National Championship Game: Auburn (13-0, -3) vs. Oregon (12-0)
What a baffling game. Throughout most of the bowl season, I’ve been able to latch on to a certain theory and use it to pick a winner. In this game, I haven’t been able to do that. Everyone seemingly has a theory as to who will win this game. The problem is they all seem persuasive to me. My preview will be as scattered as my own thoughts on the game:
Theory #1: Just pick the SEC champion. I’m a sucker for these blanket conference rules – just look through my blog on my thoughts on the MAC, Big Ten, and Conference USA. The SEC champion has qualified for the BCS Championship Game six times previously. They are 6-0, including four national titles in a row. None of those four games were even particularly close.
The SEC isn’t quite as good as they have been the last three years. In each of the last three years, you could make a persuasive argument that two of the best three teams in the nation were from the SEC. Not so this year, but it is still pretty clearly the best conference in the nation. This will be the Pac-10’s first crack at the SEC in the title game, so you can argue that the SEC champion theory shouldn’t apply. Still, there’s no need to be a hero – go with the safe bet.
Theory #2: Auburn isn’t as good as they are lucky. The Tigers trailed by at least 13 points in games against Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. They also were tied or trailed in the fourth quarter against Kentucky, Arkansas, and LSU. Oregon has been far more dominant – aside from an early 21-3 deficit to Stanford, they haven’t trailed by more than a touchdown this season. Only Cal (15-13) stayed within single digits. Oregon is far better than the teams that Auburn trailed and they won’t be able to recover if they fall behind.
Theory #3: Auburn knows how to win. Using the same facts above, in the words of Al Davis, the Tigers “just win baby!” Including the Mississippi State game that the Tigers won by a field goal, Auburn has been in eight dogfights in thirteen games. They have won all of them. Oregon played a weaker schedule and, other than the Cal game, hasn’t had to dig deep and pull out hard-fought victories.
Theory #4: The Tigers are prone to defensive lapses and Oregon will take advantage. Oregon is the best offense that Auburn has faced this year. Auburn fell behind 17-0 against Clemson, 20-7 against South Carolina, 21-7 against Georgia, and 24-0 against Alabama. With their high-octane offense, Oregon will not let off the gas like the rest of these teams. In every game this season, the Ducks have gotten better in the second half – if the Tigers fall behind early, that could be game over.
Theory #5: Both teams have speed but only Auburn has size. This argument mainly applies on the defensive side of the ball. Everyone seems to assume that both offenses are just plain fast. However, Auburn is much bigger than the Ducks on defense. Eventually, this will catch up with the Ducks and they won’t be able to keep up if the game turns into a shootout. Meanwhile, the Tigers won’t have the same problem – Cam Newton is bigger than most of Oregon’s defense.
Theory #6: When in doubt, go with the best player. Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton was by far the best player in college football this year. He passed for 2,589 yards and 28 touchdowns and ran for 1,409 yards and 20 touchdowns. He is flat-out unstoppable.
Theory #7: Heisman Trophy winners struggle in big games. Heisman Trophy winners have struggled in BCS Championship games. The results of Heisman winners in the BCS era: Chris Weinke (won in 2000); Eric Crouch (lost in 2001); Jason White (lost in 2003); Matt Leinart (won in 2004); Reggie Bush (lost in 2005); Troy Smith (lost in 2006); Sam Bradford (lost in 2008); Mark Ingram (won in 2009). That’s only 3-5 – not very impressive at all.
So what’s all this mean? Hell if I know. I went with Oregon for the small at the start of the bowl season. I’ll go with Auburn this time…that way I can’t be wrong. Considering my 1-3 NFL weekend, that’s probably a smart move. The Tigers win 34-31.