GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS4) – Much to the dismay of college football fans everywhere; the college football season will come to an end Monday night when the Auburn Tigers play the Oregon Ducks for the BCS National Championship.
And if you like an offensive display, you’re in for quite a treat when the Tigers and Ducks tangle in Arizona.
Oregon leads the nation in scoring at 49.3 points per game. The team plays a frenetically-paced offense that can run a dozen plays before the other team catches their breath.
The Ducks ranked 104th in time of possession (out of 120 Division I schools) and still managed to put up an insane amount of offense throughout the season. The Ducks did score about 20 points per game more in the friendly confines of Autzen Stadium than they did on the road.
But, don’t make the assumption the Ducks were all offense and no defense. The Ducks defense ranked number 12 in the country in scoring defense, allowing only 18.4 points per game. The Ducks D smothered opponents on the road, allowing 22 points per game.
Defensively for the Ducks, they were especially strong against the run. The Ducks gave up roughly 118 yards per game or 3.3 yards per carry. But, the defense did give up some big plays in the passing game as the overall defensive strategy was bend, but don’t break.
On the other side of the ball stands the SEC champion Auburn Tigers. The SEC has done pretty well in BCS Championship Games, having won the last 5 out of 7 championship games.
But Auburn isn’t your father’s SEC team. This Tigers team is a high-flying scoring machine that has run rough-shod over most of its opponents throughout the season.
The Tigers ranked fourth in the country in scoring offense at 44.2 points per game. The Tigers averaged about 8 points less on the road than they did in the confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium.
At the same time, the Tigers did put up nearly 50 points per game again non-conference opponents.
The Tigers did most of their damage on the ground. The Tigers averaged 287 yards per game in rushing, or around 6.2 yards per carry. The Tigers also had 41 touchdowns on the ground this season.
Of course, the main goal of the Oregon defense is to stop Auburn QB Cam Newton. But, as SEC opponents found out this season, that’s a lot easier said than done.
Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner for this season threw for nearly 200 yards per game and rushed for another 110 yards per game. He had 20 rushing touchdowns and 28 passing touchdowns, while only throwing 6 interceptions all season.
Defensively, Auburn is stout against the run. Led by defensive tackle Nick Fairley, the Tigers defense ranked 10th in the country, giving up only 112 yards per game.
Unfortunately for Auburn, that’s where the strength of the defense ends. The Tigers passing defense ranked 107th in the country, giving up 250 yards passing per game. Overall, Auburn’s defense gave up over 360 yards per game to their opponents.
The Auburn defense will have to slow down the Ducks running game, specifically LaMichael James. But, they still have to contend with quarterback Darron Thomas, who threw for more than 208 yards per game with 28 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
James, who missed one game this season, still managed to run for 1,682 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2010. He averaged 6 yards per game. He was also just as strong on the road as he was at home. Plus, he ran for more than 1,300 yards against the Pac-10 schedule Oregon played this season.
Two areas that can typically turn a game around are red zone conversions and third-down conversions. Oregon’s defense ranked 6th in the nation by holding opponents to a 67 percent scoring rate.
Auburn’s defense was the polar opposite, allowing opponents to score 88 percent of the time when the opponent entered the red zone.
Offensively, both Auburn and Oregon did well when they got to the red zone. Both teams scored at least 84 percent of the time when they hit the red zone.
When it comes to third-down conversions, Oregon converted roughly 46 percent of the time; while Auburn ranked third in the nation, converting third-downs at a 53 percent clip.
Defensively, Auburn allowed opponents to convert third-downs at a 37 percent rate, while Oregon allowed opponents to convert just 33 percent of their third downs.
The stats give Oregon a slight edge on the field. Auburn’s offense can score, almost at will, but the defense is very susceptible to giving up big plays. Oregon’s offense is even more prolific at scoring, but their defense is also stout.
The last time Auburn faced an unconventional offense, against Arkansas, the Tigers had to outscore the Razorbacks in a game that saw 108 points scored between the two teams. But, Arkansas had a much more prolific passer, quarterback Ryan Mallett, than Oregon has in Thomas.
Both teams are coming in with plenty of momentum. Auburn is used to being on the grand stage because they play in the SEC against top teams every week. Oregon played one BCS opponent, Stanford, and handled them fairly easily.
The key to the game will be whether Auburn’s defense can keep up with the Ducks’ high-octane offense. The Tigers will need to run a slower game than they may like or their defense will simply run out of gas towards the end of the game.