Monday, January 10, 2011
Multitude of plot lines as game approaches
By Ted Miller
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Oregon's Autzen Stadium is a tough place to play, and not just because of crowd noise. The Ducks are just better there.
The Ducks average 143 more yards, 19 more points and 131 more rushing yards at home than they do on the road.
Of course, Auburn also is better at home -- just about every team is. But the Tigers home-road spread is not nearly what the Ducks is: 43 yards, eight points and 80 rushing yards.
The Tostitos BCS National Championship Game is close at hand and it, obviously, won't be played at either Oregon or Auburn. University of Phoenix Stadium is a neutral site.
Or that's the theory. It will be interesting to see if either crowd is boisterous enough to disrupt the other team -- i.e., false starts, unnecessary timeouts, communication issues, etc. It doesn't appear one fan base or the other will have a huge advantage in terms of numbers.
That's another point to consider among the multitude as we head into the biggest game these two programs have played ... ever.
- How fast will the Big Ten officiating crew spot the ball? A crew that works hard to get the ball spotted fast helps the Ducks.
- How well can the Ducks contend with the Tigers two superstars: QB Cam Newton and DT Nick Fairley. Both can dominate a game and seemingly will their units to success.
- The Ducks played in BCS bowl last year. The Tigers did not. That big stage experience should help the Ducks.
- How much will the 37-day layoff affect the teams, and will one be more adversely affected?
- Auburn played its best two games at the end of the season. Is that good, or did the Tigers peak too early?
- Oregon didn't play its best late in the season, in large part because a couple of guys were banged up. Will they look even faster after resting -- and healing -- up?
- Both teams sometimes start slowly. And both surge in the second half, particularly the fourth quarter. Who is true to form this go-round?
- Does size matter? We've heard for 37 days how much bigger Auburn is than Oregon, particularly the Tigers veteran offensive line vs. the Ducks smallish front seven. Lots of folks on the Auburn side see that as a huge advantage. The Ducks, suffice it to say, do not agree.
- Often a player we never saw coming steps up in big games. Who might that be? Josh Huff? Kenjon Barner? Jeff Maehl? Kenny Rowe? Eddie Pleasant?
- Special teams, turnovers, third down. Those often decide tight games.
- It's SEC versus the Pac-10. The winner is going to crow, and crow and crow. That's what you get for winning.
Feel free to think of your own. A lot of times the so-called pundits completely whiff on what turns out to be most important.
What we can say without a doubt: Chip Kelly told his team all season that every week was a Super Bowl. This time, it's not a motivational ploy for maintaining focus. This time it's true.
The Ducks are about to play the biggest game in program history. They've never won a national title.
Will they be dancing in the streets of Portland, Salem and -- most particularly -- Eugene tonight?
We shall see.