Florida State Seminoles: BCS

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.

ACC title still essential for FSU

October, 25, 2012
What happens if both FSU and NC State win out? Would FSU potentially benefit by not winning the ACC in terms of a better bowl opponent?

I got this question in my Tuesday chat from a handful of people, and so I felt it was worth exploring a bit deeper.

Setting aside the fact that a conference championship is extremely meaningful to the coaches and players (and, I assume, a hefty contingent of the fan base), the answer to the question is still probably bad for Florida State.

Right now, there are 10 BCS bowl bids out there, but six are guaranteed to conference winners. Right now that would be: Oregon, Kansas State, Michigan, NC State, Rutgers and Alabama, according to the current BCS standings. That leaves four other spots up for grabs.

The rules for filling out those slots are somewhat complicated, which makes looking ahead with six weeks of games still on the schedule a tough task, but the scenarios for excluding Florida State aren't hard to envision.

The championship game bids go to the two highest-ranked teams, which right now would be Alabama and Florida, but since we're assuming FSU wins out, that means a loss for Florida along the way. So for now, let's plan on Alabama vs. Oregon in the BCS title game.

In this scenario, both the Sugar and Rose bowls would lose their affiliated conference participant, and this is where things can get a little tricky.

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FSU notes: Northrup makes an impact

October, 15, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jimbo Fisher was busy breaking down film of Saturday's win over Boston College when he noticed an odd trend midway through the fourth quarter: One play after another finished with a tackle by freshman linebacker Reggie Northrup.

"I'm going through it, and I'm like, 'Daggone,'" Fisher said. "He was just jumping out."

Northrup didn't see significant action until the fourth quarter, and yet he still managed to finish second on the team with six tackles, including one for a loss. It was a huge performance for a player who had just two tackles for the season entering the game, but it wasn't exactly evidence that Northrup had refined his skill set just yet.

"It was hilarious," middle linebacker Vince Williams said. "He didn't know what he was doing, just running around making all these tackles, blitzing, shooting gaps and stuff. I was like, 'I don't know what he's doing, but he's making plays.'"

Fisher chalks it up to instincts, which Northrup has in abundance.

For linebackers, Fisher said, a big chunk of execution is simply having a nose for the football. Northrup still needs to work on recognizing keys and adjusting to different formations, but once the play starts, he's got a knack for finding the ball carrier.

"You can only teach so much," Fisher said. "He reads and pulls that trigger and does a nice job."

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FSU Coach Explains Why Winston Went Unpunished
ESPN Florida State reporter Jared Shanker breaks down head coach Jimbo Fisher's explanation that Jameis Winston's suspension from the baseball team for a shoplifting incident in April was sufficient punishment.