BCS Championship: Early Look At Oregon

Taking an early look at Auburn's opponent in the BCS Championship Game on Jan. 10.

Eugene, Ore.--Ranked 11th in the preseason AP poll, Oregon was breaking in a new starting quarterback with the loss of Jeremiah Masoli but it hasn't slowed down the Ducks in the least as they roll into the BCS Championship Game as one of the best offenses in history. In 2008 Oklahoma averaged 50.14 points per game but lost 24-14 in the title game to close out the season.

That will be the goal for Auburn's defense this time around but it won't be easy. One of the most explosive offenses in the country, Oregon enters the championship game averaging 49.33 points per game and 537.50 yards of total offense per contest in Chip Kelly's spread attack. Running back LaMichael James leads the attack on the ground for the Ducks with his quickness and straight-line speed. Tops in the nation, averaging 152.91 yards per contest, James has scored 21 touchdowns on the ground. Back healthy, reserve Kenjon Barner has 80 carries for 519 yards and six touchdowns as well.

Much like Cameron Newton does for Auburn, Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas is the key to the wide open Duck attack. Completing 195-321 passes for 2,518 yards in 2010 with 28 touchdowns and just seven interceptions, Thomas has been more than an adequate replacement for Jeremiah Masoli. Throw in 492 yards and five touchdowns on the ground and you have a complete player.

Darron Thomas

At wide receiver Oregon has one of the most productive players in the country in Jeffrey Maehl. A senior that has been a solid player his entire career, Maehl has lit it up in his final year in Eugene. In 12 games he has 68 receptions for 943 yards and 12 touchdowns. For his career he has 169 catches for 2,178 yards and 24 touchdown catches.

"I think we've got just a group of guys that have a great understanding of what we're trying to accomplish," Kelly said. "We had almost all of them starting from last year, except our quarterback and our tight end and David Paulson played a lot of football for us and had been great. Darron Thomas stepping in and playing like he'd been there all along. It has really been the difference for us for our football team.

"It's a quarterback driven offense, and I think Darron's perfect for what we do. But he was fortunate when he stepped into the job. We had top seven linemen back from last year, all of our receivers back from last year, and LaMichael James back from last year. So it's a total team effort but it's a group of guys that really understand what we're trying to accomplish. It's just a fun group to coach."

Defensively the Ducks have been solid although they haven't faced anywhere near the competition on offense that Auburn has in 2010. Giving up 18.42 points and 331.58 yards per game, Oregon had some problems slowing down teams that are capable of putting pressure on them at all levels and that is shown in the numbers.

An explosive offense at times this season, Arizona State accumulated 31 first downs and 597 yards of offense against the Ducks earlier this season. Stanford did much of the same, pounding out 25 first downs and 518 yards of offense. USC (27 first downs) and Arizona (28 first downs, 448 passing yards) also moved the football well against the Ducks, which should be good news for Auburn's offense.

In the end this game may come down to which defense can get a few three and outs and get the football back to its offense in a timely fashion. Both among the national leaders in scoring, offense, rushing and neither holding onto the ball for any length of time when doing so, this game has the makings of a great one and Kelly said the Ducks are excited about playing for the title.

"Yes, it's a real honor for us at Oregon to be selected to play in this game," Kelly said. "We have the utmost respect for Coach Chizik and the Auburn football team. Got a chance to see just a little bit of them, and you can tell it's a well-coached team that plays the game. They've got a ton of resiliency. You just look at the scores and you can tell.

"Not just proud of our players, but we set out a long time ago that we have a vision for this football program, and we prepare for that vision and go out and compete for that vision. I told our guys to keep their heads up until December 5th and find out where we'll be and we're fortunate to be in Glendale, Arizona playing against a really good team. It's going to be a huge challenge, but we embrace that challenge.

Kickoff for the BCS Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium is scheduled for 7:30 central time on Jan. 10.

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