Earlier versions of this article, including in the print edition of The Washington Post, incorrectly said that this season Virginia Tech became the first football team to go undefeated in Atlantic Coast Conference play. They are the first team to do so since Florida State in 2000. This version has been corrected.
BCS bowl games: Auburn, Oregon will play for title; Virginia Tech draws Stanford
Monday, December 6, 2010; 12:41 AM
Six years after being denied entrance into the Bowl Championship Series national title game after securing an undefeated regular season record, Auburn performed the feat again. This time, the Tigers (13-0) were not the odd unbeaten squad out. They'll play Oregon (12-0) for the national championship Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz.
"To navigate through a 12-game season and to get through it undefeated is kind of special, and it's something you can be really proud of," Oregon Coach Chip Kelly said. "And now you get to go out and challenge yourself one more time against the best football team in the country."
Texas Christian (12-0) was the jilted party this go-around. The Horned Frogs finished third in the final BCS standings released Sunday and will face Big Ten co-champion Wisconsin (11-1) in the Rose Bowl. TCU, a member of the Mountain West Conference, also finished the regular season undefeated last year and was left out of the national title picture.
Virginia Tech (11-2), the Atlantic Coast Conference victor, will square off against Stanford (11-1) - which finished fourth in the BCS standings - Jan. 3 in the Orange Bowl. The Hokies became the first team in division I-A history to lose their first two games of the season before winning 11 straight contests when they defeated Florida State, 44-33, Saturday in the conference title game.
On Sept. 11, Virginia Tech lost to I-AA James Madison, 21-16, and became the second ranked squad to lose to an opponent from a lower division of college football. Having fallen to Boise State the previous week during its season opener, Virginia Tech's prospects for respectability this fall appeared bleak at that point.
However, the Hokies responded by becoming the first team to go undefeated in ACC play since Florida State in 2000.
"I think we've got some great character that really pulls us through," Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said. "To go back and did what we did after we had those two losses, most of that's got to come from within the team, and that's what it did with our football team. Because we have good character kids, that's the reason I think we are where we are right now."
The BCS national title game will feature two of the top six scoring offenses in the country. Oregon features incendiary sophomore tailback LaMichael James - the nation's leading rusher - and an attack that has registered 37 or more points in all but one game this season. The Ducks defeated Oregon State, 37-20, on Saturday to claim the Pacific-10 championship.
Such an accomplishment would have seemed far less likely this past summer. Kelly threw Jeremiah Masoli - previously an all-Pac-10 starting quarterback - off the team in June after Masoli was charged with his second criminal offense in a six-month span.
Kelly turned to Darron Thomas, who turned in a performance this fall that ranked him No. 21 in the nation in passing efficiency and No. 34 in total offense.
"It's a quarterback-driven offense," Kelly said. "I think Darron's a perfect fit for what we do. But he was fortunate when he stepped into the job to have our top seven [offensive] linemen back from last year, all of our receivers back from last year. Obviously, LaMichael James being back from last year. It's a total team effort, but it's a group of guys that really understands what we're trying to accomplish."
Led by quarterback Cam Newton, Auburn thrashed South Carolina, 56-17, Saturday in the Southeastern Conference championship game to claim its first league crown since 2004.
That season, the Tigers defeated Tennessee, 38-28, in the SEC title game, which finalized a 12-0 regular season record. But Southern California and Oklahoma also were undefeated that year, and those were the squads that advanced to the BCS national championship game.
This year, Newton amassed 49 touchdowns this fall en route to becoming the third player in division I-A history to total at least 20 passing and 20 rushing touchdowns in the same season.
"There were moments; I won't say there was one moment, you know, where we were just like, 'Wow, he's the guy,' " Auburn Coach Gene Chizik said. "But there were several moments when we just said, 'Look, this guy is going to be different than most.' "
Newton's amateur status came into question over the past month due to actions taken by his father, Cecil. The NCAA renewed Newton's eligibility Wednesday, one day after Auburn had ruled him ineligible. The school found that Cecil Newton had attempted to gain $200,000 in payment from Mississippi State boosters in return for his son's athletic services.
Cecil Newton's solicitation was a violation of NCAA rules, but the organization determined that the player himself had been unaware of his father's plan.
"He's just solid; he's a guy that really doesn't flinch," Chizik said of Cam Newton. "No matter what is out there and what is circulating and all of the other distractions - I guess I should say potential distractions - he just doesn't really deal with those, and he has that innate ability to focus."