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.