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NCAA Crowns First-Ever Football Playoff Champion (A What If? Sports Story)

Sara Ramsey, Dan Watson |
November 23, 2010 | 11:24 a.m. PST

[Editor’s note: This is a “what if?” piece put together by Neon Tommy sports writers Sara Ramsey and Dan Watson. The proceedings described are entirely fictional. A playoff series, while fun to think about, will not be taking place in college football this year.]

What if?

What if the powers that be came to their senses?

What if there was a college football playoff series to determine an undisputed national champion?

What if the nation got 15 games, over fours weeks to determine a true title? And if so, who would win it?

Well, the results are in — wish no more…


Oregon survives scare in matchup of nation’s top two offenses

ORLANDO — Should have bet the over.

In a matchup of the nation’s two top offenses, ironically it was a defensive play that saved the top-ranked Oregon Ducks’ season in a game that saw more than 700 combined passing yards. The win over Oklahoma St. kept them alive for a shot at the first-ever College Football Playoff Series national title.

Sophomore defensive back Cliff Harris intercepted a pass on the final drive to shut the door on the Cowboys, giving credit to a long-overshadowed defense in a 42-37 victory in the Capital One bowl.

Boise St. runs through LSU for semifinal berth

DALLAS — The Broncos did it every which way, and, in the end, left the Panthers in a cloud of dust after a statement stomping.

No. 4 Boise St. exposed the usually strong LSU front line on defense, riding Doug Martin’s 152 rushing yards and two TDs for a 24-17 victory in the Cotton Bowl.

Alabama succumbs to Auburn offense for the second time this season

JACKSONVILLE— Auburn confidently took the field in Jacksonville for the nation’s sixth-oldest college bowl game. 

The Gator Bowl got off to a quick start as Cam Newton completed a 22-yard pass to Terrell Zachery who ran it in for a touchdown in the opening drive of the game.

Newton completed 14 of 16 passing for 204 yards in the Tigers' second win over the Crimson Tide this season, 37-17. No. 11 Alabama was outplayed by No. 2 Auburn at home in the Tides’ last game of the season on Nov. 26.

TCU falls short; Stanford advances to semis

LAS VEGAS— Sin City and Stanford got the best of Texas Christian University in its 42-14 surrender.

Andrew Luck be the gentleman of the night, with 243 yards in the air and 32 yards rushing. Luck connected with wide receiver Doug Baldwin for eight passes and 111 yards.

Owen Marecic rolled double sixes, repeating the magic of the Cardinals’ win over Notre Dame early in the season, scoring on a run and interception.

Horned Frogs’ QB Andy Dalton was held to just 87 passing yards in TCU’s unexpected loss and first-ever appearance at the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl.


Dream matchup set as Oregon escapes Boise St.

MIAMI — In the end, Boise St. needed just a little Moore.

After a heroic effort, the “little guy” came up a little short in a shot at the first-ever “real” national title.

Kellen Moore was intercepted with 20 seconds left after throwing for 379 yards, securing a thrilling win for Oregon, 45-37, in the Orange Bowl.

Moore and Oregon QB Darron Thomas exchanged TDs throughout much of the game —  but it was Jeff Maehl’s lightning quick slant-route, going for 52 yards to the house, that put the Ducks up for good.

Auburn defense shuts down Stanford; gains berth to inaugural CFPS

GLENDALE, AZ. —Welcome to the Mike Dyer Show.

Rather than easing the freshman into college ball, Dyer was thrown in head first, and proved his worth without a doubt.

The Auburn running back rushed for a season-high 193 yards, increasing his season total to 1,114 yards.

The Tigers out-played, out-passed and out-lasted the Cardinals in their 17-3 Fiesta Bowl victory.

Auburn quarterback Cam Newtown completed 12 of his 14 passes, connecting five times for 63 yards with wide receiver Darvin Adams.

Cardinal QB Andrew Luck was kept to a season-low 141 yards and threw two interceptions.

The win sets up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 dream matchup in the inaugural College Football Playoff Series title game, following Oregon's win Saturday.

College Football Playoff Series National Title

Ducks win first-ever playoff series

PASADENA — There’s no dispute this time.

The Oregon Ducks are college football champions.

The Ducks stole the show at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, claiming the title despite a valiant effort from the Auburn Tigers — who took to the field without star quarterback Cam Newton.

A year after wrestling away the Pac-10 title from USC, the Ducks returned to the Rose Bowl, this time intent on etching their name in the history books as the first-ever College Football Playoff Series national champion. And that’s exactly what they did, snatching the Joe Paterno Trophy, 42-35.

It wasn’t easy. Even with Newton watching from the sidelines.

Newton was suspended three days before the title match and a little less than a month after running away with the Heisman Trophy, answering to allegations that his father received improper benefits to deliver the five-star recruit to Auburn.

Instead, backup quarterback Barrett Trotter — who entered the most important game of his life 5-for-8 with just 48 yards on the season — helmed the nation’s No. 2 team to the cusp of football’s new top prize.

Trotter tossed for 212 yards — and did his best Newton impression, gaining another 50 yards on the ground, including a crucial fourth-down conversion late to keep Auburn’s hopes alive.

But the Oregon offense was too much. Down early, Oregon exploded for 28 second-quarter points, led by LaMichael James’ 52-yard touchdown run.

Without Newton’s production — he accounted for nearly 4,000 total yards this season — the Tigers relied heavily on running back Michael Dyer, who slowed the pace enough in the second half to inch his squad back into the game.

Despite Trotter’s best efforts to lead a game-tying drive in the final minutes, a costly fumble on a bad snap ended any chance of overtime.

Duck faithful flocked the field, carrying Darron Thomas off in a sea of Nike green.

Organizers got exactly what they wanted. A record 108,000 packed the stadium, while another 102 million tuned in at home.


In case you were wondering how they got there…

First round

Ducks pound Golden Panthers, move on
No. 1 Oregon decimated the No. 16 Florida International secondary, lighting up the scoreboard early and often behind Darron Thomas’ 307 passing yards in a 52-21 shellacking.

Cowboys turn away rally from Pryor, Buckeyes; win shootout
A furious rally from Terrelle Pryor and No. 9 Ohio St. came up short, as No. 8 Oklahoma St. — the nation’s No. 2 offense — put on another aerial display, including 132 yards from sensation sophomore wide receiver Justin Blackmon, in a 48-45 shootout victory.

Tiger ‘d’ does the job vs. Huskers
No. 5 LSU’s underrated defense held No. 12 Nebraska to just 50 yards in the air, led by Brandon Taylor’s pick-six in the second quarter, as the Tigers rolled 17-3.

Broncos spring surprise “fumblerooski” on Panthers, advance
Kellen Moore and No. 4 Boise St. once again brought out the bag of tricks, recovering an onside kick to start the second half before scoring on a rarely used “fumblerooski” in a comfortable win over the Big East champ Pittsburgh Panthers 27-17.

Tigers hold off Huskies.
The undefeated No. 2 Auburn Tigers overpowered the Huskies in their 27-0 win over No. 15 Northern Illinois. The Huskies were no match for the Tigers’ offense and Cam Newton, who threw for 181 yards.

‘Bama beats the odds, moves on
No. 10 Alabama beat out No. 7 Wisconsin in a surprising victory, 21-20. Philip Welch, the 6-foot-3 junior from Fort Collins, Col. missed a would-be game-winning field goal with 16 seconds left on the clock, granting the Crimson Tide passage to the CFPS semifinals.

Stanford has Luck on its side, will face TCU
Virginia Tech began the season with two losses and dropped its first in 10 games to Stanford, 34-17. Stanford’s Andrew Luck threw for 283 yards and raced for a touchdown.

TCU demolishes Central Florida, quiets critics
No. 3 TCU pummeled No. 14 Central Florida 59-7. The Knights' defense couldn’t contain Jimmy Young, who secured his spot in TCU history as second all-time in receiving yards with 2,408 after gaining 74 yards on the night.

The Knights finally showed signs of life when junior Ronnie Weaver returned an 81-yard punt for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.



To reach writer Sara Ramsey, click here.

To reach writer Dan Watson, click here.

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