Auburn and Oregon both passed the last hurdle between their final opponent and a date against each other to determine college football's 2010 national champion.
No. 2 Auburn obliterated any hopes 18th-ranked South Carolina had of a Southeastern Conference title shot by crushing the Gamecocks 56-17 in their playoff game at Atlanta (GA). The difference on paper was junior college transfer Cam Newton, an overnight sensation on the major college scene who has benefited from a strong supporting cast of Tigers around him.
Newton led Blinn College to the 2009 Junior College National Championship, passing for 2,833 yards and 22 touchdowns, and rushing for 655 yards and 16 TDs. Rivals.com had Newton as a 5-star athlete and the No. 1 JUCO prospect. Man, were they right.
Newton scorched South Carolina for 335 yards passing and 4 scoring passes, and for 73 yards rushing and another 2 scores. During Auburn's unbeaten, 13-0 regular season, Newton has produced 49 scores by running, passing and receiving. That is more than the entire touchdown output among 87 of the 119 NCAA Division 1-A teams (or 73%).
His season totals for passing include 2,500+ yards (67% completion rate) with 28 TD passes against 6 interceptions. His totals for rushing include 1,400+ yards (5.82 yards per carry) and 20 TDs. He has one receiving TD, making 49 total touchdowns. Auburn ranks 6th nationally in scoring offense, and 7th in total offense.
No. 1 Oregon took its merry time getting in control on the road against Oregon State with a 16-7 halftime lead. That changed in the 2nd half as the Ducks scored 3 times and held the Beavers to 13 points, winning 37-20, not nearly as impressive as Auburn. That said, Oregon punched its ticket to the national showdown with a perfect 12-0 mark.
The closer score did cause the AP Top 25 voters to move Auburn in front of Oregon in the new rankings after the weekend.
The win gave Auburn the SEC title with a perfect 9-0 record, and Oregon became the Pacific 10 champion with a perfect 9-0 mark.
Auburn won the national championship in 1957, but neither Auburn nor Oregon has played in a national championship game since the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) system was instituted in 1998. Auburn and Oregon have never met in competition.
The BCS National Championship Game will be played on Monday, Jan. 10 in Glendale (AZ). It should be an offensive circus since Oregon has the No. 1 highest-scoring offense (49+ points per game) and Auburn is ranked 6th (42+ ppg). Oregon is also 2nd in total offense and Auburn 7th. So the sparks will fly when these two clash.
The next biggest news was 96th-ranked Miami-Ohio (9-4) upsetting favored 45th-ranked Northern Illinois (10-3), 26-21, to claim the Mid-American Conference title. Both teams were 8-1 in conference play.
Miami-Ohio will meet Middle Tennessee (6-6) in the godaddy.com Bowl on Jan. 6, and Northern Illinois squares off against Fresno State (8-4) in the Humanitarian Bowl on Dec. 18.
In a game of surprises, 10th-ranked Oklahoma (11-2) spotted Nebraska (10-3) a 20-17 halftime lead before shutting out the Cornhuskers in the 2nd half while scoring a couple of field goals to win, 23-20. The Sooners take the Big 12 title at 7-2, and will now face Connecticut (8-4) in the BCS Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day.
Connecticut won the Big East title (AKA "the biggest joke"), and got a free pass into a BCS game by doing so - a severe travesty of justice. There are at least 24 teams as qualified or more qualified to play Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Connecticut is a real weak sister; the Huskies are currently rated 25th in the new AP Poll, the first time they have been in the AP Poll all year.
The 12th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies, who lost their first 2 games and then won 11 straight, beat 20th-ranked Florida State (9-4) to claim the Atlantic Coast Conference title, and will now meet 5th-ranked Stanford (11-1) in the BCS Orange Bowl on Jan. 3.
In other action, 9th-ranked Boise State (11-1) beat Utah State 50-14, 14th-ranked Nevada (12-1) beat Louisiana Tech 35-17, 23rd-ranked West Virginia (9-3) beat Rutgers 35-14, and 25th-ranked Hawaii (10-3) beat UNLV 59-21.
Boise State will play Utah (10-2) in the Maaco Bowl on Dec. 22, Nevada faces Boston College (7-5) in the Fight Hunger Bowl on Jan. 9, West Virginia gets North Carolina State (8-4) in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 28, and Hawaii will meet Tulsa (9-3) in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.
One other game deserves mention. The unranked Washington Huskies (6-6) won their 3rd straight game to become bowl eligible by beating unranked, in-state rival Washington State (2-10), 35-28.
The Huskies were led by the running of Chris Polk, who gained 284 yards on 29 carries (9.79 ypc) while scoring twice on runs of 2 and 57 yards. Touchdown passes of 61 yards and 27 yards by senior QB Jake Locker to Jermaine Kearse helped a bunch. The 27-yarder produced the go-ahead lead on a leaping catch in the end zone with 44 seconds left to play.
Washington will face Nebraska (10-3) in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30. The Cornhuskers invaded Husky Stadium earlier this year and absolutely trashed Washington, 56-21. Jake Locker, who has played injured much of the season, had his worst day as a Husky. Nebraska should be heavily favored in this game, and the Huskies are not the same team that faced them earlier, which Nebraska may figure out soon enough.
The majority of ranked teams have already finished their regular season play. They include TCU (3rd), Wisconsin (4th), Stanford (5th), Ohio State (6th), Michigan State (7th), Arkansas (8th), LSU (12th), Missouri (14th), Oklahoma State (15th), Texas A&M (18th), Alabama (19th), Utah (21st) and Mississippi State (22nd).
There is only one more regular season game to be played this Saturday - the annual Army-Navy game.
The bowl-game action starts Saturday, Dec. 18, with Brigham Young (6-6) and UTEP (6-6).
I am skipping my Top 25 Poll this week since the regular season is over. I will run a final Top 25 Poll after all of the bowl games are played.
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