Auburn, Oregon in BCS Championship headline Arizona bowl lineup
by Jeff Metcalfe – Dec. 5, 2010 06:30 PM
The Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
When the dust cleared Sunday after bowl selections, Arizona emerged with one of the more-compelling championship games in the 13-year Bowl Championship Series history and a projected $420 million economic bonanza for metro Phoenix.
In addition to No. 1 Auburn and No. 2 Oregon meeting in the BCS Championship Game on Jan. 10, No. 7 Oklahoma will play in the 40th Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1 and No. 12 Missouri will be the highest-rated team ever in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28.
Big East champion Connecticut, which will challenge Oklahoma in the Fiesta, just missed out on the Top 25 in the final BCS standings. Unranked Iowa will make its Arizona bowl debut against Missouri in the Insight, able to draw better teams because of increasing its combined payout to $6.5 million.
“It’s a wonderful display of college football,” Fiesta Bowl president John Junker said. “The matches are all intriguing. The national-championship game is a gigantic contest. The Insight has two very interesting teams that haven’t played much. And the Fiesta Bowl is the mystery game to see what Connecticut can do and how the Big East can play against a very physical Oklahoma team.
“They’re games we think will create tremendous interest.”
They also are expected to draw more than 190,000 to University of Phoenix and Sun Devil stadiums.
The Auburn-Oregon matchup was finalized Saturday when the Tigers dominated South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference title game and the Ducks beat Oregon State in the Civil War.
And the Fiesta pairing was set after Connecticut edged South Florida to clinch the Big East automatic BCS berth and Oklahoma rallied past Nebraska in the Big 12 title game.
That eliminated a possible Orange Bowl matchup of No. 13 Virginia Tech and West Virginia, sending No. 4 Stanford and UConn on cross-country journeys to the Orange and Fiesta instead of remaining closer to home.
So the only remaining drama in the Arizona selections was with the Insight, which had fourth pick among Big 12 teams and last year bypassed Missouri in favor of Iowa State. The Tigers got the nod this time over Nebraska, which fell five spots in the BCS rankings after losing 23-20 to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game.
“We have the two highest Big 12 teams (in the Fiesta and Insight),” Junker said. “Nebraska made a point about beating Missouri (31-17), yet you have to take in the whole body of work. We love everything about Nebraska, but it seemed pretty tough to turn down a 12th-ranked team as the highest-ranked team we’ve ever had.”
Junker believes the Auburn-Oregon game could be as memorable as BCS title games between Ohio State-Miami here in 2003 and Texas-USC at the 2005 Rose Bowl.
The unbeatens combined to average more than 92 points and 1,000 yards total offense per game and feature two of the top three Heisman Trophy candidates: favored Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and Oregon running back LaMichael James.
“You know, whether you’re in your second year or your 20th year, it’s just an extremely difficult game to get to,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “You can coach your whole life and never be involved in one of these.”
Chip Kelly also is in his second year as coach at Oregon and in his second BCS game. The Ducks lost 26-17 to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl last season.
“We didn’t intentionally lose the Rose Bowl so we could have fuel for the fire for this year, I can tell you that,” Kelly said. “Obviously, when the last game you play is a loss, there’s always going to be fuel for motivation in the off-season.”
Oklahoma will try to make up for losses to Boise State and West Virginia in the 2007 and ’08 Fiesta Bowls and improve its overall Fiesta record to 2-3.
“We realize the last two games out there we have not been successful so it’s motivation definitely,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “We approach all our bowl games with a very serious demeanor in how we prepare in practice. Hopefully, when we get in the game, we’ll have a chance to play better and maintain the focus throughout the month leading up to it.”
UConn coach Randy Edsall is optimistic that Huskies’ fans will travel well for the school’s first BCS game.
“This is something new for Connecticut. I think our fans have really embraced our move to Division I (in 2000). They want to be able to experience the bowl game at the highest level.”
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