Auburn, Oregon have final hurdles to clear
Monday, November 29, 2010; 12:00 AM
Following its dramatic comeback win over Alabama, No. 2 Auburn stands one win from setting up a date with No. 1 Oregon in the Bowl Championship Series national title game. The Tigers will face No. 18 South Carolina on Saturday in the Southeastern Conference championship game in Atlanta.
Auburn, with the nation's sixth-most prolific rushing offense, will take on a South Carolina squad that owns the No. 5 rushing defense in the country and has allowed more than 140 rushing yards just once this season. That one contest, though, was the Gamecocks' 35-27 loss Sept. 25 at Auburn when the Tigers racked up 334 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
The primary reason for Auburn's rushing success has been the dual-threat capabilities of quarterback Cam Newton, a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. Newton is averaging 111.3 rushing yards and stands as the nation's second-most efficient passer. He has thrown for 2,254 yards and 24 touchdowns, with six interceptions.
Newton was limited to 39 yards on 22 carries during Friday's 28-27 victory at Alabama, but he still was able to help the Tigers erase a 24-point deficit - the first time any opponent has done that to the Crimson Tide - by passing for 216 yards and three touchdowns.
On Saturday, South Carolina strolled to a 29-7 win at Clemson by holding the Tigers to 155 yards of total offense through the first three quarters. The Gamecocks - who are tied for third in the nation in sacks - tallied three quarterback takedowns.
Fresh off a 48-29 win over Arizona, Oregon also has one more hurdle to clear before cementing its place in the national championship game Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz. The Ducks - who have tallied fewer than 42 points in a game just once this season - play Saturday at Oregon State.
Since 1996, Oregon has won once in Corvallis, but that victory came the last time the Ducks played there. In 2008, Oregon defeated its in-state rival, 65-38, and the Ducks are more than capable of posting a similar score this time around.
Oregon State was shut out, 38-0, at Stanford on Saturday. The Beavers have allowed more than 160 rushing yards in all but three of their games this season, which does not bode well considering Oregon is averaging 300 rushing yards per game, the fifth-highest mark in the country.
Oregon sophomore tailback LaMichael James - the nation's leading rusher - is averaging 154.8 rushing yards per game.
He has scored at least two rushing touchdowns in seven of the 10 games he has played this season. Last year against Oregon State, James registered 166 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. Oregon won that game, 37-33.