The college football bowl season is about to begin, and although there are several solid match ups, none are as intriguing as the title game, where arguably the two most explosive offenses in the nation square off, as Oregon and Auburn take the field in Glendale, AZ next month.
In the first of our three-part breakdown of the title game, College FootBlog took a brief look at the X-factors from each team. In part 2 of our analysis, we look at the individuals who have led the way for each team–the head coaches.
Gene Chizik: When he was named head coach at Auburn, many experts questioned the hiring, mainly due to Chizik’s mediocre results as the head coach at Iowa State. Chizik silenced most of those critics last season when he led the Tigers to an eight-win season and gave Alabama (the eventual national champion) everything they could handle in last year’s Iron Bowl. Chizik slammed the door on the few, if any, critics that were left going into this season, as he has rolled through the nation’s deepest and strongest conference with a perfect 13-0 record.
Chizik, who had been known for his defensive strategies, has relied on his offense since arriving at Auburn last season. While Auburn has some play makers on defense, Chizik and his staff bet all their chips on Heisman Trophy winner Cameron Newton to be a virtual one-man show, and the bet has paid huge dividends.
Perhaps even more impressive is how well Chizik has sheltered his team from the media frenzy that has surrounded the program since questions regarding Newton and his father handled his recruitment last season. Through it all, Chizik has kept his cool, but more importantly, his team has continued to prosper, despite the negative attention. Handling the media for a national title game should be a cake walk, compared to the last month.
Chip Kelly: Oregon’s offensive explosion is actually a continuance of Kelly’s days as the Ducks’ offensive coordinator. He took the OC job in 2007 and perfected the spread attack, and the Pac 10 hasn’t been the same since. While the Ducks have athletes on defense as well, Kelly remains an offensive mastermind, and other than one game against Cal, no team has kept Oregon from putting up 37 or more points–the Ducks put up at least 50 points in and astounding six of their twelve games this season.
Like Chizik, Kelly is in just his second year as head coach of his program. And like Chizik, Kelly has generated championship results, despite controversy surrounding his team. Even the avid college football fans probably didn’t even know who Kelly was until the famous right cross of LaGarrette Blount connected on Boise State’s Byron Hout after the Ducks’ opening week loss to the Broncos.
Kelly suspended Blount, who had been his top running back, and publicly discussed the incident and his plan get his team refocused and to help Blount get back on track. Oregon won the Pac 10 title last season, but in the wake of the Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State, his starting quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate, Jeremiah Masoli was dismissed from the team for burglary. Even without his starting QB, Kelly’s squad has put up ridiculous numbers on offense, leading the nation with over 49 points per game.
Analysis: Each program should be very excited about their respective head coaches, not only for this season, but for years to come. There really appears to be no clear-cut advantage in the coaches. Expect each coach to have his team ready to play, and the way they have led their players through previous media turmoil, don’t expect either team to be rattled because after all, each team has been in the national spotlight (for good reasons and bad) quite a bit the last several months, but each coach has persevered and each coach now has a shot at a championship ring in year two of taking the reigns.
Look for our third and final breakdown of the BCS Title Game later this week.