Monday, December 06, 2010

Auburn, Oregon finally get shot at BCS title

Six years later, the Auburn Tigers finally received their due respect from the BCS. The Oregon Ducks had to wait nine years. Those programs, victims of the BCS system in previous seasons, on Sunday night were officially chosen to compete for national supremacy in the BCS national championship game when the final BCS standings of the season were announced.

The championship game is set for Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz., and it's the second consecutive season the title game will match unbeaten opponents.

SEC champion Auburn (13-0) and Pac-10 winner Oregon (12-0) appeared to be on a collision course to meet for the championship since the last week of October. After Oregon routed UCLA 60-13 on Oct. 21 and Auburn defeated LSU 24-17 on Oct. 23, the Tigers and Ducks took over the top two spots in the BCS standings and have occupied those positions ever since.

While both have been dominant for much of the season, each had to overcome close calls. Auburn rallied from a 24-point deficit to subdue defending national champion Alabama 28-27, while Oregon struggled to a 15-13 victory over California. Chizik said consecutive come-from-behind victories over Clemson and South Carolina in September set the foundation for Auburn's season.

Oregon coach Chip Kelly saw championship potential from his team even earlier. He said he knew this could be a special season during spring practice. "Watching them go through practice every single day. Watching them compete," Kelly said. "They didn't take a play off. They just were focused as a group."

The title game, which figures to defy the old cliche that defense wins championships, matches two of the nation's most explosive offenses. Both are led by first-year starting quarterbacks -- Auburn's Cameron Newton, a junior college transfer who is all but assured of winning the Heisman, and Oregon's Darron Thomas, a sophomore who won the job after '09 starter Jeremiah Masoli was dismissed from the team in the offseason.

Behind Thomas and Heisman-contending running back LaMichael James, who leads the nation in rushing with 1,682 yards, Oregon averages 49.3 points per game, tops in the nation. Thomas has thrown for 2,518 yards and 28 touchdowns, while Newton has thrown for 2,589 yards and 28 touchdowns.

Behind Newton, who also has rushed for 1,409 yards, Auburn averages 42.7 points per game and is the sixth in the nation in scoring. Oregon is fourth in the nation in rushing (303.8 yards) and Auburn is sixth (287.1 yards). Auburn is 11th in the nation in rush defense, while Oregon is 16th.

For Auburn, the appearance in the championship game may ease the pain of 2004. That season, Auburn was undefeated but was denied a chance to play for the national championship. Instead, USC and Oklahoma vied for the title. Oregon also feels it was unfairly shunned in 2001. The Ducks were 10-1, but the BCS championship game instead paired Miami against Nebraska, which didn't even win its division in the Big 12 and had been blown out in its final regular-season game.

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