The Blitz: Florida State-Auburn fitting finale for BCS era

In the end, the lobbying and the posturing didn’t matter. College

football’s Darwinism sorted it out and left us with a matchup that is

the fitting end to the BCS era.

Twenty-nine days of

buildup for No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Auburn’s Jan. 6 clash in

Pasadena for the national championship won’t want for storylines.

There’s the SEC’s hopes of an eighth straight title

rest in the Tigers’ hands; the Seminoles seeking a win that leaves no

doubt that they have been reborn under Jimbo Fisher and brings back a

measure of respect for the ACC.

It’s a Florida State

offense that has seemed unstoppable, winning by an average of 42.3

points behind the likely Heisman Trophy winner in Jameis Winston, who

despite being a redshirt freshman and having dealt with a potentially

life-altering legal investigation has been unflappable.

Zero in on the stunning turnaround on The Plains,

where Gus Malzahn took a team that went winless in the SEC and won the

toughest division in the nation’s toughest conference, knocking off

top-ranked Alabama in the process.

But here’s why

this is the perfect end to the 16 years of this maligned system: it’s

the team that defined the landscape in its infancy vs. the conference

that has dominated the last decade.

Seven years ago, the

SEC’s run of championships began with a one-loss team with an offensive

innovator of a coach that entered the regular season’s final weekend

needing a miracle to reach the title game. No. 4 Florida got it, with

No. 2 USC’s loss to UCLA lifting the Gators into the second spot in the

final BCS Standings.



The Seminoles, who appeared in the first

three title games, are following a path we’ve seen them take


In 2000, they opened at fifth in the BCS

Standings (like this year’s team), were third after Week 10 (same for

the ’13 edition) and climbed into position for a title game-spot by Week

13, which they wouldn’t relinquish (ditto for Fisher and


Those Seminoles were led by a quarterback who

set a single-season school record for TD passes in Chris Weinke, who

tossed 33 that year in winning the Heisman


Fast-forward 13 years

and Winston has already broken Weinke’s mark with 48 TDs and counting,

and a Heisman seems a mere formality with the ceremony just days


There is part of that ’00 title game Florida

State would rather not emulate, as it fell 13-2 to Oklahoma. That loss

was ultimately the beginning of the end of the Seminoles’ time atop the

college football world as they appeared in the top three in the BCS

Standings for just two weeks over the next 12 years — until this


The BCS’ past will be on full display in the

Rose Bowl, but what will it signal?

Is this the dawn

of a return to prominence for a team that stood as a power before the

BCS’ arrival and thrived in its early days? Is it just the stage for

another SEC celebration, further proof that it has mastered this


That we’ll get a definitive answer is why we

couldn’t have hoped for the BCS era to end any other




UP: Michigan


The Spartans added one

more shot of crazy to this inexplicably unpredictable season, knocking

off No. 2 Ohio State 34-24 in the Big Ten title game. Win or lose,

Michigan State was headed to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1987

with the Buckeyes in the BCS title game. But the Spartans made the

berth all that more satisfying as Connor Cook took advantage of a woeful

Ohio State pass defense, throwing for 304 yards and three TDs. It’s

worth noting that Cook, a Hinckley, Ohio, native, never even got a

recruiting letter from Ohio State.

DOWN: Northern


There goes $17

million in a bowl payout and a strong case for a Heisman Trophy for

Jordan Lynch. The Huskies saw any hope of a second consecutive BCS bowl

berth go up in flames in a 47-27 loss to Bowling Green in the MAC title

game, an uncharacteristic game from Lynch, who for the first time in 10

games had more turnovers (two) than passing TDs (two). He did more

within 119 rushing yards of becoming the first 2,000-yard

passing/2,000-yard rushing player — which he could hit against Utah

State in the Poinsettia Bowl — and could still make the Heisman

ceremony, but this was a costly game for Lynch, NIU and the




Not a UCF game goes by

without Twitter delivering some jabs on the contents of George O’Leary’s

resume. But here’s something there’s no disputing: the man has done

wonders in Orlando. He took over a program that had won 144 games in its

first 25 years of existence and had zero bowl appearances and has led

it to 71 victories and six bowls in 10 years, including this season’s

spot in the Fiesta Bowl. Amazingly, the Knights are a three-point loss

to No. 8 South Carolina from being undefeated.

DOWN: Oklahoma


Needing only to beat

erratic rival Oklahoma to clinch a Big 12 crown, the Cowboys’ defense

failed them as the Sooners scored 16 points in the final 19 seconds in a

33-24 win that paved the way for Baylor to win the conference title. It

also did little to sway the state of things in the Bedlam Game as the

Cowboys dropped two straight, including last year’s overtime loss, and

10 of the last 11. Adding insult to injury, the Sooners are now heading

to the Sugar Bowl to face Alabama behind the strength of this




The last time the Owls

won an outright conference title, ‘The Ten Commandments’ had just hit

theaters. Rice brought an end to that drought, dumping Marshall 41-24 in

the C-USA title game for their first championship since 1957 and it did

it largely behind a defense that held Rakeem Cato and the Thundering

Herd offense in check, holding them to 20 points and 142 yards below

their season averages. The Owls are now headed to the Liberty Bowl,

where they’ll take on Mississippi State.

DOWN: Arizona


Home or away, the Sun

Devils had no answer for Stanford. Losing 42-28 in their Sept. 21

meeting in Palo Alto, Arizona State hosted the Pac-12 title game and the

results were even worse as it fell 38-14 and is resigned to playing

Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. The biggest reason? With Marion Grice

unavailable and D.J. Foster injured, the Sun Devils simply didn’t have

the weapons to keep Stanford from controlling the game and the temp at

the line of scrimmage. Arizona State was outgained 138-240 on the ground

and averaged just 3.2 yards per carry to the Cardinal’s 5.5. 


OFFENSE: Tre Mason, RB Auburn,


In the 21-year history of

the SEC title game, no one has had a performance quite like Mason did

against Missouri. He ran for four TDs and 304 yards — eclipsing Justin

Vincent’s ’03 record by 103 yards — and racked up 46 carries, 31 more

than Jamal Lewis had in 1997. It remains to be seen if Mason’s late

push, which included 868 yards and 13 TDs the last five games, will

enough to get him on enough Heisman ballots to reach New York, but no

one made more of the last weekend of the season than Mason



Morton, CB Baylor, Sr.

Out the

previous week vs. TCU with an abdominal injury, Morton loomed large as

the Bears claimed their first outright conference title since 1980 when

they were in the Southwest Conference. He picked off Texas’ Case McCoy

twice, one of which he returned for a 60-yard TD, but the play was ruled

dead at the 3-yard line when as Morton was penalized for showboating.

He also had three tackles and two pass break-ups in the win.


Aguayo, K Florida State, RS


Dustin Hopkins’ place in

ACC history didn’t last long. With a 45-yard field goal in the first

half of the conference title game win over Duke, Aguayo broke Hopkins’

single-season league and school scoring record of 140 points. The Groza

Award finalist was 6-for-6 on point-afters in the win, giving him 147

points on the season.

Ty Montgomery; Kurtis Drummond
Stanford’s all-purpose star Ty Montgomery will

face the nation’s top-ranked defense in Kurtis Drummond and the

Spartans. (USA TODAY Sports-USA TODAY




Rose Bowl: Michigan State vs. Stanford, Jan.


Points will be at a premium

in The Granddaddy. Pac-12 champ Stanford has held opponents to 14 or

less four times in the last seven games, never giving up more than 20 in

that span; Michigan State has won nine straight and allowed six points

or less five times and limited Ohio State to 24 in the Big Ten title

game. The Spartans are the higher-ranked unit — No. 1 in FBS, while the

Cardinal are 15th — but Stanford is the more tested of the two. It has

faced four offenses ranked in the top 10 at the time of their games in

No. 2 Oregon, No. 5 UCLA and No. 8 Oregon State and while Michigan State

has faced two such teams, No. 6 Ohio State and No. 8 Indiana and only

one of them is bowl-bound. So which offense will break through? QB

Connor Cook and the Spartans impressed in knocking off the Buckeyes, but

the Cardinal are more balanced with Kevin Hogan (2,487 yards passing

and 20 TDs), RB Tyler Gaffney (1,618 yards and 20 scores) and versatile

WR Ty Montgomery (1,618 yards of offense and 126

The Pick: Stanford 28, Michigan State



Bowl: Baylor vs. UCF, Jan.


The buildup will likely

surround the QB battle of Bryce Petty vs. Blake Bortles and two teams

making their BCS game debuts, but this really boils down to one

question: Can the Golden Knights disrupt the Bears offense? UCF is

yielding 19.6 points per game (13th) and is 19th in total defense

(346.3), but it has looked far worse at times, giving up 581 yards to

lowly Temple, 490 vs. South Carolina, 455 against Penn State and 445 vs.

Louisville. None of those offenses are as explosive as Petty and Co.,

who should dominate this one.
The Pick: Baylor 45, UCF



Bowl: Alabama vs. Oklahoma, Jan.


Remember, it’s not about the

best matchup; it’s about getting buts in seats and generating revenue

for the host city. As great as a Crimson Tide-Oregon clash would have

been there — filling the desires of those of us who that that game

would be for a BCS title — the Sooners are closer and they have a rabid

fanbase that travels. That won’t help the outcome, though. Oklahoma

doesn’t have a consistent passing attack to keep Alabama’s fifth-ranked D

from loading up against the run and we’ve already seen the Sooners give

up at least 445 yards three times. Alabama will simply overwhelm them,

though it should be fun to see Bob Stoops reminded of all those shots

he took at the SEC in the offseason. It’s called

karma, Bob.
The Pick: Alabama 34, Oklahoma 17

Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Ohio State, Jan.


The Tigers and Buckeyes

have met just once before, and expect to see plenty of the lasting

moment from the 1978 Gator Bowl as Woody Hayes punched Clemson

linebacker Charlie Bauman (see above), leading to the end of the

legendary Buckeye coach’s tenure. This edition should be explosive for

more positive reasons as the Tigers have allowed an average of 476 yards

against ranked opponents and Ohio State’s pass defense is ranked 102nd

in FBS (259.5). Tajh Boyd and Braxton Miller could put on a show, but

the nod goes to the Buckeyes, who with Miller and RB Carlos Hyde at

least have the ability to control the clock behind their fourth-raked

rushing attack.
The Pick: Ohio

State 38, Clemson 34

BCS Title Game: Florida State vs. Auburn, Jan.


With an average margin of

victory of 42.7, the Seminoles have romped, routed and rolled their way

to Pasadena. Meanwhile, we’ve seen Auburn win by overwhelming opponents

(see the SEC title game), we’ve seen them rally (vs. Texas A&M)

and win in miraculous fashion (vs. Georgia and Alabama). There’s

something to say about being tested and needing to find a way to win,

which Florida State hasn’t had to deal with amid its run. But there are

no holes on the Seminoles roster, ranking in the top 10 in FBS in 15

different major statistical categories on both sides of the ball, and

while the Auburn running game will have success, Florida State’s overall

balance will be enough to end the SEC’s streak.

Pick: Florida State 41, Auburn


Last Week:

Overall: 29-13