Keeping Score

After That Florida State-Auburn Classic, Try Hating The BCS

In its final game, the BCS went out with a bang. The college football playoff has a lot to live up to.

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Mark J. Terrill / AP

Florida State's Jameis Winston looks to pass with Auburn's Kris Frost defending during the second half of the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game, Jan. 6, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif.

Oh BCS, if that was your middle finger to your legions of haters – you wanted me dead? Well, take this for a finale! – all we can say is, thanks.

Now, that amazing performance, a thrilling 34-31 Florida State victory over Auburn in this year’s title game, doesn’t mean we’ll actually miss you. But the ludicrous notion kind of crossed our minds on Monday night. Is there some nobility in a system that identifies the best two teams in the country, and just lets them play a winner-take-all title game?

Playoffs, after all, produce upsets. And upsets, while charming, don’t necessarily mean that the better team advances to the next round. Sure, the underdog was better that day. But the team may be overmatched down the road.

(MORE: And Your BCS Academic Champion Is…) 

This year Florida State, which finished a perfect 14-0, is a worthy champ. But during the first half, the Seminoles looked lost. Florida State was trailing Auburn, 21-3, late in the second quarter. Then coach Jimbo Fisher called for a fake punt, on a fourth and four from Florida State’s own 40; the trick worked, giving the Seminoles a lift. Florida State scored a touchdown seven plays later.

Florida State chipped away in the second half, but couldn’t quite take the lead; a short field goal by Auburn gave the Tigers a 24-20 advantage, with 4:42 left. The ensuing kickoff was Act 1 of a classic. Florida State’s Levonte “Kermit” Whitfield returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. Florida State went up, 27-24.

Act 2: with 1:27 left, Auburn’s Tre Mason, who finished the game with 195 yards rushing, took a handoff and dashed 37-yards into the end zone, to give Auburn a 31-27 advantage.

“Touchdown Auburn, not quite yet out of miracles,” yelled Brent Musberger, a reference to the two crazy regular season plays that got Auburn to the title game in the first place. But Brent was wrong here; this was no miracle. It was just a fantastic run by a Heisman trophy finalist – Mason pummeled one Florida State defender that tried to take him down. The score would probably give Auburn its second title in four years.

But Florida State has the Heisman winner, and he delivered in Act 3, the frantic final drive. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston had 1 minute, 11 seconds to take his team 80 yards into the end zone.  On the second play of the drive, he connected with Rashad Greene, who slipped between two Auburn defenders on the short pass play and ran the downfield for a 49-yard gain. On a third down play, from the 10-yard line, Auburn’s Chris Davis – the Kick Six hero from a few weeks before – was whistled for a pass interference, giving the Seminoles a fresh set of downs, and putting the ball at the two yard line, with 17 seconds left.

On the next play, Winston tossed the ball to Kevin Benjamin, who stretched his arms over Davis – rough night – to grab the title-winning touchdown.

The four-team college football playoff, which starts next season, will produce its fair share of classic finals. There’s no doubt about that. The problem with the BCS was never the championship game itself; it was the mystery math that produced the rankings, and cronyism of the bowl cartel. The demise of the BCS is still cause for cheer.

But after that finale, the playoff has some tough acts to follow.

(MORE: The Final BCS Selection Show: No Tearful Goodbyes)