Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 7/1/12
2010 saw the birth of a legend in college football, Auburn’s Cam Newton. Out of relative obscurity at the beginning of the season to eventual Heisman trophy winner, Newton and his fellow Tiger teammates would cap a perfect season by defeating the Oregon Ducks 22-19 in the BCS championship, thus becoming the second school to ever finish 14-0.

If the Tigers, however, had played in the playoff system recently proposed by the heads of the major conferences last week, would they still emerge as champions? The following is a look at the potential participants in such a playoff, and how it might have differed from the current BCS system:

1 Auburn Tigers vs. 4 Stanford Cardinal

These two teams would more than likely meet given that, in the current playoff format, the highest seeded team would face the lower seeded team.
This game would be an offensive showdown, as the Tigers averaged over 42 points a game, while their opponents, the Stanford Cardinal, averaged a little over 40 points to game. Not to mention that it would be one of the few contests featuring a duel between the Heisman winner (Auburn’s Cam Newton) vs. the runner up (Stanford’s Andrew Luck).

In the early stages of the game, Stanford appears to be overwhelmed by the speed of  Auburn, as Newton and company would race out to a 17-0 first quarter lead, behind Michael Dyer’s two touchdown runs. Stanford had a chance to put points on the board when Auburn miffed a punt on its own two yard line, but the play was called back due to a holding penalty on Stanford.

Andrew Luck was not about to let the Cardinal go down in defeat without putting up some sort of a fight. Luck threw two touchdown passes to Coby Fleener in the second quarter to cut the lead to 17-14, and Stepfan Taylor would add another from 15 yards out to take the lead at 21-17 heading into the locker room at halftime. The score did not reflect the fact that Stanford had held on to the ball for 20 minutes compared to only 10 for Auburn, or the fact that the Tigers trailed despite forcing the Cardinal into three first half turnovers, while only giving up one themselves.

Stanford looked to take over the game completely after going up 35-17 on Andrew Luck’s third touchdown pass to Fleener midway thru the third quarter. Yet Newton would show that resiliency he became famous for in the fourth, passing for one TD and running for another to cut the lead to 35-31 with over six minutes left.

The game would be decided when defensive tackle Nick Fairley put just enough pressure on Luck to force him into throwing his third interception of the evening. Auburn would return the ball to the Stanford 30 with a minute and a half on the game clock, plenty of time for the Tiger offense to muster a winning drive. A couple plays later Newton would run for his second TD, and Auburn was on its way to the national title game.
Auburn 38, Stanford 31.

2 Oregon Ducks vs. 3 TCU Horned Frogs

Oregon and TCU would meet in the next semifinal of the evening. This one had the makings of a heavyweight slugfest, as both teams went into the matchup undefeated.
From the opening kickoff, TCU made it clear they weren’t about to be bullied around. Andy Dalton’s precision passing led to two early scores, as the Horned Frogs would take the early lead 14-0.

The Ducks were not about to hand the game over, as LaMichael James’ two touchdown runs, one of 15 yards and the other of 40 yards, would knot the game at 14 apiece heading into halftime.

The third quarter saw both teams tighten up somewhat, as the only scoring was a TCU field goal after Andy Dalton saw his third down pass in the red zone sail over the head of his receiver that was running a fade.

The night, however, would ultimately belong to Dalton and the Horned Frogs, as Dalton threw another two TDs before the game was over. 

TCU 31, Oregon 21.
National Championship game:

1 Auburn Tigers vs. 3 TCU Horned Frogs

This game was wrought with hype and headlines. Auburn was seeking to become the fifth straight team from the SEC to win the national title, and Cam Newton was looking to add a national championship trophy alongside his Heisman.

The TCU Horned Frogs, on the other hand, were out to prove they belonged. All season long they had heard they played a soft schedule, and they would be no match for a team from a major conference. Even the lopsided win over Utah (ranked No. 5 in the standings at the time) did little to change the minds of the doubters.

In the early stages of the game it appeared as if TCU would not be able to keep up with the speed of Auburn, as the Tigers would race out to a 10-0 lead to end the first quarter. The Horned Frogs would add a pair of field goals in the second, but, a Cam Newton rushing TD would put Auburn up 17-6 heading into the locker room.

The third quarter would begin with another field goal from Auburn, and at 20-6 it felt like the game was starting to slip away from TCU.

However, quarterback Andy Dalton would put on one of the more spectacular performances ever seen in the fourth quarter of a championship game. Auburn, on the other hand, seemed fatigued from the Stanford game-something they hadn't encountered all season. Dalton would throw two TDs and TCU defense would clamp down, holding Auburn scoreless in the fourth quarter.

TCU 23, Auburn 20

National Champion: TCU

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