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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

The bowls were a ball, but how will the BCS matchup between Oregon and Auburn play?

A wave of games, including the Las Vegas Bowl, Insight Bowl, Music City Bowl and Pinstripe Bowl, has washed over America. Now it's time to see whether the title game can make a splash.

January 03, 2011|Chris Dufresne
  • Oregon running back LaMichael James and Auburn quarterback Cam Newton will lead their teams into the BCS national title game on Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz.
Oregon running back LaMichael James and Auburn quarterback Cam Newton… (Photos by US Presswire and…)

The glut of bowl games is over except for those special few traditional galas that are always saved for last, "GoDaddy.com" and "Compass" among them.

The water-cooler talk leading into championship week involved a million gallons of water being pumped out of the Poinsettia Bowl and the life being pumped out of the Big Ten Conference.

College football's final goal-line stand of the season breathlessly ticks toward Sunday's stand-alone showcase, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, played in a baseball park, followed the next day by Oregon versus somebody in the mid-January Second Semester Classic.

The build-up to Monday's Bowl Championship Series title game began in earnest over the last two days with Auburn and Oregon checking into resorts near Phoenix.

Some folks in Fort Worth might ask why they're playing another title game after Texas Christian capped a 13-0 season with a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin.

It used to be that all the important games were played Jan. 1.

But the system is what the system is.

"I'm looking forward now to watching the national championship game because I don't have to sweat," Texas Christian Coach Gary Patterson said after his team's proud day in Pasadena. "I don't have to call the defense."

This bowl season has been thrilling, spilling and, at Yankee Stadium, chilling.

Let's flip back the calendar:

Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 22):

Boise State defeated Utah, 26-3, to cap a 12-1 season that would have ended in the Rose Bowl had Kyle Brotzman made a chip-shot field goal at the end of regulation against Nevada. It must have been an out-of-blue-body experience for Boise State to watch Texas Christian beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

Poinsettia Bowl (Dec. 23):

San Diego State out-sloshed Navy, 35-14, with Aztecs running back Ronnie Hillman rushing for 228 yards and four touchdowns. The game ball, though, was awarded to the tireless workers who turned Qualcomm Stadium from an aquarium into a stadium after torrential rains had submerged the playing surface and parking lot. How about a fist pump for the water pump?

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (Dec. 26):

Someone ordered an extra topping as Florida International pulled out an incredible 34-32 win on Jack Griffin's field goal as time expired seconds after Florida International used a hook-and-ladder play to convert on fourth and 17 — with help from replay booth review.

Insight Bowl (Dec. 28):

The Big Ten got off to a roaring 1-0 bowl start when Iowa upset Missouri, 27-24. Defensive back Micah Hyde picked off an ill-advised Blaine Gabbert pass and returned it 72 yards for the winning touchdown.

Was this the start of a Big Ten bowl season to remember? (Answer: yes).

Texas Bowl (Dec. 29):

Illinois beat Baylor, 38-14, using Mikel Leshoure's 184 yards rushing to help pull off a mild upset and propel the Big Ten to a 2-0 start.

Happy Big Ten New Year!

Alamo Bowl (Dec. 29):

You call that a last stand? Arizona, a year after getting shut out by Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, got stomped on by Oklahoma State, 36-10, in San Antonio. Mike Stoops' Wildcats drooped to a 7-6 finish.

Music City Bowl (Dec. 30):

It ended on a sour note after North Carolina shocked Tennessee in double overtime. It marked the second time this season Tennessee was leading a game with 0:00 left on the clock and ended up losing. Both defeats — to Louisiana State and North Carolina — involved penalties for too many players on the field. For a detailed explanation, please sign up for this year's annual officials' convention.

Holiday Bowl (Dec. 30):

This year's biggest shocker was that Washington, two years removed from 0-12 and three months removed from a 56-21 regular-season loss to Nebraska, avenged that defeat with a 19-7 win in San Diego.

Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 30):

This inaugural game at new Yankee Stadium featured Syracuse getting back in the football business with a thrilling 36-34 win over Kansas State. That and Big Ten game officials performing even worse than its teams would two days later.

People are still trying to figure out how the Big Ten qualified for five bowl games on New Year's Day … and then lost all of them.

"It was a long day," Commissioner Jim Delany told the Chicago Tribune. "Nobody beat us on a fluke. The better team won in every case."

The Conference of Woody and Bo came up with Bo Diddley.

Now it's off to the main dish, Auburn versus Oregon, a pretty good BCS title game even if it won't satisfy people who pine for an NFL-style playoff, in which it's possible for a 7-9 team to play host to a first-round game and go on to win the Super Bowl.

The teams competing for college football's title are a combined 25-0.

"This might be the hardest one to get," Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said recently about winning the BCS. "In basketball, you can lose 10 games and still win the national championship."

It's going to be interesting how the long layoff affects our featured players.

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