Love it or hate it, the BCS delivered a dramatic and fitting ending on Monday night, as No. 1 FSU rallied from from a late four-point deficit in the final two minutes to defeat No. 2 Auburn 34-31 in the final VIZIO BCS National Championship at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. The Seminoles won their third national championship and ended the SEC's reign of seven consecutive BCS national championships.
Play of the game: Trailing 31-27 with about one minute to go, Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston threw a 49-yard pass to Rashad Greene to move to Auburn's 23-yard line with 56 seconds to play. Six players later, after Auburn was penalized for pass interference in the end zone, Winston threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin to go ahead for good with 13 seconds to play. FSU's extra point gave it a 34-31 lead.
Turning point: After Auburn took a 24-20 lead with about 4:42 to go, FSU's Levonte Whitfield returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, giving the Seminoles a 27-24 lead with 4:31 left. Whitfield, a 5-foot-7 freshman known as "Kermit," returned a kickoff for a touchdown for the second time this season.
Early turning point: With Auburn holding a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter, Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall lofted a 50-yard touchdown pass to Melvin Ray to stake the Tigers to a 14-3 lead with 13:48 to go in the first half. Ray, a sophomore from Tallahassee, Fla., had four catches for 58 yards this season before hauling in the long touchdown catch against the hometown Seminoles. FSU, which hadn't trailed since falling behind Boston College on Sept. 28 and had led for more than 571 minutes of football before falling behind the Tigers, suddenly trailed by two scores. The Seminoles played catch-up the rest of the night but finally caught the Tigers in the end.
Player of the game: Winston, a redshirt freshman from Bessemer, Ala., got off to a slow start against Auburn's defense, getting sacked four times and fumbling once in the first half. But in the end, Winston broke the Heisman Trophy jinx, throwing the winning touchdown with 13 seconds to play. He completed 20 of 35 passes for 237 yards with two touchdowns.
What it means: The controversial BCS era ends with the SEC being denied its eighth consecutive national championship, which should sit well with college football fans outside of the SEC. In a game in which the SEC seemed most vulnerable during its championship streak, the Tigers jumped out to a 21-3 lead but couldn't hold on for a victory. The Tigers were denied their second BCS national championship since the 2010 season, when they defeated Oregon 22-19 in the BCS National Championship behind quarterback Cam Newton. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn missed becoming only the second coach -- Miami's Larry Coker was the first -- to lead his team to the national title in his first season since the BCS began in 1998.
Stat that matters: 2-for-12: Florida State won despite going 2-for-12 on third down.
What's next: Florida State will probably be a popular choice to be the No. 1 team in preseason polls heading into the 2014 season. FSU will have to replace several key pieces on defense, including linebackers Christian Jones and Telvin Smith and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner. But the Seminoles will bring back Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, along with several of their most important players on offense. Auburn, which reached the BCS national championship in Malzahn's first season, will be among the SEC West favorites in 2014, along with Alabama and LSU. The Tigers will bring back Marshall, but they'll have to wait to see if junior tailback Tre Mason returns to school or enters next spring's NFL draft. Auburn's very young defense will be a lot wiser in coordinator Ellis Johnson's second season, too.
FBS conference commissioners and Notre Dame president Jack Swarbrick are in Hollywood, Fla., this week discussing the the future of college football's postseason.
A source tells Schlabach that "a proposal that would require teams to win their respective conferences to participate in a playoff is also all but dead." If you read this space Tuesday morning, you know how I feel about that in regard to the ACC, which could have benefited from an easier path for one of its teams to be in the national title race on a more consistent basis.
None of these potential changes, of course, would take place before the 2014 season.
Does it seem like ... wait, there goes De'Anthony Thomas. Don't think he'll get caught from behind.
Does it seem like ... wait, would somebody please tackle Justin Blackmon?
Does it seem like there have been a lot of points this bowl season?
It's not just you. There have been a lot of points. More points than ever before. And by huge quantities.
So far, BCS bowl teams have averaged a total of 77 points in the Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls. That, folks, is nearly 26 points more than last year (51.6). And it's nearly 11 points better than the previous high of 66.3 from 2001-02.
Perhaps pairing two SEC teams in the title game has created a black hole sucking all defensive stinginess into the LSU-Alabama rematch, which you might recall went 9-6 with no touchdowns in their first meeting. West Virginia scored 10 touchdowns -- 10! -- against Clemson. Alabama gave up 12 TDs all season.
Speaking of Clemson: ACC. Well, well, well.
After the Tigers ingloriously fell 70-33 to the Mountaineers, we got our second story from the BCS bowl season: The ACC's insistence on throwing up on itself in BCS bowl games.
The conference that was once expected to challenge the SEC is now 2-13 in BCS bowl games. That's hard to do. You'd think in 15 BCS bowls the conference could get lucky at least five or six times. But no, it insists on making ACC blogger Heather Dinich, a genuinely nice person, into some sort of Grim Reaper every bowl season.
Heck, the Big East has won seven BCS bowls -- second fewest among AQ conferences -- but it's 7-7.
Of course, this all ties together, and we're here to bring out a bow, but first a warning: If you don't want to read about how good the SEC is for the 56,314th time this year, then stop reading. I'd recommend an episode of "South Park" or perhaps a John le Carré thriller as an alternative for passing the time.
We can all agree the SEC plays great defense right? Alabama and LSU will play for the title Monday with the nation's top-two defenses. Do you think perhaps that it's not a coincidence that the conference that is 16-7 in BCS bowl games plays great defense?
The only other AQ conference with a winning record in BCS bowl games is the Pac-12, which is 11-7. The Pac-12 isn't known for defense, either, but USC was when it won the conference's last national title in 2004.
The only team to win a BCS national title without an elite defense was Auburn in 2010, but the Tigers' defense seemed to find itself late in the season. Since 1999, eight national champions had a top-10 defense. Other than Auburn, the lowest-rated defense to win a BCS national title was Ohio State in 2002. It ranked 23rd in the nation in total defense.
Three of the four BCS bowl games have been thrillers. Two went to overtime. We've seen big plays all over the field in the passing game and running game. Yet, if things go according to script in the title game, we'll see none of that. We might not see more than a couple of plays that go for more than 20 yards. We might not see any.
Some might call that boring. It might seem that both offenses are so paranoid of making a mistake that they are stuck in mud, both in game plan and execution.
But, snoozefest or not, when the clock strikes zero a team from the SEC will hoist the crystal football for a sixth consecutive time.
That might say something about playing better defense.
The ACC, though, is better than its record indicates if you measure the conference’s performance during the regular season like the BCS officials do. Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS, said the ACC has solidly earned its automatic berth in the BCS and there has never been any hesitancy on the part of Orange Bowl officials to continue their partnership. Instead, the data from the 2004-2007 regular seasons shows the league fared no worse than fifth among the 11 conferences in the major rankings used by the BCS to determine which conferences earn automatic qualifying status.
“The ACC and the Big East are solid,” Hancock said in a recent interview. “A lot of people when they talk about conferences don’t remember that the top to bottom conference rankings is one of the three thresholds, and those conferences are solid. I know the Orange Bowl is tickled with their ACC relationship.”
There are two ways to earn annual automatic qualification: (1) have a contract with a bowl, or (2) earn it on the field by meeting the thresholds which you’ll see in the charts below. In order to meet the thresholds, conferences must finish among the top six in the first two rankings and top 50 percent in the third. The five conferences earned it because they have contracts with bowls. Maybe not coincidentally, they also met the thresholds. And met them easily.
Here’s how the ACC fared against the other conferences in the most recent BCS evaluations:
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Good morning from Annapolis, Md. No, Paul Johnson is not here, but I still call this place home.
Not that I'm here that often during the season. One of the better trips this year will be to Tampa, for the ACC Championship. Anything has got to be better than the half-empty stadium in Jacksonville, and ACC officials all but promised it will be. The key will be a smaller venue, bigger city and cheaper tickets. More ACC alumni, too. But you know the No. 1 rule in real estate - location, location, location.
So far the rule seems to apply to ACC football, too -- more than half of the seats there are already sold.
Want one? Check out their web site.
In addition to talking up Tampa on Tuesday, ACC commissioner John Swofford gave his take on the state of the ACC yesterday, so that's where much of the news came from. And yes, he is pleased with the way things are going.
Even in the face of numbers like these.
Also addressed on Tuesday in the final day of the ACC football kickoff was the new rule changes. Here's a more in-depth look at the clock change for this season.
Swofford and SEC commissioner Mike Slive are ready for a change in the BCS, but believe it or not, some coaches are OK with the status quo. The coaches in the Triangle don't mind it so much, either.
Speaking of coaches in the Triangle, somebody else noticed how Butch Davis dressed on Monday, too. And David Cutcliffe and Jenny Craig in the same sentence? More on how the Blue Devils slimmed down to shape up.
And more on food -- Gregg Doyel says recruiting at Wake Forest is like is like visiting a seven-course buffet and being allowed to pick only from the salad bowl.
Despite the high hopes for the Carolina schools, Clemson is obviously the best team this year. If the Tigers are going to win it all, though, quarterback Cullen Harper said they will need a little luck.
It appears Florida State has the speed. Who's the fastest at FSU? Redshirt freshman Brandon Paul is ready for a "race-off" to find out.
Elsewhere in Florida, former Miami coach Larry Coker is gearing up for his second season as a TV analyst for ESPN but hasn't ruled out returning to the sidelines. Click here for his take on that and the Hurricanes' move to Dolphin Stadium.
Back to the BCS -- remember that excuse for not going with the plus-one, that whole thing about academics?
Well, how about playing in the Congressional Bowl the same day you've got a final exam? Given its locale, Maryland would be a natural fit for this game. Given its potential, it won't have to worry about it.
The bigger question is who -- if anyone -- will qualify for it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
GREENSBORO, Ga. -- If anyone knows about the BCS format, where it's headed and what the powers that be think of it, it's ACC commissioner John Swofford, who was BCS coordinator from 2000-'01 and currently holds the position again.
There seems to be a very simple overriding explanation as to why the Plus One format for the BCS championship failed to get anywhere this spring when it was last discussed seriously -- the university presidents don't want to implement any system that crosses into the second semester.
At Tuesday morning's breakfast/news conference with Swofford, who was at the April BCS meetings in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., one of the points he brought up is exactly how the BCS committee works.
As most of you probably know, the committee is comprised of 11 conference commissioners and the Notre Dame athletic director. While they're all very immersed in the subject and have their own opinions, they're also representing their respective schools, their presidents and athletic directors.
Swofford and SEC commissioner Mike Slive thought this thing was ready to roll. As Swofford explained Tuesday, the university presidents had other intentions. (That's not to say there weren't other people opposed to this plan, but if there's going to be a roadblock, the guys at the top of the academic food chain will be it).
"I think the parameters that are being considered when you talk about the BCS are several," Swofford said. "One is the respect that the college football community has for the bowl system and what it's meant to college football ... Secondly, it's a timeframe from the presidents, they're not interested at this point in time in starting anything that begins during exam period before Christmas. They're not interested in something that ends in the second semester. They strongly prefer that college football be a one-semester sport. And I think the other aspect of it is the health of the regular season. ... Every game during the regular season is incredibly important."
Overall, Swofford said, the "parameters of our presidents and leaders in higher education" are "why we are where we are."
What, then, is March Madness? The College World Series? You wanna talk academic nightmare? Talk to Arizona baseball coach Andy Lopez. I did. And he said his new, condensed schedule was a nightmare.
Look, the best argument against a playoff is one Swofford did mention -- the "health" of the regular season. Let's get this out in the open -- I am against a playoff, simply because I love how much every Saturday means, I love the dysfunction in the final weeks and the controversy over it. I'll admit it.
There's no way, though, this proposal should be squashed because all of a sudden it's important for athletes to be in class in the spring, too.
Just ask Lopez what he thinks about that. Better yet, ask his players.
Not that it matters, anyway. You're stuck with this format for another six years.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Every team has holes to fill, question marks, intangibles we won't know until the season is finally here. But why wait to try?
1. Will Clemson be good enough to win a BCS game? Forget about the ACC title. The Tigers are talented enough to win that. The real question is how well they can represent the ACC on the national stage, where the league is just 1-9 in its BCS games.
2. Will this be Bobby Bowden's last season? Bowden told me this spring he'd like to turn the program around, win 400 games and get another shot at a national title before he leaves. Clearly, that's gonna take more than a year. My guess? He's done after the 2009 season.
3. How will Jeff Jagodzinski fare without Tom O'Brien's top players? This will be his first true coaching challenge. After a warm welcome into the league with an 11-3 record and first-place finish in the division, Jagodzinski's transition from the NFL to college was seamless. Now, Matt Ryan is gone, and reality has set in.
4. Who can ruin Clemson's perfect season? Wake Forest and Maryland. Ralph Friedgen loves playing in Death Valley, and Terps fans haven't forgotten Dan Ennis' game-winning field goal in 2006. (Then again, the Tigers probably haven't either). As for the Demon Deacons, they got whupped there last year, 44-10. This time around, they've got home field advantage and possibly the best team Jim Grobe has had there.
5. Does Tom O'Brien know something we don't? It's his second season. He's a proven coach. And yet the outlook is still grim. After a 1-5 start last year, it seemed as if the players started to buy into his system, as they earned four straight wins. There are plenty of reasons for concern heading into the summer -- namely at quarterback. Yet overall, O'Brien thinks his team has improved.