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December 5, 2010
Auburn, Oregon finally get shot at BCS title
MORE: Full BCS standings
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.
"Our fans have waited so long for this opportunity," second-year Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "When our players and coaches started this adventure a year ago, this was our goal. ... We found a way to come together. This is huge for our university, huge for our players and coaches and huge for the Auburn family. I couldn't be more excited about it."
The other BCS bowls match unbeaten Mountain West Conference champion TCU vs. Big Ten tri-champion Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, Big 12 champion Oklahoma vs. Big East co-champion Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl, SEC West runner-up Arkansas vs. Big Ten tri-champion Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl and ACC champion Virginia Tech vs. Pac-10 runner-up Stanford in the Orange Bowl.
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.
"Early in the year, we had Clemson and South Carolina back-to-back," Chizik said. "In both of those games, we were down [by] two touchdowns and had to find a way to crawl back into those games. That early, you're not sure what the personality of your team is. We found a way to win both of those them, then found a way to beat the Arkansases and LSUs of the world. And then to come back against Alabama when we were 24 down in that game -- it says so much about our football team."
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 cliché 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.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.