Auburn is currently the top-ranked football team in the country, as it should be. But the majority of their success is due in large part to Heisman winner Cam Newton. This is not abnormal by any means. The Heisman Trophy winner usually paints record books and leads his team to a great record, or a BCS Championship.
Well, since we've analyzed this game 12 billion times now, I think it's only appropriate to take it to the next level and start with the hypothetical situations. So that's what this is. If Oregon is able to shutdown Cam Newton, will the War Eagle be shot down?
It hasn't happened all year, and I don't think it will. He's too big, strong and fast. He dissected SEC defenses all year, and this shouldn't be any different.
But since the NCAA has 150 prestigious bowl games to play now, and there is about six months between the final game of the season and the National Championship, we have time for the hypothetical situations. So let's take a look...
Cam Newton is far and away Auburn's rushing leader with 1,409 yards this year. So if he is shut down by Oregon's defense, they will have to turn to their two running backs, Michael Dyer (950 yards) and Onterio McCalebb (763). The duo is more than capable of carrying the load and keeping the Oregon offense off the field.
The fact that they are running behind three seniors on the offensive line certainly bodes well for the Tigers ground game as well. Auburn's running game might be their best defense in that regard. The more they're on the field, the less Oregon can score.
Cam Newton threw for 2,589 of Auburn's 2,527 passing yards this year. Newton ran for 1,409 of the team's 3,733 yards, and added 49 total touchdowns (20 rushing, 28 passing, one receiving). The only touchdown pass that wasn't throw by Newton this year was caught by him.
You guys see what I'm getting at here, right?
His stats are a testament to his ability and how he thrives in this system, but take him away, and Auburn will lose, and lose big to the Ducks.
Auburn's defense has been very average this season, finishing the regular season ranked 55th in total defense. Auburn can thank it's great rushing offense for the undefeated season thus far. The Tigers average 42.7 points per game on offense.
Besides Cal, nobody has been able to stop Oregon on offense this year. They get that fast break going and they are like watching the college football equivalent of the Phoenix Suns when Steve Nash was in his prime. Nash, Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire were getting out on the break scoring 900 points per game.
Auburn is going to need every defender to play the game of their lives if Newton is shut down, and that starts with Nick Fairley on the defensive line. We can call this Mission Impossible.
Oregon's offensive attack doesn't even look like football. I feel like Chip Kelly should be screaming "It's Chess, not checkas!" across the sidelines in his best Denzel Washington from "Training Day" voice. That's how it looks. He out-schemes everyone and gets his speedsters in the open field.
That's how they are the No.1 scoring offense in the country, and the fourth-ranked rushing team. Heisman candidate LaMichael James is as explosive as they get. They average 49 points per game. I repeat, average.
If Auburn's average defense cannot play extraordinarily, it is going to be a long day for the Tigers. Auburn's only hope is to score and score often, and without Cam Newton, that is unlikely to happen.
If Cam Newton is on the field, he is a threat. I don't care if he has six concussions and two broken legs. He will be the primary focus of Oregon's defense, no matter where he is or what his stat line reads. With such a big offensive threat handling the ball every play, something is bound to open up for one of the other talented Tiger players.
If Newton is shut down, then use him as the smoke and mirrors to get someone else some at-bats. As long as he isn't injured, and is mobile, he will be a threat in one way or another.
The only way to actually shut him down is to hurt him, which hard-hitting SEC defenses have been unable to do all season. Better hope he slips in the tunnel or something Duck fans.
If Cam Newton is shut down completely by the Ducks, then the entire Auburn offense changes. Changing your offensive attack mid-national championship game is far from ideal for even the best coach. But especially when there is so much pressure on an offense to score.
This offense will need to score to keep up with the high-powered Oregon offense. They will not have time to figure out what will and won't work. So if Newton is shut down, there goes the Auburn offense. Maybe by the time they get something going on offense, it will be too late in the game.
By that time they will need to pass, and passing is not their strong suit. The Tigers are ranked 67th in the country in passing offense. There will be little room for error on offense for Auburn, and a Newton-less Auburn offense will be riddled with errors.
Auburn will have to make plays on special teams to win this game. They will have to force a turnover or two, or return a punt or kick for a score. If Newton isn't performing, Auburn will need all the momentum they can get, and nothing gives a team momentum like a big special teams play.
A blocked punt is the biggest momentum shifter in college football. That would be ideal, but winning the battle as a whole will be key in establishing field position.
Basically they will need all the help they can get, and big special teams plays would be huge, along with not turning the ball over to the Ducks, who are third in the country in takeaways.
If Cam Newton is shut down, somehow, then no matter what the Auburn offense does, it will not be enough. Oregon's defense is better than Auburn's, although the numbers are a little off because of the quality of the competition. But even if the defenses were evenly matched, it would just come down to whose offense is better.
And if Cam Newton is neutralized, then it is a no-brainer. Oregon is the superior football team. Even if Barrett Trotter comes in and plays great for Auburn, it won't matter. It will not be enough. Oregon is never going to take their foot off the gas on offense, and they will throw the kitchen sink at whoever is playing quarterback. And realistically, if they have shut down Newton, they will shut down Trotter. Hypothetically speaking of course...
You heard me folks. Overrated. Oregon's defensive numbers have been inflated due to playing a softer schedule. They looked like Swiss cheese at certain points this season, and two shutouts over Portland State and New Mexico padded the stats a bit.
But they are going to have to bring it to these SEC men harder than they brought it to the Pac-10 boys all year. They gave up over 500 yards twice this year (Stanford and Arizona). Good defenses do not give up 500 yards, ever.
If Cam Newton isn't running over defenders scoring touchdowns and grinning ear-to-ear like he has all season, then something will be wrong, and the Tigers will feel that as a team. They will have to show a tremendous amount of character to overcome that, but I don't think they will be able to overcome the loss of their leader, both in the huddle and on the stat sheet.
Cam Newton brings the energy to this team, and he does it by making big plays at critical times. If he isn't making those plays, the energy won't be there and Auburn will fall.
Auburn will not possibly be able to win without the help of Cam Newton. He means everything to this team. He is their leader in every way, and the offense runs through him. It is shaped around his abilities. The Auburn defense is not nearly good enough to stop the Oregon offense, or even slow it.
The only way Newton will be slowed is by injury. I have yet to see a defense that can stop him this year. Oregon's is good, but he's seen some great, hard-hitting ones this year. Auburn will not be able to overcome a bad outing by Cam Newton, and if he's out, it could get very ugly, very fast.