SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - In a special edition of Fearless Forecasters, senior editor Phillip Marshall and senior writer Bryan Matthews look at Monday night’s BCS National Championship Game between Auburn and Oregon.
OK, it’s time to make the call. Who will lift the crystal football to the sky on Monday night? Will it be Auburn? Will it be Oregon?
I say it will be Auburn.
With two high-scoring, new-age offenses will be on the field at University of Phoenix Stadium, everything points to a shootout. And it will, indeed, be a big surprise if there aren’t a lot of points scored.
Auburn will score more for a simple reason. Auburn has better players than Oregon.
Oregon’s offense is built around running back LaMichael James. Auburn’s offense is built around quarterback Cam Newton. I’ll take Newton.
In short, Auburn is bigger, stronger and better than Oregon at quarterback and on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Auburn is battle-tested with six wins over teams in the current top 25. Oregon has one win over a team in the current top 25.
There has been much talk this week about the pace of Oregon’s offense. Auburn has had six weeks to get ready for it. And the Tigers, with their own fast-paced offense, have been uniquely positioned to see in practice what they’ll see in the game.
And then there are two dozen Auburn seniors. They’re almost to the mountaintop. They won’t stop climbing now.
It won’t be a blowout, but it won’t be down to the wire either.
Auburn 45, Oregon 31.
I also think a lot of the intangibles favor Auburn. Being such a veteran team with so many seniors, should allow Auburn to better handle all the distractions and pressure that are a natural part of this game. When you look at some of the things that have taken place this week - Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas referring to Fairley as a dirty player is just one example - it shows the Ducks' immaturity.
I like Auburn's approach this week of blending work and fun and not being too serious early in the week. I didn't cover Oregon as closely but Auburn definitely appeared to be the looser of the two teams.
On the field, Auburn should control the game in the trenches. Oregon's speed and quickness will force some negative plays for Auburn's offense, but I think the Tigers will control the clock and the game for most of the night. I expect Mike Dyer to have a big game. He's a very good downhill runner inside the tackles and that's where Auburn should attack Oregon early.
Oregon's fast pace on offense causes a lot of alignment and assignment mistakes for defenses, and their speed can turn those mistakes into big plays. The five weeks off are a huge advantage for Auburn's defense in preparing for the pace and all the movement. Oregon's speed shouldn't be underrated. It will hurt Auburn at times. But the Tigers should come up with enough stops on defense to allow the offense to pull ahead.
I've predicted Auburn to win every game this season. That's certainly not going to change in the BCS Championship.
Auburn 41, Oregon 28