The BCS National Championship game is scheduled to kickoff tonight at 8:30 PM ET on ESPN (FINALLY!!!) with both teams having 37 days to prepare. I was writing a breakdown for both teams to decide which team had an advantage at each position like I did for the Las Vegas Bowl but realized there are just a few keys to the game. So instead of wasting your time (and mine) with a position-by-position breakdown I will just explain what I believe the keys to the game will be. Be sure to let me know what you think – share your thoughts about my keys to the game and your prediction at the end.
1. Can the Ducks slow down Cam Newton or is that even possible?
Cam Newton has been one of the most dominant college football players I’ve ever seen. Newton has thrown for 2,589 yards, 28 TDs, 6 Ints, and rushed for 1409 yards, on 242 carries, and 20 TDs on the season – that’s incredible. For the Ducks to win they’ll need to do something no team has done this season – contain or slow down Cam Newton. The Oregon offense should put some points on the board but Cam Newton’s ability to take a game over – a la Vince Young in the 2006 National Championship Game – could have the Ducks in trouble if the defense doesn’t have a good game plan, tackle well, or doesn’t execute their assignments.
2. Will the Ducks be able to neutralize Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley?
Photo via msnbc.msn.com
If you’ve seen Auburn play this season then I’m sure you’ve seen Nick Fairley (pictured above) in the opposing team’s backfield. Fairley has 55 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, & 1 interception on the season despite facing double teams throughout. If the Duck’s can’t block Fairley he could disrupt the mesh point between Darron Thomas and LaMichael James throwing a wrench into Oregon’s finely tuned offensive machine. If the Ducks manage to keep Fairley out of the backfield the rest of the Auburn defense could be on their heels chasing Oregon all over the field.
3. Does the Oregon’s experience in last year’s Rose Bowl give them an advantage?
The Ducks played in last year’s Rose Bowl losing to #8 Ohio State 26-17. The Oregon offense looked rusty from the long layoff and never seemed to get going. The experience last year of having 29 days between the end of the season and the big stage of the Rose Bowl could serve the Ducks well this year. Chip Kelly is an extensive planner and will surely have learned from last year and have the Ducks better prepared this year’s BCS game. Note: Auburn also had a long layoff – 34 days – last year but preparing for Northwestern in the Outback Bowl is slightly different than the big stage of a BCS game let alone national championship.
Keep An Eye On: Cliff Harris – Cornerback – Oregon Ducks
Photo via hauckphoto.photoshelter.com
Keep an eye on Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris (pictured above) when the Ducks are on defense and during punt returns. Harris has 5 interceptions including 1 he returned for a touchdown but can really impact the game on special teams where he averages 19.5 yards per punt return (on 28 returns) with 4 returned for a touchdown. He plays with the swagger of Deion Sanders and nearly has the game to back it up.
What does it all mean?
If Nick Aliotti and the Oregon Defense can tackle well enough and prevent Cam Newton from doing a Vince Young impersonation the Ducks’ chances will great chance of winning the game. The Ducks will also need to keep Nick Fairley out of their backfield to keep the offense in rhythm. If Newton and Fairley are their dominant selfs the Tigers have to like their chances. I think the Ducks will get a big play on special teams – perhaps from Cliff Harris – and do just enough to prevent Netwon and Fairley from dominating the game.
Prediction: Oregon 38 – Auburn 34
What do you think? Share your thoughts on the game and your prediction below.