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Chip Kelly, Oregon Coaches Blew Two Key Decisions in Auburn Loss

It’s easy to be a “Monday Morning Quarterback” and question a decision after it doesn’t work, but I actually thought Oregon was making the wrong moves while the National Championship Game was going on. Sure, they were getting blown off the ball consistently by Auburn, but the Tigers were not overwhelmingly the better team. Auburn was clearly more powerful than Oregon, but I wouldn’t say they were much better. Honestly, I think you can point to two bad decisions towards the end of the game that cost Oregon a better chance at winning it.

The first bad decision by the Ducks came late in the third quarter when they had a 4th and goal at the one and they lined up in the shotgun. My initial reaction was to take the field goal to get five down instead of eight. They had a whole quarter left to go and easily could have come back to take the lead. While I would have taken the field goal, I didn’t think going for the touchdown was a horrible idea. The problem is from that distance, my favorite play is the quarterback sneak. If they ran the sneak, I would have agreed with the call, but instead they lined up from the shotgun and had their play stuffed. Had they taken the field goal, the game likely would have ended up in overtime.

The next bad decision is one we’ve talked about before on the site, and it has to do with strategy. When time is ticking down and it appears as if your opponent will have a field goal attempt to win the game, it makes more sense to let them score and allow yourself plenty of time to match them. It’s a strategy Lane Kiffin said he employs, and one with which we agree. As it turned out, Auburn was able to set up for a 19-yard field goal as time expired. Once Michael Dyer broke the 37-yard run to the 23, Oregon should have just let Auburn score so they could get the ball back with 1:30 left and the field to go.

By employing that strategy, Oregon could have taken its powerless feeling away and put matters back into their hands. There aren’t many feelings worse than feeling powerless at the end of a game, and that’s exactly what happened with the Ducks. Oregon’s coaches made some great calls during the game, but those two decisions hurt them.

Nick Fairley Dominated Oregon and Got in His Cheap Shot

Nick Fairley is a 6’5″ 315lb monster defensive tackle for Auburn. The junior is widely expected to leave school for the NFL draft where he’ll likely be a top-three pick after his performance in the National Championship Game, and potentially the top overall pick. Fairley dominated the game for Auburn against Oregon, making five tackles, three for a loss. He was in the Oregon backfield constantly, disrupting several plays. He was also smart enough to recognize when passes were coming and he frequently dropped back into coverage, abandoning the rush.

Following typical Auburn style, Fairley’s success has not come without controversy. He was responsible for sparking a fight in the Georgia game that resulted in a pair of ejections. He made similar dirty moves throughout the season, to the point that even Oregon players said he had earned his reputation. And of course he got in his cheap shot, slamming LaMichael James’ head after making a tackle. Luckily he was penalized for the dirty play. Here it is in case you missed it:

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Can Oregon Pull Off Another Second Half Comeback to Beat Auburn?

Though Oregon trailed Auburn 16-11 at halftime of the BCS National Championship Game, they were by no means in a bad position. You could even argue the game was exactly how the Ducks like it.

Three times during the regular season they trailed their opponent at halftime before eventually winning with a strong second half. On the season, they outscored opponents 277-77 in the second half of games (they outscored opponents 635-244 for the season).

Their three second half comebacks:

    + Tied with Tennessee 13-13 at halftime, won 48-13
    + Down 31-24 to Stanford at halftime, won 52-31
    + Down 19-14 to Arizona at halftime, won 48-29

Auburn also has proven to be a strong second half team as well, beating Alabama, Georgia, LSU, and Clemson with big second halves. They’ve outscored opponents 249-117 in the second half of games this season.

Late Money on Oregon Makes Ducks Even, or Favorite Over Auburn

One of the fun games before the actual game is tracking the movement of the point spread. The line for the Oregon-Auburn BCS National Championship Game opened at Auburn favored by 1.5 points, according to the Las Vegas Sports Consultants. Most sports books actually listed Auburn as the favorite by 2.5 or three points. But much like super bowl betting where tons of people want action on the game, the line began fluctuating like crazy the day of the game. In fact, the line went in one direction — in Oregon’s favor.

So much money came in on the Ducks the day of the game that the point spread closed at a pick em, and in a few cases, Oregon as a one-point favorite. In case you’re not too familiar with the way sports betting works, it would take an overwhelming amount of money — multiple, multiple thousands of dollars — to move a line 3-4 points as it did Monday. That means either enough “wise guys” knew something and bet big on Oregon, or the public for some reason absolutely loves the Ducks. Either way, tons of dough came in on Oregon the day of the Championship Game meaning many people will be disappointed after they lose.

Only Guarantee Between Auburn-Oregon Is Lots of Points in Championship Game

Tonight’s BCS National Championship Game between the Auburn Tigers and the Oregon Ducks is sure to deliver a ton of scoring, specifically touchdowns. For those of you who like to watch lock-down defense, maybe you should focus on the Celtics-Rockets game. Both Auburn and Oregon allow an average of more than 20 points per game — not terrible by any means, but neither team has faced an offense like the one they’ll face tonight.

The Ducks led the nation in points per game with 49.1, putting them about a touchdown ahead of the Tigers’ fourth ranked 42.7. Oregon and Auburn rank first and seventh respectively in yards per game with 537.5 and 497.7. Both starting quarterbacks, Auburn’s Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and Oregon’s Darron Thomas, average right around 200 yards passing per game — the difference being Newton averages 108.3 rushing yards per game as well. Both have thrown 28 touchdowns this season, but Newton also rushed for 20 and caught one.

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Key to National Championship is MLB: Josh Bynes vs Casey Matthews

Over the past few weeks, every college football analyst known to man has recycled the same old game preview: Oregon middle linebacker Casey Matthews will be a rover in hopes of containing Auburn star quarterback Cam Newton. And while this is certainly an area of emphasis for Nick Aliotti and his defense, almost everybody has seemed to forgotten about Matthews’ counterpart for the Tigers.

Auburn MLB Josh Bynes is no slouch himself and he anchors one of the best second-half defenses in the country. The senior has been in on a team-leading 71 tackles this season (34 solo). Then there’s this fact: in Oregon’s two closest calls of the season, both opponents featured one of the top middle linebackers in the Pac-10.

Against ASU, Oregon faced a challenge in Vontaze Burfict, who made 10 tackles and helped hold LaMichael James to only 94 net yards rushing — nearly 60 yards under his average, and the second fewest total he had all season. James’ worst performance was the 91 yards he racked up against Cal in a 15-13 squeaker. In the middle of all that action was Cal’s standout middle linebacker Mike Mohamed, who had 16 tackles in a stellar performance.

It is clear through this trend that a good middle linebacker performance can be the key to shutting down LaMichael James, and in turn the Ducks’ offense. ASU and Cal are far inferior teams to Auburn, outside of MLB, and neither had a Heisman QB to lead the other side. So if Josh Bynes can have an impact on this game like either Burfict or Mohamed did against the Ducks, it might be just enough to lead Auburn to a national title.

TCU Fans Traveling Hard to Pasadena for Rose Bowl, Wisconsin Too

Because most of the early bowl games are so uninspiring, a fun game has been tracking the amount of tickets sold for each game. Several schools have struggled to sell tickets resulting in poor attendance figures for most games. One bowl game that won’t have the same issue is the Rose Bowl.

The January 1st game featuring the atypical matchup of TCU and Wisconsin should be well attended in Pasadena. The Badgers sold out their allotment of tickets early in December. TCU was not far behind. As reader Aaron Benton noted to LBS, Horned Frog fans sold out their 20,000 ticket allotment in four days.

Back when we were predicting the BCS bowl games, we called TCU an “undesirable team” because they do not travel well. Apparently that is not the case, and the reason is pretty easy to see: crappy bowl games to cap off an average season don’t pique the interest of many fans. Seeing a big-time bowl game at the end of an excellent season is an entirely different story. TCU fans are clearly amped to see if their Horned Frogs can remain unbeaten with a win in the LA-area and are paying big money to see it happen.