It's Oregon. It's Auburn. It's On!
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Auburn to play Oregon for the national title. For the better half of the season now, these two teams have been ranked 1-2 in all of the major polls. In my mind, as well, these are the top two deserving teams in the nation. Finally - and I do mean finally - the BCS has presented us with a game that will make us feel like we have a true national champion. But even with this great matchup ahead, there is the potential for 2010 to have an eternal asterisk. The unbeaten TCU Horned Frogs will almost certainly get a crack at one of the big-boys, Wisconsin, in a BCS game of their own. Win that one, and the BCS is once again exposed....
Auburn 56, South Carolina 17. The Tigers put on display just how dangerous they are in the SEC's showcase event from Atlanta. Everyone in the nation talks about the offense of Oregon. But what about the offense of Auburn? They have scored 49 points or more seven times, ranking sixth in the nation in average points scored. For all of you that have been hiking in Nepal for the last couple of years, they are led by quarterback Cam Newton, who amid controversy has cooly led his Tigers into the biggest game of the season. Yesterday, Newton, the clear Heisman front-runner, led AU to the tune of 335 yards including four touchdowns passing and two touchdowns rushing. Dominant.
For South Carolina, this game was a reward and at the same time an ugly measuring stick. The Gamecocks have a solid program going, there is little doubt about that. But as far as being a legit national contender, the Gamecocks saw last night that they have miles to go. This game was competitive for a half, but Auburn found a gear in the second half that USC just doesn't have, and the Tigers put this one on ice well before the third quarter had ticked away. Nothing is to be taken away from South Carolina by this showing. They will hang an SEC East banner up inside Williams-Brice Stadium, and it is well deserved.
Auburn will now prepare for the biggest game in school history. Yes, school history. I know the Tigers won a national title in 1957. But this is the modern era now, and the Tigers - one of America's winningest programs - are without the ultimate trophy during this era. In 1993 they went unbeaten, but couldn't play for the title due to probation. In 2004 they again went unbeaten, but were snubbed by the voters and left out of the national title race. Can 2010 be the year Auburn brings it all home? We will see. The only thing standing in their way is a damn fine Oregon team!
Oregon 37, Oregon State 20. The Ducks didn't pour on the kind of point scoring barrage that we are all used to seeing, but they did comfortably defeat their arch-rival on the road. Oregon led 23-7 in the first half on the way to the 17-point win. The BCS Championship Game now awaits the Ducks.
The Oregon offense can be thanked for this record-breaking, milestone season of 2010. This unit ranks first in the nation in average points scored per game at 49.3. Surprisingly, they can play a little bit of defense, as well (14th nationally). But it is the electrifying, quick, (usually) no-huddle offense of Chip Kelly and crew that will make this BCS title game one of the most exciting in some time.
The Ducks yesterday were led by the usual suspects of Darron Thomas and LaMichael James. Quarterback Thomas threw for 145 yards and two scores, while James - a Heisman candidate - rushed for 134 yards and two more scores.
The Ducks now have 36 days to come up with new wrinkles for the Auburn D. They also have 36 days to try to figure out how they can handle Cam Newton. And I hope they think hard, because right now I'm not so sure it can be done!
Oklahoma 23, Nebraska 20. Husker fans are used to Big 12 title game heartbreak in the Jerry Dome in Arlington, TX. Last night, Nebraska was again on the wrong end of a hard fought, relatively low-scoring game that saw their BCS hopes dashed. In the last ever meeting (well, as conference foes, anyway) between OU and NU, the Sooners prevailed by way of quarterback Landry Jones and his 342 yards and two scores - one throwing and one rushing.
Nebraska held a 17-0 lead early in the game sparked by a 66-yard burst from Roy Helu, Jr. just minutes into the contest. Oklahoma seemed to be playing sloppy, and the game seemed to be in Nebraska's favor. But just before the half, a Husker turnover led to Oklahoma points, and a 17-0 lead had then become just 20-17.
In the second half, Nebraska's greatest fears came true as the offense - the unit I have been so reluctant about all season - fell apart. The Huskers were shutout in the second half for the first time this year, and that - plus two field goals - was all OU needed to keep the Big 12 crown in house. As have troubled the Huskers all season, four turnovers loomed big in this game.
For Nebraska, it is painful to miss the BCS so close once again. For the second time in two years, a monster paycheck and gobs of national exposure were missed by just a field goal. But so is the cruel nature of college football....Nebraska now carries its future into the Big Ten...
Virginia Tech 44, Florida State 33. The ACC Championship moved to Charlotte this year and the North Carolina weather greeted the event with temperatures in the 30's and rain. Welcome home!
The Hokies of Virginia Tech showed once again that they are the class of the conference by beating FSU in convincing fashion. VT is now 11-2 and those 11 wins have all come in a row after a disastrous start saw them fall from the top 25. They are projected to play Stanford in the Orange Bowl.
Tyrod Taylor was the story for Tech. He threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns. If not for the scarring loss to James Madison, Taylor would be a legit Heisman candidate. The rest of the Hokies chipped in for another 169 yards rushing.
For FSU, quarterback Christian Ponder again did not play, relieving his duties to EJ Manuel. Manuel played decent, going 23 of 31 for 288 yards and a score. He also threw two interceptions - one returned for six points. I have to think FSU is overall a better squad with Ponder under center.
FSU is definitely on the way back up, but as of right now, VT is deservingly the class of the ACC.
Big East. By defeating South Florida on the road, 19-16, Uconn edged West Virginia for the Big East crown. Both programs finished 5-2 in league play, but the Huskies beat the Mountaineers earlier this year. It is anticipated that UConn will now play Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
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