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January 12, 2011

Auburn BCS championship celebration set for Jan. 22 at Jordan-Hare Stadium

A crowd of more than 2,000 fans welcomed the BCS champion Tigers back in Auburn tonight after they flew in from Arizona. The school hopes more will show up for a formal celebration Jan. 22.

Auburn will officially celebrate its first national championship since 1957 two Saturdays from now, with a 1 p.m. CT event set at Jordan-Hare Stadium. School officials will announce details at a later date.

The Tigers won their second national championship in school history by beating the Oregon Ducks 22-19 Monday night in Glendale, Ariz.

They flew into Montgomery on Tuesday before busing back to Auburn, where a large crowd greeted them at the athletic complex. Safety Zac Etheridge, receiver Kodi Burns, head coach Gene Chizik and athletics director Jay Jacobs spoke to the crowd.

January 11, 2011

Video: The day after, coach Gene Chizik savors Auburn’s BCS national championship

Here’s video from Gene Chizik‘s press conference the day after Auburn won its second national championship. It’s long (I just put the whole thing up), so if you’re looking for a certain quote, use the blog post below to get an idea of where it might be during the presser.

Also, the Tigers are now flying through Montgomery today and are expected back at the athletic complex in Auburn sometime around 5:30 to 6 p.m. CT. I believe some fans will be gathering there.

Also, the final polls are out. Auburn is No. 1, although it wasn’t unanimous. Here’s how they look:

Associated Press poll glance:

1. Auburn (56), 14-0, 1,472 points, LW: 1
2. TCU (3), 13-0, 1,392 points, LW: 3
3. Oregon, 12-1, 1,379 points, LW: 2
4. Stanford, 12-1, 1,300 points, LW: 5
5. Ohio State, 12-1, 1,220 points, LW: 6
6. Oklahoma, 12-2, 1,108 points, LW: 9
7. Wisconsin, 11-2, 1,055 points, LW: 4
8. LSU, 11-2, 1,051 points, LW: 11
9. Boise State, 12-1, 1,031 points, LW: 10
10. Alabama, 10-3, 961 points, LW: 15

USA Today coaches’ poll glance:

1. Auburn (56), 14-0, 1,424 points, LW: 1
2. TCU (1), 13-0, 1,336 points, LW: 3
3. Oregon, 12-1, 1,333 points, LW: 2
4. Stanford, 12-1, 1,254 points, LW: 5
5. Ohio State, 12-1, 1,197 points, LW: 6
6. Oklahoma, 12-2, 1,096 points, LW: 8
7. Boise State, 12-1, 1,012 points, LW: 10
8. LSU, 11-2, 1,007 points, LW; 12
8. Wisconsin, 11-2, 1,007 points, LW: 4
10. Oklahoma State, 11-2, 883 points, LW: 13

The day after: Live blogging Gene Chizik’s post-BCS championship press conference

Gene Chizik has come and gone. Here’s what he had to say:

  • Chizik will officially accept four national title trophies today: the AP, the FWAA, the National Football Foundation and the BCS. They’re all here on the podium.
  • Every trophy has a rep who comes up and gives his spiel to Chizik. It’s a mini-history lesson/PR stunt at the same time.
  • “Obviously this has been tremendous for the Auburn family. Couldn’t be more proud of our young men, the way they handle themselves on the field, off the field.”
  • “Just very blessed to be a small part of something very big.”
  • How long does he get to enjoy this: “It’s expired,” he joked. “The great thing about college football, especially our league, there are no days off.”
  • On playing for more than just this team: “I’ve been very privileged, very blessed to be a part of many different programs. Never seen anything like the Auburn family.”
  • Said last night felt like a home game, there were so many Auburn fans.
  • “Everybody thinks they have the greatest fans. But I truly think ours are second to none.”
  • “Fifty-plus years waiting for a moment last night that was long overdue. And I”m just glad I can share a part of that with them.”
  • On winning the title after only two years: “This was a magical year. For you to have a championship year, a lot of things have to be in place.” Said you have to have good bounces, fortunate health, etc. “And all those things happened for us.”
  • “We’ve got a foundation that we’ll continue to build on. Got a great group of coaches who are all in. We have a great group of young kids — very young — who are `All In,’ too.”
  • On the SEC stranglehold on BCS titles: “I don’t know about that.” Gave very diplomatic answer that wasn’t too boastful about the SEC. “If you look at it from 10,000 feet, it looks like a very dominating conference over the others, but I don’t know if that’s necessarily the truth.” Said it cyclical.
  • No update on QB Cam Newton‘s status today. He had a back injury during the game.
  • Asked to compare it to the Texas title in 2006: “I don’t think you can have great teams without having some great players at positions, coaches that know how to use them and team chemistry. I think those three things are really important.”
  • This is a guy who is a competitor. Whatever pain he was in and whatever difficulty he was in physically, he was going to finish the game. He’s probably the most competitive guy I’ve been around.”
  • On NFL decisions: “We’ll sit down.” Said he was proud of guys like Newton and Nick Fairley, who kept their focus on the game. “It wasn’t about what the next move was, it was about what they needed to do to finish what they started.”
  • Asked what he might think about the Newton story if he didn’t know about it ahead of time. Doesn’t really answer. (Not a big fan of hypotheticals.) “A year ago nobody knew who he was. When you look at what he’s done, it’s a great story. There’s no question. I think he got other players to rally around him and up their level of play.”
  • Chizik reiterates this wasn’t a one-man team: “He wasn’t the only thing we’ve got at Auburn University. We had a lot of great football players who played with a lot of great heart with Cam Newton.”
  • More on the SEC: “The confidence level, you believe you can beat anybody in the country. That’s not being pompous. There’s a lot of confidence that comes with winning this league.”
  • “Football in the Southeast is king. It’s the way of life. It’s what you do.”
  • On reflecting on the journey: “When you go into the locker room last night and you see 100 guys that nobody would have given a dime for to win a national championship, which is a fact, and the coaches are saying thank you to the coaches, that’s family. I get a lot of joy out of that.”
  • “For the last two years I can emphatically say without question I’m proud of how far these guys have come on and off the field.”
  • On the senior class: “I have a very high level of respect for our seniors, and it’s not because they won the national championship last night.” Said they reacted well to the change of the coaching staff two years ago. “We’re changing everything you do, and you have to be all in. If I did that to everyone in this room when you go to work tomorrow, you’d look at me like I had 10 heads.”
  • On Auburn: “If you don’t have a grand desire to come back after you leave, then we haven’t done our job. And I think most of them feel the same way.”
  • On Mike Dyer‘s potential: “He certainly has not arrived yet, but I think he’s got the potential to do whatever he wants to do if he’ll work at it.”

And that’s a wrap. I’ll have video up soon.

BCS title game sidebar: Defense steps up big as Auburn shuts down Oregon

Here’s a sidebar I wrote for the web only. Didn’t see it up on our site, so I’ll post it here:

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Josh Bynes felt slighted. Auburn’s whole defense did.

The buildup to Monday’s BCS national championship game focused almost completely around the two high-powered, fast-paced offenses.

“They hadn’t shown one defensive highlight throughout the week,” Bynes said. “So what does that tell us as a defense? We got to play at another level.”

Auburn showed exactly what it was capable of at University of Phoenix Stadium, turning in its best effort of the year in a 22-19 win against Oregon.

The Tigers held the Ducks to 30 points below their season average of 49.2, which led the nation entering Monday night. It was only the second time all year Oregon scored fewer than 37 points.

“I cannot be more proud of our defense,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “For one month our defense was bound and determined to show up here tonight and and play the best game of their life.”

It started by stuffing the running game. The Ducks averaged 303.8 yards per game entering the night, fourth most in the country. But Auburn’s rushing defense — no slouch itself, ranked 11th nationally — was up the challenge, holding Oregon to just 75 yards on the ground.

“They came up, had a good plan for us,” said Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas, who threw for 363 yards but finished with minus-6 rushing yards. “They mixed it up a lot. Sometimes the defensive end was crashing or sitting on it, but they came out with a good plan. Hats off to their defense.”

Oregon’s LaMichael James, the nation’s leading rusher and Doak Walker Award winner, finished with 49 yards on 13 carries, averaging only 3.8 yards per carry.

His backup, Kenjon Barner, finished with only 32 yards, getting stuffed on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line midway through the third quarter.

Auburn did it by living in Oregon’s backfield. The Tigers had 11 tackles for a loss, getting pressure up the middle mostly from its defensive line, which kept up with the Ducks’ smaller but nimble offensive line.

The Tigers negated the advantage with tireless preparation, which included extra conditioning sessions and getting its scout team to rattle off plays as quickly as nine seconds between snaps.

“I think (defensive line) coach (Tracy) Rocker did a great job with the D-line getting ready for this tempo with the get offs and the jump ropes we all practiced,” defensive tackle Nick Fairley said. “We probably did like 2,000 jump ropes the whole time we was off. They were tired, I was tired. We were just going to see who hit who in the mouth last.”

Fairley, who might have played his final game at Auburn, certainly left a lasting legacy, finishing with three tackles for a loss and forcing a fumble to earn defensive MVP honors.

“They got a great front four,” Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. “Nick Fairley proved he was the best defensive lineman in the country. It was a tough matchup for us.”

How good was Auburn’s defense? The Ducks had been held scoreless in only five quarters all season. Auburn held them scoreless in two quarters Monday night.

For a defense that has long been criticized as not being national championship worthy, it was a sweet ending.

“You talk about the word respond,” Chizik said. “They responded today. One of the reasons we will be able to wear that ring is because of how well they played, these guys right here.”

BCS title game final: Auburn 22, Oregon 19

OK, here’s a less-rushed version of my game story:

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Auburn’s 53-year wait is finally over.

The Tigers ended a half century national championship drought Monday night, ironically enough in the desert, when place-kicker Wes Byrum split the uprights with an 19-yard field goal as time expired, lifting No. 1 Auburn to a 22-19 win against No. 2 Oregon before 78,603 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Orange and blue confetti rained from the ceiling as Auburn’s players and coaches poured onto the field to celebrate the school’s 14-0 season and first national championship since 1957.

“Fifty-three years, baby! This is for you,” Tigers coach Gene Chizik shouted to fans afterward. “War Eagle!”

Byrum’s kick capped the program’s remarkable turnaround under Chizik, who took a downtrodden team that went 5-7 in Tommy Tuberville‘s final season to the top of the college football world in two short years.

It also ended three decades of frustration for Auburn fans, who experienced several near championship seasons. The 1983 team went 11-1 but was voted No. 3 behind one-loss Miami and Nebraska. The Tigers went undefeated in both 1993 and 2004 but were denied their shot at the playing for the national title, the first time because of NCAA sanctions, the second due to a BCS snub.

This year’s team removed all doubt about who was No. 1, running the SEC gauntlet and emerging as the conference’s fifth straight BCS national champion.

“Anything is possible,” said Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton, who played through a back injury to finish with 265 passing yards, 64 rushing yards and two touchdown passes. “I guarantee that five or six months ago nobody would have said that Auburn University is going to win the national championship. Now, on Jan. 10, 2011, we can say we did it.”

Auburn’s win is sure to be talked about for years, and not just for its thrilling finish. The Tigers’ championship will undoubtedly come under fire as a result of the Newton recruiting scandal that dominated headlines for close to a month.

Although both he and Auburn were cleared of wrongdoing, Newton knows the Tigers won’t garner much sympathy.

“Throughout this year, ain’t nobody feel sorry for Auburn,” said Newton, who swooped in from junior college a year ago to become the 14th player to win the Heisman and national title in the same season. “And we got the last laugh.”

In typical fashion, the Tigers didn’t decide things until the very end. Oregon (12-1) looked left for dead late in the game, its high-powered offense, like Auburn’s for most of the night, looking oddly out of sorts in what turned out to be an unexpected defensive battle.

The Ducks, who led the nation scoring 49.2 points per game, finished 30 points below their season average. Oregon’s vaunted rushing attack was held to only 75 yards after averaging 303.5 during its first 12 games.

Auburn tackle Nick Fairley, who took defensive MVP honors after finishing with three tackles for a loss and a forced fumble, thought it was about time the defense got its due.

“Our defense, we showed America everything we done each and every Saturday out there on the field,” he said. “We just went unnoticed throughout the year.”

But, trailing 19-11 and having just punted back to Auburn, Oregon got the break it needed. With 4:50 remaining, Ducks linebacker Casey Matthews popped Newton on a running play, jarring the ball loose for teammate Cliff Harris to fall on at the Auburn 40. It was Newton’s second lost fumble all season.

Eight plays later, LaMichael James, the nation’s leading rusher, scored on a 2-yard shovel pass. Quarterback Darron Thomas‘ two-point conversion pass to Jeff Maehl tied the game at 19 with 2:33 on the clock.

But it was too much time to leave the Tigers, who revved up their version of a the two-minute offense in a moment’s notice. Newton started the drive with a 15-yard pass to Emory Blake before freshman running back Mike Dyer reeled off a 37-yard run, keeping his balance near the line of scrimmage by propping himself up on a Ducks defender, then racing down the field.

“At the time I wasn’t really sure (if I was down),” Dyer said of the play, which was upheld by replay. “All I knew was the whistle wasn’t blowing and my coach was saying, ‘Go.'”

Dyer, who ran for 144 yards to earn MVP honors despite not playing in the first quarter, nearly put a touchdown capper on the game, busting up the middle for a 17-yard run that ended up with him in the end zone with only 10 seconds remaining. Replay showed that he was down at the 1.

After a kneeldown took the clock down to two seconds, on came Byrum, who famously did the Gator chomp after a game-winning kick at Florida as a freshman. He has an ever better tale to tell now, capping his college career with his sixth game-winner.

“We know without question when the game comes down to the end, wherever we put that ball within reason, he is going to make it,” Chizik said. “And there was no question in our mind today.”

Afterward, Chizik was still taking in the entire night.

“I’m not sure if 15 weeks ago anyone believed that we could do this except us,” he said.

“We said that we wanted to go from good to great. And I can sit here tonight and I can tell you that the Auburn Tigers are the best football team in the United States.”

Halftime at BCS title game: Auburn 16, Oregon 11

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Thirty minutes is all that separates Auburn from its first national title in more than 50 years.

Auburn has a 16-11 lead on Oregon at halftime of the BCS national championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium, where both offenses took a quarter to knock off the rust of a 37-day layoff.

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton has 186 passing yards and two touchdowns, despite looking out of sorts early on. The Tigers’ defense, meanwhile, only gave up one touchdown to the high-scoring Ducks and added a safety.

Neither team was sharp in a first quarter that ended in a surprise scoreless tie. Oregon’s Darron Thomas threw interceptions to Demond Washington and Zac Etheridge. Newton threw one, as the Tigers gained only 21 yards in the first quarter.

Both teams got it going, though. Oregon scored first on a 26-yard field goal by Rob Beard before Newton threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Kodi Burns to make it 7-3.

After an 81-yard reception by Jeff Maehl, running back LaMichael James scored on an 8-yard throwback screen for a score. Oregon faked the extra point, pitching it to the kicker, Beard, to convert, making it 11-7 with 10:58 left before halftime.

Auburn answered with a 16-play drive on its next possession but didn’t get any points after Newton short-armed an easy touchdown pass to Eric Smith in the end zone on fourth-and-goal.

The Tigers still capitalized, however, when defensive tackle Mike Blanc stopped James for a safety on the Ducks’ first play, trimming the lead to 11-9.

After the free kick, Newton led the Tigers down the field again, sidestepping a blitz to hit Emory Blake for a 30-yard touchdown up the sideline to give Auburn a 16-11 lead.

Auburn is out-gaining Oregon 279-232. The Tigers had 258 yards on 36 plays in the second quarter. The Ducks had 107 yards on 11 plays, 81 of which came on the long pass to Maehl.

January 10, 2011

Running BCS championship pre-game blog post

You’re looking LIVE at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., site of tonight’s BCS national championship game.

The place is slowly filing up. Auburn’s players have already come out for their pre-game prayer circle and returned to the locker room. Nick Fairley seems to be ready.

Just wrapped up a live chat a little while ago. Check it out here if you missed it.

I’ll update this post with any pertinent information. Also, follow the blog on Twitter for instant updates and observations during the game. Back with more in a bit.

UPDATE, 5:44 p.m. MT: It wouldn’t be a pre-game post without some minutia. Here’s all you can eat:

  • No. 1 Auburn hasn’t won a national championship since 1957. No. 2 Oregon hasn’t won one ever.
  • This is the first time the teams have met.
  • The Tigers are the only team in the country that has beaten six teams currently in the AP Top 25.
  • Expect offense aplenty: Auburn averages 42.7 points and 497.7 yards per game; Oregon 49.3 and 537.5.
  • Auburn QB Cam Newton leads the nation in passing efficiency (188.16) and is on pace to break the NCAA’s single-season record.
  • Newton leads the nation in touchdowns accounted for with 49. That’s more than 91 of 119 other Football Bowl Subdivision school have scored as a team this season.
  • RB Mike Dyer is 50 yards shy of 1,000 this season.
  • Auburn is 11th nationally in run defense, allowing 111.7 yards per game. Oregon averages 303.8 rushing yards per game. That, my friends, is a key matchup.
  • DT Nick Fairley has a school record 21 tackles for a loss this season. That’s fourth most in the nation.
  • Auburn’s Gene Chizik is 6-0 in bowl games as a coach, including a 38-35 win against Northwestern in last year’s Outback Bowl to finish his first season with the Tigers.
  • This is Auburn’s second appearance in a BCS game since its inception 13 years ago. The Tigers beat Virginia Tech in the 2005 Sugar Bowl.
  • Auburn is 16th all-time in bowl appearances (36) and 13th all-time in bowl victories (20).
  • Among schools with 10 or more previous bowl trips, Auburn’s winning percentage of .600 ranks eighth.
  • The Tigers are 14-2 in bowl games when scoring 20 or more points.
  • Fashion alert: Auburn is wearing its traditional blue jerseys with white pants. Oregon has white uniforms with bright yellow socks.
  • Oregon is playing in its second straight BCS bowl, having lost to Ohio State last year in the Rose Bowl.
  • The Ducks have led every game this year going into the fourth quarter.
  • Oregon RB LaMichael James leads the nation in rushing, averaging 152.9 yards per game. His 21 rushing touchdowns are tops in the nation.
  • The Ducks are seventh nationally in turnover margin (+13). They’re 14th in scoring defense (18.4 ppg) and have the eighth-most tackles for loss (7.5 per game).
  • Oregon’s Cliff Harris leads the nation in punt returns, averaging 20.9 yards per return. He’s taken back four for touchdowns this year.

Live chat replay

Nice chat crowd for short notice. If you missed it, here’s the replay.

January 9, 2011

Who has the edge: Oregon or Auburn?

No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 1 Auburn

  • Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
  • When: Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN
  • Records: Oregon 12-0, 9-0 Pac-10; Auburn 13-0, 8-0 SEC

Oregon passing game vs. Auburn secondary

The Ducks dismissed Jeremiah Masoli last spring and didn’t miss a beat. Darron Thomas, a 6-foot-3, 212-pound sophomore, has headlined Oregon’s up-tempo attack, having thrown for 2,518 yards and 28 touchdowns this year. Receiver Jeff Maehl has a school-record 12 touchdown receptions to go with 943 yards, numbers on par with the SEC’s best wideouts. With 68 receptions, he’s within reach of Samie Parker’s single-season school record of 77 set in 2003. Auburn’s defensive Achilles’ heel remains its pass defense. Although the Tigers have been good in spots, they still rank 105th nationally in stopping the pass, giving up 250.5 yards per game. Edge: Oregon.

Oregon running backs vs. Auburn linebackers

LaMichael James, the Doak Walker Award winner and a unanimous All-American, led the nation with 1,682 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, displaying a physical style of running belying his 5-foot-9, 185-pound frame. But he’s not all the Ducks have. Sophomore Kenjon Barner added 519 yards and six touchdowns and Thomas 492 yards and five more scores. Oregon’s 303.8 rushing yards per game were the fourth most nationally. The Tigers have experience at linebacker, with Josh Bynes (71 tackles) and Craig Stevens (57 tackles) having made 78 combined starts. But Auburn has had more success facing physical runners than speedy ones, and Oregon’s backs certainly fall in the latter category. Edge: Oregon.

Oregon offensive line vs. Auburn defensive line

The Ducks have an experienced unit up front, with its five starters having combined for 137 starts. Center Jordan Holmes, a senior, earned first-team All-American honors by Sports Illustrated. Right guard C.E. Kaiser, left tackle Bo Thran and left guard Carson York all earned All-Pac -10 honors by various services. The group has allowed only eight sacks all year, fifth fewest nationally. Auburn will be a challenge, though. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley, the Lombardi Award winner, led the SEC in tackles for a loss (21) and sacks (10.5). Defensive Antoine Carter (10 TFLs, 4.5 sacks) is a threat on the edge, and tackle Zach Clayton has been an underrated rock in the middle. Edge: Push.

Auburn passing game vs. Oregon secondary

Any doubts about the Tigers’ passing potency were answered in the first half of the SEC championship game, when wideout Darvin Adams hauled in seven passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns to bury South Carolina. Quarterback Cam Newton, better known for his running, remains underrated as a passer, with 2,589 yards and 28 touchdowns. Wideouts Terrell Zachery and Emory Blake and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen are bona fide threats through the air. Oregon is talented on the back end, however. At cornerback, Cliff Harris is a first-team All-American, while Talmadge Jackson made the Pac-10 first team. Although the Ducks have 20 interceptions, they have allowed 214 yards per game, 51st nationally. Edge: Auburn.

Auburn running backs vs. Oregon linebackers

Newton’s a runner too, with 1,409 yards and 20 touchdowns as proof. But Mike Dyer (950 yards, 5 TD) and Onterio McCalebb (763 yards, 9 TD) give the Tigers a solid power-speed combination at tailback. Add it all together and Auburn has the fifth-ranked rushing offense in the country, averaging 287.2 yards per game, trailing only Georgia Tech, Air Force, Nevada and, yes, Oregon. The Ducks are led by middle linebacker Casey Matthews, a first-team All-Pac-10 selection who had 73 tackles and 8.5 TFLs this season. Outside linebacker Spencer Paysinger is right there with him, with 68 tackles. The key stat is this, though: None of Oregon’s linebackers are bigger than 6-foot-3, 235 pounds. That’s three inches and 15 pounds lighter than Newton. Edge: Auburn.

Auburn offensive line vs. Oregon defensive line

You want experience? Auburn has it, with left tackle Lee Ziemba, left guard Mike Berry, center Ryan Pugh and right guard Byron Isom having made 161 career starts between them. The group paved the way for Tigers backs to top 300 yards in six straight SEC games this year. And they’re meaty, averaging 304.4 pounds across the front. Oregon’s much smaller (their tackles weigh only 270 pounds), but they’re quick. Tackle Brandon Blair and end Kenny Rowe have combined for 28 tackles for a loss and nine sacks this year. Oregon’s 31 sacks are tied for 18th nationally and its 90 tackles for a loss are tied for seventh. Edge: Push.

Oregon return units vs. Auburn coverage teams

The Tigers have had some success holding returners in check, but they haven’t seen returners of the Ducks’ caliber before. Harris, who doubles as a punt returner, has returned four for touchdowns this season, averaging 20.9 yards per return. Barner, his backup, took one back for an 80-yard touchdown. Auburn ranks in the top-20 nationally in both punt and kick return yardage average, but the punter position is still a problem. Senior Ryan Shoemaker remains the starter, despite his 39.0-yard average. Edge: Oregon.

Auburn return units vs. Oregon coverage teams

Auburn has multiple kick return threats, with Demond Washington (25.0 avg.) and McCalebb (28.4 avg.) both capable of breaking a big one. Punt returns are in safer hands now that Adams got the nod over Quindarius Carr, whose questionable decisions and unsure hands put the Tigers in a bind more than once this season. The Ducks have a strong kick coverage team and punter Jackson Rice averages 43.1 yards per kick. Edge: Push.

Kickers

Auburn senior Wes Byrum went 15-for-20 this year on field goals, although the Tigers’ offense has been so efficient in the red zone of late that he hasn’t made a field goal since October (he’s 0-for-1 the last four games). Oregon sophomore Rob Beard has an identical field goal percentage with fewer attempts (9-for-12). In the end, experience wins out. Edge: Auburn.

Coaches

This isn’t Auburn coach Gene Chizik’s first rodeo. He was a defensive coordinator for Texas when the Longhorns won it all in the 2005 season, a year after being on the staff of an Auburn team that went 13-0. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is relatively new to the scene, just six years removed from being a high school coach, but the Broyles Award winner as the nation’s top assistant coach doesn’t seem affected by it. Oregon’s Chip Kelly, the Eddie Robinson national coach of the year, is in a similar spot, four years after being the offensive coordinator for New Hampshire, a Football Championship Subdivision team. He has big-game credentials, though, having played in last year’s Rose Bowl. If you’re looking for experience on Oregon’s side, look no further than defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, who has spent 18 years at Oregon in three different stints. Edge: Push.

Prediction

Expect points a plenty. Both teams are known for their offenses, and although long layoffs have a tendency to disrupt rhythm, both teams’ offensive masterminds (Malzahn, Kelly) are sticklers for precision, which could offset the rust. Both teams are evenly matched. Nobody has stopped Newton yet, but for as good as the Tigers have been offensively, the Ducks are just as potent, averaging close to seven more points a game (49.3). If there’s one advantage to be had, it’s that Auburn has performed well in close games this season. The Tigers rallied from four different double-digit deficits, with eight of their 13 games being decided in the fourth quarter. The Ducks had one game, a 15-13 nail-biter against California, that was decided by less than 11 points. Prediction: Auburn 45, Oregon 42.

Video: After weeks of talk, Chizik, Kelly both ready for BCS national title game to get here

Here’s a video from today’s press conference with Auburn’s Gene Chizik and Oregon’s Chip Kelly. Enjoy.

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