First, let me apologize for missing Friday’s Division I Football Championship Game. Congrats to Eastern Washington.
As for my other bowl predictions, well, after going 6-0 on New Year’s Day, well, I’ve gotten a lot worse off. I’m doomed to finish around .500 again, it seems.
As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.
Monday, January 10
8:30: Auburn vs. Oregon (BCS Championship Game @ Glendale, AZ; ESPN): This was the hardest single game for me to pick. Usually, that title goes to games like the godaddy.com Bowl, which feature teams from conferences that I frankly don’t see a lot of. But in this case this was because these teams are really a lot alike.
Both have a scorched Earth offense that tends to leave opponents in its dust. Oregon is #1 in total offense, while Auburn is #7, while Auburn is #4 in scoring offense (the Ducks are #1 in that category as well). Both these teams primarily run the ball, as they’re 4th and 5th in the country in rushing (Oregon and Auburn, that is) but merely 49th and 67th in passing.
You already know Auburn’s offense. It starts and ends with Cam Newton. Comparing with Oregon’s primary two offensive weapons, Newton outpassed Devon Thomas and only had 200 yards less rushing than LaMicheal James. There’s a reason why he was a shoe-in for the Heisman, folks.
So what about defense? Ah, that’s where I think the difference will be made. Auburn ranks 54th in the country in scoring and total defense, while Oregon is 12th and 25th, respectively. 54th isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great, either. Auburn’s faced only one other top-10 offense this year, and that was Arkansas. The final score of that game was 65-43, a testament to not only both teams’ lack of a defense but also Auburn’s resiliency. Arkansas led 43-37 at the start of the 4th quarter but Auburn rallied back and without Ryan Mallett Arkansas wasn’t able to respond, as Auburn went on to score 4 unanswered touchdowns. Auburn had many moments like this throughout the year, but at a certain point the offense (by which I mostly mean Newton) was able to respond.
Oregon, meanwhile, had only to only really sweat it out a few times this year. They were down early to Stanford, but rallied and defeated the Cardinal 52-31. Then there was the game in Berkeley, where Cal had the Ducks well and truly on the ropes. They won only 15-13, which is the only time they’ve been held under 30 all season.
So where am I going with all that? Well, for starters, I’m starting to think 38-34 may not be enough points for this game. But that said, I’m picking a narrow Oregon victory here. I think the Ducks’s somewhat more well-rounded offense (I say “somewhat” because I recognize it’s basically two guys to Auburn’s one) can overwhelm Auburn’s average defense. Auburn may be able to respond on offense, but I think Oregon can make enough stops to win.
(On a side note, it’s remarkable how young these teams are. The heart of Oregon’s offense are sophomores. While Newton is junior this his first full year starting, and the guy Auburn fans will point out that I didn’t mention at all – Micheal Dyer – is a freshman and almost had a 1000 yards rushing.)
Previous meetings: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Last bowl game: Auburn, as you may recall, won last year’s thriller of an Outback Bowl, 38-35 over Northwestern. Oregon got blindsided by last year’s version of the Jim Tressel bowl game offense, losing 26-17 to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
However it ends up, 2010 has been a fun year in the world of college football, as usual (even if it wasn’t all that great for me, personally). Hopefully I can get around to wrapping things up later this week.