The day has finally arrived where college football will crown the BCS national champion tonight when undefeated Auburn takes on undefeated Oregon. Both teams posses a high a powered offense as they are both ranked in the top five in scoring offense and top five in rushing offense in the nation. Their passing offenses are not as strong as their rushing attacks, as Oregon is 49th and Auburn is 67th in passing yards per game; however, both Darron Thomas and Cam Newton come up with big plays when they count. Newton has completed 95 pass plays for over 15 yards with 30 of those being over 25 yards, while Thomas has 89 pass plus for 15 or more yards with 26 being over 25 yards.
The offenses deservedly receive the headline billing in tonight's title game and both seem fairly even against each other, but this game - as does nearly every football game -- will come down to defense. Both teams possess a top-15 rush defense, but the big difference in tonight's game will be the pass defense. Oregon is just average as they are the 52nd rated pass defense, but Auburn is just bad at 105th in defending the pass.
The Auburn secondary was questioned before the Alabama game and SEC title game against South Carolina and they came away with wins in both. If there is any separation in tonight's game it could come from Oregon slinging the ball against the Auburn secondary. In games where Auburn went up against big time receivers, the Auburn secondary had no answer. Alabama's Julio Jones had 10 catches for 199 yards and a score, Georgia's A.J. Green light up their secondary for nine catches with 164 yards and two touchdowns and then Arkansas's Greg Childs had nine catches, 164 yards and two scores.
Oregon happens to have a play making receiver in Jeff Maehl, who finished the season with 68 receptions, 944 yards, 12 touchdowns and averaged 13.87 yards per reception. Maehl could be that fairly unknown hero in tonight's game if Oregon is able to have some success against a porous Auburn secondary.
The two key superstar, household names in tonight's game are Auburn's Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton and Oregon's running back LaMichael James who happened to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. No team has found a way to stop or really even slow down Newton. It usually takes at least two defenders to take him out when he is running the ball and he has shown the arm strength and accuracy to beat teams who try to stack the line to stop him in the running game.
Everyone in the stadium knows what Auburn is doing in a short yardage play when Cam Newton is in shotgun, and that is he is going to run the ball himself in some fashion. When faced with a reasonable down and distance Newton converted on 28 of 38 third down runs with three yards or less to go. Oregon will need to try to get past the Auburn offensive line and hit Newton behind the line of scrimmage before he gets any momentum and starts eluding the Oregon linebackers and secondary.
As for LaMichael James, he is fast and elusive which is why even though he missed the season opening game against New Mexico he was able to be fifth in the nation in rushing yards. James averaged 153 yards per game on the ground, scored 21 touchdowns and averaged six yards per carry. Getting James in the open field for Oregon is the way he can become very dangerous.
Both teams' paths to the BCS title game were a little surprising. Prior to the season, Auburn was ranked 22nd and 23rd in the coaches and AP polls while Oregon was 11th in both. Oregon had questions surrounding the loss of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and who would replace them, while no one knew about Cam Newton. Oregon showed no mercy and was not challenged in any game for more then a half, while Auburn had a few bumps in the road with narrow wins over Kentucky, Mississippi State and they needed a massive come from behind victory over Alabama. Plus, Auburn was dealing with the Cam Newton pay-for-play scandal that surrounded the team for over a month and ultimately led the NCAA to find no wrong doings by Newton.
Hopefully tonight's game lives up to the hype and that the offenses come to play and that this title game avoids any USC-Oklahoma type title game in a blowout. If Auburn does win this game then it will be the SEC's fifth straight BCS title game.