Auburn-Oregon looks like BCS classic
Did you feel it?
For the first and only time this season, style points didn't mean a thing. The final score was what mattered.
Not to go off on a rant here (we've all done plenty of that), but if the NCAA ever gets around to instituting a playoff of some sort, it wouldn't even have to invest in a new slogan. "Where Every Game Counts," would be even more meaningful than it is now — as long as the tournament was limited to conference champions.
At any rate, the "over-under" for the Auburn-Oregon game should be in the high-70s. The record for the most points in a BCS championship game is 79, so this sure looks like it has the potential to be the highest-scoring BCS title game yet.
Oregon managed only 37 points against Oregon State, which dropped the Ducks' scoring average all the way down to 49.3 points a game – still leading the nation.
Auburn has averaged 42.7 points a game, but in the second half of the season, Cam Newton and Co. have been even more unstoppable, putting up 47.9 points a game.
The only thing that has slowed either team is tactics on the part of their opponents designed to "take the air out of the ball" and try to keep the Ducks and Tigers offenses off the field. That has worked to only varying degrees, and you have to figure neither of these teams will change their offensive approach in response to the other offense. For each of these teams, what they do works, and it works quickly.
This is more than a little bit similar the 2005 season, when Texas and Southern Cal entered the BCS championship game as the top scoring teams in the country. That showdown in the Rose Bowl was one of the most memorable shootouts ever staged on college football's biggest stage – the Longhorns' classic 41-38 victory.
Just check out the similarities:
• Texas QB Vince Young had accounted for 3,619 yards and 35 touchdowns heading into that game; compare that to Cam Newton's 4,040 yards and remarkable 49 TDs (including one receiving).
• USC's Reggie Bush had amassed 1,658 yards and 15 touchdowns; compare that to LaMichael James and his 1,682 yards and 21 TDs.
• Texas and USC were averaging a combined 101 points a game, believe it or not, compared to the 92 of Auburn and Oregon. But the Longhorns and Trojans had statistically stronger defenses than these two — allowing a combined average of 35 points a game, compared to the 43 of the Ducks and Tigers.
By any measure, we can look forward to a shootout of the highest degree, and don't forget that innovative Chip Kelly and Gus Malzahn will make certain their offenses have some special twists for the game, too.
Another characteristic Auburn and Oregon have shown is they can take the opponents' best punch, hang in there, keep coming, and eventually win with a flurry of scores. We don't expect to see either of these teams get blown out, but even if one team does pull well ahead, neither coach's style is to sit on a lead, anyway.
CONGRATULATIONS, WE THINK: Is this ironic or just weird? Boise State, an 11-1 superteam, lost its BCS bid when its outstanding kicker failed to make either a 26-yard field goal at the end of regulation or a 29-yarder at the end of overtime against a team that finished 12-1. In the meantime, UConn, a mediocre-at-best 8-4 team, earned its BCS bid when Dave Teggart made a 52-yard field goal to edge mediocre-at-best 7-5 South Florida.
For what it's worth, Boise's Kyle Brotzman moved to three points of becoming the all-time major college scoring leader Saturday when he kicked six extra points, although he did miss a 40-yard field goal during the 50-14 victory over Utah State.
IT'S HOW YOU FINISH: Virginia Tech started the season with a two-game losing streak, but the Hokies finished off the regular season with an astounding 11 consecutive victories, spending three full months overcoming the rough start.
The early losses to Boise State (which doesn't look so bad in the long run) and to James Madison (which still looks bad), catapulted Frank Beamer's team onto bigger and better things, capped by their third ACC championship in four years.
Their 11-game winning streak is fourth-longest in the nation, trailing only the three undefeated teams (Auburn 14, Oregon and TCU 12 apiece).
WHAT TO DO? Nebraska's come-from-ahead loss in the Big 12 championship game put the Big 12 bowl spots into a late-night tizzy. Problem: The natural spots for the Cornhuskers to fall into would have been the Alamo or Holiday bowls, but since Arizona and Washington are ticketed on the other side of those two games, Nebraska doesn't fit so well.
The Huskers faced Arizona in last year's Holiday Bowl and faced Washington in the regular season this year. Both were Nebraska blowout victories and rematches of that sort are generally eschewed by the bowls.
RUNNING HOT OR COLD: Allen Bradford rolled off 212 yards in leading USC over UCLA, marking the second time this season he has topped 200 yards. Surprising, then, that the senior finished the season with only 794 yards for the season. That's 435 yards in two games and 359 yards in the other 11.
"It doesn't make me look like a very smart coach for not playing him very much," Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said after the game.
So, why didn't he play Bradford?
It's as simple as 1, 2, 3 … and 4. On Bradford's 20 carries spanning seven games before his big game against UCLA, he fumbled four times.
• It's a good thing neither Army nor Navy has a Heisman Trophy candidate this season. The arch rivals square off to finish the season on Saturday — the only game remaining in the college football regular season. Heisman votes are due Monday, and the winner will be announced Saturday.
• Washington rattled off three consecutive victories to get to its first bowl since 2002. It also marks the first time the Huskies have beaten three Pac-10 teams in a row since 2002. They were, remember, 0-12 only two seasons ago, before Steve Sarkisian led them to 5-7 last year and now 6-6. Perhaps most amazing is that the Huskies are 9-9 in Pac-10 games under Sarkisian.
• Arizona State was unlucky to have San Jose State pull out of a non-conference game. That's because the Sun Devils were only able to find a Division I-AA replacement (Portland State). So even though San Jose turned out to be the very worst team in Division I-A this season (1-12, with a national-longest 11-game losing streak), not getting to play and likely beat San Jose State kept the Sun Devils out of a bowl game because NCAA officials deemed their schedule was too easy without the Spartans on the slate.
• The Embree house had better start getting ready for next year's Colorado-UCLA game: It will have Colorado coach Jon Embree vs. UCLA receiver Taylor Embree. Taylor has 120 catches in his three years with the Bruins.
PRAYERS ANSWERED: I've taken a couple of shots at Gene Chizik for the way he suggests Auburn is God's team this year, but this week we got two direct messages from above that Chizik might be on to something:
1) A 50-yard Hail Mary being answered with a touchdown on the last play of the first half Saturday.
2) The NCAA deciding to suspend logic in declaring Cam Newton free and clear.