You can find previews for Monday night's BCS Championship game between the Auburn Tigers and Oregon Ducks pretty much everywhere you look on the Internet. Pundits, analysts and fans of the teams are all breaking down matchups, trying to find who holds the advantage in the race for the BCS Championship tonight, on ESPN.
Over at SB Nation, Holly Anderson, Jason Kirk and I have been tirelessly working to preview all the bowl games, BCS Championship included. You can find all that fun stuff in our BCS National Championship StoryStream. You can also find previews from each team blog at Oregon's Addicted to Quack and Auburn's Track Em Tigers.
Here, we're going to do something a little different. After the jump, Jeff, Grady, Craig and I break-down some of the forgotten matchups of the BCS Championship Game.
By: Grady Clapp
The BCS National Championship features not one, but two uniform battles. Old school (Auburn) versus Modern (Oregon); and Under Armour (Auburn) versus Nike (Oregon, obviously).
Auburn will keep it traditional as can be: Blue jerseys with block numbers, a white helmet and white pants. Despite not exactly having the football prowess most of the SEC powers have, the Tigers' fans like to act as if the uniform is a sacred piece of design that shall not be touched. In this case, I'm OK with it. Blue and orange is a pretty tough color combo to mess up... and I find Auburn's look less boring than, say, Florida. Auburn will have one non-traditional element in their gloves, which are, in a word, grrrrrrrrrreat! Never mind the fact they aren't really going to match up with anything else the Tigers are doing. Still, credit AU for not giving into some of the crazier Under Armour ideas out there.
When Nike CEO Phil Knight isn't listening in on the Duck coaches calling plays during the game (yes, he actually does this), his team is busy cooking up their crazy uniform scheme of the day. This is all done under the guise of "Recruits love this stuff!"... even though that's never actually been proven, and teams with more traditional looks (USC, Texas, Florida, Ohio State, etc.) are already busy cleaning up the recruiting boards without any of the flash. It's surprising then just how clean Oregon will look tonight... although there are highlighter socks involved. Black, and even green pants have been rumored so it may not end up all mononchrome when the Ducks come out of the tunnel tonight (I actually hope they come out with green). Or maybe the whole design is a trick and Oregon will wear something completely different. Still, it's a decent look with one gigantic, glaring problem.
That problem? The Ducks play their most important game in school history tonight, and they're doing it wearing gray helmets, white jerseys and white pants. What are Oregon's school colors again? Oh yeah... not those.
Green and gold are a great college color scheme, too. Is there really anything wrong with these? The answer is no.
Just don't tell Phil Knight.
Sizing Up The Coaches
By: Jeff Nusser
When it comes to the coaches of the BCS National Championship Game, the differences between them could not be more stark. One is a stately man with a jaw cut from the Bill Cowher mold; the other an impish, almost cherubic looking man. One made his bones on defense; the other is considered a mastermind of the spread offense.
But in order to get a true handle on which coach just might tilt the game in his team's favor, we need to take a closer look at the two, which we will do -- in pictures. Let's see how Chizik and Kelly stack up where it really matters.
Coaching Basics: Use Of The Whistle
Every coach has to be able to use a whistle during practice. It's a basic requirement of being a coach.
Classic whistle posture from Chizik. The whistle is loosely held between the lips as he watches intently, ready to stop the play and instruct if necessary. There is an air of both confidence and control. This is a veteran whistle user.
By comparison, Kelly looks like he's practicing for the marching band. Terrible form here from the Ducks coach.
Individual Coaching Aptitude
A well-placed word of encouragement can go miles with college athletes, who tend to be a bit more sensitive and vulnerable to criticism than their pro counterparts.
Face-to-face is always the preferred method, and Chizik clearly doesn't have this technique down. His own player has turned his back and left him hanging, and almost inexcusable error in judgement one would not expect from a national championship caliber coach. He's begging for attention, and he's not getting it.
This is more like it. Kelly has clearly engaged the player despite his awful "high fivin' white guy" technique in which the hand is raised far too high above the head. Linebacker Josh Kaddu is patient enough to show his coach how it's done, and in this case, the end transcends the means.
Ability To Mentor Young Men
One of the unique aspects of coaching college football is the opportunity to work with 18- to 23-year-olds who are still learning the ways of the world.
Excellent form here from the Auburn coach. Furrowed brows convey the gravity of his words while subtle hand gestures drive home their importance. Pursed lips denote a quiet, yet stern delivery. The player hangs on his every word.
One cannot doubt the veracity of the Oregon coach's words, but this looks a one-way conversation bordering on a lecture. Kelly clearly believes the importance of what he's saying, but does the player? I'm not sold.
Ability To Be Heard
Of course, at its core, football is a game of intensity. Teaching has it's place, but so does getting your point across in the most direct manner possible.
Notice the slightly forward-leaning posture by the Auburn coach. When combined with the unusually agape mouth and squinty eyes, he gives off the impression of a bear roaring at a tourist who's wandered too close to his home. An underrated aspect of this technique? The headphones around the neck, giving little doubt as to whom his wrath is directed. However, anger such as this can often impede communication.
The coach is clearly trying to get someone's attention. Although there is a missing ferocity, the posture is stern, yet inviting. However, one has to wonder how a player or referee could possibly be sufficiently intimidated by a coach wearing this outfit. Black shoes, black slacks, black pullover with green trim ... white visor? Really coach? If your goal is loosen them up by getting them laughing at you, you'll probably succeed.
Finally, we come to every coach's most powerful weapon. To truly be a great coach, you must be able to communicate without saying anything at all.
This stare exudes calm, yet it's clear that a fire burns in the coach's belly. There's an almost fatherly quality to the stare, one that says to his players, "You do not want to disappoint me." However, the does not inspire fear with this stare.
This is where Kelly truly tilts the scales in his favor. This is a classic stare -- one where the coach's soft, boyish features actually play to his advantage. It's a stare that says, "You did not just do that. You better think twice about what you just did, because I'm about to get angry. And when I get angry, I sometimes do stuff that's just plain bat-bleep crazy. Only a man as crazy as me would wear a white visor with a black outfit. Oh, you think that's funny? Well, a man in Reno once thought I was a joker and he laughed at me. So I shot him -- just to watch him die. Oh, you've heard that one before? Little known fact: Johnny Cash wrote that song about me. And I might just lose it on you next if you don't get your bleep together. What's that? You've changed your mind? I thought so."
While Chizik is the more conventional coach, it's Kelly's lack of conventions that ultimately lead him to win out in this head-to-head matchup. His ability to connect with players while simultaneously maintaining a healthy level of fear -- the stare says it all.
Overall Coaching Advantage: Oregon
By: Craig Powers
Cheering is important. In fact, for the fans in the stands, it is the most important thing they can do. But what would happen if fans were left to just cheer whenever they want without any sort of direction?
That is where our next group comes in.
It is important to remember that there are a few parts to each university's spirit squad. The first group we'll talk about here is the mascots. The Oregon Duck has had a banner year. He has been featured on ESPN commercials and presumably can now bench a pickup truck with all the push-ups he has been doing. It would seem easy to say that Mr. Duck has the clear advantage in this match-up over Auburn's beloved Aubie.
But as an old man who has adorned the severed heads of both these mascots would say, "Not so fast, my friend."
According to his Wikipedia page, Aubie has won six mascot national championships. I'm not entirely sure what they are referring to, but the Michael Jordan won six championships, so it sounds impressive. Aubie has also been inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame. He may look like a run-of-the-mill tiger, but apparently he is a juggernaut in the mascot world.
So who is the better mascot? Well, this looks a lot the actual game on paper. A long history versus an up-and-comer. I'd have to say because of his viral success this year, the Duck gets the nod. Also because he could probably beat up Aubie if they were to fight, or beat up me if I were to wrong him.
As for the cheerleaders, it really is not contest. Oregon has long been nationally regarded for two things: Ridiculous uniforms and smoking hot cheerleaders. I first fell in love with the ladies in green and gold on a trip to the Pac-10 tournament my junior year of college. Stacked up against the rest of the Pac-10 (which includes FOUR squads full of California Girls), Oregon's cheerleaders stole the show. I don't know, or care to know, about how these two squads have fared in national competitions and what not.
Oregon wins this category, hands down.
By: Brian Floyd
Every high-profile program has these. An unintended side-effect of putting together a top-flight program is the off-field trouble that comes with it. No matter how much discipline a coach instills, these are 18-22 year-old kids we're talking about; trouble will come.
Oregon started the offseason with a bang, looking to bring home the prestigious Fulmer Cup, the highest award for out-of-season thuggery. The Ducks stole the national headlines early and often, as national pundits predicted the downfall of Oregon football.
Kicker Rob Beard gets caught up in a huge brawl -- seriously, the kicker was brawling -- and gets sent to the hospital. Beard pushed a girl to the ground and was knocked out with a swift kick to the head for his efforts. Matt Simms, looking for a bit of retaliation, knocks some dude out.
Star running back, and Heisman finalist, LaMichael James gets into it with a jilted ex-lover, forcing him to head straight to jail without passing go. Assault, menacing and strangulation were the charges, making for an awesome rap-sheet. He plead guilty to a reduced charge.
Darron Thomas is running the show for the Ducks this year, thanks to the offseason thuggery -- and we do mean that in the most literal sense of the word -- provided by former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. A late-night trip to a frat house with pal Garrett Embry complete with stolen laptops and a projector screen -- not the projector, but a giant screen -- resulted in full-on mockery and an early Fulmer Cup lead. Embry was already dismissed and Masoli was suspended for the season.
On the same night head coach Chip Kelly holds a press conference to announce the Ducks won't tolerate anymore run-ins with the law, Kiko Alonso gets a DUI. Talk about timing.
Not content with the suspension, Masoli made it a full-on dismissal with one final act. Already on double-secret probation, Masoli gets pulled-over for driving with a suspended license. Cops find weed in the car, Masoli is dismissed from the team and transfers to Ole' Miss where he's named the starter for the Rebels. EES EEE SEE!
Auburn, somehow, made it through the offseason without arrests.
Advantage: Oregon, with bonus points for an all-around fantastic effort.
Shady recruiting? Players getting connected with agents? Money getting passed under the table? Oh, the life of a big-time program.
Auburn's Cam Newton is the headliner here. In November, with the season in full-swing and Auburn on the way to the top of the BCS rankings, word happened to leak that Newton may have been bought. Crazy, I know. The SEC and NCAA opened an investigation, he was deemed ineligible for all of 24 hours and all was well again in Starkville ... for now.
Newton's cleared and ready to hit the field on Monday, but we've seen this game before. Years down the line, ala Reggie Bush, this could all come back to haunt the Tigers. Or maybe it won't. You never know when the NCAA is involved.
On the Oregon side, it's all relatively minor. LaMichael James was spotted rollin' in a Land Rover, but was cleared shortly thereafter. It was a loaner car after his went into the shop.
Advantage: Auburn, clearly.
If Auburn wins, there's a chance we'll all be forced to forget Monday's game happened if/when the NCAA deems Newton was ineligible. In a year, two years or longer, the NCAA could decide Newton was, in fact, ineligible this whole time, scrubbing the record books in the process.
Oregon, on the other hand, weathered the onslaught of offseason arrests -- and gained an attorney on retainer for its players -- without major damage. With Thomas at the helm, the Ducks are a better team, and somehow managed to escape New Mexico without James, their suspended star.
Advantage: Oregon, since we'll be forced to act like this game never happened if Newton was bought.
With that, we conclude our preview of the 2011 BCS Championship Game. Oregon is in the Pac-10 and a win over the SEC champion always looks good. (gulps) (gasps for air) (fights the feeling) Go Ducks! (breathes deeply)