Discussion

BCS title could get defensive

Updated: February 16, 2011, 4:34 PM ET
By Ryan McGee

I have a sneaking suspicion that not only will we see multiple punts in the BCS title game; there's a good chance we'll see multiple punts in the first quarter alone. And while nearly everyone is calling for a scoreboard-breaking offensive shootout, I'm thinking we might actually have something of a tame contest, at least for the first half.

This is the part where you say, "Wait, you dummy, haven't you seen these numbers?"

• In 13 games Auburn has averaged 42.7 points (fourth-best in the nation) and 497.7 yards per game (seventh), and they run one offensive play every 26 seconds.

• In 12 games Oregon has averaged 49.3 points and 537.5 yards (ranked first in both) and gets its plays off in (gulp) 21 seconds.

• Oregon is ranked fourth in the nation in rushing offense, and running back LaMichael James is tops in rushing yards per game (143.5).

• Auburn's Heisman-winning Cam Newton is known more for his running (1,409 yards) than passing (2,589 yards), but he also happens to be the nation's top QB, with an astronomical rating of 188.2.

Yes, I have seen the crazy digits. And we'll all see them plenty more once the game gets started. Still, I'm sticking with my defensive mindset. How have I come to have these feelings? While recently working on a BCS title game column for the current issue of the ESPN The Magazine, I uncovered enough D-centric evidence to convince me that Auburn and Oregon's headline-grabbing offenses might possibly end up taking a backseat to defense by the end of the night … even if it's only for a small handful of game-deciding series.

"In a perfect world, we'd pitch a shutout," Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews told me over the phone as I worked on my Mag piece. "But if you've watched even the tiniest bit of film on either team I think you know that's probably not happening on either side. But we know we don't have to post a zero because our offense has our back. Their success lets us be aggressive and take some chances. If we give up a big play, we can shrug it off. With Newton over there, that's how you have to play."

Then he laughed and admitted he might get in a little hot water over what he was about to say next. "The team that just slows the other one down for a little while -- not completely stops, just hinders them a little -- will win."

That might not be as hard as Matthews thinks.

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