Auburn Tigers vs Oregon Ducks: Eight Players Who May Make an Impact In Glendale

Andrew J. KearneyCorrespondent IIJanuary 10, 2011

Auburn Tigers vs Oregon Ducks: Eight Players Who May Make an Impact In Glendale

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    SCOTTSDALE, AZ - JANUARY 09:  Head coaches Gene Chizik of the Auburn Tigers and Chip Kelly of the Oregon Ducks pose together with the coaches trophy during a press conference for the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Tonight is expected to be one of the most-watched BCS National Championship games ever.  It's Auburn versus Oregon in what should be a shootout in the desert.  With LaMichael James, Cam Newton and Darron Thomas on the card, it don't get any bigger than this.  

    Finally, all the talk will conclude as the game will be won on the field tonight.  The discussions over strength in the Pac-10 and SEC will be gone after tonight as the national champion will emerge.  

    Both teams come in with a knack for scoring points, but will this game come down to the wire?  Could the last possession be the one that counts?  Other times this has been the case in college football's biggest game and will likely be again tonight. 

    Auburn and Oregon are playing for more than just bragging rights.  

    Auburn already boasts this year's Heisman Trophy winner in Cam Newton; now they want it all.  They want the BCS National Championship.  

    Oregon is looking to prove to the world that the Pac-10 is indeed a premiere conference and finally dethrone the SEC.

    Here are a look at some guys who could be game-changers tonight.  

Casey Matthews

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    EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 6: Linebacker Casey Matthews #55 of the Oregon Ducks warms up before the game against the Washington Huskies at Autzen Stadium on November 6, 2010 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Yeah, that's right.  Who's he look like folks?  Well, if you've ever seen him play, his style is strikingly similar to that of USC Trojan and Green Bay Packer standout Clay Matthews.  They are in fact brothers and may make a case for the Best Family in Football in a few years, the distinct honor that currently belongs to those Mannings. 

    While Casey doesn't have the same motor as Clay, he's still going to be playing in the NFL.  Possibly alongside his brother in Green Bay, who knows?  

    His ability to read opposing offenses is quite impressive.  This instinctive linebacker has established himself in 2010.  His 72 tackles, three sacks and three interceptions led the way for the Ducks on defense.

    Though he's currently set at inside linebacker, he may be better suited for a shift to the outside when he gets to the NFL.  Matthews, NFL, it just fits.  

    Expect that he will try and wreak havoc in the Tiger backfield tonight.  The elusive Cam Newton must continue to wow, but with Matthews in mind tonight.

    In addition, the Tigers' O-line will be instrumental in giving Newton ample time tonight, plus the time that he bides on his own.  If they allow Matthews to be disruptive though, they may be in for a long night.   

Nick Fairley

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    AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 6:  Defensive tackle Nick Fairley #90 of the Auburn Tigers sets on defense against the Chattanooga Mocs November 6, 2010 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Nick Fairley has been a force in his two seasons at Auburn so far.  His ability to bully his way into the backfield has been obvious from the beginning.  Fairley starts up the Auburn pass-rush and will need to make Darron Thomas' night miserable tonight.  

    Fairley is expected to be a top pick in April's annual NFL Draft.  Moreso, he's the top-rated defensive tackle in the draft.  Fairley is likely a top two or three pick this year if he walks as a junior.

    He's a phenomenal athlete for his size and is capable of forcing any quarterback to start running.  On top of that, his power is something to be enthralled by.  

    His 11 sacks this season are impressive.  Equally as impressive is his run-stopping ability in the middle of the front line.  

    Some call Fairley "dirty" for his rugged, aggressive style, but who's to judge?  

    Fairley was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year.  This is only one year after he rode the bench in Auburn.  

Darron Thomas

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    CORVALLIS, OR - DECEMBER 4: Quarterback Darron Thomas #1 of the Oregon Ducks passes the ball in the second quarter of the game against the the Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Corvallis, Oregon. The Ducks beat the Beavers 37-20
    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Oregon's sensational sophomore quarterback has been just that and more in 2010.  The Ducks have relied heavily on the play of both Darron Thomas and LaMichael James this season.  

    Thomas has thrown for 2,518 yards and 28 touchdowns this season and led the Ducks to a perfect record.  He's proved to be a duel threat all season.  His 492 yards on the ground, plus five touchdowns make him eerily similar to another duel-threat quarterback.  Perhaps Cam Newton.  The man who he will be dueling with in tonight's game.

    The Ducks' offense has been able to move at a rapid pace throughout the season.  A lot of this must be credited to Thomas and his play-making ability.  He's fast and very hard to bring down.  This elusiveness will bring him to the next level of football (NFL)  But for now, he's got at least another year in Oregon.

    Chip Kelly really must like what he sees from his team.  Especially considering that their top two players are only sophomores.

Cam Newton

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04:  Quarterback Cam Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigers celebrates after their 56-17 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks during the 2010 SEC Championship at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Cam Newton is undoubtedly the best player in the nation.  He was graced with that prestigious honor by winning the Heisman Trophy last month.  Now in the biggest game of his life, it's time for Newton to shine. 

    In just his first season at Auburn, he won the Heisman, now it's time for a National Championship before jumping ship to the NFL.  He had over 4,000 all-purpose yards and 48 touchdowns.  Those are Tim Tebow-like numbers.  Those numbers are not normal though, I can assure you of that. 

    His NFL-readiness is nothing to be concerned about.  This kid's potential is sky high.  Even higher than Tebow's was at Florida.  

    Newton's big-play capabilities will be on display tonight as they have been all season.  At the next level, he could make a living off of his innate ability to make big plays.  Michael Vick's done that, hasn't he?  Not comparing Newton to Vick, but you get my drift.  

    For his size, he's a rare athlete.  At nearly 6'6, 250 pounds, Newton is every bit explosive and is difficult to bring down.  

LaMichael James

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    CORVALLIS, OR - DECEMBER 4: LaMichael James #21 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the game at Reser Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Corvallis, Oregon. The Ducks beat the Beavers 37-20 to likely go on to the BCS Championshi
    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    LaMichael James is one of the niftiest halfbacks in all of college football.  His elusiveness is special, and he will be a problem for a bad Auburn defense tonight.  James will look to do what he's done all season: Work cohesively with quarterback Darron Thomas to lead Oregon to victory.

    He's one of the leading rushers in the nation.  Stats aside though, he's probably been the best back in the nation in 2010.

    James averages six yards per carry and touched the end zone 21 times this year.  Both numbers are outstanding for a running back of his size.  At 5'9", 185 pounds, this guy is quite dynamic.

    He'll be back next season along with Darron Thomas.  It ought to be an interesting 2011 in Oregon.  In addition, that "interesting 2011" might start tonight with a national title.  

Josh Bynes

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    AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 13:  Nosa Eguae #94 and Josh Bynes #17 of the Auburn Tigers react after a defensive stop of fourth down for the Georgia Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    A lot rides on tonight's game for Josh Bynes.  In particular his draft stock.  Currently, he's projected as a fifth-round pick in April.  Can Bynes possibly boost his draft stock with a big game tonight?

    Bynes has averaged about 60 tackles per season as a Tiger in a solid career which will conclude tonight.  In his junior and senior seasons though, he's got 175 of those tackles.  His ability to create turnovers on defense is something that will be appealing to NFL scouts.  

    Bynes has developed nicely for Auburn but still needs some work before he hits the NFL.  He could succeed in the NFL though at some point.  

Jeff Maehl

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    EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 26: Wide receiver Jeff Maehl #23 of the Oregon Ducks puts a move on cornerback Trevin Wade #24 of the Arizona Wildcats in the fourth quarter of the game at Autzen Stadium on November 26, 2010 in Eugene, Oregon. The Ducks won the game
    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    So far, we mentioned Oregon's running attack led by LaMichael James.  But since sensational sophomore Darron Thomas has shined, someone has to be catching his passes right?  That someone is Jeff Maehl, Oregon's top receiver.

    Maehl averages about 14 yards per catch and caught 12 touchdown passes this year.  The Ducks have lived by their offense where Thomas, James and Maehl have been a fantastic trio for them.

    Maehl is a surefire NFL prospect and his good hands will land him a job somewhere.  He's undersized for a receiver at just 6', 173 pounds.  

    His NFL calling will likely come as a slot receiver on a late-round flier.  He'd be a nice fit for many NFL teams.  

Darvin Adams

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    ATLANTA - DECEMBER 4:  Wide receiver Darvin Adams #89 of the Auburn Tigers cross the goal line after a reception during the 2010 SEC Championship against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike
    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    Darvin Adams has been Cam Newton's top target this season.  He caught 48 passes for seven touchdowns in his breakout year.  On average, Adams gained about 19 yards per reception.  That's an impressive stat and shows just how explosive this offense was.

    Adams was Newton's target for a reason.  He was in beast-mode during the SEC Championship Game with 217 yards and two touchdowns.  While Adams doesn't necessarily have "burner speed," he's been effective enough for Newton to have faith in him.

    This junior will be a prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft.  

My Prediction

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    SCOTTSDALE, AZ - JANUARY 07:  Quarterback Cam Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigers speaks during Media Day for the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn on January 7, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The SEC will again prove its dominance in the BCS National Championship Game.  Cam Newton's star will shine brighter than ever tonight on college's grandest stage.  

    Auburn Tigers 38, Oregon Ducks 34

Feel Free To Leave Your Own Predictions Here

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    SCOTTSDALE, AZ - JANUARY 09:  Head coaches Gene Chizik of the Auburn Tigers and Chip Kelly of the Oregon Ducks pose together with the coaches trophy during a press conference for the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    It's all on the line tonight in Glendale.  Don't be left out.  Leave your predictions here.