No.1 Auburn vs. No.2 Oregon: Playing for it All
Game time: 7:30 PM.
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium (capacity 72,200), Glendale, Arizona
Announcers: Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit. Sideline: Erin Andrews and Tom Rinaldi
Line: Auburn 2 1/2
Gene Chizik, Auburn: 21-5 in two years at Auburn. Prior to that, 5-19 at Iowa State. Prior to that defensive coordinator at Auburn in 2004 on an undefeated team. Defensive coordinator at Texas in 2005 on an undefeated national championship team.
Chizik was a controversial hire by Auburn in January, 2009. A lot of people thought his record was a bad sign for a program that was trying to rebuild after a disastrous 3-9 campaign in 2008 that led to Tommy Tuberville’s firing. But Chizik started getting Auburn’s hopes up with an improved 8-5 record last year and a win in the Capital One Bowl game over Northwestern. Auburn had taken a 14-0 lead on Alabama in the Iron Bowl but ended up losing barely to the eventual national champion. But Chizik was determined to take this team “from good to great.” He signed five-star quarterback Cam Newton out of Blinn Junior College in Texas and signed Michael Dyer, considered by everybody along with Marcus Lattimore as the best running back in the country, put of Arkansas. Gus Malzahn, Chizik’s offensive coordinator hire, had made the Auburn offense successful in 2009 and this year took it to another level. Behind Newton and a slew of playmakers, Auburn rolled out the offensive yards. Newton won the Heisman, and guys like Onterio McCalebb, Dyer, Darvin Adams, Terrell Zachery and Phillip Lutzenkirchen became household names. Auburn trailed a lot in games, but Chizik, the coaches and the players never panicked. Ted Roof, Chizik’s somewhat–at times– maligned defensive coordinator, made excellent adjustments against Alabama in the Tigers come from behind victory. Trooper Taylor and Curtis Looper were outstanding. Chizik hired great coaches.
Chizik is the personification of an Auburn man. Good, solid man, intense when necessary, good motivator, good with the media though guarded which is probably good, and takes a risk when necessary. He has been the perfect fit for this Auburn football team. His hire of Gus Malzahn has turned out to be genius. He can really recruit. Kids are impressed with his genuine personality and solid values. A good man who deserves success.
Chip Kelly, Oregon: Has done great things in Eugene. Took his team to the Rose Bowl last year and kicked his star quarterback off the team after last year; Jeremiah Masoli. But the offense never missed a beat. Darron Thomas filled in and was even better than Masoli and playmakers like LaMichael James and Jeff Maehl made this one of the most explosive offenses in the country averaging 49 points per game (Auburn is averaging 42.7 per game). They outscored their opponents 592 to 221. Kelly has built an offensive juggernaut at Oregon. He is a disciplined, no-nonsense guy, who, if you didn’t know him, might seem abrupt and rude. And he can be. But he loves his players and his success is a tribute to his mental toughness, his strategic brilliance and his passion for his players. I don’t think there is a coaching edge here for either side. Both head coaches and their staffs are excellent.
Key players for both sides:
Auburn: Who else? Cam Newton: 1,409 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns. 165-246-6 (67.1%), 2,589 yards and 28 touchdowns. You can try to blitz, you can try to slow rush, you can try a spy, but is there any way to stop this guy? Haven’t seen it yet. Alabama had the best defense in the first half of the Iron Bowl by slow rushing guys like Mosley, Hightower and Upshaw. But Cam and the coaches adjusted at halftime and solved the Alabama defense in the second half at least through the air. Oregon will probably try a variety of things to somehow contain Newton. Michael Dyer: 950 yards, five touchdowns. Became an outstanding back as the season progressed. Could be a big factor in this game as the dominating Auburn offensive line tries to run over a much smaller Oregon defensive front. Onterio McCalebb: 763 yards rushing, nine touchdowns. Dynamic runner. Gets to the second line of defense he’s gone. Just a game breaker. Bo Jackson told him to start running more assertively early in the season and he did. Become a superstar. Darvin Adams: 48 catches, 909 yards, seven touchdowns. Always reliable, dependable. Outstanding possession receiver and explosive playmaker as he showed in the SEC championship game. Terrell Zachery: 37-567 four touchdowns. Became a big play threat for the Tigers. Electric player. Very dangerous on end-arounds. Another game breaker. Emory Blake: 29 catches, 500 yards, seven touchdowns. Another outstanding weapon who really asserted himself this year. You can’t key on any of these three receivers, but if you focus on them another guy is really going to hurt you: Phillip Lutzenkirchen. Thirteen catches 157 yards and five touchdowns. The numbers are pedestrian except for the bottom line. The guy just knows how to get in the end zone. Catches everything. Very important player.
The line, led by center Ryan Pugh, tackle Lee Ziemba and guard Mike Berry, all seniors, has been dominant this season. They’ll try to do the same against the Ducks.
On defense, you’ve got to start with Nick Fairley. Fifty four tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. Dominating player who will be a first round draft choice when he decides to go out. He could be dominant Monday Night. The always reliable and maybe unsung hero of the team is Josh Bynes. Always around the football. Led the team in tackles with 71, had five and a half tackles for loss and three huge interceptions. What a leader. What an Auburn man. Zac Etheridge: 66 tackles and two ints. The leader who came back from an almost tragic injury against Ole Miss last year where he could have been paralyzed. Courageous. Another leader. Others like Antoine Carter (who could have a big night Monday Night), T’Sharvin Bell and Demond Washington could be huge in this game.
You have to start with running back LaMichael James. 1,682 yards and 21 touchdowns. Not big, but very quick and fast. Will be key to stop James for the Tigers. Kenjon Barner has run for 519 yards and six scores and is a very capable backup to James. Quarterback Darron Thomas: 492 yards rushing and five touchdowns. 195-321-7 (60.7%) 28 touchdowns. After Oregon kicked Masoli off the team nobody expected this. This guy is much better. Thomas a heckuva a threat for the Ducks. WR Jeff Maehl 68 catches for 943 yards and 12 touchdowns. Kind of a Wes Welker clone but with more speed who is capable of breaking it. D.J. Davis: 36 catches 410 yards and three tds. Lavasier Tuinei, 33-321, 2 tds. David Paulson 21-370, 4 tds.
The thing about tbe Ducks’ offense is their pace. They just come at you play after play with blinding speed. Line is good. Auburn defense will have their hands full.
Leading tackler is Casey Matthews. 73 tackles.
By the numbers: National ranks:
Rushing offense: Oregon 4th. 306 yards per game; Auburn fifth 305 yards per game.
Rushing defense: Auburn 10th, 111 yards per game. Oregon 16th, 117 yards per game
Pass Defense: Oregon 51. 214 yards per game; Auburn 106.250 yards per game.
Total Defense: Oregon 25th, 331 yards per game; Auburn, 55th. 362 yards per game.
Scoring defense: Oregon 12th. 18.42 per game; Auburn, 54th. 24.46 per game.
Analysis: Auburn can’t afford to get behind much in this one. Oregon gets a lead and they’re like sharks; they smell blood and they’ll pile it on. Auburn secondary will be tested by Thomas, Maehl and company. It’ll be hard for Oregon to move it on the ground against Auburn as the Tigers are very good against the run. I think Auburn can move the ball on the ground against Oregon because of the size difference on the line in Auburn’s favor and with the weapons running the ball. Auburn has played a lot tougher competition. If Oregon’s going to win they might have to do it through the air. The secondary must be good as must Fairley, Carter and company up front. Thomas is dangerous with his legs so the ends will have to contain him and the linebackers need to tackle well. On offense, Auburn has a 30 pound weight advantage on the line. Auburn’s line could dominate and Newton could put on a performance for the ages. The other playmakers will play a big role, too.
I see this as a great offensive matchup. Auburn can’t afford to get behind by 10 like they have in some previous games this year. I see Newton, Fairley and the rest of this highly talented team having a big night and bringing home the national championship to Auburn, Alabama.
Auburn 48, Oregon 34
(Nick Fairley and AU defense will try to neutralize LaMichael James and Darron Thomas.)Football / Comments (0) / make a comment