By Charles Goldberg
NEW ORLEANS – Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield has all the numbers to prove he's a good quarterback, and the smarts to know what he to expect when he plays Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.
The Heisman Trophy finalist figures he'll see plenty of Montravius Adams, Carl Lawson and the rest of Auburn's defensive line up close sometime after Monday night's 7:40 kickoff in the Superdome.
"Their front line really sets the tone for their whole defense," Mayfield said. "They have a bunch of players that wreak havoc. They allow their secondary and linebackers to play aggressively because they know they don't have to cover people that long because of the talent up front.
"We all know about Lawson and Adams. You can talk about the two stars, but the guys who rotate in and out are very good, too. They have a lot of big guys. It will be a big challenge for us, but I'm looking forward to it, and our offensive line is, too."
Mayfield has completed 235 of 330 passes for 3,669 yards and 38 touchdowns this season. The last time an Auburn quarterback passed for 38 touchdowns in a season? Never.
The game sets up this way, at least in one strength-versus-strength category: Oklahoma is No. 2 in the country in total and scoring offense. Auburn is No. 5 in scoring defense and 21st in total defense.
Auburn has something else going for it, something it really hasn't had since midseason.
"We know when we had the team healthy, we were playing our best football," said linebacker Deshaun Davis. "It's fair to say that everybody in the country knows that. We got everybody 100 percent, so we're ready to roll."
The injuries particularly hurt Auburn's offense, first when running back Kerryon Johnson went down with a bad ankle that is only now back to full strength; then when quarterback Sean White suffered a shoulder injury, then when SEC leading rusher Kamryn Pettway suffered a leg injury.
"Everybody is healthy now and I think we are a different team," White said.
So here comes White, Pettway and Johnson.
"I think Sean is one of those kids who has been a little bit of the underdog," said offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. "He has a great competitive desire, and that's what his guys love about him, and he just keeps coming at you. Having him out there gives our guys a shot in the arm because of his competitiveness."
Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops says "there's a little bit of a style clash" when facing Gus Malzahn's offense after spending a season playing Big 12 schools. But Stoops said one thing is for sure: "You're going to get a physical football team and a talented football team."
"I think our players understand that, respect that."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine