Ads running in various Oregon and Arizona newspapers today, courtesy of Nike. Just do it, Ducks!
Everyone has an arch nemesis. Mine just happens to be my older brother. But our incessant bickering has led to many an entertaining discussion through the years. And because much of these debates have centered on college sports, it seems only appropriate we take them to the blogosphere to settle them once and for all. Here's your weekly brotherly debate, affectionately known as Sh*t My Brother Says.
PaulSF: It's been quite the hiatus for the Brothers, hasn't it, Big Bro? I think it's only fitting we make our triumphant return on the day of the BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME.
GrumpyJDH: Absolutely agree, Little Bro. It's GAMEDAY, bitches!
PaulSF: Well, since nearly every topic surrounding this game has been analyzed, dissected, broken down, scrutinized, rinsed and repeated, I say we give our (four) loyal readers something they haven't yet seen, heard or read. It's time for our Gameday preview, Brother v. Brother-style.
GrumpyJDH: I'm not sure I know what you have in mind but, as always, I'm down for disagreeing with you...again.
PaulSF: Today is a big day, not just for Oregon football, but for the state itself. Of course, I still have a lot of unanswered questions about several matchups, many of which haven't been discussed much. But, because you can never talk about Cam Newton and Oregon's defense too much, let's start there. (1) What are your thoughts on the matchup between Oregon's defense and Auburn's offense?
GrumpyJDH: They aren't so much thoughts as feelings, Brother. Feelings of sheer terror, I might add. Don't misunderstand me here. I love this Ducks defense. I love its athleticism. I love Coach Aliotti's schemes. I love the opportunistic nature of the group. Perhaps most importantly, I love that we go twenty-plus players deep on that side of the ball. That matters when a game is shaping up to be a track meet. Guess you could say I love most everything about the unit and think it deserves more accolades than it's received. Nevertheless, I'm still terrified. Quick: Can you name one mobile quarterback we've defended in the first 12 games? Or what about an opponent we've faced who utilizes a run-first spread scheme? Having trouble? That's because your answer to both questions would be a resounding "no!" Simply put, Paully, I don't know how or if we match up on that side of the ball.
PaulSF: Just like every other Duck fan, coach, player, alumnus, benefactor and virtually anyone rooting for Oregon, my biggest concern is figuring out a way to stop (or at least slow down) Newton. (Duh, right?) The Heisman winner leads the nation in passing efficiency and is responsible for more points than any other player in the country. He's a virtual one-man show, ranked second in TDs, sixth in scoring, 10th in total offense and 14th in rushing. Oh, and he's enormous...aside from being enormously talented.
But it isn't all Newton. A big contributor to the Heisman winner's success has been his equally enormous offensive line. The average combined weight of Auburn's big uglies is 304 pounds, compared to 256 for the Ducks' D-line. That's a HUGE size discrepancy, so our opportunistic defense will need to come up with a few stops on 3rd down or force a few turnovers (preferably both). And that's no small task. Auburn's offense is 3rd in the nation in third-down conversion percentage and tied for 11th in the country in turnovers lost. Despite being an athletic and underrated unit, I don't think Oregon's defense matches up well. At all. Before I start to PANIC, we should probably move on.
GrumpyJDH: Before we start sounding like SEC honks, you mean. On the bright side, these Tigers have reached the BCS chip by playing a decidedly un-SEC-like brand of defense. Time to flip that first question around: (2) What's your take on the match-up between Oregon's warp-speed offense and Auburn's rather pedestrian D (at least by SEC standards)?
PaulSF: So much for offering up a different take on the game, eh? There's a lot of intrigue in this matchup, especially in the trenches. The Ducks don't have any stars on the offensive line, but collectively, they're incredibly efficient and effective, not to mention athletic. But they'll get all they can handle from a stout Auburn front four, led by All-American Nick Fairly. If they can wear Fairly down, like they did Oregon State's Stephen Paea, the Big Green Blur Machine could be firing on all cylinders by midway through the third. Of course, they'll need a stellar performance from Darron Thomas to keep them on their heels, or it could be the Cal game all over again.
GrumpyJDH: I totally agree, Paully. If Auburn's been watching any film, they know Duck opponents have been trying to make Thomas beat them pretty much all season...which he's done with regularity. That's not to say the Tigers won't employ the same strategy, since the alternative (LaMichael James running free in the secondary) has got to scare any D coordinator. I suspect we'll see a lot of lateral runs from the Ducks (think Civil War) as they attempt, like you said, to wear Fairly out. However, I also think we'll see Coach Kelly attempt to exploit a very suspect Tigers secondary as the game progresses. Thomas has averaged about 25 pass attempts per contest, but I wouldn't be surprised to see that number reach the mid-to-low 30s tonight. Take what the defense gives you, right? Auburn gives you plenty in the passing game.
PaulSF: You nailed it, Big Bro. It really does come down to Thomas. If he can avoid the turnover bug and keep calm, our offense should roll up big numbers through the air. If he falters under pressure from their front four, panics, and boots it a few times, we're going to need a lot more from our defense, plain and simple. Of course, someone is going to surprise and have a huge impact on the outcome of this game. (3) What's the X-factor for both the Ducks and the Tigers in the Natty (aside from special teams and turnovers)?
GrumpyJDH: Aside from special teams? That WAS my X-factor. Nobody ever talks about them but they account for roughly 15% of all the plays in a football game. I PROMISE one of our return men will make a huge play in this game. They're truly special. Here's what isn't truly special: our kicking game. Anyone remember the last time Rob Beard made anything other than an extra point? I sure hope this doesn't come down to a field goal game, because...advantage Auburn.
PaulSF: Well, according to the Oregonian, the kicking game comparison between Auburn and Oregon is a wash. Plus, Beard was having a pretty solid year until his holder, Nate Costa, got hurt. And, as we all learned last year, you can never underestimate your holder. As for my X-factor, I'm going with David Paulson. Auburn's weak pass defense is particularly susceptible in the middle and on seam routes, and few players in the country can hurt you down the seam like Paulson can. I'm expecting a big game from the junior tight end, and he could be Oregon's big playmaker if Auburn stacks the box and spreads out the secondary to stop lateral runs.
GrumpyJDH: Seems a relative no-name always steals the show in these types of games, huh? I could definitely see one of our more unheralded pass catchers making a name for himself. Hey, speaking of relative no-names and anonymity, it appears that, despite the not-so-traditional opponents, a ticket to the big game is more difficult to come by than a Super Bowl ticket. And by "more difficult," I mean "damned near impossible." (4) Why do you think a game such as this, pitting BCS outliers, of sorts, has become the hottest ticket in college football history?
PaulSF: In the past decade, the collective college football nation has become enamored with underdogs like Boise State and TCU. But, as we discover year in and year out, non-AQs simply don't have a strong enough slate to get them to the big one. This matchup, despite pitting undefeated teams from two of the nation's toughest BCS conferences, has underdog appeal. Oregon and Auburn are outsiders compared to the traditional college football powers. This matchup is like the college football equivalent of two Tea Party candidates battling it out for the presidency. Who wouldn't want to watch that?!
GrumpyJDH: Uhhh...everybody? I get your point despite the horrible analogy. Auburn is a traditional power that, for whatever reason, hasn't been all that powerful the past 20 years. Moreover, they've toiled away in relative anonymity thanks to their more famous brothers in Tuscaloosa. Oregon, on the other hand, used the same 20 years to emerge from relative anonymity. So, as you point out, we've really got two AQ underdogs fighting it out for the national title. In the short history of the BCS, that simply hasn't happened. Throw in two historically prolific offenses, a Heisman freak of nature, some snazzy duds, a few viral videos, and...voila! It's literally must-see-TV, one for the ages, one no self-respecting college football fan would dare miss. Without further ado....
PaulSF: Yeah, it's time, Brother. (5) Give me your final prediction of the 2010-11 season, the one we've all been waiting for, the only one we've really cared about since early December when it became clear we were going to play for all the marbles.
GrumpyJDH: Like all Duck fans, I've spent weeks analyzing this matchup. I've dug into the stats, plowed through tomes of pregame chatter, and pretty much thought about the game every single day since the matchup was set. You'd think I'd have a pretty good handle on who I like at this point, right? You'd be wrong. I have no stronger opinion today than I did five weeks ago. So, I'll stick with the score I used in my Bowl Bonanza pool: Ducks 41, Tigers 38.
PaulSF: A nail-biter, huh? I, too, like the Ducks in this one, but I don't think it's going to be as close as you think. Sure, some days I'm a bit more pessimistic than others, but today, the day, is not one of them. Oregon 52, Auburn 35. The Ducks take home the school first-ever national title, SEC fans come up with a myriad of excuses, the college football world collectively continues to pine for a playoff, and we start looking forward to March Madness, which by the way, is only two months away. Man, we really need to play for the national title more often.
GrumpyJDH: Amen, Brother. GO DUCKS!
PaulSF: GO DUCKS indeed. Since neither of us had the time off work or the extra $1,000 laying around to sit in halfway decent seats, where will you be watching?
GrumpyJDH: Floaty. Need I say more?
PaulSF: Nope, that pretty much says it all. I, on the other hand, am going to avoid the chaos at San Francisco's finest, R Bar, to watch the game on the big screen at The Independent. I LITERALLY cannot wait.
May the best team win. And by "best team," I obviously mean "Oregon." GO DUCKS!