In the preseason, you would find the following teams high in the polls: Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, Texas, Boise State, Virginia Tech and TCU.
Two teams were afterthoughts in the BCS title race: Oregon and Auburn. Now, the smoke has cleared, and the Ducks and Tigers are the only teams left standing. A long wait finally provides the country with an SEC vs. Pac-10 National Championship game. It isn't the Florida-USC or LSU-USC game everybody wanted, but Auburn-Oregon is a dang good matchup.
Here are complete historical breakdowns of both teams and how they got here:
No. 1 Auburn
The Tigers have a rich history of college football, likely the best team outside of South Bend, Indiana to not be named after a state. The Tigers began their play in 1892 with a 10-0 win over the Georgia Bulldogs. The Tigers have won 709 games in their history, 13th best in the land. They have 11 conference titles, seven in the SEC, including the most recent one. Auburn won the National Championship in 1957, their only major-poll national title to this day.
John Heisman coached at Auburn in the last 1890s, and in 1971, Auburn QB Pat Sullivan became the first player to win the Heisman at a school where John Heisman coached.
Auburn's traditions include Tiger Walk, War Eagle soaring around the stadium before the game and rolling Toomer's Corner with toilet paper after every win. Auburn is one of the most historical programs in the SEC.
This season, the Tigers started at No. 22 in the preseason polls. They were considered a "challenger for second in the West," but not a BCS Title contender. A 52-26 win over Arkansas State didn't raise any eyebrows, but the Tigers got more recognition after a 17-14 grind-it-out win over Mississippi State in Starkville.
On September 18th, Auburn was the host of College GameDay. The game was between the Auburn Tigers and the Clemson Tigers. Clemson jumped out to a fast 17-0 lead before Auburn had a roaring comeback to win in OT, 27-24.
If we thought THAT was a good comeback, Auburn then got a ground-breaking 35-37 win over South Carolina to enter the Top 10. Auburn was now a player in the title race.
Auburn beat UL-Monroe, 52-3, before squeaking out a win over Kentucky in Lexington, 37-34. Auburn's biggest game in years, against No. 12 Arkansas, was a game for the ages. The refs poorly officiated the game in both ways, but Auburn was obviously a better team, beating Arkansas. 65-43. That's 65-43, folks!
Auburn then hosted LSU in a Top Six matchup. Auburn was a much better team, but only won, 24-17, because of inopportune mistakes and LSU's dream punting day.
Auburn (now 8-0) destroyed Ole Miss in Oxford, 51-31, before an easy win over UTC put them at 10-0. After now-Heisman candidate Cam Newton led his Tigers to a 49-31 win over Georgia to clinch a spot in Atlanta, Auburn seemed to have lost its title hopes after one quarter in Tuscaloosa. Alabama jumped out to a 24-0 lead and was looking better than Auburn in every way. But the Tigers put together one of the greatest comebacks in the history of college football, outscoring Alabama 28-3 after spotting the Crimson Tide 24 points. Auburn (12-0) then rolled over South Carolina in the SEC Championship game, 56-17, to get to this BCS National Championship game.
No. 2 Oregon
The Ducks don't have a history of dominance in football. Before the Mike Bellotti era, the Ducks had a record of 417-409. That's EIGHT games above .500. But that was, as mentioned, before Mike Bellotti.
First, let's begin with the beginnings of Oregon football. The Ducks played their first game on March 24, 1984 and defeated Albany College, 44-2, with Cal Young as coach. Not a whole lot happened between then and 1977. In 1977, Oregon hired a coach whose name is familiar to SEC fans: Rich Brooks. Though he had a losing record of 91-109-4, he helped turn around the program and gave them new life. That was apparent because he coached there until 1994.
After he left, the Ducks hired Mike Bellotti to be their new head coach. That would be the best hire in Oregon history. In his very first year, the Ducks went 9-3 and earned a spot in the Cotton Bowl. In 1996, the Ducks posted a winning season but did not go to a bowl game. That was one of only two years the Ducks would not make a bowl under Bellotti.
In 2000, the Ducks won a share of the Pac-10 with Washington and Oregon State, and the Ducks had arrived as a program. Like Auburn in 2004, the Ducks were cheated out of a BCS title game appearance in 2001, when a good-but-not-great Nebraska team was selected to play in the Rose Bowl against Miami (FL) over them.
Since then, the Ducks have been consistent winners. Bellotti retired after 2008 and Chip Kelly became the new coach. His teams have won the Pac-10 both years he has been coach and they are now in the BCS Championship game against Auburn looking to win their first National Championship in school history.
The Ducks started this season at No. 11 in the polls, and a win over New Mexico wasn't supposed to raise eyebrows, but it sure did. They won, 72-0, even despite throwing an INT on the first drive of the game. That's 72-0! The Duck had to do over 500 push-ups that day.
Oregon's offense would have more trouble at Tennessee. After a fierce thunderstorm stopped play in the first quarter for over an hour, the Ducks found themselves in a 13-3 hole at Neyland and unable to stop the run of the Tennessee Volunteers. The Ducks came back to tie it at 13-13 at halftime, and people were wondering if Oregon was on upset alert. Then we saw what would haunt Tennessee for its first eight games: lack of experience, depth and talent.
The Ducks crushed Tennessee, 48-13, outscoring the Vols 35-0 after halftime. It was a closer game than the score would show, but Oregon was obviously better than Tennessee.
After a 69-0 win over Portland State, the Ducks found themselves in serious trouble in Tempe before rallying to beat the Sun Devils of Arizona State, 42-31.
Then the statement game came: No. 4 Oregon against No. 9 Stanford. College GameDay was in town, and so was star QB Andrew Luck. It looked like it would be a rout early on as Stanford led 21-3 after the first quarter. Oregon would then get blazing hot on offense, outscoring the Cardinal 49-10 after the first quarter and beating Stanford impressively, 52-31.
After an easy 43-23 win over Washington State and a 60-13 smashing of UCLA, the Ducks traveled to Los Angeles to take on the USC Trojans, coached by Lane Kiffin. GameDay was there, too, and as usual, the Ducks rolled their competition. They beat the Trojans 53-32, proving that Oregon was, indeed, the "new USC" of the Pac-10.
After a convincing win over Washington, the Ducks ran into serious and unexpected trouble in Berkeley, California. The Ducks didn't lead until they returned a punt for a touchdown in the second quarter and converted a two-point conversion attempt to take an 8-7 lead over the Cal Golden Bears. The Ducks scored a touchdown on their first offensive play of the second half to make it 15-7. Cal would then return a fumble for a touchdown on UO's next possession. The two-point try was no good. A costly penalty caused Cal to miss a chip-shot field goal that would have given them the lead, and Oregon won an ugly affair, 15-13.
The Ducks looked a little sluggish against Arizona, but finally exploded once again to win a 48-29 game. They beat Oregon State, 37-20 in Corvallis, to seal a spot in the BCS Championship game against Auburn University.
Auburn QB Cam Newton vs. Oregon QB Darron Thomas (Advantage: Auburn)
Auburn RB Mike Dyer vs. Oregon RB LaMichael James (Advantage: Oregon)
Auburn WR Darvin Adams vs. Oregon WR Jeff Maehl (Advantage: Close, but Oregon)
Auburn WR Terrell Zachery vs. Oregon WR D.J. Davis (Advantage: Auburn)
Auburn WR Kodi Burns vs. Oregon WR Josh Huff (Advantage: Auburn)
Auburn TE Philip Lutzenkirchen vs. Oregon TE David Paulson (Advantage: Auburn)
Auburn LT Lee Ziemba vs. Oregon LT Mark Asper (Advantage: Auburn)
Auburn LG Mike Berry vs. Oregon LG Carson York (Advantage: Auburn)
Auburn C Ryan Pugh vs. Oregon C Jordan Holmes (Advantage: Auburn)
Auburn RG Byron Isom vs. Oregon RG Bo Thran (Advantage: Auburn)
Auburn RT Brandon Mosley vs. Oregon RT C.E. Kaiser (Advantage: Oregon)
Auburn DE Antoine Carter vs. Oregon DE Kenny Rowe (Advantage: Oregon)
Auburn DT Zach Clayton vs. Oregon DT Brandon Bair (Advantage: Auburn)
Auburn DT Nick Fairley vs. Oregon DT Zac Clark (Advantage: Auburn)
Auburn DE Nosa Eguae vs. Oregon DE Terrell Turner (Advantage: Oregon)
Auburn LLB Eltoro Freeman vs. Oregon LLB Spencer Paysinger (Advantage: Oregon)
Auburn MLB Josh Bynes vs. Oregon MLB Casey Matthews (Advantage: Auburn)
Auburn RLB Daren Bates vs. Oregon RLB Josh Kaddu (Advantage: Oregon)
Auburn CB Demond Washington vs. Oregon CB Cliff Harris (Advantage: Oregon)
Auburn S Zac Ethridge vs. Oregon S Eddie Pleasant (Advantage: Auburn)
Auburn S Mike McNeil vs. Oregon S Josh Boyett (Advantage: Auburn)
Auburn CB Neiko Thorpe vs. Oregon CB Talmadge Jackson III (Advantage: Oregon)
Auburn K Wes Byrum vs. Oregon K Rob Beard (Advantage: Auburn)
Auburn P Ryan Shoemaker vs. Oregon P Jackson Rice (Advantage: Oregon) *Don't expect to see a lot of either guy in this game.
Auburn has the edge in kickoff returns while Oregon has the edge in punt returns.
Stats for Both Teams
Auburn averages 42 points a game while Oregon averages 49, the highest total in the country. Auburn averages 498 yards a game while Oregon averages 537. Auburn's opponents score 24 a game while Oregon's opponents average 18.
Both teams have underrated defenses. Both Auburn and Oregon are excellent in point differential in the second half. Auburn plays "situational defense," as they have been torched in the first half of games but looked like the 1985 Bears in the second. Oregon bends, but thrives on turnovers.
UO and AU rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the country in touchdown plays of over 20 yards.
War Cam Eagle or LaBeast?
Auburn's Cam Newton, a Heisman-quality QB for the Auburn Tigers, leads the Auburn offense. He has posted one of the best seasons in college football history, racking up 4,000 yards of offense and 49 TDs. He is the third player ever to throw and run for 20 TDs in the same season, joining Florida's Tim Tebow in 2007 and Nevada's Colin Kapernick this season. He is a challenger to Bo Jackson as the greatest Tiger ever.
Oregon's offense is led by star RB LaMichael James. He has run for nearly 1,700 yards and 21 TDs. He has a healthy six yards per carry. Oregon has other weapons, like Jeff Maehl, but the offense revolves around LaMichael's success.
Who will be the national champion?
- Oregon is the second team in the BCS era to be playing for its first national title in the BCS Championship game. The other was Virginia Tech in 1999.
- Auburn has won only one national title, in 1957. They were very close to titles in 1958, 1983 and 2004. They also went undefeated in 1993, but couldn't win the title due to probation.
- Auburn just completed their 12th unbeaten regular season in school history. Oregon just completed their first.
- Auburn has the nation's longest win streak at 14, dating back to the 2010 Outback Bowl against Northwestern. Oregon has a 12-game winning streak, tied for second in the country, with all 12 wins coming this season. They lost the 2010 Rose Bowl to Ohio State.
- The SEC has won six BCS titles and that doesn't include Auburn's snub in 2004. The SEC is 6-0 in the big game, with Tennessee beating Florida State in 1998, LSU beating Oklahoma in 2003, Florida beating Ohio State in 2006, LSU beating Ohio State in 2007, Florida beating Oklahoma in 2008 and Alabama beating Texas in 2009.
- This is the first time an SEC team and a Pac-10 team have played for the BCS title. Shocking thing is, none among USC, LSU or Florida is involved in the game.
- Auburn is the lowest-ranked preseason team to make a BCS title game. AU started the season 22nd in one poll and 23rd in the other.
- This is the first time in the BCS era that both teams playing for the national title started outside the Top 10. Auburn started 22nd and Oregon started 11th.
Teach Me How To Aubie
While the Oregon Duck gets plenty of recognition, and rightfully so, Auburn's Aubie is the most underrated mascot in sports. Aubie was actually the first mascot voted into the now-defunct Mascot Hall of Fame. The Duck has a serious edge in push-ups, however, as shown by Aubie's push-up attempts on College GameDay.
What To Wear, What To Wear
Auburn is ranked No. 1 in this matchup, so that probably means they'll be in their home navy uniforms. But what about Oregon? The Ducks are like a teenage girl: They refuse to wear the same thing twice in one season. What will Oregon do? Will they go white helmet, white jersey, yellow pants? How about green-white-green? Oregon has over 300 uniform combinations. This means...Nike doesn't have a whole lot to do during the day so they just make random UO uniforms.
A Big Box of Chiziks
When Gene Chizik was hired, the college football world paused to laugh at Auburn football's demise. He was, after all, 5-19 in two years at Iowa State. However, Coach Chizik has silenced his critics, compiling a 21-5 record since becoming Auburn's coach. That's the second-best start for a coach at Auburn, just behind Terry Bowden, who went 20-2-1 in his first 23 games at the helm. Auburn "Got a leader, not a loser!"
Chip on His Shoulder
When Mike Bellotti stepped down as Oregon head coach, he was replaced by Chip Kelly, the Ducks offensive coordinator. Against the odds, his first team went 10-2 in 2009 and won the Pac-10. The Ducks made their first BCS bowl since 2001, but it was a losing effort to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks from Eugene haven't lost since. Kelly also proved himself as a coach. I was among the people who thought he rode Jeremiah Masoli to success. Masoli was booted from the team, and they have kicked butt now more than ever. Kelly has been a great coach in Eugene.
Right now, Auburn is listed as a 3-point favorite over Oregon. Remember this, though: The past two times the BCS Championship game has been the Fiesta Bowl or at the same stadium as the Fiesta Bowl, the underdog won. In 2002, Ohio State beat Miami (FL) in a controversial affair. It was a shocking upset in the desert. Four years later, Florida was a heavy underdog to undefeated Ohio State. Florida destroyed the Buckeyes, 41-14. History is meaningless in these types of games, but it's just something to keep in mind.
Matchups To Watch For
Oregon QB Darron Thomas vs. Auburn secondary: Let's face it...Oregon won't contain Cam Newton. Nobody has and Oregon doesn't have the tools. But how many stops they need depends on how good the Oregon offense plays. Auburn's defense is anchored by Nick Fairley. Auburn won't let LaMichael beat them on the ground. It all boils down to how effectively Darron Thomas can pass the ball, and he hasn't been the same QB since the ugly game at Cal.
Auburn O-line vs. Oregon D-line: Auburn's average O-lineman weighs over 300 pounds. Oregon's average D-lineman weighs about 250 pounds. Auburn is a run-first, run-second, what-the-heck-is-passing kind of team when they play against a defense they know is small. Oregon's defensive line better buckle their chinstraps.
The Auburn Tigers of the SEC and the Oregon Ducks of the Pac-10 throw down in Glendale for the BCS National Championship. It will be the highest-scoring BCS title game ever, even beating out the great 2006 Rose Bowl between Texas and USC.
Auburn's offense should be able to run with ease against a small Oregon defense. Cam might not rack up a lot of passing yards. Oregon will be able to run wide in the first half, but will need a passing attack in the second half. I don't think Darron Thomas can do that.
In the 2011 BCS National Championship game...Auburn 49, Oregon 38.
AUBURN wins the National Championship and parties like it's 1957!