Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Auburn and Oregon are two marvelously talented college football teams with explosive offenses. But what will really determine who wins the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game Monday evening? The way I look at it, it comes down to how much the Oregon defense can contain Auburn quarterback Cam Newton -- both running and throwing. Oregon will score -- a lot. If the Ducks can disrupt Newton's passing game and keep him from running for more than 100 yards, they could be in business. But if the Heisman Trophy-winner has a game in which it looks like no one else is on the field with him or wants to tackle him, then it doesn't matter how many points Oregon scores, because Auburn with Newton (who incidentally has his own day Saturday in Alabama, declared by Gov. Bob Riley) unchecked will probably score more. Of course, turnovers, big plays and penalties will factor in, too. One thing that is hard to dismiss is that Oregon scored 52 points on Stanford, and if you saw what the Cardinal did to Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl earlier this week en route to a 12-1 season, and then consider how Oregon came back from a 21-3 deficit to run away from that same Stanford team in the second half, then it will be hard to picture the Ducks losing. On the flip side, look at Auburn's scintillating comeback victory over Alabama, a team that on any given Saturday could beat anyone, maybe even a few NFL teams. What about the location, Glendale, Arizona? It's in Pac-10 country. Will that be a factor? It could help Oregon some. If they were playing in Miami or New Orleans, there would be more of an SEC mindset. But maybe I'm being ridiculous. Auburn Coach Gene Chizik, speaking at a media event Friday, describes his team as almost carefree.
Auburn Coach Gene Chizik
"They are happy guys," Chizik said. "They enjoy what they're doing. They enjoy playing football at Auburn. The great thing about our team, if you really watch our team close, they love to have fun and they love to do -- they love to kind of be on the edge out there. "But when it's time to start playing football, they lock in, and it is time to go, and they know how to switch it on when it is time to go to work and practice and get the work done that they need to do and there is no question. In the weight room, too. They know when it's time, it's time."
Oregon running back LaMichael James
No. 1 Auburn (13-0) vs. No. 2 Oregon (12-0), Tostitos BCS National Championship Game, Glendale, Arizona, Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN): The second half should really get interesting in this game, because that is when Oregon likes to shift into overdrive. But it's also when the Auburn defense, anchored by Nick Fairley, starts to bull-rush opposing quarterbacks. Getting back to the theme of containing Newton, the Ducks aren't going to wait for Newton to make a move. At least that's the plan. The Ducks are "definitely going to bring pressure," linebacker Casey Matthews told the Register-Guard of Eugene, Oregon. Lineback Spencer Paysinger told the paper that Oregon wasn't "going to sit back and wait for you to hurt us. We're going to come after you." Offensively, both teams have outstanding quarterbacks, of course Newton for Auburn and Darron Thomas for Oregon. Newton has thrown for 2,589 yards and 28 TDs. Thomas has almost identical passing stats: 2,518 yards and 28 touchdowns. But Newton has rushed for 1,409 yards and scored 20 TDs himself. The Ducks probably get the edge at halfback with Heisman finalist LaMichael James, who ran for 1,682 yards and scored 20 TDs. Both teams also have excellent receivers, with Oregon's Jeff Maehl catching 68 passes for 943 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Auburn's Darvin Adams has 48 catches for 909 yards. If you look at national rankings for each unit, the Oregon offense is No. 1 with 49.3 points a game and No. 12 on defense, allowing only 18.4 points a game. Auburn ranks sixth nationally on offense with 42.7 points a game, but only 54th on defense, allowing 24.5 points a game. This one seems like it could bust wide open, with points coming from all directions: Long runs, passes, pick-sixes, punt returns, etc. I don't see a 7-6 score here. Corner's choice: Oregon 42, Auburn 41
Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray
No. 11 LSU (10-2) vs. No. 17 Texas A&M (9-3), AT&T Cotton Bowl, Arlington, Texas, Friday, 8 p.m. ET (Fox): This is the 75th edition of this old school bowl game, and it's a pretty good matchup. The Aggies have made a steady climb in a bid to return to national prominence. And LSU, well, when don't the Tigers win 10 games and when aren't they in the national championship conversation? Well, they also happen to be in the same SEC division as Auburn. "We will anticipate this (game) to be a real quality, four-quarter game," said LSU Coach Les Miles at the bowl press conference earlier this week. "You're going to have to come out fast and maintain a tempo that allows you to compete for four quarters. That's how we've trained, that's how we've planned and we figure this is going to be very competitive start to finish. Early lead or not, this is going to be four quarters and fight like heck to the finish." Texas A&M Coach Mike Sherman was asked if he saw similarities between LSU and some of his Big 12 opponents, such as Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. "This team LSU has a lot of length," Sherman said. "They have a lot of long guys that play very well with their hands. They are No. 1 in the SEC in defense and certainly the teams we've played here of late were significant defensive teams in the Big 12. So there are some similarities." . Something suggests that A&M will want this one a little more. Corner's choice: Texas A&M 30, LSU 28Corner kicks: Michigan officially ended the Rich Rodriguez era this week after he went 15-22. A losing record for an extended period of time in Ann Arbor won't sit right, especially if you consider that the Maize and Blue are the winningest college football program of all time. But what went wrong? When Rodriguez was at West Virginia, he had some fantastic teams, capable of beating anyone. But they also played defense. A Michigan team that doesn't play defense is like a Michigan team not playing Ohio State. Can't have it. When I think of Michigan vs. Ohio State, I think of 7-6, 10-7, 13-12 -- three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust scores. It seemed that Rich Rod had one more chance going into the Mississippi State game, but when you lose 52-14 to a midtier SEC team (albeit one on the rise) in the Gator Bowl, then you don't get to keep the keys to the Big House. ...
Andrew Luck, Stanford
An uplifting story this week about Stanford's phenomenal quarterback Andrew Luck. He is staying in college. Now some people are saying why would you pass up tens of millions of dollars as the likely first pick in the NFL draft to go to classes. But those people aren't Andrew Luck. He's an archeticture major at a great university. He loves college, and who wouldn't if you were him?
Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh
Andrew Luck gets it, and now he is the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy next year. But it looks like he'll probably have to do it without his coach, Jim Harbaugh, whom ESPN.com reported Friday would sign a five-year, $25 million deal to coach the San Francisco 49ers.