It was the middle of the third quarter at the ACC Championship game, where I was, and No. 1 Florida State was winning by blowout. At the same in Indianapolis, it was early in the third quarter where No. 2 Ohio State had just tied its game. That’s when Auburn’s PR people so thoughtfully sent me an email.
AUBURN FOOTBALL RESUME: “Please see the following notes about the Auburn football team’s body of work this season. Thank you!’’
Well, you’re welcome! But I had assumed it was an early Christmas card.
These are the final moments of this college football regular season, and the final moments of the chaos that the BCS has caused all these years. It looked like the BCS would give us one last mess, and Auburn was using its last hours to lobby for a spot in the title game.
Instead, the BCS lucked out when Ohio State lost to Michigan State.
Your national championship game: Florida State vs. Auburn. It won’t be official until Sunday.
“It honestly didn’t matter to me who it was (that Florida State would play),’’ FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I’m just glad Florida State’s there.’’
But let me get to the ACC game. Florida State beat Duke 45-7, but the game was just a formality, really. Duke was a great little-guy story just to get this far, but in terms the Blue Devils can understand — basketball terms — no No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament has ever beaten a No. 1.
So Florida State solidified its spot in the BCS title game. And quarterback Jameis Winston? He solidified his Heisman Trophy, which is also a formality now.
The only question here was Winston’s mental state after officials decided not to press sexual assault charges against him this week. And to me, it was obvious he was affected.
Winston wasn’t good. The stat line doesn’t show that, as he passed for 330 yards and three touchdowns. But he also threw two interceptions and kept missing wide open receivers, even though his offensive line was dominating Duke’s defensive front. Winston had all day to pass.
On one play, he tried to run up the middle, and as he was falling forward, he just chucked the ball underhanded near a Duke player who was too surprised to make the interception.
Winston said he was overly amped up for the game, but that it wasn’t related to his legal issues.
“I don’t feel it was a burden,’’ he said, “because actually, the football field is our sanctuary.’’
I’m not buying.
After the game, Winston walked off on an interview when he was asked a few questions about his off-field troubles.
Fisher said Friday that Winston had “compartmentalized’’ all season over the attention about his great play, and then about his sexual-assault allegation. He said Winston showed he was “a man’’ because even in the face of troubles, when it was time to be a teammate, he was a teammate, and when it was time to be a student, he was a student.
Defensive back Lemarcus Joyner said that Winston could have “gone into the tank’’ with his problems, but instead stayed focused to help his teammates, his brothers.
He should be OK for the BCS title game, with a month to get ready. This is the last year of the BCS, as the four-team College Football Playoff starts next season.
They should have gone to this a long time ago. And it will be nice that the championship game opponents will be decided by blocking and tackling, and not emailing and lobbying.
It worked out this year, but there have been so many questionable results. Like when Nebraska lost its last game to Colorado 62-36, and didn’t win its own conference, but was picked for the national title game.
If Ohio State had won Saturday, then the debate would have been over whether its undefeated season in the easy Big Ten was more impressive than Auburn’s one-loss season in the SEC.
Auburn’s 14-point loss to LSU somehow wasn’t on the resume that came to my email. Turns out, Auburn has five wins over ranked teams, most of any team in the top six. And Auburn’s strength of schedule was harder than the others’ schedules, too.
That all doesn’t matter now. We’re going to get probably the best team in the country, Florida State, against an Auburn team that has become America’s team with its miracle finishes against Georgia, then Alabama.
The two best teams in the country playing for the championship. At least the BCS goes out by getting one right.