Auburn wins first AP title since 1957

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Auburn finished No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll, completing an unprecedented climb to its first national title in 53 years.

The Tigers led the AP Top 25 following a 22-19 victory against Oregon in the BCS championship Monday night.

"We're the best football team in the United States of America," Auburn coach Gene Chizik proclaimed after Wes Byrum's 19-yard field goal as time expired gave the Tigers a thrilling win.

Auburn was also ranked No. 1 in the USA Today coaches' poll, released Tuesday.

Auburn won its only other AP title in 1957, and the Tigers started 2010 further back than any other champion since the poll expanded to 25 teams in 1989.

Auburn (14-0) began the season at No. 22. The previous lowest preseason ranking for a national champion in the Top 25 era was Oklahoma, which went from No. 19 to No. 1 in 2000. The Tigers received 56 of 59 first-place votes. One voter did not submit a ballot.

Undefeated TCU (13-0) had to settle for No. 2. The Horned Frogs received the other three first-place votes and had their best finish in the AP poll since winning the 1938 national title.

Oregon finished third, a spot ahead of Pac-10 rival Stanford. Ohio State was fifth.

The coaches' top five were the same as the AP poll, but the coaches' first-place votes provided an interesting mystery: Despite an understanding that member coaches must vote for the BCS Championship Game winner at No. 1, TCU received a first-place vote.

The vote was not cast by TCU's Gary Patterson, as he was not on the panel of 59 FBS coaches voting in the poll this season.

Auburn's title makes it five straight for the Southeastern Conference, joining Florida (with two), LSU and Alabama.

The Tigers had three other SEC West rivals ranked ahead of them at the start of the season -- Alabama, Arkansas and LSU -- but nobody realized what a difference their new quarterback would make.

Cam Newton, who transferred from junior college last spring, carried the Tigers to a national championship and won the Heisman Trophy along the way.

Horned Frogs fans probably wouldn't mind one more game, and if any fans can relate to going unbeaten and not getting a shot at the national title, it's Auburn rooters.

The last time the Tigers had a perfect season was 2004, but USC and Oklahoma played for the national championship and Tommy Tuberville's team finished No. 2.

Auburn and its fans have never gotten over that, but this time around nothing could deny the Tigers -- and the SEC -- a title.

The nation's strongest conference finished with three teams in the top 10, five in the first 15 and six in the Top 25, more than any other league. LSU was eighth, Alabama 10th, Arkansas 12th, Mississippi State 15th and South Carolina 22nd.

The Big 12 had five teams in the final rankings: No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 13 Oklahoma State, No. 18 Missouri, No. 19 Texas A&M and No. 20 Nebraska.

The Atlantic Coast Conference had four teams in the poll: No. 16 Virginia Tech, No. 17 Florida State, No. 23 Maryland and No. 25 North Carolina State.

No. 7 Wisconsin and No. 14 Michigan State joined Ohio State to give the Big Ten three teams in the final poll.

Boise State finished at No. 9, and Western Athletic Conference rival Nevada, the only team to beat the Broncos this season, was 11th.

Conference USA also put two in the final rankings with No. 21 Central Florida and No. 24 Tulsa.

The Big East was the only conference with an automatic BCS bid to not have a team ranked in the final poll. Help is coming -- TCU will be leaving the Mountain West Conference and joining that league in 2012.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.