The 2011 BCS National Championship Game kicks off in Scottsdale, Arizona, Monday evening and looks to be nothing if not an offensive showdown between two offensive juggernauts — the Oregon Ducks and the Auburn Tigers — that have rarely been slowed or stopped all season. Both teams enter the national championship game with perfect records, the Tigers having one more victory due to their SouthEast Conference Championship Game victory. And although the Oregon – Auburn match-up is being billed as an offensive game that might come down to the last play to decide a winner, not many are looking for the defenses of either team to be able to stop the other — and they might. Regardless, at the end of the night, one of the two teams will have won the 2011 BCS National Championship Game and emerged the national champion.
Other than the usual talking point of needing to find a way to contain Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, most analysts offer little in the way of useful information when it comes to what the Oregon Ducks have to do to attempt to stop the Auburn offense, something no other team has been able to do effectively all season. Cam Newton leads the #1 Tigers and their #7 NCAA nationally ranked offense, a team that generates nearly 500 yards on average every game, against an Oregon defensive squad that is ranked #25 in the nation in total defense (allowing their opponents an average of 331.58 yards and less than 19 points per game). Still, the Ducks have a#6 ranking in pass defense, which Ducks’ fans are hoping will prove their high marks against Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, who is ranked as the nation’s most efficient passer and threw for almost 2600 yards this past season. Oregon’s #16 rushing defense (allowing less than 117 yards per game) might also need to be on their A-game as well, since Auburn has the #5 rushing offense in the country, with Cam Newton gaining over 1400 yards and Michael Dyer nearly 1000 yards during the 2010 season.
The problem with looking at Oregon’s total defensive standing is that it does not reflect the fact that nine of the 12 victories the Ducks racked up in 2010 were against teams that ended the season with losing or .500 records. That is also the problem with looking at Oregon’s #1 ranking in total offense, a quick-paced operation that has generated over 537 yards per game.
That being said, the #2 BCS Standings ranked Oregon Ducks have not only the #1 offense in the nation, according to NCAA statistics, but also the #1 rusher in running back LaMichael James. Quarterback Darron Thomas threw for 2518 yards (just 71 yards less than Newton) during the 2010 college football season and will no doubt throw heavily against 55th ranked Auburn defense, considering that their pass defense is ranked a lowly 75th. However, the Tigers are 10th in the nation against the rush, allowing less than 112 yards per game, which might force Oregon into a more air-oriented game whether they want to engage in one or not.
It also must be said that 10 of Auburn’s 13 victories were against teams with a .500 or better record on the season. Five of the teams they played were nationally ranked. Their conference, the SEC, produced six BCS Standings Top 25 teams at season’s end. The SEC also saw seven bowl-bound teams, five of which have won their bowls (and Arkansas narrowly lost against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl).
But stats are stats and game conditions, situations, and circumstances do not allow for the teams’ stats to stand in stead of actually playing the game. As the saying goes: It’s why they play the game.
Barring a series of mistakes by one team, the 2011 BCS Naitonal Championship Game looks to be a close affair. If the game lives up to its billing, it might just be one of the best national championship games ever played.
Oregon takes on Auburn in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game Monday, January 10. The game begins at 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN.
“FBS Football Statistics,” NCAA.org