If Auburn successfully sells out to stop the Oregon running game, is that enough to win the game?
That’s the conventional wisdom on stopping Oregon – bottle up the run and then play tight man coverage on the receivers and dare the Ducks QB to beat you through the air. Cal is the only team that effectively put that combination together against Oregon for most of a game. Cal still lost.
Look, it’s entirely possible that the Tigers will shut down the Duck run. Lord knows, the media and Auburn fans are crowing about their great "SEC defense."
I actually do not think it's likely they'll be very successful, but its possible. For the sake of arguement lets say they do bottle up UO running backs – especially early in the game. They’ll do that by crowding the line and selling out to clog up all running lanes inside with their big uglies, potentially even bringing up a safety to protect the middle, and then containing the outside run close to the line with LBs moving side-to-side (and those LBs from Auburn better be fast to do that).
OK. What does that leave open? Yep. The pass. Some teams when they become “one dimensional” like that on offense cannot capitalize on what the defense is giving them. News flash: Oregon can capitalize.
QB Thomas has at corps of talented and speedy receivers that can burn the not-that-great Auburn DBs if the Tigers are too focused on clogging up the line against the Oregon run and leave those corners "on an island" by themselves.
And, if Auburn’s D harasses Thomas with some pressure off the edge or bull rushing up the middle, he has the wheels and the moves to get out of it most times…usually then throwing a completion or running for yards.
To conclude, while I think it’s possible for Auburn to take away the Oregon run for chunks of this game, but a) I don’t think they can do it all game long, and b) even if they do, Oregon has the talent and scheme to make Auburn pay. And watch out for mid-third quarter and all of the fourth quarter. That's when defenses facing Oregon start to really wear out.
Therefore, I think the answer to today's question is, no...stopping the Oregon run would not be enough to win the game for Auburn.