BCS championship matchup: Florida State-Auburn makes sense, by accident


Auburn Tigers running back Tre Mason (21) celebrates with teammates after defeating the Missouri Tigers in the 2013 SEC Championship game at Georgia Dome. (Brett Davis/USA Today Sports)
John Feinstein
Columnist December 8, 2013

Karma can be an odd duck.

Consider the case of Ohio State and Coach Urban Meyer. After announcing last Sunday that senior offensive guard Marcus Hall would play in the Big Ten championship game in the wake of his embarrassing behavior in the win at Michigan the previous day, Meyer reversed himself.

John Feinstein is a sports columnist for The Washington Post and also provides commentary for the Golf Channel and National Public Radio. View Archive

First, he announced Hall wouldn’t start against Michigan State on Saturday. Then he didn’t play him at all. It is difficult to figure out whether Meyer received pressure from above at Ohio State (although generally speaking there is no one higher than the head coach at most football power schools) or somehow came to understand just how bad he and the school would look if Hall played.

What isn’t difficult is this: Meyer’s team was outplayed down the stretch Saturday night by Michigan State in a 34-24 loss. Hall had to stand and watch helplessly as his teammates’ chance to play for a national championship went aglimmering in the fourth quarter.

Good for the Spartans. Good for karma — even if Meyer finally did the right thing. The fact that Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany — desperate to get one of his teams into the title game — did a Sergeant Schultz when it came to Hall’s behavior (“I see nothing!”) made the Spartans win sweeter for those who think that bad things should happen to bad people.

Spartan fans light fires and destroy property after MSU's victory over Ohio State, riot police respond. (Reuters)

And good for Auburn, which slid into Ohio State’s spot in the national championship game against top-ranked Florida State after finally pulling away from Missouri in a wild 59-42 SEC title game.

So it will be Florida State — led by now-cleared-of-all-charges Heisman Trophy favorite to be Jameis Winston — against Auburn for the championship as the BCS bids a less-than-fond farewell on Jan. 6.

Florida State played a weak ACC schedule and had to beat only an over-achieving but out-manned Duke team in the ACC championship game Saturday night. The biggest surprise of the night may have been that the Seminoles led just 17-0 at halftime before pulling away to a (yawn) 45-7 victory.

FSU is 13-0 and the last remaining undefeated team in the Football Bowl Subdivision after Ohio State and Northern Illinois lost their championship games this weekend. The Seminoles’ only victory of note was over Clemson, but it was resounding: 51-14 in Death Valley. They earned their spot.

So did Auburn, which has wins over Alabama, Missouri, Georgia and Texas A&M. No one in the country can match those credentials and now that there’s only one unbeaten left, there isn’t any doubt that the Tigers deserve to be the Seminoles’ opponent.

Such an undisputed matchup is the kind of good karma the BCS doesn’t deserve. Some Michigan State people will whine, but let’s be serious: The Spartans have one impressive win — it came Saturday — and lost to a four-loss Notre Dame team that will play in the Pinstripe Bowl. Enjoy the Rose Bowl, Spartans; you earned it.

The BCS has been rancid from the start because just two teams are allowed to play for the championship. Unbeaten teams have been left out, and politics has always played a role in the human polls that are factored into the equation. That would have been the case if Ohio State had won Saturday.

The way the BCS deserved to go out was with Missouri beating Auburn, and Duke somehow beating Florida State. Maybe that would have led to a Missouri-Michigan State title game or even Missouri-Alabama — the Crimson Tide again getting to the championship game without winning its own division in the SEC.

Alas, even the convoluted BCS can’t keep the two most deserving teams from playing for the title this year.

There is hope going forward, though, because if this had been the first year of the four-team playoff, there would have been chaos. Florida State and Auburn would be the top two seeds, but who would get the other two slots? Probably Alabama would get one. But the fourth spot? Michigan State? Baylor? Maybe even Ohio State or perhaps Stanford, which has two losses but more impressive victories than Michigan State and Ohio State combined. The new committee is supposed to pick the best teams not necessarily the teams with the best record.

It’s a shame the 13-committee members didn’t have the guts to stage a mock selection this year. The NCAA basketball committee, which meets in secret to decide what to order for lunch, has foisted off a “mock selection,” on media members for years, convincing many gullible reporters that pretending to sit in a room to come up with a field somehow makes it easier to understand just how hard the job of the committee truly must be.

Please.

If that’s such a wonderful exercise why wouldn’t a real committee, one that was appointed with more fanfare than the announcement of a Supreme Court nomination, give everyone a hint of what’s to come next year by announcing which four teams would be playing if there was a playoff this year?

What would be best for college football — but not for the money-grabbing presidents at the power schools — would be a 12-team playoff. Here’s how it should have/could have broken down this year: Top four seeds — Florida State, Auburn, Alabama, Baylor — who receive first-round byes. Next four — Stanford, Michigan State, Missouri, Ohio State — play a first-round game at home this week. Last four seeds travel for the first round: South Carolina, Oregon, Clemson and Northern Illinois.

They would be screaming in Stillwater and Baton Rouge and Tempe, but that’s the beauty of it. Quarterfinals would be held at bowl sites Jan. 1; the semis a week later — no one misses any class for those two games — and, finally, two teams play the title game, preferably in the Rose Bowl, on the Saturday between the NFL conference finals and the Super Bowl.

The competition would be great and fair; the money — remember, the presidents claim all this conference-jumping is because everyone is broke — would be huge, and a true national champion would be crowned every year.

Gosh, it just makes too much sense.

For now, we get a final BCS title game that makes perfect sense — but only by accident. We get a slew of meaningless bowl games that will entertain but do little else to prove much of anything.

Best of all, we get Army-Navy Saturday. There is no arguing about the importance of that game.

For more by John Feinstein, visit washingtonpost.com/feinstein.

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