5-at-10: FSU ends Auburn dream and SEC title run, good-bye BCS

5-at-10: FSU ends Auburn dream and SEC title run, good-bye BCS

January 7th, 2014 by Jay Greeson in Sportscolumns

Wow. That was amazing.

Florida State's Jameis Winston celebrates with The Coaches' Trophy after the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game against Auburn in Pasadena, Calif. Florida State won 34-31.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Florida State proved it can handle the moment. Auburn proved it was more than a bag of tricks and last-second high-wire act.

The Seminoles captured the final BCS title with a 34-31 win over Auburn that ended the SEC's run of atop college football at seven years. FSU scored the game-winner with 13 seconds left and ended the cardiac calisthenics of the Tigers.

It was an incredible ride - the title game, the Auburn season and the SEC's seven-year run of dominance. And while the end was heart-wrenching - and more than a touch ironic considering the shovel loads of heart ache the Tigers dished out this fall - the championship fight was a fitting end to the BCS, which like FSU's win over Auburn, wasn't always perfect, but in the end it got it right more times than not.

Side note: Always a good idea for emotional fans to put away the social media, especially after 11 p.m. That's good advice kids.

Side note, II: Did any one else think Nick Saban was particularly great in his role as studio analyst with the ESPN folks? Unlike the last time Saban was on with the College GameDay folks, Saban was relaxed and insightful. He also seemed to really enjoy the outcome with FSU topping the rival Tigers.

Side note, III: This from Twitter follower Ben Pitts, did anyone else notice that one Randy Sanders collected title rings in the first and the last BCS championships.

The poetic wording aside, how did it happen? Glad you asked.

FSU had its stars. Jameis Winston was a fourth-quarter stud, going 9-of-11 in the final frame as the Seminoles completed the comeback, but most of his throws were short passes that his star-studded receivers turned into big plays. Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan proved that he will be a first-round NFL pick by controlling the interior of the line of scrimmage. And when Jernigan got winded, the difference was staggering.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Auburn countered with a heavy dose of Tre Mason, who has to explore his NFL options if for no other reason than his stock will never be higher than it currently is. In his last three games against nationally ranked defenses, Mason went for 164 against Alabama, 304 against Missouri and 195 against FSU. Dude is a stud duck, and if he and tackle Greg Robinson return, the Tigers offense will be scary. The defensive staff called an amazing game, and the much ballyhooed mismatch between the FSU receivers and the Auburn secondary never materialized.

The game was ultimately decided on special teams, where Auburn has been great all season. Aside from punter Steven Clark, who continued his amazing ability to pin opponents deep, the Tigers were gashed on special teams. There were several fumbles on returns, all of which Auburn covered. Kicker Cody Parkey missed a chip shot field-goal try - which turned out kind of large in a three-point loss - and after a season filled with a river of touchbacks on kickoffs, a short Parkey kick was fielded at the goalline returned for a TD by Levonte Whitfield. Add in the FSU fake punt that kept alive a drive that led to FSU's first touchdown and the difference was overwhelming, especially in a three-point game.

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Good night BCS

2014 Bowl Championship Series logo

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

The BCS era ended with the Seminoles win over Auburn.

And we have to admit, we're pretty melancholy about it.

The BCS was crafted to try to put the top two teams in the country in a bowl game, and other than a few hiccups along the way - Hi, 2004, we remember you quite well - it did it's job.

Now we all believe that a playoff is the best way to determine the champ, but do not think the four-team College Football Playoff that will be in place next year will not be without its hand-wringing and consternation.

In truth, the occasional headache that the BCS faced when three teams with championship resumes were available will be a more frequent migraine considering that No. 5 will be just as irate as No. 3 in the new field, and that's even before we get to the conference championship issue.

First not everyone has a conference title game, so let's say you have an 11-1 Big 12 champ like Texas that does not have to play in a title game and a 12-0 SEC or Big Ten team that loses in the title game. Is that fair? Also, only three of the four teams has to be a conference champ, so the at-large issue will be a cantankerous one.

Try to put this season into the four-team metric: You would have had Auburn and Alabama playing on Jan. 1 in the Rose Bowl, which is a whole other kettle of fish considering it would be a rematch of the regular season and likely be played in front of a 2/3-filled stadium since it would be a 3,000-mile trip for each fan base. In the other semifinal, FSU and whomever the selection committee deemed to be No. 4 - Stanford won the Pac-12, Michigan State won the Big Ten or Big 12-champ Baylor - would play in New Orleans, and the other two would have legit beefs about being left out.

Good bye BCS. You were better than we gave you credit for along the way.

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Look ahead to next year

Here is our all-too-early preseason top 10 for next year. We wrote this in today's TFP, and there are still several very good players that could sway this ranking.

For example, if Johnny Football comes back to A&M - which we highly doubt - the Aggies shoot into the top 10.

Here you go:

Jameis Winston talks to reporters Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, in New York.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

1) FSU: The Seminoles are crazy-talented and in truth were actually built for next year, considering 12 of their 22 starters are in their second or third year in the program, including redshirt freshman QB Jameis Winston. That said, no team has more undecided players who may leave for the NFL than FSU. Still with Winston returning and the slew of recruits and waves of talent, the Seminoles will be the team to beat next year.

2) Stanford: There's a very real chance that The Cardinal could return 10 starters on each side of the ball. No wonder David Shaw repeatedly declined offers from interested NFL teams and any other offer this side of a free football phone with a Sports Illustrated subscription.

3) Ohio State: If Winston is the Heisman front-runner next year, then Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is 1A. Plus a youthful defense that includes former Ridgeland High star Vonn Bell, who has a strong showing in the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson, returns almost everyone except linebacker Ryan Shazier, who has declared for the draft.

4) Oklahoma: The recent commitment of five-star running back Joe Mixon is huge for Bob Stoops' team, which is looking for some playmakers but is rock solid everywhere else. The Sooners thumped Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and return nine defensive starters - including all of the front seven - and four offensive line starters and quarterback Trevor Knight, who torched the Tide secondary.

5) Alabama: Is there a more intriguing spring practice question than who will be Alabama's quarterback? Whomever gets the starting nod for the Tide will have an impressive set of offensive toys to spread around, considering Derrick Henry, T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper are all sure-fire NFL first-rounders.

6) Oregon: If there is anyone who could wrestle the Heisman hype from Winston is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Dude returns - and if he can stay healthy - he will be the central piece to the nation's fastest-pace offense.

7) Auburn: Tackle Greg Robinson is likely to enter the NFL draft - he's projected as a top-15 overall talent - the Tigers will still return nine offensive starters from a group that sprinted over, through and around the SEC. Somewhere Gus Malzahn smiles.

8) Wisconsin: There's a very real chance that the Badgers could return every starter from the team that took the field in the Capital One Bowl.

9) UCLA: The Bruins offense received a five-star injection when quarterback Brett Hundley decided to return and there could be as many as 10 offensive starters back. Add a top-10 recruiting class and the double goodness of Myles Jack, who was the Pac-12 freshman of the year on offense and defense, and this ranking may be low.

10) Notre Dame: Everett Golson returns after taking a year off to study abroad ( which is football slang for getting his grades in order). His presence at quarterback instantly improves the Irish offense by a factor of at least five, and with a defense filled with young playmakers, Notre Dame's future is now.

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This and that

- The final AP college football poll goes 1) FSU, 2) Auburn, 3) Michigan State, 4) South Carolina, 5) Missouri, 6) Oklahoma, 7) Alabama, 8) Clemson, 9) Oregon, 10) Central Florida.

UTC Mocs logo

- The Chicago Bulls traded Luol Deng to Cleveland for Andrew Bynum and draft picks. This is not all that important in the grand terms of basketball - neither the Bulls nor the Cavs will make much of a dent in the playoffs - but it is the first salvo of teams starting to position themselves for picks rather than the postseason.

- On more than one occasion we could not help but wonder how Alabama would have done against FSU last night. So it goes.

- UTC finished the season ranked No. 25 in the FCS coaches' poll. It was the first time UTC ended a season ranked since 1984 when the Mocs were ranked No. 17.

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Today's question

Gang, remember the mailbag and feel free to riff on any of the above, especially the title game.

If you need another talking point: What's the best BCS title game?