Knowing Oregon will try to push the pace in this game, the way the Ducks have all year, Chizik said he would have a very specific conversation with officials before the game, urging them to enforce a rule that allows the defense time to make substitutions if the offense does. Kelly said it won’t make a difference, “because we don’t sub.”
“When we want to play fast, we know the rules,” he said. “If we are trying to play at a fast tempo, we are not trying to sub in those situations.”
Oregon’s mission on defense is to try and become the first team to stop Newton, who has the body of a linebacker _ 6-foot-6, 250 pounds _ but the skills of a top running back and quarterback.
He averages 108 yards rushing a game, completes 67 percent of his passes and has accounted for 49 touchdowns _ 21 running and 28 passing. After he passed for 335 yards and four touchdowns and ran for two more scores in a 56-17 blowout of South Carolina in the SEC title game, Spurrier, the Gamecocks coach, said a 60-55 score was a possibility in the title game. “You have two of the best offensive minds in football,” he said, speaking of Kelly and Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
All of which may really mean that whichever defense plays better will lead its team to a championship.
“I think both defenses have something to prove and want to show up and are tired of answering questions about how it’s going to be 55-53,” Herbstreit said. “I think they have a point to prove. I think it will be a low-scoring game, lower-scoring because of the way the two defenses are going to show up in a bad mood.”
But while defense wins championships, offense sells tickets, and almost everything points to this being a high-scoring game. Auburn heads into the game favored by 2 1/2 points, though more telling is the over-under for the contest, set at a whopping 74 points.
Demand for this game was, according to ticket seller StubHub, at a record level. So high at one point that the company had to shut down sales when it ran into a glitch with one of its sellers. That problem was remedied, but tickets for the game were still averaging in the $2,000 range Sunday on a variety of broker websites. An estimated 15,000 Auburn fans came to Arizona without tickets, hoping to be part of a championship moment that hasn’t happened at that school since 1957.
Oregon has never won a national title, and hadn’t had that on the radar until about a decade ago. The school that produced Norm Van Brocklin, Dan Fouts and Ahmad Rashad on the football field is still probably best known as a counterculture track school where the late runner Steve Prefontaine, of 1970s fame, remains the top sports figure.
Kelly, however, does not plan to use this game as a way to change the culture. He’s more about a great offense than grand pronouncements.
“We stand for three things: playing fast, playing hard and finishing. We’ve done it with our 12 opportunities,” he said. “Our vision has not to do with championships. Our vision has nothing to do with getting a crystal ball or rings. It is all about playing the game. That’s what we’ve done all along and that’s what our vision is.”