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There was Phil Knight, the chairman of Nike, the Sultan of Swoosh, his customary reserve replaced by a luminous smile. The 114th Civil War had been history for 20 minutes. In keeping with the mantra of its coach, Chip Kelly, Oregon had "won the day," beating Oregon State 37--20. In so doing, the Ducks ran their record to 12--0, earning the right to play for the first national championship in the program's history.
What had Knight, an Oregon alum and benefactor, thought of the game's signature play, a preposterously daring fake punt dialed up in the third quarter with the Ducks on their 28-yard line? At the time Oregon was nursing a nine-point lead; there was no need to take a risk. Surely, with so much on the line, the moment called for caution, conservatism, right?
"That ain't the way we play," observed the chairman, who set down the items he was carrying, then pantomimed the act of juggling a pair of pendulous objects.
"You know how the cheer goes in our student section," he said. "Big balls Chip!"
Don't feel conflicted, BCS haters. It's O.K. to love this No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup—Auburn versus Oregon—in the championship game, even as you loathe the system that delivered it. How much fun is the BCS title game, on Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz., going to be?
Unless you have a closet full of purple and attended a certain school in Fort Worth, Texas—condolences, again, to 12--0 TCU—you've gotta love this matchup. Neither team has played for a BCS championship (though Auburn did win the 1957 national title), and in their 100-plus-year histories they have never faced each other. The game will pit the winner of the underrated Pac-10 against the champion of the strongest, deepest (and smuggest?) conference in the country, the SEC.
It will be an orgy of offense—"a heck of game," says South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, whose Gamecocks were smoked 56--17 by the Tigers in last Saturday's SEC championship tilt. "Might be 60 to 55."
On one side you'll have Kelly, he of the prodigious pelotas, architect of the Ducks' turbo-charged attack, which leads the nation in scoring offense (49.3 points per game), is second in total offense (537.5 yards per game) and rattles off plays so rapidly that opposing defenders occasionally faked injuries this season just to catch their breath.
On the other side there will be Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, whose wire rims and modest, folksy manner disguise the mad genius within, and call to mind Flaubert's advice to be "regular and orderly" in your daily life "so that you may be violent and original in your work." You want original? How about a modified Statue of Liberty play, followed by a fumblerooski, on the Tigers' first drive against South Carolina.
Remember the last Super Bowl? People wanted to give Saints coach Sean Payton a Bronze Star for calling an onside kick against the Colts. To Auburn and Oregon an onside kick is a trifle, a bagatelle.