Back on December 29, I wrote in this blog that Auburn would crush Oregon and win the BCS Championship Game going away. While I made the right call on the winner of last night’s contest, I blew it by underestimating the Ducks offensive wizardry and overestimating Cam Newton’s ability to shake off 37 days of dust and rust. I never expected the game to come down to the last play and fully expected Auburn to have scored those 22 points in the first half. Here are the reasons why I picked Auburn to win and my analysis of what actually happened.
- Cam Newton. At 6’ 6” and 250 lbs, Newton is as big as Oregon’s biggest defensive lineman. But unlike a lineman, Newton can throw the ball a country mile or simply run over linemen, linebackers and puny cornerbacks. He shredded LSU for 489,506 yards or something. The dude is a freak.
- Auburn’s offensive line. The game of football is won and lost on the line of scrimmage. When your big nasties can knock the slobber out of the other guy’s big nasties, you usually win the game. Oregon’s defensive front will be getting up from the turf looking through their helmet earholes.
- Nick Fairley. This guy has NFL superstardom written into his future. Big. Fast. Mean. Relentless. To quote a famous movie line: “Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”
- Gus Malzahn is an offensive genius. I know Chip Kelly runs a blindingly fast offense that wears the other team out with a gazillion snaps per game. But Malzahn does too, and his offense is simply one trick play after another. You never know what’s coming, when or where.
- Senior leadership. I’m not saying Oregon doesn’t have this. Just that Auburn has more of it. This is a senior laden team, and most of the upperclassmen have been in big games before. Hell, the whole SEC regular season is one big game after another, and Auburn’s Amen Corner this year was Georgia, Alabama in the Iron Bowl and Carolina in the SEC Title Game.
On #1, I didn’t account for the fact that Newton and the Auburn offense would be rusty after such a long layoff. It showed, as Newton was pressured into early mistakes that led to an unexpectedly scoreless first quarter. As the game wore on though, Newton seemed to settle into a rhythm and finished the game with a respectable 20-35 for 265 yards, 1 INT and 2 scores. He also rushed for 65 yards on 22 carries. That’s 330 yards of total offense and almost two-thirds of total output.
On #2, I think I got this one right. Auburn’s offensive line gave Newton plenty of time to sit back and find open receivers. When they were running the ball, the line opened holes for Dyer and Newton when they needed to. On Dyer’s key 37-yard run late in the fourth, that play wouldn’t have happened without the AU line opening up the hole.
On #3, I was dead nuts right on Nick Fairley. The dude is a freak and has millions waiting on him in the NFL next year.
On #4 I claim a push. Malzahn’s play calling wasn’t as full of the trickeration I expected, but AU did get 85 snaps in and Malzy had the right calls for the right situations. From my observations of the coaches on the sidelines, it looks as if Malzy is the head coach and Chizik is just a keenly interested spectator.
On #5, this is where I blew it badly. I never expected the Ducks’ offense to make so many key third down plays when the game was on the line. Those were gutsy, cold-bloodedly executed plays that kept them on the field and in the game against a much deeper, much more physically gifted AU team. My hat is off to Chip Kelly and his players.
Overall, Auburn didn’t play quite as well as I expected but played well enough to win. Oregon played much better than I expected and also played well enough to win, but not this time. This time, Michael Dyer rolled off of his would be tackler, raced 37 yards and put his team well within Byrum’s FG range. As soon as the review was complete and the Zeebs let the play stand as called, I started turning off lights and tidying up. I knew there’d be no overtime in this one.
Congratulations, Auburn Tigers. First legit national title since 1957. At this rate, you’ll catch up to LSU and Florida in the next 53 years (three national titles), catch Tennessee in about 212 (six national titles) and catch Alabama on Star Date 2594.1.11. ;)