as they have been. While Oregon may have the better of the two defenses in this game it is the Oregon offense, led by running back LaMichael James that draws everyone’s attention.
The Duck’s offense, which is almost as flashy as their jerseys, ranks second in the NCAA in total yards, first in points scored, and fourth in rushing yards.
This offense is known for their fast-paced tempo and their ability to execute at such a high tempo. They usually start slow and begin to dominate as the game wears on and the opposing defenses get fatigued. Auburn also plays at a fast tempo so the Tiger defense may be better prepared than some teams in the past, but the Ducks do play at an even faster tempo than Auburn and will still look to wear down the Tigers.
If the Ducks are to win this game, they need to tire out Nick Fairly and the Auburn defense and dominate the second half.
Everyone wants to talk about LaMichael James and his impressive stats running the football. While James is a great running back, the BCS Championship will come down to the play of first-year starting quarterback Darron Thomas.
Thomas, who has been under James’ shadow for the majority of the year, has proven himself as a true dual-threat quarterback. Although he did not run a lot towards the end of the year, because the Ducks lacked depth at quarterback, Thomas has the ability to run. Running the football may be the key for Thomas and the Ducks because it will help keep the Tigers honest on Oregon’s zone-read play which they run so often.
The run game may be Oregon’s strength, but the secondary is Auburn’s weakness. Thomas, who has thrown for just as many yards and touchdowns as Newton, will need to have a productive day throwing the football for Oregon to win.
While the Ducks have blown out every opponent except for Cal, Auburn has had eight come from behind wins and multiple games decided by 10 points or less.
This can be seen one of two ways depending on whether you are an Oregon or Auburn fan. Auburn is both battle-tested and resilient, or they are very beatable.
While the SEC has dominated the BCS era, the Pac-10 is looking for the respect and recognition that seems to have faded a bit recently.
This game is supposed to be an offensive shootout, but after hearing about how great these offenses are for more than a month it would not be surprising to see both defenses come out with a chip on their shoulder. This game will be lower scoring than expected and the Ducks should win in a close one because they have the better defense and should be able to get a few more stops than the Tigers. I guess in the end, championships do come down to defense.