ATLANTA -- The Auburn Tigers are going to Glendale.
No. 1 Auburn punched its ticket to the Bowl Championship Series national championship for the first time in school history Saturday with a 56-17 win against No. 19 South Carolina in the SEC title game.
The official invite won’t come until tonight, when the Bowl Championship Series pairings are released.
It’s merely a formality. Auburn and Oregon, which beat Oregon State 37-20 on Saturday, will take their high-powered offenses to Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 10 in what has the potential to be one of the most entertaining championship games in the BCS’s 13-year history.
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“We all had these dreams back in the ’80s,” said Pat Dye, who coached during Auburn’s heyday. “But this football team made it come true tonight. It’s just an unbelievable season.”
Auburn played the complete game it has been seeking all year. The Tigers finished with 589 yards of offense, led, as usual, by Cam Newton.
The quarterback, who had his eligibility restored by the NCAA this week after an investigation into his recruitment, did it all, throwing for a career-high 335 yards, running for 73 and accounting for six touchdowns.
The Tigers’ much-maligned defense stepped up their game as well, holding the Gamecocks to 349 yards and forcing two turnovers, one it turned into a touchdown on a T’Sharvan Bell interception.
By the end, it was a rout. The 39-point victory was the largest in SEC championship game history.
Auburn doesn’t have a storied history of national championships. The only title the school officially claims came in 1957, but the Tigers shared it with Ohio State.
They went 11-0 in 1993 but were banned from postseason play for NCAA violations. In 2004, Auburn ran the table but was left out of the BCS national championship game for Southern California and Oklahoma, a snub that stings to this day.
“In our mind, that ’04 team is a championship team anyway,” Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said. “We count that one as well.”
It’s not an issue this season.
“Now at least we get a chance to actually go play for it on the field,” Jacobs said.