Chizik's Big Keys for the Big Game

It's almost showtime on the biggest stage in college football as Gene Chizik's Tigers look to bring Auburn the national championship.

Scottsdale, Ariz.--As the excitement for the BCS Football Championship Game builds to a fever pitch here in the desert, Auburn coach Gene Chizik and Oregon coach Chip Kelly said on Sunday that turnovers will be a major key in determining the winner on Monday night.

Kickoff is set for approximately 7:30 p.m. CST, which is 6:30 p.m. locally at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Pre-game ceremonies start at 7 p.m. CST. For fans not fortunate enough to find a ticket, the game will be televised on ESPN.

Kelly predicted the team that makes the fewest turnovers will likely take home the national championship trophy. ""Protecting the football" is the first thing Chizik mentioned on his keys to success against the 12-0 Ducks, champions of the Pac 10.

"We have done a good job of that," Chizik said. "We know that we have an explosive offense. We know that we have the capability of scoring a lot of points. What we would like to try to do offensively is keep the football and eat some clock, get some first downs.

"Obviously, scoring is the number one objective," said Chizik's, whose Tigers are 13-0 and ranked No. 1 going into the contest. "However, we know we can't go into the game and turn the ball over. There is no question about that. We have to protect the football.

"Defensively, we think it is very simple," Chizik said. "We have got to definitely stop the run first. We cannot give up the big plays in the secondary. You can see as you look through all of their previous games that they do such a great job of running the football. Obviously, with the (very fast) tempo they have the opportunity to get behind the secondary off their play-action game. That is going to be critical that we are able to keep that in check.

"I think one of the things that has probably been overlooked more than anything is the special teams units and being able to do a great job in our coverage units," Auburn's coach noted. "Field position issues in there are going to be huge."

Chizik said on Sunday the Tigers aren't just playing for themselves on Monday night, they are playing for the "Auburn Family."

Oregon leads the nation in scoring average at just under 50 points per contest. Auburn's defense has been the weaker link for the team this year, but has played well the last 6 1/2 quarters dating back to the Tigers' win over Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Asked if the way the Tigers finished the season on defense gives that unit more confidence, Chizik said, "We have got confidence in the defense, period. Have we played exactly the way we want to play all year? No. We have made some mistakes. We have got some young guys playing out there, certainly in the back seven. We have had some injuries that have dictated that, but we feel really good about our defense.

"They are playing with confidence," the coach added. "They feel really great about the plan. They have had a great month of practice and we feel really good about it.There is no question about it, they are going to have to play well to give us a chance to win, but I think mentally and physically they are ready to play well."

The Tigers had their final pre-game practice on Saturday afternoon.

The Tigers had a walk through on Sunday afternoon at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

Literally thousands of Auburn fans are in the Phoenix, Scottsdale and Glendale areas trying to come up with tickets to the championship game as Auburn and Oregon play for the first time in football. It is each team's first appearance in the BCS title game.

Two ticket brokers in Arizona told Inside the Auburn Tigers the demand for tickets to Monday night's game isn't as crazy as it was earlier in the week, but it is still unusually high and it considered the toughest ticket for any game in the history of college football.

"How cool is that that this game has become that big," Chizik said. "This is great for college sports. It is awesome for college football. It is great for Auburn University. It is great for Oregon."

Chizik's two-year record at Auburn is 21-5.

Teams that Chizik has coached on are 6-0 in bowl games. He said the common theme in all of those wins was preparation and time management. The Auburn coach said his players have done a good job of being serious about practice and in meetings while also being normal college students.

"You have got to know your team," he said. "You have got to know the variables of your team. You got to know your injuries. You got to know are they tired, are they not tired, when to back off, when to pour it on, when to bang them up, when not to bang them up. I think there is a delicate balance in there somewhere."

All things considered, Chizik said he "feels good about where we are at" with kickoff time almost here.

Auburn picked up a verbal commitment from running back/linebacker Brent Calloway on Saturday, one of the state's top prospects, who switched from Alabama to Auburn. The Russellville High star made the announcement at the U.S. Army All-Star Game while Auburn's team was on the practice field at Scottsdale Community College.

Commenting on recruiting, the Auburn coach said, "We feel great about our recruiting class. We feel one of the things that we are going to do is we are going to be relentless in the pursuit of recruiting not only great athletes, but great students and the right type of fit for Auburn.

"One of the things that I can be extremely proud of sitting up here two years later (after returning to AU) is we have had very few off-the-field incidents and that goes back to the mark of the man that we are trying to recruit as well as try to get the best player out there."

Chizik said playing in the championship game has helped with recruiting. "I think this game obviously and the publicity that Auburn has gotten over the last month is invaluable and I think recruits have definitely taken notice." br>

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