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Breaking down the BCS championship game between Auburn and Oregon

Look for the Ducks to prevail against the Tigers in a high-scoring title matchup.

January 09, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • Coaches Gene Chizik of Auburn and Chip Kelly of Oregon pose together with the BCS coaches trophy during a news conference on Sunday.
Coaches Gene Chizik of Auburn and Chip Kelly of Oregon pose together with…

The Bowl Championship Series title game: No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 2 Oregon

When the Ducks have the ball

Oregon's breakneck offense averages a nation-best 49.3 points and 537.5 yards a game. All-American running back LaMichael James, a Heisman Trophy finalist who averages 153 yards rushing, is the focal point. But sophomore quarterback Darron Thomas makes the Ducks go behind a nimble and experienced offensive line. Thomas has passed for 28 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. Nearly half of Oregon's 71 touchdown drives have been no more than five plays, and 24 lasted 56 seconds or less. All-American tackle Nick Fairley, the Lombardi Award winner, anchors an Auburn defense that ranks 10th nationally against the run but 106th against the pass. Edge: OREGON.

When the Tigers have the ball:

Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton has not let off-field issues slow him down. The junior quarterback has passed for 28 touchdowns and rushed for 20, and he also has caught a touchdown pass. Freshman Michael Dyer and sophomore Onterio McCalebb, averaging 8.6 yards a carry, also have contributed to the Tigers' per-game averages of 42.7 points and 497.7 yards. All-American tackle Lee Ziemba leads the offensive line. Oregon middle linebacker Casey Matthews has three interceptions and leads a defense that ranks second nationally with 35 takeaways (20 interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries). Tackle Brandon Bair has 151/2 tackles for loss, end Kenny Rowe has six sacks and cornerback Cliff Harris and safety John Boyett have five interceptions each. Edge: AUBURN.

Special teams

Oregon's Harris, an All-American, averages 19.5 yards per punt return and has scored four touchdowns on returns. The Ducks' Rob Beard is nine for 12 on field-goal attempts; teammate Eric Solis is three for four. Jackson Rice averages 43.1 yards per punt. Auburn's Wes Byrum has made 15 of 20 field-goal attempts, three of four from beyond 40 yards. Ryan Shoemaker averages 39 yards per punt. Desmond Washington averages 25 yards per kickoff return, and Quindarius Carr averages 5.7 yards on punt returns. Edge: OREGON.

Coaching

Chip Kelly led Oregon to its second consecutive appearance in a BCS game, and the Ducks handed Stanford its only loss on the way to a second consecutive Pacific 10 Conference title. Kelly and coordinator Mark Helfrich run the offense, Nick Aliotti is in charge of a defense that ranks 25th nationally. Coach Gene Chizik has Auburn in its first BCS game since the 2005 Sugar Bowl. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, now the highest-paid assistant in the Southeastern Conference after turning down a chance to become head coach at Vanderbilt, oversees a unit that ranks seventh nationally. Ted Roof coordinates a defense ranked 55th. Edge: EVEN.

Intangibles

Oregon's first foray into BCS games under Kelly did not go well last season, with the Ducks stalling on offense and losing to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. But Oregon, which has not trailed after the third quarter, hopes to have learned from the experience. Auburn fell behind in eight of its 13 victories and four times overcame double-digit deficits, most impressively erasing a 24-0 second-quarter deficit against Alabama. The Tigers will not be fazed if they fall behind. Edge: OREGON.

Prediction: Oregon 41, Auburn 38

gary.klein@latimes.com

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