SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. (AP) - All this talk about the unstoppable offenses set to be unleashed by No. 1 Auburn and No. 2 Oregon in the BCS title game is enough to make a defensive coordinator’s head spin.
After fielding who knows how many questions Wednesday about what’s expected to be a wild night at the University of Phoenix Stadium in nearby Glendale, Oregon’s Nick Aliotti summed it up like this:
“Here’s what I think. I think that there’s going to be a game on Jan. 10. Cam Newton is going to play for Auburn in a very high-powered offense. I think that LaMichael James and Darron Thomas et al. is going to play for Oregon in a high-powered offense.
“There’s going to be two defenses that have to get on the field at some point in time and the one that does the best job of stopping the other team’s offense is probably going to win.
“How that’s going to happen,” Aliotti paused for almost 4 seconds, “I don’t know.”
That old conventional wisdom about defense winning championships doesn’t seem to apply to Auburn and Oregon.
For the first time in the 13-year history of the Bowl Championship Series, neither team playing for the national title will finish the season ranked among the top 10 defenses in the country. In nine of the previous 12 BCS championship games, both teams ended the season ranked in the top-20 nationally in total defense.
The Ducks ranked 25th in the nation and third in the Pac-10 in total defense, allowing 331.5 yards per game. Pretty good, but it’s coach Chip Kelly’s fast-paced, spread offense, averaging 537 yards per game (second best in the country), that draws most of the attention.
“I think Oregon puts a lot of pressure on the opposing team off the mere fact that they have an explosive offense, so they are going to put up points,” Newton said. “You go from a team in the first quarter trying to be balanced to the second quarter and third quarter just trying to keep up with their offense.”
Auburn’s defense is ranked 55th nationally _ roughly the middle of the pack _ but offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn’s unit has more than made up for any issues on the other side of the ball.
“Every time the offense takes the field, we expect to score,” Auburn quarterback-turned-receiver Kodi Burns said. “Coach Malzahn instills that in us.”
Auburn averages 497 yards per game, with Newton leading the way on the ground and through the air. The Heisman Trophy winner was the Southeastern Conference’s leading rusher with 1,409 yards and he threw for 28 touchdowns and 2,589 yards.
“He’s a great athlete, performs really well under pressure and the biggest thing is he’s a double-threat, he can throw the ball and he can run,” Oregon defensive lineman Brandon Bair said.
Malzahn, who in just six seasons has gone from high school coach in Arkansas to one of the hottest head coaching prospects in college football, doesn’t call Auburn’s offense a spread.
“We’re a two-back, run, play-action team with an emphasis on going fast and throwing the ball vertically down the field,” he said. “We go from the shotgun which probably makes people think it’s a spread.”