Monday • 8:30 p.m. • Where » University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. • TV » ESPN
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Tempo, tempo, tempo » This is the mantra for the offenses of both teams. Auburn and Oregon thrive when they run their plays quickly. The key to dictating tempo is success on first down. Oregon has perhaps the nation’s best running back in sophomore LaMichael James, but Auburn has the nation’s No. 11 rushing defense. This will be a particularly crucial matchup as the Tigers’ defense depends on situational substitutions. Shuttling players in and out will be more difficult if the Ducks are running and gunning at their preferred pace.
2. Newton's law » Auburn quarterback and runaway Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton will be the best player on the field Monday. Many BCS title games have been decided by such a playmaker. Remember Vince Young against USC (2005 season) and Tim Tebow against Oklahoma (2008)? Even in the rugged SEC, no team stopped the 6-foot-6, 250-pound dual threat. LSU held Newton to a season-low 86 yards passing but yielded his season high in rushing (217 yards). South Carolina limited him to 73 yards rushing but yielded his season high in passing (335 yards).
3. Long layoff » Which team will handle the 37 days off best? Because the spread offenses of both teams are dependent on timing, this has the potential to be an error-filled game. Who is best suited to grinding it out? Could the layoff give Oregon an emotional edge? While the Ducks ended the season in relatively quiet fashion, Auburn closed with a bang — back-to-back emotional victories at Alabama and over South Carolina in the SEC title game. The following week, Newton won the Heisman Trophy.
QB Cam Newton » Irrepressible Heisman winner passed for 2,589 yards and 28 TDs and ran for 1,409 yards and 20 scores.
|vs.||LB Casey Matthews » Brother of Pro Bowl LB Clay Matthews. The 6-2, 235-pound senior led a small, fast defense with 73 tackles.|
|LB Josh Bynes » The 6-2, 235-pound senior, the Tigers’ top tackler (71), will be counted on for run-stopping from his MLB slot.||vs.||RB LaMichael James » The sophomore speedster led the nation with 153 yards a game. Averaged 6.0 yards a carry and scored 21 TDs.|
|DT Nick Fairley » The 6-5, 298-pound junior will be most disruptive defender on field. Had 21 TFL, 21 QB hurries and 10.5 sacks.||vs.||QB Darron Thomas » Poke the bear? Called Lombardi Award winner Fairley “dirty.” Passed for 2,518 yards and 28 touchdowns.|
STATE OF THE TEAMS
AUBURN » Cam Newton was a program-changer, leading the Tigers (13-0) to a thrilling season of inspired comebacks. In four games, Auburn trailed by double-digit margins. The Tigers are pursuing their ninth undefeated season and first undisputed national title.
OREGON » Coach Chip Kelly was named AP coach of the year as he guided the Ducks (12-0) to an unchallenged run through the Pac-10 in pursuit of the school’s first national title. Oregon’s spread led the nation in points a game (49.3) and total offense (537.5 pg).
EXAMINER PREDICTS ...
SEC teams have won four straight national championships. Auburn will make it five as it will play with the confidence accumulated from running the gauntlet in the nation’s toughest league and pulling out several close games in dramatic fashion.
Auburn 44, Oregon 34