Saturday, January 8, 2011

Countdown to "The Natty" - What Can Bowl Results Tell Us About How UO and Auburn Match Up?

What do the results of various other bowls tell us about Oregon and Auburn?

The Ducks and the Tigers shared no common opponent in the 2010 season. But, perhaps we can get some further sense of how they might match up by looking at how the teams they did play faired in bowl competition here recently over the past couple weeks.

Lets start with Oregon opponents in bowls...

Stanford defeated Virginia Tech by the score of 40-12 in the Orange Bowl.
This was a close game for the first half and an absolute beat down by Stanford in the second half. Coming into the game VT was ranked #13 and had won 11 games in a row - including running the table in ACC conference play. So, a quality opponent for sure. Stanford was #4 and had only suffered one loss during the season, and that was to....

...Oregon. Yes, the Ducks beat Stanford this season by the score of 52-31. That's right. That Stanford defense that smothered VT and limited their offense to only 10 points (they got the other 2 on a safety)? Well, the Ducks rolled up 52 points against them. 52!

I think the Stanford win really signals how good Oregon is and bodes well for how they'll fare against Auburn.

Washington defeated Nebraska by the score of 19-7 in the Holiday Bowl. This was a surprise - at least to me - because Nebraska annihilated Washington earlier this season by the score of 56-21 in Seattle. Who would have thought, then, that the Huskies would come out and dominate the line on both sides of the ball to a) hold #18 ranked Nebraska to one TD, and b) push the Huskers' D around enough to score several times? Not me. Buy hey, UW did it...and did so without a great game from QB Locker. He had a total of five completions for 56 yards and no passing TDs. Hence, kudos to the UW defense big time.
Oregon beat Washington by the score of 56-13 in November. Yep, the killed 'em by six touchdowns. So, what the Holiday Bowl win by a then 6-6 Washington squad over a ranked team tells me is that Oregon's beat down of the Huskies has some merrit beyond just beating a bad team. I mean, lets not put too much on is UW after all...but still it's a good sign that Oregon dominated a team that just beat a good Nebraska team.

Oklahoma State stomped Arizona by the score of 36-10 in the Alamo Bowl. This 26 point drubbing was not close at any time. Arizona's lone TD came late after it was well settled. The Cowboys outclassed the Wildcats in every aspect. It was clear to me that the UA defense could not defend against the potent OSU attack, and that Arizona QB Foles was off his game with four interceptions thrown. Throw in a fumble on the game's opening kickoff that led to a OSU touchdown and...well...the Wildcats never had a chance.

Oregon beat Arizona by a score of 48-29 in November. Foles had a better day in that game, and the Wildcats hung tight in the first half. They were able to secure two turnovers - but they also gave up two. In the end, Oregon finished them off nicely in the second half and won by nearly three TDs.

Arizona was not that good a team this year and Oregon's win by 19 is in the ballpark with Oklahoma State's easy victory. Not much to learn here - just that better teams can and do beat Arizona.

As a group
The Pac-10 the teams that Oregon beat...and in fact dominated...during the regular season are 2-1 in bowls against ranked teams. This seems to suggest that the Pac-10 is solid and Oregon is pretty dang good and will be a stiff test for Auburn.

OK, teams that Auburn beat in 2010...

Ohio State beat Arkansas by the score of 31-26 in the Sugar Bowl
Ohio State's "non-SEC" defense held the supposedly great Arkansas offense 24 points (the other two were scored on a safety) and the actual SEC defense from the Razorbacks looked like swiss cheese for large portions of this game.

Auburn beat Arkansas by the score of 65-43 during the regular season. A nice win for sure. But, one of the premier teams in the SEC just got beat by a Big Ten team...a Big Ten that is having a horrible bowl season overall.

South Florida beat Clemson by the score of 31-26 in the Car Bowl
Clemson is a team that Auburn only beat by three points, and did so in overtime. So, the fact that an unranked South Florida squad from the Big East beat them raises an eyebrow in wonder about the quality of that Auburn win earlier in the season.

The University of Central Florida beat Georgia by the score of 10-6 in the Liberty Bowl. That's right. UCF beat Georgia. Auburn beat Georgia 49-31 near the end of the season. So, Auburn gave up 31 points to a team that UCF held to 6. Hmmm. Just sayin'.

Florida State beat South Carolina by the score of 26-17 in the Chick Filet Bowl. Another bowl loss by an SEC team. Auburn beat South Carolia twice this season - once in the regular season and once in the SEC championship game. In the first game, Auburn was on the ropes and only four South Carolina turnovers in the fourth quarter enabled them to eek out a come from behind win. In the SEC championship game, Auburn dominated them pretty much all game long. The first game is evidence that Auburn is beatable. The second game is evidence that they are just much better than South Carolina.

Pittsburgh beat Kentucky by the score of 27-10 in the Compass Bowl
A three score win from a Big East team over an SEC team. Auburn beat Kentucky by a the score of 37-34 in the regular season. Ah, OK. So, Auburn gave up 34 points to a team that the Big East's third place team held to 10. Hmmm. Not too impressive.

Mississippi State beat Michigan by the score of 52-14 in the Gator Bowl. Ah, a win by an SEC team against a squad from another conference. Finally. I am not impressed with Michigan this season and I think that one reason the score of the Gator Bowl was so lopsided was, well, MSU wasn't playing a very good team. But in any case, it's a bowl win by a team Auburn beat - barely - earlier in the season by the score of 17-14.

Alabama beat Michigan State by the score of 49-7 in the Capital One Bowl.
Auburn beat Alabama on the road this seaon - an impressive feat for sure. That win combined with Alabama killing a very good Michigan State team in the Capital One Bowl stands out as prehaps the best evidence that Auburn is the real deal.

LSU beat Texas A&M by the score of 41-24 in the Cotton Bowl
While a fairly close game in the first half, by the early third quarter LSU asserted itself and you knew this one was in the bag for the Tigers. Auburn beat LSU 24-17 earlier in the season - a close game that Auburn played well in but only won by a touchdown.

To note, Auburn did not play two other SEC bowl teams this season - Florida and Tennessee. UF won their bowl, UT lost.

As a group
Teams that Auburn played in 2010 won 3 bowl games and lost 4 bowl games.

This tells me that the myth of SEC and "southern" football (Clemson is in South Carolina, but plays in the ACC) dominance is very over-rated...or at least this year and for the teams Auburn beat. Put it this way: If SEC competition and who Auburn had to play was SO GREAT, then why did so many teams Auburn beat suffer defeats in bowl games when playing teams in the Big 10, Big East and Big 12? If the south is really that dominate, wouldn't the results have been more like 6-1 or 5-2? I think this is something to keep in mind when you hear the talking heads on TV pretty much give Auburn the win over Oregon based on the fact that they're from the SEC. These bowl results show weakness to me in Auburn. I'm not saying this means Auburn won't win...just that they are not as great as advertised.

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