Who is going to win tonight's Bowl Championship Series title game between Auburn and Oregon? For the fourth year in a row, The Wiz presents the Mother of All BCS Title Game Prediction Posts.
A new twist this year. At the end of the post, readers are invited to vote in two polls. The first asks which team will cover the spread. At the time of this post, Auburn is favored by two points. The second asks if the total number of points will go over or under 73.
Each of the distinguished experts listed below has a link to their Twitter page and site. Follow these folks and you'll be on the cutting edge of college football.
Let's see what they have to say:
Yost of the Michigan blog The M Zone: Oregon 38, Auburn 34: Auburn and the remaining 85 of the 197 recruits it signed over the last four years won't be able to keep up with Oregon and its latest uniform combo. That and I'm going with the law of averages that says an SEC team can't win for the 5th time in a row ... can they?
David Payne of Covers.com: Oregon 38, Auburn 35: I've flip-flopped on this game a dozen times. My current affection for the Ducks is based on three things: 1. They have the ability to play at a faster tempo than the Tigers. The development of ultra-high-speed offenses is the coolest college football trend in a long time. 2. Their defense is significantly better than Auburn's. Last five national champions have finished in the Top 5 in pass efficiency defense; Oregon is 6th; Auburn 75th. 3. Man, Stanford looked really good.
Dave Weekley, host of "Sportspage on the Air" on WCHS in Charleston, W. Va.: I'm looking for Auburn to complete their unbeaten season, but as usual, nothing will come easy for this group of Tigers. Oregon can, and will, score early. But Cam Newton always gets stronger as the game progresses. It's not a matter of if he will make big plays, but when. Auburn 35, Oregon 31.
Dan Shanoff of Quickish.com: Auburn 57, Oregon 55 (3OT). Everyone talks about Cam Newton, but Oregon hasn't seen a defense as strong as Auburn's; then again, Auburn hasn't seen an offense as good as Oregon's. After ending regulation 35-35, the teams trade TDs for three overtime periods before Oregon falls short on its mandatory 2-point conversion; Newton shoulders his way for the game-winning 2 — and a title for the Tigers.
Jim Weber of Lost Lettermen.com: Auburn 45, Oregon 41: I expect a heart-pounding, back-and-forth game that rivals the 2006 Rose Bowl between Texas and USC. It's obvious neither defense has a chance of stopping mad scientists Gus Malzahn and Chip Kelly but I like Auburn to come up with one more stop because they've got Nick Fairley on their side.
Larry Brown of Larry Brown Sports: Auburn 34, Oregon 27. The Ducks looked very beatable the last three weeks of the season compared to Auburn which smoked South Carolina in the SEC title game. Oregon is having a great season but they just aren't a national championship team. Maybe if they boosted their payroll they could compete with Auburn.
Sean Callahan of Huskers Illustrated: The Pac-10 is a better league than most of us around the country want to give it credit for. I think this game will go back and forth, but in the end Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense will be too much for Auburn to keep up with. Oregon 40, Auburn 34.
Ty Hildenbrandt of Solid Verbal: Auburn 38, Oregon 30. Auburn has more experience in close games and the best player on the field, but the real question is whether an eight-point win now will still stand in 2014.
Darren Rovell of CNBC: 33-23 Auburn. Tough call, but I think Cam & Auburn have had more of the spotlight on them and have executed this year. They'll win. As to whether they'll hold onto that BCS national championship trophy? Only Cecil knows.
Fred Wallin, host of sports parade on KCAA in Loma Linda, Calif: Oregon, 38-34. Darren Thomas will prove to be in the same class as Cam Newton and his dad has not tried to sell him to the highest bidder.
Phil Burnett, former defensive line coach at Ball State: Oregon 40, Auburn 33. Two questions: Which defense will show up and who will be the X-Factor. I like the Ducks on defense. Nick Aliotti's defense plays fast, they run to the ball, tackle, play with a heart and play with a competitive spirit. The return of the 1994 "Gang Green Defense". The X-Factor: Oregon's QB Darron Thomas. For just one night and one night only......he has to find a way to outshine Cam Newton. Plus — Oregon's uniforms will be worth points.
Jon Miller of Hawkeye Nation: Oregon 41, Auburn 34: I think the SEC is a tougher league, but I think this is Oregon's game. It might also be the exclamation point we look back on in 2020 as to when the Decade of the Ducks began. Or would that be when Phil Knight got his Oregon diploma? Tough to say.
Peter Burns of Fox Sports Radio: Oregon 45, Auburn 31. Nothing says momentum like a quaint little 5-week layoff between games. Unfortunately, the NCAA won’t be put in an awkward position of handing Cam Newton the Mythical National Championship award. The Auburn Tigers should have lost 4 games this year....Yes, I realize that they play in the SEC, but the Newton aura clouded the fact that their defense is embarrassingly bad. Chip Kelly has a field day.
Jimmy Shapiro of Sports Radio Interviews: Oregon 37-31. I just can't stand to see another SEC team win the national championship. Guys like Bill Hancock would be ecstatic if that happened and we wouldn't want to see that. Plus, Oregon can score quicker than Auburn, which will benefit them in a close game. So if you're wagering on the game, go the complete opposite of what I'm saying.
Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News: Auburn 37, Oregon 31. This has the potential to be a very memorable championship. Most of the country wants Oregon. Auburn will wear its black hats just fine. It helps to have Cam Newton on your team. The big question: Can ESPN and Big Ten officials keep up with the pace of these offenses?
Brett McMurphy of AOL FanHouse: Oregon 45, Auburn 34. Auburn is bigger. Much bigger. In fact, Cam Newton is bigger than eight of Oregon's defensive starters. But bigger might not necessarily mean better — especially when having to keep up with Oregon's hyper drive offense. I believe Auburn will have trouble dealing with that speed. And then there's this: the last five BCS national champions have ranked among the nation's top five in pass efficiency defense. Oregon ranks sixth — meaning the Ducks can load the box to stuff the run — while Auburn's shaky secondary is 75th.
Brian Murphy of The Sports Leader, KNBR in San Francisco: Auburn 38, Oregon 35. I'm a believer in the Best-Player-in-the-Stadium theory. Especially when the Best Player has boosters lining his wallet to Phil Knight-like levels. Cam is The Man.
David Ubben, ESPN's Big 12 blogger: Auburn 34, Oregon 28. Even with the contempt of the nation's other five major conferences behind it, Oregon can't knock the SEC down a peg. It'll take a lot of plays in tight spots for either team to win, but Auburn has the best player on the field. Cam Newton can make those plays in a lot of different ways. Every fourth-quarter drive by the Tigers is going to be very frustrating for Ducks fans.
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports and co-author of "Death to the BCS": Auburn 42-34: I think the five-and-a-half week layoff helps Auburn, allowing it to create a sound game plan to stop Oregon's offense. Conversely, I don't think there is much you can do to stop Cam Newton, he's so difficult to tackle in the open field. So advantage Tigers.
The Tennessee blog Loser With Socks: The barn wins 42-31. These barners are meaner, smarter and faster than the average tuacaloosa street dog. Translation: West coast liberal Ducks meet the business end of Baptist hymnal.
Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette: Auburn 38, Oregon 28. I hesitate to ever pick against the all-controlling power of Nike's Phil Knight, but Auburn is a true team of destiny. It was somehow meant to be that Cam Newton would quarterback this team.
Hugging Harold Reynolds of Hugging Harold Reynolds: Auburn 38, Oregon 34: Over the last couple of months, every time I think we can stick a fork in Auburn's season, the Tigers prove me wrong with a last-minute comeback. I really believe Oregon, overall, is the better team here. But I don't think they'll be able to blow the Tigers out, leaving enough room for one more late Auburn rally.
Matt Hinton of Dr Saturday: I can easily see Oregon ripping off two or three quick scores and generating some points on defense and/or special teams to generate some major heat. Considering the more difficult climb the Tigers had to navigate to get to this point, though, and especially the force-of-nature aura of Cam Newton, it's felt like this game is Auburn's to lose since midseason. I expect a big night from one of the Tigers' unsung skill guys (Michael Dyer, Onterio McCalebb, Darvin Adams) courtesy of some Malzahn misdirection, but Newton will go out alongside Vince Young and Tim Tebow as the MVP of a generation. Then Auburn holds its breath that it holds up when the NCAA's done snooping around his dad. Auburn 34, Oregon 25
Ben Koo of Bloguin and Koo's Corner: While I'd love the SEC to get knocked down a peg or twenty, I think Auburn will get some breathing room in the second quarter and then pull away in the second half. I'm not sure if I see Oregon being able to run the ball against Auburn and being put into passing downs. Auburn is just more balanced and with a better trigger man leading the offense. 47-35 Auburn.
Paul Myerberg of Pre-Snap Read: Oregon 41, Auburn 31. I'm not sure if the Auburn defense has the depth on defense to deal with Oregon's offensive pace, let alone have the horses in the secondary to slow down this multifaceted attack. While Auburn has shown itself to be a dominant fourth quarter team, Oregon won't take its foot off the gas — I'm looking at you, Alabama.
Zac Jackson of Fox Sports Ohio: Auburn 28, Oregon 27. The Ducks will come to play, bust a couple of big ones and will slow Cam Newton — for a while. In the end, though, I believe Newton will rally the Tigers to victory like he did in the Alabama game.
Adam Kramer of Kegs ‘n Eggs: Auburn 38, Oregon 31. People are calling for a shootout, and I think we'll get it after the players dust off some early jitters and rustiness after the long layoff. As much as I respect the Ducks prolific offensive attack, I believe Cam Newton takes over once again in what will likely be his final collegiate game. Should be a tight one, but I'm taking Auburn.
Rob Brown of The Ticket 100.3 in Pensacola: They say defense wins championships — not this year. Power wins it. While Oregon is capable of running around anyone, Auburn with Newton, Dyer and McCaleb can run OVER them and long sustained drives keep James off the field. Auburn in a shootout, 45-42.
Mark Ennis of the Louisville blog Collision Course: Auburn 40, Oregon 28. Every week I've told myself that LSU, or Alabama, or even South Carolina would be the defense good enough to at least corral Cam Newton and none of them have. I like Oregon a lot, I think they're a fantastic team, but I can't make myself see a way that the Ducks defense can get Auburn off the field. Not just Cam Newton, but the supporting cast as well. I think Auburn will get out to a lead and make Oregon throw it much more than they're comfortable with and that's when Nick Fairley will take over.
Matt Baxendell of Sports Radio 790 The Zone in Atlanta, Host of the Young Guns: Oregon 45, Auburn 35. Everyone wants to talk about the offenses in this game but no one seems to mention the highly underrated Duck defense. Oregon is going to make more stops than Auburn's defense, who will have no answer for the pace of Oregon's offense. The SEC's reign of terror ends as the Ducks win their first National Championship.
Buck Rogers of the Boise State blog Statue Left: 1. I would say the odds are low that a surprise* "2-point conversion" was attempted, with both coaches being fearful of giving a free PAT. *Surprise meaning "not when the call sheet requires the 2-point conversion." You can try that sneaky swinging gate 2-point try against the lowly teams but not against a formidable powerhouses. 2. Urban Meyer's words stating "that the zone blocking scheme is more of a finesse run game vs. gap blocking being a power run game" ... is hogwash — as heard on ESPN's "The Experts" earlier Sunday. 3.Watch the rustiness of the layoff last less than 1 series for each team. Once the butterflies flutter away, the instincts kick in. Like riding a Nike. Oregon wins, 35-30.
Lisa Horne of Fox Sports: Both teams may come out a little conservatively in the first quarter — just feeling each other out. I do believe the battle will be won in the trenches, and while Auburn looks to have the bigger trees, Oregon's defense will have them on their heels once the hurry-up offense kicks in. Look for the Tigers' D to be gassed by mid-third quarter. Oregon 38, Auburn 21
Matt Youmans, sports betting columnist of the Las Vegas Review-Journal: Oregon 37, Auburn 33 — According to a rumored bonus clause in Cam Newton's contract, he gets another $200,000 for a BCS win. But seriously, this is a difficult game to bet and I'll probably stay away. A few handicappers and oddsmakers I respect have power ratings that say the Ducks are slightly better, and Oregon coach Chip Kelly should be ready with a few surprises.
Chris Huston, the Heisman Pundit: Oregon 42, Auburn 31. Familiarity is the key in this very compelling offensive showdown. Simply put, the Oregon defense has more experience facing exotic schemes than the Auburn defense does. Newton is a great player, but Thomas plus James combined is greater. Newton isn't stopped, but is slowed down, with the game ball going to the Duck corners.
Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times: Oregon 41, Auburn 27. Defense and special teams have been a bigger factor in Oregon's success than is often portrayed, and both will play key roles in helping the Ducks strike a blow for West Coast football, and win a national title for the Pac-10 in its last game before it becomes the Pac-12. Ducks will also make a nation wonder just what the heck all those pictures on those play cards mean.
Dan Rubenstein of Solid Verbal: Oregon 34, Auburn 27. I expect a slow start, as both teams run read-based offenses that have generally required some time early in games to get going. The time off and BCS experience favors Oregon — 18 starters return from last year's Rose Bowl team and they have a better concept of how to balance time and preparation with five weeks off than Auburn does. It's also a general rule of mine to go with the team that exhibited a better killer instinct throughout the season and that's unquestionably Oregon.
Trent Condon of 1700 The Champ in Des Moines: Oregon 27, Auburn 17. High-flying, high-scoring game? Please. Every time that is what is expected, you go the other way. Oregon holds on after jumping to an early lead. And the SEC hooligans will stay quiet for about 5 minutes before talk of the greatness of 2011 begins.
John Walters of The Daily: Auburn 33, Oregon 31. Cam Newton's 1st Law of Thermodynamics says that Auburn never loses as long as he plays. On a field overrun with playmakers, he is in a class by himself. Anyone who comes from 24 points down in Tuscaloosa has my vote.
Jay Christensen of The Wiz of Odds: I have two words for you: Nick Fairley. His sack of Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas results in a first-quarter safety and the Auburn defense does the rest. Tigers win, 2-0. Play the under, baby!
Thanks to Image of Sport and thanks to all who contributed!