In just one year, Auburn Tigers quarterback Cameron Newton became one of the most polarizing players in college football. Newton dominated pretty much the entire year and the end result, he found himself holding a Heisman Trophy. He showed that even during the little circus side show that happened just weeks ago, that nothing could phase him. He has overcome several obstacles throughout his college career, most of which came at the junior college level.
Tonight, Newton, Fairely and the rest of the Tigers will have a tough time keeping up with the high-octane offense of the Oregon Ducks as well as containing them. The Ducks offense averaged nearly 50 points a game this year. When a team can manage an average of that many points-per-game, it really doesn't matter too much what the other team is doing. However, the kicker in the equation is that the Tigers were no slouch on offense either. Auburn was 4th in the nation as far as points-per-game were concerned with 42.7 which is just about a touchdown's difference.
The Ducks defense was ranked 12th in the nation while the Tigers were ranked 54th. Defense could be the difference and most likely will be. Whoever can slow the other team down the best will have the edge.
Through out the history of the BCS National Championship there have been some great games and on the other side of that, some very one-sided games. This is the very first appearance in the big dance for both Oregon and Auburn.
The BCS National Championship game draws close to as much attention nationally as the Superbowl does. In essence, this is college football's Superbowl. However, it is always a topic of discussion - will there be a playoff system? If so, how many games would it be? How many teams would it feature? Is it possible for teams like TCU and Boise State to ever make an appearance? All of those questions will continued to be asked no matter if the NCAA makes a change or not. I, for one, am hoping that the future holds change to the current system in place.
With that said, we're stuck with what we have. Tonight's game, regardless of how they (Oregon and Auburn) earned their spots, is the Superbowl for us, die-hard, crazy, fanatical, college football fans. Personally, I'm curious to see what kind of wacky uniforms the Ducks will run out of the tunnel with.
For more on the game, join below to see some of the players to watch and that will have a major impact on this evenings match up.
#1 AUBURN TIGERS VS. #2 OREGON DUCKS
KEY PLAYERS IN TONIGHT'S NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
THE DUCKS (Top 6):
1 - QB (Sophomore) Darron Thomas: Thomas, like Cam Newton has the ability to flat out fly when he isn't in the pocket tossing the ball around. Look for a good mixture of both this evening.
2 - RB (Sophomore RS) LaMichael James: Most people thought James was a lock to enter the NFL Draft this year. He must want to get a degree, or be the number one running back selected in the draft. Either way, he has been the best running back in college football. We will see a heavy dose of James along with a side of Kenjon Barner.
3 - RB (Sophomore) Kenjon Barner: If you want to give your star running back a breather, then there is nobody better (with exception to maybe Alabama's Trent Richardson) to give the ball to as a second option. Aside from James' phenomenal year, Barner actually averaged a half yard more than James per carry on the year with 6.5.
4 - WR (Senior) Jeff Maehl: When Thomas isn't running the rock around the yard, he's usually getting it to this guy. Maehl has caught 68 passes on the year, averaging 13.9 YAR, and has 12 Touchdowns on the year. If Auburn's defense is not careful and mindful of where Maehl is at all times, he is a guy that could burn them and be the difference.
5 - LB (Senior) Casey Mathews: LIke his brother (Clay Jr.), his father (Clay Sr.), and uncle (Bruce), it was in this guys DNA to play football at a extremely high level. It really surprises me that Casey has not been ranked higher at his respective position. I believe he deserves a 1st round grade. Maybe by the end of this one and the Senior Bowl he will be. But currently, I have not seen him rated higher than the 2nd round. He should play a major role in trying to slow down Cam Newton.
5 - CB (Freshman) Cliff Harris: Harris has five interceptions on the year. He, and teammate John Boyett are tied leading the Pac-10. It would not surprise me to see either one of these guys pluck a Newton pass off tonight. When asked about Cam Newton's size during media week, Harris responded with, "So what?". Now if that's not literally insanity when you're only 5'11", 170 LBS, I don't know what is.
6 - S (Sophomore RS) John Boyett: Like Harris, Boyett has five balls picked off. They both have taken the ball back to the house for scores as well. They will be lurking in the Ducks secondary licking their chops at this tremendous opportunity to shine.
THE TIGERS (Top 6):
1- QB (Junior) Cam Newton: Cam Newton will play a huge factor in how he is perceived by everyone. Tonight is his last college game before he heads off in to the NFL. Much like Ryan Mallett, his draft stock could be heavily influenced by what he does on the field tonight. There will be a bunch of folks watching very close tonight. Which could possibly include the 49ers scouting department considering how close the game is geographically to San Francisco. Newton will carve out his destiny in where he will be selected in April.
2- RB (Freshman) Michael Dyer: Dyer has been Auburn's work horse this year. All the glory has been given to Cam Newton (with 20 rushing touchdowns), and McCalebb (with 9 rushing touchdowns). Most of Dyers rushing touchdowns have been longer than his average. When the Tigers get in to the redzone, they typically give it to their 250 pound running back who also happens to play quarterback.
3- RB (Sophomore) Onterio McCalebb: McCalebb averages 8.9 yards per carry. He is very explosive and very dangerous. Anytime he touches the ball it could go for six.
4- WR (Junior) Darvin Adams: Adams has been very solid for all three of his years at Auburn. I certainly expect him to be solid in this game as well. Adams has great hands and runs very crisp routes. The Oregon secondary is very good, but if they aren't careful, Adams is one of those guys that can break loose if he gets in the zone.
5- OT (Senior) Lee Zeimba: At 6'6", 319 LBS he presents a mountain of a man to get around. The linebackers and defensive ends should consider packing a lunch trying to go around Zeimba. He will be a good pick up for an NFL team. He is a bit raw, but has potential to turn in to something great.
6- DT (Junior) Nick Fairely: Perhaps the best defensive lineman in college football this year. Fairley is not exactly Ndamukong Suh, but he is this years closest thing to it. Fairely has dominated the competition all year long. Oregon's offensive line will be have all the work in the world cut out for them to slow this metaphorical beast.
Game prediction - With all factors included, this game is still a very difficult one to predict. However, as mentioned before, the Oregon Ducks have not paid any attention to an opposing defense as they scored at will. They played one SEC team this year and completely dominated them. Tennessee isn't exactly Auburn, but it goes to show that a team from that conference can get annihilated.
If I were Lee Corso, I'd be putting the Duck mascot head on. Oregon will win and there will be 80+ points scored in this years National Championship.
Coverage: ESPN/ ESPN3