Chicago and Cleveland

The BCS National Championship Game

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Hey guys. First I wanted to say thank you to everyone for your positive feedback over Twitter, Facebook and right here on this blog in response to my first post. I’ll do my best to keep up the in-depth analysis of all the games that I look at. I’ve decided to run through the BCS games in order of their importance to me, so I started with my boys at Ohio State and their opponent, Arkansas, in this year’s Sugar Bowl.

This time, I’m going to take a look at the big one: the BCS National Championship Game Presented by Tostitos (Dear Tostitos, send $ to my house, care of me). Spoiler alert: Auburn is going to win this game. This is another situation where I’m pretty much in line with the beat of the nation, so I’m going to try to talk about some of the things that you won’t see 37 writers from TheBleacherReport talking about. Rather, I’m going to try to talk about some of the things that might be considered under-stories by many people. And, of course, I will be making some wild and reckless predictions including point totals.

Oregon Offense v. Auburn Defense

The nation and the “experts” will be calling for a high scoring game from both offenses. They’re right. The Oregon offense is going to put up some serious numbers against the Auburn defense. That said, they’re not gong to do it all on the ground with LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner. I think that you should expect people in the media to start making hay out of the fact that Oregon is only averaging about 234 passing yards per game and that puts them at 48th in the nation in passing. It’s true that Oregon has no breakout stars at receiver, and Darron Thomas is a bigger threat with his feet and concealed distribution talents than he is with his arm, but it’s not like the cupboard is bare in the passing attack.

There are five different receivers in the Oregon passing attack with receptions of more than 45 yards. This is an important statistic. It’s not that I think five different guys are going to make long receptions against Auburn. Let’s not forget that Auburn has, by far, the best defense that Oregon has seen since last year’s Rose Bowl. That statistic is important because it’s illustrative of Oregon’s ability to spread the ball around to multiple receivers and utilize options over the entire breadth of the field. Oregon is going to make some receptions and move the ball against the Auburn defense.

The Tigers have a better front four than any team the Ducks have faced. The Oregon run game is going to suffer because of this. Expect Nick Fairly to have a big game in terms of tackles for a loss and tackles for short gain. Oregon loves backside misdirection and designed cutbacks, which tend to work extremely well where you have an undisciplined defensive line. Over pursuit by the defensive line will cause a one-on-one match-up between the running back and backside linebacker after a cutback. This is generally a great match-up for Oregon because LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner are fantastic running backs and they can usually make at least one man miss before a tackle is made in space by a cornerback or safety coming up to help. In the National Championship, I expect those match-ups won’t play out that way. I expect the Auburn defensive line to shed their blocks and stay home long enough to guard against the cutbacks. But, that is only half of the zone read running attack that Oregon brings to the table. Darron Thomas can make moves with his feet too. Expect the Nation’s top scoring offense to use the multi-headed monster of the zone read to effectively confuse the Auburn defense at least a few times because of the sheer number of weapons available to the Ducks. This is going to lead to some scoring. The reason that I think the Ducks will fall short of their usual scoring bonanza is that the Oregon offense is built to make defenses tackle in space. For the most part, Oregon’s athletes are so fast and agile that they are able to make defenses miss to open up big plays and fast scoring drives. Auburn has the athletes to make the tackles in space. The number I expect to see at the end of the game for the “home” team is somewhere around 35.

Auburn Offense v. Oregon Defense

No big secrets to this one. Cameron Newton is the most outstanding football player this year and Oregon won’t be able to stop him. Casey Mathews is a great linebacker and he may be able to put pressure on Cameron Newton to throw early, but if Oregon takes him out of the zone coverage that they’ll run in most situations, it will leave a big hole in the five to fifteen yards off the line region. This is where Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb will likely reap the benefit of a relatively weak Oregon linebacking crew outside of Casey Mathews. Oregon doesn’t suffer from a lack of speed at any position, but it would be ridiculous to believe that any of them can hang with Cameron Newton or Onterio McCalebb in the open field.

Gus Malzahn will know this. He is Auburn’s Offensive Coordinator and he has been great for the Tigers this year. He has found a way to utilize the exceptional talents of Cameron Newton in a similar way that Urban Meyer did with Tim Tebow. Michael Dyer is Auburn’s number one back, but I expect Onterio McCalebb to step up and have an even bigger game than Dyer because of his speed and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. The Tigers generally do not like to throw to their backs, but McCalebb has shown that he has the ability and there will be little reason not to give it a try against the Ducks who do not have an SEC defense.
The Ducks will try to combat these short passes and release passes from the Tigers by alternating into man coverage in third down situations. I don’t think that this approach will work because Auburn is simply too fast and we haven’t even talked about Cam Newton’s ability to scramble yet.

When Auburn looks to throw the ball down field, it will be Darvin Adams, Terrell Zachery and Emory Blake that will get the bulk of the attempts. Together these three have caught 114 passes this year with Adams leading the way with 48. I expect Auburn to call throwing plays at least 40 times in this game and it will work, a lot.

The running game will be a different story. Cameron Newton will be able to scramble on broken plays, as he always does, and Michael Dyer will pick up some yards, but I don’t think that Auburn will attempt to run more than maybe 20 times. And why would they? They’ll be able to throw effectively for all of the reasons previously stated and Auburn’s philosophy will be to score early and score often. Auburn will strive for long sustained drives through short passing.

We will see more running than that if Auburn finds themselves in a lot of second and short situations. The reason for this is that Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn will want to eat up as much of the clock as possible when they have the ball so the Ducks can spend less time executing their offensive attack against Auburn.

Now, to be clear, Newton is going to record something like 20 carries by himself but only about 8 – 10 of those will be designed runs. The rest will come from roll out passes, coverage runs and broken plays. I know that there will be those of you out there who will say, “Hey! Auburn has an extremely effective zone read attack that accounts for almost half of their total run yardage!” (I know you were thinking it.) Well, that’s true, but the Tigers won’t be up against an SEC defense. They won’t have to try to trick anybody. Gus Malzahn is likely to rely on the athletic superiority of his team to control the tempo and clock when he has the ball rather than risk the shaky exchanges that go along with the zone read plays. This isn’t to say that we won’t see the zone read at all from the Tigers. It will come up in short yardage situations (usually close to the goal line). It just won’t be a staple of the Tiger offensive attack the way that they used it throughout the year.

The other 10ish designed runs will come from power runs to Michael Dyer and speed sweeps to Onterio McCalebb in equal share just to keep Oregon honest and remind them that the Tigers can run the ball when they want to. Bottom line here, I’d be surprised if Auburn has to punt the ball more than four times the entire game. Expect the Tiger to hang close to a half-a-hundred on the Ducks and expect them to do it with as many as five guys scoring for Auburn.

Thanks for reading about my predictions and thoughts on the major matchups of the BCS National Championship Game Presented by Tostitos. You can follow my other thoughts and pointless rants on Twitter @BuckeyeGuy79.


Written by ryanandjocelyn

December 7, 2010 at 11:35 PM

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