Duck Delusions: Answering Some Oregon Misconceptions About Auburn
I must say that after all the nasty venom the past few years, I am surprised at the civil discourse between Auburn (and SEC) fans and Oregon (and Pac-10) fans.
From the SEC, we haven't heard any of the "Oregon would finish No. 3 in the SEC East!" nonsense that we frequently heard about USC during their run; from the Pac-10, we haven't heard "we already beat an SEC team so that proves that we are better than you!" nonsense that we heard from USC fans over the years.
For the most part, it has been mutual respect. Kind of makes us all want to join hands and sing "Why Can't We Be Friends," eh?
With that in mind, when I read the comments of Oregon fans, I keep running up against some of the same strange ideas and misconceptions over and over again.
So, this will be "Mythbusters: Auburn Edition." I welcome Oregon fans to compose their own article addressing Auburn myths about the Ducks.
Myth: Oregon's fast pace will wear Auburn down on defense.
Fact: Unlike virtually every team that Oregon played this year, Auburn is two deep at every position on defense.
Even if Oregon's fast pace keeps Auburn from substituting and putting packages in, Auburn can keep their players fresh simply by rotating them after each series. Further, Auburn is the one team in the country that figures that they can keep the pace with Oregon's scoring.
So, for example, Auburn is willing to give up points when Fairley isn't on the field in return for getting stops when he IS on the field. So, when halfway through the fourth quarter rolls around, Fairley and company won't be tired from chasing Oregon all day, but in pretty good shape because they will have had plenty of breathers on the bench as they always are.
Instead, it is fair to ask how Oregon will respond to a team that has the depth to match their fourth quarter intensity.
Myth: Auburn has a terrible defense.
Fact: While Auburn's defenses aren't up to the usual standard of a national title contender, claiming that their defense is terrible, rather than merely average, doesn't hold water.
Auburn is No. 54 in scoring defense, true, but this shows why statistics are misleading: Notre Dame is statistically No. 30 in scoring defense. Now, who among you believes that Notre Dame has a better defense than does Auburn at all, let alone by 24 spots?
Is Oregon Underrating Auburn?
Another question: The coach who would trade Notre Dame's athletes on defense for Auburn's—name him, so he can be fired.
Similar can be said for Pitt, BYU, Cal, North Carolina State, Georgia, Maryland, Navy, UConn, Louisville, Clemson, Air Force, Penn State, Temple, Hawai'i and a bunch of other teams that allegedly have a better defense than Auburn.
To put it another way: Oregon fans, do you honestly think that Syracuse has a better defense than you do? Or that Louisville's defense is just a shade worse than yours?
To put it another way: Auburn held Mississippi State to 14 points and Alabama to 27. Alabama 49, Michigan State 7. Mississippi State 52, Michigan 14.
Gee, maybe Auburn's defense isn't that bad after all!
Granted, Auburn's offense is the strength of their team, but Oregon will not run wild on Auburn's defense. (The only team who did so against Auburn was Arkansas, and they are a spread passing team, not a run-oriented one like Oregon.) Auburn's defense has the talent and the coaching to make its share of stops.
Consider this comparison: After 13 games in 2005, USC gave up 297 points. Auburn has given up 318. USC was in fact able to hold Vince Young, Jamaal Charles, David Thomas and company to 41 points, several points below the season average for the nation's best scoring offense that year.
Myth: Oregon has a coaching advantage over Auburn based on Chip Kelly being the best coach in the country.
Fact: Gene Chizik was defensive coordinator of Texas and Auburn teams that went 13-0. He took Auburn from 5-7 to 13-0 in two seasons despite having only the third most talented team in the SEC West.
In one season, Chizik succeeded where Terry Bowden and Tommy Tuberville spent nearly two decades failing, which was to transform Auburn into an exciting, high powered offense.
Now sure, Broyles Award winner for offensive coordinator of the year Gus Malzahn deserves most of the credit for Auburn's transformation on offense, but credit Chizik for being willing to step back and let it happen the way that other defensive oriented coaches fail to do, with the best example being his predecessor Tommy Tuberville, who harmed the efforts of Bobby Petrino, Tony Franklin, Al Borges and Noel Mazzone with his meddling.
Another example: Nick Saban frequently refuses to let his loaded teams on offense really cut loose or do very many risky or innovative things. When you look at the track records of Chizik and Malzahn, if Auburn loses to Oregon, it will not be because the Ducks significantly outcoach them.
Claiming that Kelly is clearly the better coach simply indicates that Oregon fans for some reason believe that accomplishments at their program are more meaningful than they are at other places.
Myth: Oregon owns the fourth quarter/Auburn's slow starts will doom them.
Fact: Auburn has been just as good as Oregon in the second half. And Oregon has had their share of slow starts (Tennessee, Cal, Stanford) and has also taken their sweet time in putting away some rather pedestrian teams (Arizona State, Oregon State, Arizona, USC, even Washington State was down by less than two scores going into the fourth quarter).
The truth is that neither team typically gets off to a fast start and then just keeps pouring it on. Instead, both teams tend to spend the early moments of the game feeling the opposition out and then pull away late after their coaching staff makes adjustments and counter-adjustments.
And yes, both teams wear/tire their opponents out.
Auburn and Oregon are so similar to each other in this regard that I fail to see how Oregon is at a great advantage or Auburn a disadvantage in this area.
Myth: Auburn and Cam Newton—similar to Ohio State in 2006—succumb to the SEC, media and Heisman hype and come into the BCS title game arrogant.
Fact: Auburn is the furthest thing from a program with a big ego. Quite the contrary, Auburn is shocked—and thrilled—to have as good a season as they did. Ask any Auburn fan before the season started and they would have been satisfied with eight and absolutely thrilled with 10 wins this season.
They know that they were very fortunate to get past not just Alabama, but also Mississippi State, LSU, Arkansas and even Kentucky and Clemson.
Yes, the SEC has had a great run in the BCS era and in the past 20 years in general, but Auburn has contributed very little to it; this is only their second SEC title since the Tigers went to the divisional format in 1992.
This type of success on the national stage doesn't come often for the Tigers (which is why their being snubbed by the AP in 2004 was such an outrage, and yes Auburn folks remember it, especially Gene Chizik who was the defensive coordinator for that team) and unlike Oregon, it may not come again very soon (as Alabama, LSU, Arkansas and Mississippi State are rebuilding/reloading, and that is just the SEC West).
So, rather than soaking up the spotlight, their minds are on taking advantage of a rare opportunity while it is there.
A bunch of pampered big-heads? Nope. An edgy program with a chip on its shoulder that feels that it has been overlooked and pushed aside for too long that's ready to show the nation—starting with the folks in Tuscaloosa—what they're made of? That's more like it.
The "we are a powerhouse!" mindset at THE Ohio State University couldn't be further from the blue collar, striver mentality on the Plains.
Myth: This is the classic matchup of speed (Oregon) versus power (Auburn).
Fact: Similar to the "Chizik is a better coach than Kelly" stuff, I don't know where this comes from.
The truth is that Auburn is plenty fast.
Granted, the Ducks have a decided speed advantage at TE, but Auburn primarily uses their TEs as blockers.
Otherwise, Michael Dyer is a 215 lb guy, but he runs a 4.4 in the 40 yard dash, which means that if he gets into the open field, he makes a big play just like LaMichael James will with his 4.36 speed. Onterio McCalebb is clearly faster than is Dyer. Also, Auburn's WRs, Darvin Adams, Terrell Zachery and Kodi Burns are faster than their Oregon counterparts. And Cam Newton didn't rush for 20 TDs by being a glorified fullback.
Granted, Oregon's OL is faster and quicker than Auburn's OL, but Auburn's OL is very athletic and mobile.
Oregon's DTs are faster than Auburn's DTs, but largely because Oregon's DTs are about the same size as Auburn's DEs. But make no mistake, Nick Fairley and Zach Clayton get around pretty well for 300 lb. guys; Auburn's DEs are no slower than their Duck counterparts.
Oregon probably has a little more speed in the second level of their defense, but only because they play a rover defensive back instead of a true outside linebacker. (Then again, as Auburn LB Daren Bates was moved to that position from starting at safety last season, so maybe not!)
The respective secondaries are a wash; the problem in Auburn's secondary this season has been coverage skills, not speed or quickness. Trust me, the Auburn DBs are plenty fast. Like all good SEC teams, Auburn features big guys who can move very well in the interior, and fast guys (that are strong and physical) on the edges.
If anything, Auburn is a bit undersized in some spots on the defense (DE and LB in particular) so except for the 300 lb DTs, they rely more on speed and quickness than power just as does Oregon.
Oregon is faster than Auburn, but Auburn is hardly slow when you consider that Oregon's main speed advantage is at positions, where Auburn has guys that are big AND athletic and not just big space eaters and straight ahead earth movers.
While Oregon would certainly beat Auburn in a track meet, on a football field under game conditions their advantage is nowhere near as pronounced as Duck fans believe. For instance, Michael Dyer won't be racing Michael Dyer, but Oregon's LBs and (as Auburn fans certainly hope) DBs, and that is an entirely different matter.
Myth: Auburn disrespects and thinks that they are going to come in and slaughter Oregon.
Fact: Auburn is taking Oregon VERY SERIOUSLY and not merely as a formality because of it being a national title game.
There hasn't been any Larry Birdine-Dominique Easley (former Oklahoma players who denigrated USC and Florida only to wind up losing) trash talk coming out of Auburn and to echo an earlier point, Cam Newton and his teammates haven't gotten fat and happy on the banquet circuit.
Instead, word out of Auburn (which is the name of the city as well as the university) is that Chizik and the Tigers' coaches put their players through a very arduous practice schedule last week that emphasized physical play and attempted to simulate the Ducks' fast pace.
As mentioned earlier, Auburn knows that they don't possess the sheer talent that recent Florida, LSU and Alabama national teams had at their disposal.
Make no mistake: Auburn is gearing up for a four quarter battle that they believe will be decided in the final seconds.
Myth: Auburn is Cam Newton, Nick Fairley and a bunch of guys.
Fact: You hear about "east coast bias," whose existence I conclusively debunked?
Well, get ready for Auburn fans to assert "west coast bias," or should I say a bias in the national media against teams from the heartland that lack a big national profile (as John Walters of Sports Illustrated acknowledged).
Consider a comparison: Oregon fans who insist that Joey Harrington should have won the Heisman are unaware that Jason Campbell—who had similar numbers for the 2004 Auburn team—wasn't even invited to the ceremony and was an anonymous figure nationally to everyone but NFL scouts.
Make no mistake, if this were UCLA, Oklahoma, Texas, FSU, Miami, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame or Syracuse, virtually everyone in the country would have heard of Auburn's players. Instead, the national media gave more attention to merely above average USC linemen like Shaun Cody, Mike Patterson and Winston Justice than to a guy in WR Darvin Adams, who has better numbers the last 2twoyears (1900 yards and 17 TDs) than many recent first round NFL draft picks.
Would a five star true freshman, who is the starting RB and has 950 yards at six yards per carry, be virtually anonymous as is Michael Dyer if he played at Michigan instead of Auburn? Onterrio McCaleb, Zac Etheridge and a number of Auburn players would be well known to the Ducks if they played for a higher profile program.
Bottom line: Oregon may well beat Auburn in a few days. But if they do, it won't be for a lot of the reasons that many Duck fans believe.
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