Defence steals the BCS show

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:57 PM ET

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Gene Chizik had more than a hunch on how to ground the Oregon Ducks.

The man had a plan.

With 37 days between games, the Auburn coach wondered how an offence built on speed and precision would hold up in the BCS national championship game.

So he didn't worry about his Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton and instead challenged his big, athletic defence to prevail.

Monday night in the Sonoran Desert, they did just that.

“We decided to put everything on the defence,” Chizik said the morning after following a championship night that didn't bring much sleep.

“That's a lot of time to be off for both offences.”

From a technical standpoint, the defensive front four of the Tigers owned the game, the biggest single factor on the way to a 22-19 win.

Led by bruising defensive tackle Nick Fairley, the Tigers held the much feared Ducks running game to just 83 yards. An offence that averaged 49 points in 12 games was held to two touchdowns and was forced to punt five times.

Yes, defence still can win you a championship, even when the opposite is expected.

One of the great attractions in such a big college championship game is catching a huge star in their last game before turning pro.

There's a better than good chance that Auburn has seen the last of both Newton and Fairley, the Lombardi Award winner as the game's top defensive lineman.

The underrated Ducks defence had an answer for Newman, who didn't have his most dynamic night. They couldn't match the brute force of Fairley, however.

And Fairley looks like he may be at least as sure a thing in the pros as his offensively gifted teammate. From the very first snap, he was in the face of Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas, a punishing presence that did not yield the rest of the night.

“"Not only did Nick play great,” Chizik said, “he made big plays when we needed them the most.

“There's no doubt in my mind that he will be a huge success at the next level.”

KILLER CONFERENCE

With the victory, the powerful SEC is cemented as the dominant conference in college ball, one that seems to look more and more like a pro league every season.

While a size advantage on defence can sometimes be negated by a breakneck offence as operated by the Ducks, Auburn had speed and athleticism to go with its brawn.

The SEC now has five consecutive national championships, the most prolific run since the BCS was formed in 1998.

Furthermore, it was a great Bowl season for the SEC also-rans. Defending champion Alabama put forth one of the most impressive performances of the post season with a 49-7 thrashing of Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl. Though they were a two-loss team, the argument can be made that the Tide is no worse than the second-best team in the country.

And the SEC's other terrific Tigers, LSU easily handled Texas A&M, 41-24 in the Cotton Bowl.

EXTRA POINTS

A couple of personal observations from the BCS Championship game, one of the great spectacles of American sport: First, the crowd is far more real than those found at the Super Bowls we’ve been fortunate enough to attend. Real noisy. Real tailgating. And really partisan, unlike the corporate crowd that sometimes dulls the atmosphere at the Super Bowl ... And second, the spectacle surrounding the game offers a glimpse at the struggles faced by the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes. While the game was played at the University of Phoenix Stadium, in the same complex as the ’Yotes home, Jobing.com Arena, most of the pre-game fun and festivities took place in Scottsdale, some 30 km away. The Glendale complex is first rate for both sports and the bars and restaurants that are part of it and they were jammed, with an estimated 10,000 fans unable to get tickets. But it is too far from the majority of people and wealth in the Valley ... While both defences deserve full credit for a combined 41 points — 33 less than the over-under line — might the college system be partly to blame? With more than five weeks between games and a Christmas holiday in the mix, offences are going to have a much more difficult time getting back up to speed than defences. For Auburn coach Chizik, it was all part of the game plan.


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