SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Sports fans from Alabama to Oregon have been debating who will win the BCS Championship duel between the Ducks and Tigers, but one analyst has an especially unique insight into the big game.
Mike Bellotti is now an analyst for ESPN. But he's also the former head coach of Oregon, and the man who recruited "about 80 percent" of the players who will take the field for Oregon.
As an ESPN analyst, Bellotti said he is "officially neutral" but admits he'd like to see Oregon win. "I live in Eugene," said Bellotti. "I have to say that or I can't go home!"
Special coverage: Ducks vs Tigers in BCS game
Bellotti talked about the strategy each team needed to employ to have the best chance of winning.
"Oregon is going to try to contain (Heisman winner Cam) Newton by closing the net, by containing him," said Bellotti. He noted that Oregon's defensive coordinator has promised to start blitzing Newton as soon as the team gets off the bus.
"Auburn has to load the box, put more people inside, and change up who that is. Because they have to stop the (Oregon) run," said Bellotti. The former Ducks coach explained that while Auburn calls its plays in the huddle and then runs them, the Ducks actually "read" the defense at the line of scrimmage and adapt the play based on the defensive alignment. "So Auburn needs to change up their look to try to confuse Darron Thomas," said Bellotti.
Bellotti said that, in a game like this, special teams play could be key. Oregon defensive back Cliff Harris "is probably the most dynamic punt returner in the nation; on the other side, Auburn has perhaps the most dangerous kick returner in college."
The coach turned analyst was especially excited about the match-up because of the differences between the two teams.
"I think this game could settle the age-old debate between stats and schedule," said Bellotti, noting that the Ducks lead the nation in many statistical categories whereas Auburn plays a tough SEC conference schedule.
Bellotti also said the 37-day layoff between games almost makes this more like a first game of the season. The former coach suggested that the Ducks' speed of practice could be an advantage in overcoming the long layoff. "The faster you practice, and the more you play one versus one, the better" for keeping sharp, said Bellotti.