AUBURN, Ala. People cant be faulted for assuming the 2011 BCS national championship would be a high-flying affair.
After all, top-ranked Auburn came in averaging 42.7 points per game. Its opponent, No. 2 Oregon, was even better, as it scored 49.3 per contest.
So of course, the game ended 22-19 in Auburns favor and it was decided by a kicker, no less.
I think both defenses were prepared. That's one thing, said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who was the Tigers offensive coordinator at the time. Both defenses were good. The second thing is (in) the first quarter, it did take each group (some time) to kind of get going.
Fast-forward three years later, and its the same story: people expect this years BCS title game will see a scoreboard awash in points. Again, all it takes is a quick look at the numbers, and it shows that Florida State (53.0 points per game) and Auburn (40.2) should be ready for a track meet on the scale of the Tigers last outing, which saw them sprint past Missouri 59-42 in the SEC championship game. But as history has shown, the long layoff between conference title games and the national championship tilt favors defenses nearly every time.
To wit: Starting with the first BCS championship game in 1999, there has been only one occasion when both teams scored more than 30 points. That instance was in 2006, in the game many view as the greatest (college football) game ever played, as Vince Young single-handedly led Texas past Southern California in a 41-38 classic.
If the statistics arent convincing enough, just listen to players, who reached a consensus: this interminable wait between live games is an inherent advantage for defenses.
It definitely helps the defense, because they have more time to prepare for us, said Alex Kozan, Auburns starter at left guard. So itll help their defense, but itll also help our defense. It might be a little lower-scoring, but at the end of the day, its going to come down to execution.
What say you, Jay Prosch?
(Defenses) still have to play together as a team, but with our offense, communication-wise, we work as one, like a well-oiled machine, the senior fullback said. Defensively, I think its more where players can just read and react, so you can get back into it faster.
Its not just those on offense who hold this belief, however. Jermaine Whitehead would say the same thing. In fact, the junior safety took the same stance as his coach. Both the Tigers and the Seminoles defenses should come be able to put their best foot forward simply due to the time they have to break down every single aspect of the other teams offense.
We get to watch a lot more film that we do on a team in the regular team other than the first game, he said. Well be able to cue in and do our best work in this game.
Anything less than that would qualify as a disappointment to Jonathon Mincy. Yes, he was happy Auburn won the SEC championship. He even uttered the ever-popular disclaimer at the end of the day before he went into his full answer. But try as he might, the junior cornerback couldnt forget how the Tigers defense played the last time they took the field.
Missouri moved the ball at will, tallying 534 yards of total offense and scoring four touchdowns.
Auburn didnt beat its opponent as much as it outlasted it.
And Mincy admits, hes already heard all the talk surrounding next months matchup. The defenses for both teams will serve as mere speed bumps as they try to break the scoreboard in Rose Bowl Stadium. Consider that motivation, he said.
And while youre at it, Mincy urges that you to divert your attention away from the highlight reel scoring plays the game will produce.
Thats not where the game will be decided, anyway.
Its really going to come back to a defensive play, he said. Everybody has to lock on to their assignments and we need to play a perfect game.
Unlike Mincy, Prosch wouldnt offer any predictions. Doing so would be foolish, as he pointed to the fact the Tigers and Seminoles didnt share any common opponents.
Hes fine with just letting the game play out as it will.
Its hard to say, Prosch said. Anything could happen.
Indeed, if weve learned anything this season, its that ruling anything out when Auburn is involved is a risky proposition.
Speaking of propositions, there will be an untold number of wagers placed on the outcome of the BCS title game between now and kickoff Jan. 6.
Heres a word of advice: Bet the under.