Auburn University quarterback Cam Newton passed for a career-high 335 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Tigers past the University of South Carolina 56-17 in the Southeastern Conference championship.
The win will probably lock up a spot in college football’s national championship game against the University of Oregon on Jan. 10 in Glendale, Arizona.
Auburn (13-0, 8-0 in the Southeastern Conference), ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings, and Oregon (12-0, 9-0 in the Pacific 10 Conference), ranked No. 2, both won, with the Ducks beating Oregon State 37-20 in Corvallis, Oregon.
The schools must wait 24 hours before they receive the official word they are invited to the BCS championship. Texas Christian University (12-0, 8-0 in Mountain West Conference), ranked No. 3 in the BCS poll, needed one of the top two teams to be upset to jump into the championship game.
“I knew this would be our best hour,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik told Walt Disney Co.’s ABC network after the game. “They got out fast and they finished.”
Newton, who was recently cleared of wrongdoing in a pay-for-play recruiting scandal, is a top contender for the Heisman Trophy, which will be awarded next weekend in New York City. In addition to his four touchdowns and no interceptions, the Auburn quarterback rushed for 73 yards and two touchdowns.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound passer became the second player in the history of college football’s top division to both run and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season. Former University of Florida Gator Tim Tebow was the first.
“Without these guys on this team, I wouldn’t have the success I did,” Newton said after the game.
As Newton left the field in the fourth quarter, Auburn fans began chanting, “Heisman, Heisman, Heisman.”
In Corvallis, University of Oregon running back LaMichael James ran 28 times for 134 yards and two touchdowns and Kenjon Barner rushed 15 times for 133 yards and one score to power the Ducks to a win over the Oregon State Beavers.
While Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for 87 yards and scored a touchdown for the Beavers, Oregon State failed to score twice in the second half and had to settle for field goals of 26 and 22 yards.