Auburn 20, USC 17
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville was carried off the field as undefeated and uncontested national champions, after defeating a shocked USC squad 20-17 on a last-second FG by K John Vaughn.
The Tigers got here by beating Utah 29-27, Louisville 24-0, and Michigan 24-21. USC got here by beating Boise St. 42-34, Iowa 31-0, and Georgia 37-21. (Michigan beat the previously-unbeaten Sooners 37-33 to set up their semifinal match with USC).
Billed as a high-scoring affair, the tough Tiger defense set the tone with 5 sacks of QB Matt Leinart, and a couple of interceptions, one of which was returned for a TD by J. Rosegreen. At the time it made the score 17-7 late in the 3rd quarter, but the Trojans came right back with a big drive, alternating big RB Reggie Bush rushes and QB Matt Leinart passes. Ultimately Leinart found WR Dwayne Jarrett in the end zone, cutting the lead to 17-14.
After a 3-and-out, the USC offense again drove the length of the field, but the national champion Tiger defense held firm, holding the Trojans to a FG to tie the game with 1:47 remaining. Then, in the defining drive of the game, Orange Bowl MVP Jason Campbell led a bruising drive, with 3 3rd-down conversions. With two seconds left, Vaughn lined up for the 37 yard field goal and nailed it.
After the game, coach Tuberville, who nearly lost his job at the end of last season, said, "I just wanted to win by one, that's all that counts. If you have to win with style points, you might as well throw out all the systems.''
This reporter couldn't agree more. And hopefully next year, I won't need to resort to fiction to find a true national champion. Hopefully we'll have one for real.