No. 11 Oregon-No. 16 Auburn 1st meeting since ’11 title game

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              FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018 file photo, Auburn running back Kam Martin (9) carries the ball against Alabama during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Tuscaloosa, Ala. College football starts better than it ends.
The sport has evolved through numerous postseason systems that have clumsily crowned champions, and while the College Football Playoff does a better job than its predecessors it has also spawned a month’s worth of tedious debate over the meaningfulness of bowl games. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)
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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — No. 11 Oregon (9-4 last season) vs. No. 16 Auburn (8-5), in Arlington, Texas, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET (ABC).

Line: Auburn by 3 1/2.

Series record: Auburn leads 1-0.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Both teams would love to make an early statement that they’re for real. Oregon hopes to sustain the momentum of a three-game winning streak to end coach Mario Cristobal’s first season. Auburn is breaking in a freshman quarterback while trying to rebound from a disappointing season.

KEY MATCHUP

Auburn’s defensive line against Oregon’s offensive line. The Ducks have a combined 153 career starts on the offensive line, most in the nation. The group includes tackle Calvin Throckmorton and guard Shane Lemieux, both preseason first-team All-Pac-12 Conference performers. Derrick Brown, Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson all opted to return to Auburn’s defensive front after considering entering the NFL draft.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Oregon: RB CJ Verdell could test Auburn’s defense as both a runner and receiver. Verdell was the only Power 5 player with 1,000 rushing yards and 300 receiving yards last season.

Auburn: QB Bo Nix is set to become the Tigers‘ first freshman quarterback to start an opener since Travis Tidwell in 1946. He’s a threat to run as well as pass and is the son of former Auburn quarterback Patrick Nix, who coached his son to a pair of state titles in high school.

FACTS & FIGURES

The only previous meeting between these teams was when Auburn beat the Ducks 22-19 in the BCS national championship game in January 2011. … Oregon’s last trip to AT&T Stadium was for the first championship game in the four-team College Football Playoffs five seasons ago, when the Ducks lost to Ohio State. … Oregon hasn’t opened with a win over a ranked team since beating Wisconsin in 2001. The Ducks have won seven straight openers, though. Auburn is 6-0 against Pac-12 teams in neutral-site games. … With 39 consecutive starts, Auburn’s Davidson trails only Louisiana Tech’s Ethan Reed (40) among active players. … Auburn’s first depth chart listed six potential starters at tailback, but Gus Malzahn says JaTarvious Whitlow will take the field first.