College football: Florida State, Auburn to play for title
As college football prepares for the final Bowl Championship Series, featuring a Florida State-Auburn championship game, it's easy to see why the coming four-team playoff won't solve all the postseason problems.
Heck, we might just miss the BCS.
It sort of worked out this season. Top-ranked Florida State (13-0) was the only team to get through the regular season unbeaten, and the Seminoles did it in dominating fashion. Auburn (12-1) won the Southeastern Conference, and among the teams with imperfect records the Tigers' resume is best.
"We all complain about the BCS, but isn't it funny how often they get it right," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said.
The pairings became official Sunday night when the final BCS standings came out. There was no question about 1 and 2. It'll be the 'Noles and Tigers at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 6 for the national championship.
In the other marquee bowls:
• Alabama will play Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
• Clemson will play Ohio State in the Orange Bowl.
• Michigan State will play Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
• Baylor will play UCF in the Fiesta Bowl.
Of course, Big 12 champion Baylor (11-1) and Big Ten champion Michigan State (12-1) might argue with that top two. But over 16 seasons college football fans have built up what can be called BCS acceptance, learning to live with the fact that there is only room for two.
Fans of particularly aggrieved teams (2000 Miami, 2004 Auburn, 2008 Texas, just to name a few) still burn over the slights. Generally, though, by the time the championship game kicked off, most everybody was on board. And only eight times before the BCS did No. 1 play No. 2 in a bowl game.
"It's been a remarkable seismic change for this sport," executive director Bill Hancock said. "That was unthinkable before the BCS."
Now think about this season playing out under next season's format. In the new world order known as the College Football Playoff, a selection committee will pick four teams to play in national semifinals. The winners play for the championship.
So how would a panel that includes Tom Osborne, Archie Manning and Condoleezza Rice sort out this season's top four?
Florida State and Auburn, of course. And ... Baylor and Michigan State? But what about Pac-12 champion Stanford (11-2)? Sure the Cardinal have two losses, but as Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said Saturday at the end of a week in which he and the rest of the SEC practically begged voters to overlook the number in the loss column and focus on quality of opposition: "I have nine words. Strength of schedule. Strength of schedule. Strength of schedule."
Among this season's best teams, Stanford played the toughest schedule.
And then there is two-time defending champion Alabama (11-1).
"We're not a natural playoff sport," said Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who was the offensive coordinator at Tennessee when it won the first BCS championship game against Florida State in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl. "I think we can make this work with four.
"And the reason I think we'll make this work is I think what we're all going to find out is the arguments are going to get bigger. We're going to go from a few schools being angry to a lot of schools being angry, and maybe that's going to be a good thing. I just want to be in the argument."
Florida State showed Cutcliffe how far away Duke is from being in the argument in a 45-7 victory Saturday night in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game.
In a season defined by blowouts, the only drama for Florida State came off the field, when quarterback Jameis Winston was investigated for sexual assault. The state attorney said there was not enough evidence to charge the redshirt freshman with a crime two days before the Seminoles played Duke.
Winston is the runaway favorite to win the Heisman Trophy next Saturday.
Auburn completed its worst-to-first run with a 59-42 victory in the Southeastern Conference championship game against Missouri. The Tigers didn't win a conference game last season.
"This time last year, we were home, hanging out watching other guys play ball," running back Tre Mason said. "That's not really what you want to be doing."
Mason ran for 304 yards and four TDs against Mizzou to make a late Heisman push of his own.
The Tigers have had some good fortune, including improbable plays to beat Georgia and Alabama.
That left Auburn to try to extend the SEC's BCS championship game winning streak to eight games against the school that played for the first three BCS titles under Bobby Bowden.
Rose Bowl • Michigan State vs. Stanford, Jan. 1, 3 p.m.
Fiesta Bowl • Baylor vs. UCF, Jan. 1, 6:30 p.m.
Sugar Bowl • Alabama vs. Oklahoma, Jan. 2, 6:30 p.m.
Orange Bowl • Clemson vs. Ohio State, Jan. 3, 6:30 p.m.
BCS National Championship Game • Florida State vs. Auburn, Jan. 6, 6:30 p.m.
Complete bowl schedule • See Scoreboard > B11
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