EUGENE, Ore. — Oregon athletic officials were so convinced Chip Kelly was destined to be coach of the Ducks that they offered him the job before it came open. Smart move.
In just his second season, Kelly is taking the No. 2 Ducks (12-0) to the national title game Jan. 10 against No. 1 Auburn (13-0) — and for that he was voted Associated Press coach of the year Tuesday.
Kelly received 24 votes from the 60-member AP football poll panel to beat out Auburn's Gene Chizik, who received 17 votes.
Stanford's Jim Harbaugh was third with five votes.
Mike Bellotti, Oregon's longtime coach through 2008, hired Kelly away from New Hampshire to run the Ducks offense in 2007. When Bellotti was tapped to take over as athletic director, Oregon said in December 2008 that he would become full-time AD and Kelly would be the coach.
That spring, it was official.
This season, the Ducks led the nation in scoring (49.3 ppg) and were second in total offense (537.50 ypg).
"Our vision is we want to play fast," said Kelly, 47. "We want to play hard. We want to finish."
Kelly was named the Pac-10 coach of the year and won the Eddie Robinson coach of the year award from the Football Writers Association of America.
USF: Clemson tough
TAMPA — Clemson might be 6-6, but USF won't take the Tigers lightly in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Dec. 31.
"I've watched film, and every day I look and tell myself, 'How are they 6-6?' " defensive end Ryne Giddins said. "They don't look like that. That's a great team and a great program. I've got to bring my A-game every snap."
Clemson's losses came against teams now playing in bowls, and the Tigers took Auburn to overtime before falling 27-24.
Preparations: The Bulls will practice today then have a four-day break before flying to Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday.
FSU: Back on track
TALLAHASSEE — When Florida State junior running back Jermaine Thomas injured his knee in the win over Clemson last month, it appeared his season might be over.
"I actually thought it was torn," Thomas said. " … And I just heard a loud pop, and (it) kind of scared me. And I grabbed my knee and thought I was going to be done until probably next year."
But Thomas suffered a severe knee sprain and sat out the next three games before returning to practice last week. He expects to play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against South Carolina on Dec. 31.
More FSU: The Seminoles practiced for the final time before a three-day break. They will travel to Atlanta on Saturday and begin practice Sunday. … Coach Jimbo Fisher said quarterback Christian Ponder (elbow) will likely resume throwing this week.
Miami: Interim coach Jeff Stoutland said the quarterback competition between Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris is still "too close" for him to name a starter against Notre Dame in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31.
Michigan State: Leading receiver B.J. Cunningham broke his foot in practice Saturday and will miss the Capital One Bowl against Alabama on Jan. 1.
Syracuse: Senior punter Rob Long must have post-operation treatment after doctors found malignant cells in a brain tumor removed a week ago.
Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report, which used information from the Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun Sentinel.