This is part where I end up looking like either a genius or a fool.
So what’s going to happen in the Auburn-Oregon matchup on Monday night?
I’ll give it a shot, but let me first say that it wouldn’t shock me if either team wins this one. There are compelling reasons for why each of the teams can win, but this is the internet so it requires me to pick one or the other.
That said, I’m going with Oregon. I’m sure some of you are really shocked at that, but it’s no slight to Auburn. I just think the Ducks are probably going to win.
Why do I think this?
My first instinct is that the Duck defense has more experience facing multi-dimensional offensive schemes over the past few seasons than the Auburn defense does. In a game that features perhaps the two best offensive minds in football–not just college football, mind you, but all of football–the real key will be the defenses and their familiarity with the concepts that will be thrown their way at breakneck speed.
I think this gives the Ducks an edge. Not that it’s ever easy to prepare for a talent like Cam Newton, but perhaps Gus Malzahn’s scheme won’t be as exotic to Oregon as Chip Kelly’s scheme is to Auburn. I think this slight advantage will enable the Ducks to slow Newton down just enough in the first half to build enough of a cushion to hang on for the win.
Going down to the personnel level, I think the key to the game will be the Oregon corners and their ability to clamp down on the Auburn receivers. I think they have the ability to single cover them, which should enable Oregon to use an extra safety to key on Newton. I have no doubt that this strategy will eventually backfire on the Ducks, resulting in some big plays for Auburn in the passing game, but I believe it will rile up the Tigers a bit in the early going, put them off kilter and give Oregon a chance to build that early lead.
That said, it could well be that Darron Thomas isn’t hitting targets early and that cushion won’t be built, which means Auburn will likely win in the end. However, I think Thomas will be ready and will be made all the more effective by a healthy LaMichael James, who should have some extra spring in his step after resting a leg injury. Can Thomas and James combined outgain Newton? That could certainly be a harbinger of the outcome. Also, I don’t believe Nick Fairley will be as much of a factor as expected as I think Oregon will find a way to use his aggressiveness to ‘read’ him out of a great many plays.
Cam Newton will definitely get his yardage in the running game, but I think it’s the Auburn passing game that will be curtailed and by the time Newton rights the ship, it will be too late. One other factor is the punt return abilities of Cliff Harris and I wouldn’t be shocked if he made a difference.
Of course, this analysis could be way off. Turnovers or injuries could split this game in any and all directions.
But, I say Oregon jumps out to an early lead, Auburn rallies ferociously, but the Ducks hang on for the win.
Oregon 42, Auburn 31
Let’s hear your predictions! Mark ‘em down!