By Casey Keefe
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BCS Title Game: Oregon (12-0) @ Auburn (13-0)

– The Matchup:

Both the Ducks and Tigers come in to this game undefeated, having played brutal schedules and passing every test they faced. There’s no question that these are the two best teams in the country.

This stage is foreign to both, as neither have ever played for a BCS title. Oregon has never won a national championship and Auburn’s last title came way back in 1957. It’s also crazy to think that neither of these teams were ranked in the top 10 to start the season. Oregon came in ranked 11th, whereas Auburn was 22nd.

Tigers head coach Gene Chizik will lock horns with Chip Kelly in a matchup of two of the best young coaches in the land. Chizik is sure to be extra motivated, after all he was the defensive coordinator of the 2004 Auburn team which ran the table and finished 13-0, yet were shut out of a chance at the BCS title. He’ll have his shot this time around and will try to give the SEC their 5th straight national championship.

Of course this game won’t be lacking any star power. We’ll see the golden boy himself, Cam Newton, as well as fellow Heisman finalist LaMichael James. Not to be overlooked is Tigers defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who despite being the dirtiest player in the country is still a threat to be reckoned with in the trenches.

Points will be aplenty, that’s for sure. Oregon comes in averaging 49 points per game, with Auburn nearly as impressive posting 43 on average. Neither of these teams have dominant defenses, so we can expect to see plenty of fireworks on offense which is exactly what the BCS committee is hoping for.

– Players To Watch:

Oregon: RB – LaMichael James – 1,682 yards, 22 total TD’s

Auburn: QB – Cam Newton – 2,589 pass yards – 28 TD’s – 6 INT’s – 1,409 rush yards – 20 TD’s

– What Will Happen:

Both teams will put plenty of points on the board. Oregon has the deeper and more balanced offense. Of course the main weapon is James who averages 153 yards per game and plays at the highest level against elite teams – But the Ducks have more to them than just James. Quarterback Darron Thomas has taken strides I had thought were unreachable.

Thomas is the player I’ve been most impressed with on the Ducks this season. He’s passed for 2,518 yards with 28 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions. He’s also rushed for 492 yards and another 5 scores. I knew the Ducks would be great this season, but I thought the loss of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli would hurt them a whole lot more than it has – But that hasn’t been the case because of Thomas’ production.

Cam Newton has been the unquestioned best player in the country this season. What he has done – especially playing in the SEC – has been nothing short of spectacular. The Tigers do have other weapons such as receiver Darvin Adams and running back Mike Dyer, but Newton is the straw that stirs the drink for the Tigers offense. No team is more reliant on one player than Auburn is with Newton.

They say offense sells tickets, but defense wins games. It’s hard to find a truer saying than that. This game will be decided by which defense is able to get more stops. Yes, both teams will gain a zillion yards and score plenty of points, but whichever defense clamps down and makes a string of big stops will be the key factor in deciding this game.

It’s no secret that Auburn’s defense is a disaster. Yes, they have a couple big-time play makers, but all-together they are a very vulnerable and mediocre unit. They’ve allowed 28 points on average over the final 8 games of the season. They’ve also had to come from behind in 8 games, with 4 of those being double digit comebacks.

Some people may look at those comebacks as a positive – and they are in many ways because they show toughness and resiliency – but it’s never a good thing to constantly fall behind in games. Sooner or later it will cost you. They’ve gotten away it for the entire season, but tonight it will cost them. Their defense will be exposed more than ever by the Ducks.

Oregon on the other hand is a team that knows how to play defense. They’re a proven unit. On average they only let up 18 points per game, but more telling than that stat is how well they performed over the final month of the regular season when the offense was stalling and wasn’t as explosive as they normally are. It was at those points where the defense was forced to rise to the occasion and carry the team – and they sure responded.

This will be a close hard-fought game. I’d be shocked if we see a blowout. In the end, the difference will be Oregon’s ability to get stops on defense combined with Auburn’s inability to do the same. Chip Kelly and the Ducks will take down the Tigers in what will be one of the most exciting BCS games ever played.

– Prediction:

Oregon 37 Auburn 33

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