published Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

5-at-10: FSU ends Auburn dream and SEC title run, good-bye BCS

Wow. That was amazing.

  • photo
    Florida State's Jameis Winston celebrates with The Coaches' Trophy after the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game against Auburn in Pasadena, Calif. Florida State won 34-31.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Florida State proved it can handle the moment. Auburn proved it was more than a bag of tricks and last-second high-wire act.

The Seminoles captured the final BCS title with a 34-31 win over Auburn that ended the SEC's run of atop college football at seven years. FSU scored the game-winner with 13 seconds left and ended the cardiac calisthenics of the Tigers.

It was an incredible ride — the title game, the Auburn season and the SEC's seven-year run of dominance. And while the end was heart-wrenching — and more than a touch ironic considering the shovel loads of heart ache the Tigers dished out this fall — the championship fight was a fitting end to the BCS, which like FSU's win over Auburn, wasn't always perfect, but in the end it got it right more times than not.

Side note: Always a good idea for emotional fans to put away the social media, especially after 11 p.m. That's good advice kids.

Side note, II: Did any one else think Nick Saban was particularly great in his role as studio analyst with the ESPN folks? Unlike the last time Saban was on with the College GameDay folks, Saban was relaxed and insightful. He also seemed to really enjoy the outcome with FSU topping the rival Tigers.

Side note, III: This from Twitter follower Ben Pitts, did anyone else notice that one Randy Sanders collected title rings in the first and the last BCS championships.

The poetic wording aside, how did it happen? Glad you asked.

FSU had its stars. Jameis Winston was a fourth-quarter stud, going 9-of-11 in the final frame as the Seminoles completed the comeback, but most of his throws were short passes that his star-studded receivers turned into big plays. Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan proved that he will be a first-round NFL pick by controlling the interior of the line of scrimmage. And when Jernigan got winded, the difference was staggering.

Auburn countered with a heavy dose of Tre Mason, who has to explore his NFL options if for no other reason than his stock will never be higher than it currently is. In his last three games against nationally ranked defenses, Mason went for 164 against Alabama, 304 against Missouri and 195 against FSU. Dude is a stud duck, and if he and tackle Greg Robinson return, the Tigers offense will be scary. The defensive staff called an amazing game, and the much ballyhooed mismatch between the FSU receivers and the Auburn secondary never materialized.

The game was ultimately decided on special teams, where Auburn has been great all season. Aside from punter Steven Clark, who continued his amazing ability to pin opponents deep, the Tigers were gashed on special teams. There were several fumbles on returns, all of which Auburn covered. Kicker Cody Parkey missed a chip shot field-goal try — which turned out kind of large in a three-point loss — and after a season filled with a river of touchbacks on kickoffs, a short Parkey kick was fielded at the goalline returned for a TD by Levonte Whitfield. Add in the FSU fake punt that kept alive a drive that led to FSU's first touchdown and the difference was overwhelming, especially in a three-point game.

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Good night BCS

The BCS era ended with the Seminoles win over Auburn.

And we have to admit, we're pretty melancholy about it.

The BCS was crafted to try to put the top two teams in the country in a bowl game, and other than a few hiccups along the way — Hi, 2004, we remember you quite well — it did it's job.

Now we all believe that a playoff is the best way to determine the champ, but do not think the four-team College Football Playoff that will be in place next year will not be without its hand-wringing and consternation.

In truth, the occasional headache that the BCS faced when three teams with championship resumes were available will be a more frequent migraine considering that No. 5 will be just as irate as No. 3 in the new field, and that's even before we get to the conference championship issue.

First not everyone has a conference title game, so let's say you have an 11-1 Big 12 champ like Texas that does not have to play in a title game and a 12-0 SEC or Big Ten team that loses in the title game. Is that fair? Also, only three of the four teams has to be a conference champ, so the at-large issue will be a cantankerous one.

Try to put this season into the four-team metric: You would have had Auburn and Alabama playing on Jan. 1 in the Rose Bowl, which is a whole other kettle of fish considering it would be a rematch of the regular season and likely be played in front of a 2/3-filled stadium since it would be a 3,000-mile trip for each fan base. In the other semifinal, FSU and whomever the selection committee deemed to be No. 4 — Stanford won the Pac-12, Michigan State won the Big Ten or Big 12-champ Baylor — would play in New Orleans, and the other two would have legit beefs about being left out.

Good bye BCS. You were better than we gave you credit for along the way.

————

Look ahead to next year

Here is our all-too-early preseason top 10 for next year. We wrote this in today's TFP, and there are still several very good players that could sway this ranking.

For example, if Johnny Football comes back to A&M — which we highly doubt — the Aggies shoot into the top 10.

Here you go:

1) FSU: The Seminoles are crazy-talented and in truth were actually built for next year, considering 12 of their 22 starters are in their second or third year in the program, including redshirt freshman QB Jameis Winston. That said, no team has more undecided players who may leave for the NFL than FSU. Still with Winston returning and the slew of recruits and waves of talent, the Seminoles will be the team to beat next year.

2) Stanford: There's a very real chance that The Cardinal could return 10 starters on each side of the ball. No wonder David Shaw repeatedly declined offers from interested NFL teams and any other offer this side of a free football phone with a Sports Illustrated subscription.

3) Ohio State: If Winston is the Heisman front-runner next year, then Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is 1A. Plus a youthful defense that includes former Ridgeland High star Vonn Bell, who has a strong showing in the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson, returns almost everyone except linebacker Ryan Shazier, who has declared for the draft.

4) Oklahoma: The recent commitment of five-star running back Joe Mixon is huge for Bob Stoops' team, which is looking for some playmakers but is rock solid everywhere else. The Sooners thumped Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and return nine defensive starters — including all of the front seven — and four offensive line starters and quarterback Trevor Knight, who torched the Tide secondary.

5) Alabama: Is there a more intriguing spring practice question than who will be Alabama's quarterback? Whomever gets the starting nod for the Tide will have an impressive set of offensive toys to spread around, considering Derrick Henry, T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper are all sure-fire NFL first-rounders.

6) Oregon: If there is anyone who could wrestle the Heisman hype from Winston is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Dude returns — and if he can stay healthy — he will be the central piece to the nation's fastest-pace offense.

7) Auburn: Tackle Greg Robinson is likely to enter the NFL draft — he's projected as a top-15 overall talent — the Tigers will still return nine offensive starters from a group that sprinted over, through and around the SEC. Somewhere Gus Malzahn smiles.

8) Wisconsin: There's a very real chance that the Badgers could return every starter from the team that took the field in the Capital One Bowl.

9) UCLA: The Bruins offense received a five-star injection when quarterback Brett Hundley decided to return and there could be as many as 10 offensive starters back. Add a top-10 recruiting class and the double goodness of Myles Jack, who was the Pac-12 freshman of the year on offense and defense, and this ranking may be low.

10) Notre Dame: Everett Golson returns after taking a year off to study abroad ( which is football slang for getting his grades in order). His presence at quarterback instantly improves the Irish offense by a factor of at least five, and with a defense filled with young playmakers, Notre Dame's future is now.

————

This and that

— The final AP college football poll goes 1) FSU, 2) Auburn, 3) Michigan State, 4) South Carolina, 5) Missouri, 6) Oklahoma, 7) Alabama, 8) Clemson, 9) Oregon, 10) Central Florida.

— The Chicago Bulls traded Luol Deng to Cleveland for Andrew Bynum and draft picks. This is not all that important in the grand terms of basketball — neither the Bulls nor the Cavs will make much of a dent in the playoffs — but it is the first salvo of teams starting to position themselves for picks rather than the postseason.

— On more than one occasion we could not help but wonder how Alabama would have done against FSU last night. So it goes.

— UTC finished the season ranked No. 25 in the FCS coaches' poll. It was the first time UTC ended a season ranked since 1984 when the Mocs were ranked No. 17.

————

Today's question

Gang, remember the mailbag and feel free to riff on any of the above, especially the title game.

If you need another talking point: What's the best BCS title game?

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
jomo11 said...

I agree with you Jay, If i am an alumn of another SEC team, I would not root for another SEC team, just because we are in the same conference ? It seems weird to me to hate and root against a team all year and then pull for them at bowl time, i just dont see how that makes it better for my school....it would be like rooting for the devil, just because he is in the Bible

January 7, 2014 at 10:41 a.m.
chas9 said...

My condolences, Jay. I was cheering for them. For what it's worth, I thought Gus outreached Jimbo, and it's very clear which SEC team had the best coaching hire this year.

It was the best of times and the worst of times for Auburn's special teams, as you say. And the way Auburn's defenders quickly swarmed FSU runners around the line was impressive.

Saban may have been calm and collected, but if you haven't yet seen it you must check out the video of the greatly uncalm and uncollected Bama hyperfan who launched herself into a crowd of Oklahoma fans, flailing and screaming.

The Seminole win is big for UK. Mark Stoops can go into recruits' living rooms and ask if they watched the championship game. He'll claim that he helped mold the Super Seminoles and has brought some of that magic to The Bluegrass, where he'll grow the next juggernaut. "And didja see my brother's Oklahoma team smash Bama? It's in the genes."

Both UT and UK lost their first SEC women's games and are now at #8 and #9 nationally. Let's hope they get back to the top four where they belong.

In men's roundball, Duke's out of the top 10 for the first time in six years.

And Jerry Palm's Bracketology predicts Tennessee and Arkansas will make The Big Dance. Here come the guys in white suits to take him away.

January 7, 2014 at 10:46 a.m.
MocTastic said...

Re: AJ Maccarron's mother's tweet. Advice offered? If you are the parent of a high profile athlete, do not tweet anything that could even possibly be considered to be negative, especially possibly racist. Just don't do it. Only tweet/post/email positive comments. If you have trouble remembering to do this, delete your twitter account.

Supposedly this woman has around 20,000 followers on twitter. To which I wonder, WHY? That tells me there are about 19,900 people who have no life and have to follow the mother of a player. My advice? Get a life.

January 7, 2014 at 10:59 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

My thoughts on last night...

Wow. One of the best and most riveting fourth quarters of any football game I've seen in a long, long time.

Whoever Auburn's defensive coordinator is - and I sure know who it isn't anymore - needs a tip of the hat for a masterful game plan that foiled Winston and the Noles for three quarters.

Remember when everybody wondered what big job Jimbo Fisher would get and how he would do once he landed a top spot? Asked and answered. Dude has re-built the T-top Firebird Trans Am of Bobby Bowden's era powerhouse into a sleek new ride. And how gutsy was the fake punt call? Oh and didn't someone say Florida State's kicking game might make a difference?

Saban was very good last night but I wished they would have picked his brain a little more and let him expound on defending/attacking Auburn in the post game and of course on what they saw as a high school kid from Jameis Winston. If he did it pregame, I didn't see it. I was busy. Also, that might be the only suit Saban owns, the one he wears to funerals and the annual postseason banquet.

All this hooey about the BCS not being missed ... you know, I will miss it. Except for one or two occurrences, it always wound up being the best two teams in it. You can say the BCS got lucky in that regard ... well, luck is the residue of design. You want to make the last game? Win your schedule.

I believe the new playoff system will be even more chaotic and fraught with bitterness. A four-team playoff this year would have left out somebody really good, either Stanford or Michigan State or a Big 12 team or even a worthy second or third SEC team. The more you expand, the more you enlarge the fringe from which somebody can claim they got snubbed. I don't think anybody can question that FSU and Auburn merited being in the final game.

And they put one heck of a show.

Lastly, my props to my waitress last night. Great young lady who took terrific care of me and essentially told the hostess to shove it, she was getting me a seat whether she liked it or not.

Best BCS title game? Hard to ignore Texas-USC, Ohio State-Miami and Florida State-Virginia Tech. I'd say either last night or Texas-USC. Auburn-Oregon was a last second kick but the other two just had so much drama.

January 7, 2014 at 11 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Ten-Ring

Escaped "Freezagedden" as my plane took off last night from the Chattanooga "International" Airport/Hair Salon/Tire Center as Ron White would say and landed in John Ross (Ewing) country about 8:30 PM CST. Got to spend ample time with a lot of family & friends + an encore viewing of Disolation of Smaug + Frozen (LET IT GOOOO! LET IT GOOOOOOOOOOO!!!) I'm sure if Elsa was climbing up Monteagle and saw the WRCB camera crew she would play to the cameras with that now famous ear worm number. :P

Glad to hear the Mocs got ranked at the end of the year and laughed at the little "back of the page-who gives a #$%*&" snippet regarding a certain Bison team in Fargo.

So what's this I hear about sub-standard turf issues? (Well-played mother nature and karma, well-played).

And before anyone asks, no I did not watch Dallas-Philly while I was at home. I was at McKenzie watching Mocs-Grand Canyon U. Love the upgrades but the concessions still taste like doo-doo as little 5 & 10 might say.

Anyway, glad to be slowly coming back into a routine in what I believe will be a prosperous New Year at the 5 & 10 satellite office across from Valley Ranch.

January 7, 2014 at 11:18 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent

Most people have Tennessee currently in the bracket. Every bracket I've seen this week has Tennessee in. Pomeroy ranks Tennessee #23 right now. So having Tennessee in the dance is hardly surprising.

The Mocs played poorly and won last night. Solid win for the Mocs, who are 2-0 in the SoCon.

Glad to see a preseason Top Ten. Should be a good year next year.

It was one crazy game last night. I watched every riveting moment of it. When FSU converted the fake punt, I said, "This is going to become a game." Turns out, that was the turning point of the game, I think.

Joe Mixon is the five star running that recently committed to Oklahoma.

January 7, 2014 at 11:46 a.m.
WilliamRscott said...

Jomo: Yes, Satan is in the Bible, but he is also the Head FB coach at bammer...and I never, Never, NEVER root for them in any sport.

Oh, it's not SaTan? It's SaBan? Close enough...

Spy: Did the hostess at Twin Peaks Buckhead sit someone else at your regular table? I guess she learned her lesson...

Billy-In-Brainerd

January 7, 2014 at 12:05 p.m.
fechancellor said...

Ten Ring, going into the forth quarter, the Chancellor FSU +3 call was looking pretty good, but this number could not survive Auburn's kicking game. The punter is held harmless. More than that he backed FSU up several times inside the ten several times.

Is it me, or is competency in the kicking game becoming a lost art through out major college football?

On the other foot, two muffed punt catches and one kick off return blunder found Auburn was lucky enough to keep the ball. Then there was the ruffing the kicker call. Just before half-time FSU kept a drive alive by dint of a fake punt at midfield. This led to a late first half FSU TD. Auburn's field goal kicker missed from thirty three, the difference in the game. The final blow was an FSU kickoff return for a big TD.

The above slipshod performance was the difference in the game.

Thank you for the kind words about Howlin' Mad. Two HM high points: HM twice whipped VA Tech 2015 DE commit Michael Barnett whose offers include FSU, SC, Clemson and UT.

Second, during the one-on-ones some tackles acted with the short attention spans common in teenagers. When a player did not answer the call from the coach, HM moved into breach collecting more reps than anyone in the group. A little guile is good.

January 7, 2014 at 12:11 p.m.
chas9 said...

MT--Well said.

Stuckey--I'm probably too hard on Cuonzo's charmers, but I just don't see it. Pomeroy is good, but rankings are unreliable this early. UT is #58 in cbssports.com's RPI.

The Vols have at this point zero wins in true away games and lost to #137 UTEP. They do have some nice pieces, though, and it's early yet.

The SEC finished with 3 of the top 5 and 4 of the top 7 in the AP poll, so the conference's run is hardly over.

It may be hard for Louisville to get a great new coach because their ACC schedule will be much tougher and the new guy's record will look bad next to 11-2 and 12-1.

January 7, 2014 at 12:24 p.m.
Stewwie said...

Out of the 16 BCS title games, here are my top 5: 2006--USC/Texas, 2014--FSU/Auburn, 2002--MIA/Ohio St., 2011--Oregon/Auburn, 1999--TN/FSU.

Next year's title game is set for Jan. 12. I wish they would play the semifinal games right before Christmas and have the title game on New Years Day (or the Saturday after). This would keep the season from being unnecessarily dragged out even longer and also help prevent the ill effects of a long layoff between games.

In order to help protect the regular season, the 4-team playoff would be best by only selecting conference champs. But if they are going to allow an at-large, they should prevent any rematches from occuring until the title game. Why should Bama/Auburn have to rematch in the Rose Bowl in the semis? If the 4-team playoff were this year, I'd put Bama vs. Florida St. in the Sugar and Auburn against Michigan St. in the Rose. Thoughts?

January 7, 2014 at 1:42 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

The fourth quarter was magnetic. Could not turn away.

9er —

Vols are flawed but are they fixable?

As you say the pieces are there but what's the point?

MT —

Amen and pass the biscuits.

FE to the C —

Showing a willingness to work will never be a bad thing, be it football, combines or a job interview or a first date. Good on you No. 1/44/77.

BiB —

Spy is particular about his haunts. He doesn't just visit your average entertainment establishment.

Man got to have a code and all.

Stewwie —

Agree on the spacing of the game.

Want to know what would own TV viewing? Put the semifinals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Night. Take that NBA.

Stuck —

Back-to-back conference road wins is not too shabby for sure.

January 7, 2014 at 2:15 p.m.
MocTastic said...

New slant on game last night, now coming out that Jimbo is saying that AU was getting FSU's signals, Dameyune Craig, AU coach, was on the FSU staff last year. FSU in second half started blocking the signals from the AU staff above in press box, explains different game in second half. My take? Auburn did no wrong, somebody give you a present, take it. FSU was stupid for not changing them all knowing Craig was on AU staff.

January 7, 2014 at 2:32 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Two more things from last night. The tomahawk chop and war chant are always spine-tinglingly good. Imagine 80,000 plus on a Saturday night at Doak Campbell doing that. Mercy.

And how good of a teammate must Jameis Winston be. Dude's a money player and wasted no time giving credit to his teammates and saying how happy he was for them.

January 7, 2014 at 2:34 p.m.
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