Tigers, Ducks set for BCS introductions
It's all over but the index-finger flexing.
No need to wait for the official voting and number crunching and Sunday night announcement. Let's get on with the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game introductions.
Oregon, meet Auburn.
Auburn, meet Oregon.
You've never met before, and it's likely that neither of you has met an opposing offense like you'll see Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz. Now return to your corners and come out scoring.
After being "held" to 37 points by Oregon State on Saturday, Oregon's No. 1 scoring offense has dipped to 49.3 points per game. It's probably not necessary for Chip Kelly to convene an emergency offensive staff meeting, though.
Auburn ranks sixth nationally in scoring at 42.7 points. But it has scored 49 or more in four of its past five games, including the 56 it put on South Carolina in the SEC championship game beatdown.
There is firepower and star power. You've got two lock Heisman Trophy finalists in Tigers quarterback Cam Newton and Ducks running back LaMichael James. And you've got two second-year coaches, Gene Chizik and Chip Kelly, who have quickly taken their programs to a place they've never been in the BCS era.
"I really think the two best offensive spread coaches in the country are going at it," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said of Oregon's Kelly and Auburn coordinator Gus Malzahn. "So it will be a heck of a game. Might be 60 to 55, something like that. Maybe. I don't know. Maybe somebody will rise up and play a lot of great defense."
That would be a surprise, which would be nice. Because if there's one thing these games did not deliver, it was surprises.
There was some excitement in Dallas at the Big 12 championship game, where Oklahoma and Nebraska relived their Switzer versus Osborne glory days one last time before the Cornhuskers flee to the Big Ten -- but there were no national-title implications. And the ACC title game was a mismatch that mirrored Virginia Tech's season-long dominance of that league. And the fact that the UConn-South Florida game went down to the final minute necessitated more Big East viewing than is recommended by your physician.
So, yeah. Saturday was a December dud.
Suspense got squashed. The last day before bowl season launches was just a walk-through, a formality, a chalkishly lopsided afternoon. It was one last refutation of the myth that college football's regular season is a three-month exercise in escalating drama.
Put it this way: We were several million sweaty palms removed from the Hunter Lawrence field goal of 2009; the Alabama-Florida slugfest of 2008; the Backyard Brawl shocker of 2007.
Only two teams ranked in the BCS top eight took the field Saturday. They both took care of business so quickly and authoritatively that even on the East Coast, any lingering doubts were gone by dinnertime. Both the Ducks and Tigers maintained two-score leads for the entirety of the second half.
So the BCS-buster hopes died a quick and quiet death at TCU on Saturday. Same for the one-loss teams like Stanford and Wisconsin that were hoping for an outbreak of chaos.
At least they all retain a chance to play in a delectable BCS bowl. In fact, a presumptive TCU-Wisconsin Rose Bowl, coupled with an Auburn-Oregon BCS title game, would make Associated Press poll history. It would match up No. 1 (Oregon) against No. 2 (Auburn) and No. 3 (TCU) against No. 4 (Wisconsin) for the first time in the history of the poll, which dates to 1936.
Although the offensive storyline to the BCS game is appealing, there is no shortage of fans who will take offense to the title-game presence of Newton and Auburn. They take a bit of baggage with them to the desert.
That baggage was personified by the absence of Newton's father, Cecil, from the CBS family shots of the stands in the Georgia Dome on Saturday. There was Cam's mother, Jackie, surrounded by other celebrating loved ones. But no Cecil was to be seen.
That's because the man who was the guiding force in Cam's decision to attend Auburn -- Cecil made the choice, according to his son -- has been penalized by the NCAA for trying to sell an allegedly unwitting Cam to Mississippi State. That is no longer a subject of debate, conjecture or spin; that's agreed-upon fact by both Auburn and the NCAA.
Cecil Newton's penalty: "limited access" to the Auburn program. That apparently included "limited access" to the SEC title game and the celebration of the Tigers' biggest victory since they won the 1957 national title.
But even though the Rev. Newton richly deserves to have his access limited, that penalty does not trickle down to his defense-wrecking boy. There is no "limited access" for Cam Newton to the football field. Or the end zone.
The quarterback's continued eligibility was the biggest news that came out of a heavily criticized NCAA decision on Wednesday. Without him, Auburn never would have gotten where it is today. With him, the school has a chance to team with Oregon and produce one of the great offensive shows in bowl history.
That would help make up for a suspenseless final Saturday.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.