SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Here are three keys for the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.
1. Newton down on first contact: A quarterback feels pressure and decides to bolt: Almost every time that happens, a defensive player will have a shot to make a play at or behind the line of scrimmage. You know: You're screaming at your TV screen as the QB shakes a guy, ducks under a guy, or escapes an arm tackle. The Ducks need to make that play as much as possible. Think back to the 2010 Rose Bowl. How many times did Ducks just miss getting Terrelle Pryor down, only to watch him convert a third-down play with a scramble? Cam Newton will make plays with his feet. He will get away. He's too good to be completely muted. But if the Ducks make tackles -- one-on-one, in the open field, in the backfield -- when they have a shot, then that will go a long way to shutting down an offense that is entirely centered around Newton.
2. Scheme, scheme, scheme: Oregon has good players, but it also has s great scheme. Coach Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti are very good at finding and exploiting weaknesses, and they are also good at finding ways to offset an opponent's strengths. They can keep a team off-balance, and they are good at countering whatever an opponent is doing to scheme against them. So what's Aliotti's plan for keeping a lid on Newton? Blitz a lot? Or don't blitz? Use a spy? Or not? As for the Ducks' offense, they need to first account for the active physical presence of tackle Nick Fairley. What might Kelly have in store for the nation's best defensive lineman? And how many tweaks -- and tricks -- has Kelly added over the past five weeks? Good money is on the Ducks throwing a lot of things at the Tigers that they haven't seen and may not expect.
3. Turnovers, third downs, special teams: Oregon ranks seventh in the nation in turnover margin. Auburn ranks 32nd. The Ducks need to win that battle. Auburn ranks third in the nation in third-down conversions. Oregon ranks ninth in third-down conversion defense. The Ducks need to win that battle. While the kickers are a push, the Ducks are better in the punt game -- both kicking it and receiving it. The Ducks need to assert their superiority on special teams. While big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games, it's also the little things that earn a team a national championship.